Based on government documents, popular media, and archival research, this paper thus uncovers how the patent system came to be understood as at once fostering and demonstrating American inventiveness as a key quality of emerging nationhood. As the Founders intended, patents could form the basis of commercial enterprises, promoting economic growth and industrialization. In this way, American inventiveness supported the rise of the United States on the international stage. Patents also were property in ideas that Americans could use, like property in land, to achieve economic independence and accrue the republican virtue considered necessary for domestic political participation. By the 1830s, the link between inventiveness, patents, and democracy was so strong that imitative democracies, such as the Republic of Texas, copied the United States patent system as a necessary constituent. In subsequent decades, the patent system would become a political resource for women and African Americans as they sought full civil rights.
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