<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Letter from Mark Twain to W. D. Howells - Sep. 18, 1875
Mark Twain Letters

Letter from Mark Twain to W. D. Howells

HARTFORD, Sept. 18, 1875.

Mark Twain William Dean Howells

MY DEAR HOWELLS,—My plan is this—you are to get Mr. Lowell and Mr. Longfellow to be the first signers of my copyright petition; you must sign it yourself and get Mr. Whittier to do likewise. Then Holmes will sign—he said he would if he didn't have to stand at the head. Then I'm fixed. I will then put a gentlemanly chap under wages and send him personally to every author of distinction in the country, and corral the rest of the signatures. Then I'll have the whole thing lithographed (about a thousand copies) and move upon the President and Congress in person, but in the subordinate capacity of a party who is merely the agent of better and wiser men—men whom the country cannot venture to laugh at.

I will ask the President to recommend the thing in his message (and if he should ask me to sit down and frame the paragraph for him I should blush—but still I would frame it.)

Next I would get a prime leader in Congress: I would also see that votes enough to carry the measure were privately secured before the bill was offered. This I would try through my leader and my friends there.

And then if Europe chose to go on stealing from us, we would say with noble enthusiasm, "American lawmakers do steal but not from foreign authors—Not from foreign authors!"

You see, what I want to drive into the Congressional mind is the simple fact that the moral law is "Thou shalt not steal"—no matter what Europe may do.

I swear I can't see any use in robbing European authors for the benefit of American booksellers, anyway.

If we can ever get this thing through Congress, we can try making copyright perpetual, some day. There would be no sort of use in it, since only one book in a hundred millions outlives the present copyright term—no sort of use except that the writer of that one book have his rights—which is something.

If we only had some God in the country's laws, instead of being in such a sweat to get Him into the Constitution, it would be better all around.

The only man who ever signed my petition with alacrity, and said that the fact that a thing was right was all-sufficient, was Rev. Dr. Bushnell.

I have lost my old petition, (which was brief) but will draft and enclose another—not in the words it ought to be, but in the substance. I want Mr. Lowell to furnish the words (and the ideas too,) if he will do it.

Say—Redpath beseeches me to lecture in Boston in November—telegraphs that Beecher's and Nast's withdrawal has put him in the tightest kind of a place. So I guess I'll do that old "Roughing It" lecture over again in November and repeat it 2 or 3 times in New York while I am at it.

Can I take a carriage after the lecture and go out and stay with you that night, provided you find at that distant time that it will not inconvenience you? Is Aldrich home yet?

With love to you all
Yrs ever,
S. L. C.

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