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HENRY M. SHREVE-WIDOW AND CHILDREN OF.
[To accompany bill H. R. No. 744.]
FEBRUARY 9, 1855.
Mr. WALLEY, from the Committee of Claims, made the following
The Committee of Claims, to whom was referred the memorial of the executor
of Henry M. Shreve, in relation to the removal of snags, sawyers, &c., from the great western rivers, by the use of his patented steam snag-boat, have had the same under consideration, and respectfully report:
This claim has been the subject of several very elaborate reports from committees of this House-one from the Committee on Public Lands, and three from select committees, in 1842, 1843, and 1844-concluding that the memorialist is entitled to the favorable consideration of Congress.
Subsequent to these dates the Committee on Patents, on the 28th of February, 1846, made the following report, which your committee adopt in part; and, having prepared a bill in conformity with these views, earnestly recommend that this act of justice, so long withheld, should now be granted; and that the accompanying bill should be passed, appropriating the sum of twenty thousand dollars in full for all claim of the estate of Mr. Shreve upon this government for the use
of his patent.
The case is this: " Previous to 1829, Captain Henry M. Shreve, then employed by the United States in the improvement of the navigation of the Mississippi river and its tributaries, invented a very ingenious and powerful machine for the removal of snags and sawyers. The United States commenced using it in 1829, and have continued to do so to the present
" In 1838 the memorialist obtained a patent for his invention, and now asks compensation for the past use of his invention.
“ As to the use froin 1829 to 1838, before the patent was obtained, it is a past consideration which carries with it no legal obligation. Between individuals it has no sanction but gratitude; and as to the public, it furnishes no inducement to give an equivalent or a reward, except the policy of calling to its aid the mental as well as the physical energies of those in its service. True, it has generally been though wise as well as just to reward the public agent who introduces a labor
saving or expense-saving machine, with a portion approaching one-third or one-half of the value saved.
"The appeal of the memorialist for compensation for the use of his machine for this portion of time must be left entirely to the policy or magnanimity of Congress.
“Not so with reference to the remaining period from 1838 to the present time. On the 12th day of September, 1838, letters patent issued to him under the authority of the United States, guarantying to him the exclusive right to his invention. This appears fully in the report of 1843 (and the documents thereto attached) of a committee of the House of Representatives, (No. 272, 3d session 27th Congress,) and also by the recognition of the public authorities of the United States on eight several occasions. (See House report No. 538, 28th Cong., 1st sess., page 9.) Notwithstanding this solemn guarantee, the government of the United States, without the license of the patentee, and in disregard of his protest, have continued to use his invention without compensation to the present time. Between individuals this would be a gross infringement of patent, which would subject the party to exemplary damages. In the United States it can hardly be anything less than the taking of private property for public use, for which the constitution guaranties the party just compensation.
"From the testimony, it appears that this invention has been indispensable to the safe navigation of the western waters. As to its value and importance, the evidence is full and satisfactory. The committee, however, will content themselves with one or two brief extracts, and refer to the reports of 1842 and 1844 for more ample details. In the report of 1842 it is stated that the important improvements effected through its agency in the navigation of the Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas, Red, and other rivers, are of public notoriety. It appears from a statement made by twelve steamboat captains and others, citizens of Louisville, Kentucky, presented to the House of Representatives in 1830, that in the brief space of seven months after the first boat commenced her operations, some of the very worst channels of the Mississippi’ were ‘rendered safe and easy;' and that Plum Point, and islands Nos. 62 and 63, previously considered the most dangerous passes of that river, presented the appearance of smooth sheets of water, and could be traversed with perfect safety. Subsequently, and still prior to the date of the patent, the great raft of Red river, consisting of an accumulation of trees, logs, and drift-wood, of every description, firmly imbedded in its channel for more than one hundred and sixty miles, was removed, and the navigation of that river opened, inclusive of the raft, a distance of nearly twelve hundred miles. This work alone, on account of the immense quantity of the public land reclaimed in the rafi region, and rendered fit for cultivation, the enhanced value of other lands on the upper part of the river, and the reduced cost in the transportation of supplies to Fort Towson, and to the Indians located in that neighborhood, has been worth millions to the government.'
“The Committee on Public Lands in the House of Representatives, in the year 1834, (1st sess. 23d Cong., No. 509, page 2,) in speaking of the advantages of this invention in the anticipated removal of the raft in the Red river, hold the following language: “The committee are
persuaded these facts will not only convince the House that the destruction of the raft is highly desirable in a military point of view, but that it will add some eight or ten millions to the value of the public domain on the waters of Red river, and eventually be productive of incalculable agricultural and commercial advantages.'
“In the report of the Select Committee of the House of Representatives in 1844, (1st sess. 28th Cong., No. 538, page 7,) it is stated: “It is in evidence from the annual report of the Secretary of War in 1840, that the removal of the great raft in Red river caused a saving every year, in the transportation of the supplies for the troops at Fort Towson, of $85,000; and the snag-boat, by the removal of obstructions, has saved, and will save, to the government immense sums in transportations, not only on that but on the other great western rivers.' That committee say: 'If, by his inventive powers, a large sum of money has been saved to the treasury in the accomplishment of important improvements, it is but just that he should be paid for the product of his genius.
“ The notion that the memorialist is not entitled to compensation for the past use of his invention, as against the United States, because he invented it while in the public service, is a doctrine too manifestly inadmissible to require comment. It involves the monstrous doctrine that, while every other employé is free to use the product of his genius, the employé of the United States must be held to have sold himself, body and mind, to the government, and that while acting merely in a civil capacity:
“The rapid rivers of the west often undermine their banks, and whole acres of forest are constantly caving in-hence the necessity continues, and ever will continue, for some machine to uproot and extract the trees imbedded in the stream. That of the memorialist has alone proved effectual, and no doubt is entertained by the committee of the propriety of securing it for the government. The proper price to be paid for this invention is variously estimated by the witnesses from $50,000 to $200,000. Former committees, while recommending $40,000, have admitted it to be a very inadequate consideration.”
JOHN L. SMITH AND JAMES McGAW.
FEBRUARY 9, 1855.-Laid upon the table, and ordered to be printed.
Mr. WALLEY, from the Committee of Claims, made the following
The Committe of Claims, to whom was referred a "joint resolution for the
relief of John L. Smith and James McGaw,” have considered the same, and report :
That it ought not to pass. Your committee have looked in vain for any precedent which would justify them in making a favorable report, while it is manifest that the passage of the joint resolution referred to them would be claimed as a precedent authorizing any members of territorial legislatures, exposed to attacks from Indians on their way from their homes to their respective seats of government, to employ an armed guard at the public expense, and that Congress should be expected to pay for the same. Your committee are unanimously of opinion that it would be unwise for Congress to provide a guard for members of the legislatures, or to pay the expense of such guard in whole
or in part.