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 one thousand copies), and move upon the President and Congress in person, but in the subordinate capacity of the party who is merely the agent of better and wiser men, or 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). And then if Europe chooses 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,".... 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 petition never reached Congress. Holmes agreed to sign it with a smile, and the comment that governments were not in the habit of setting themselves up as high moral examples, except for revenue. Longfellow also pledged himself, as did a few others; but if there was any general concurrence in the effort there is no memory of it now. Clemens abandoned the original idea, but remained one of the most persistent and influential advocates of copyright betterment, and lived to see most of his dream fulfilled.—[For the petition concerning copyright term in the United States, see Sketches New and Old. For the petition concerning international copyright and related matters, see Appendix N, at the end of last volume.]
It was about this period that Mark Twain began to exhibit openly his more serious side; that is to say his advocacy of public reforms. His paper on “Universal Suffrage” had sounded a first note, and his copyright petitions were of the same spirit. In later years he used to say that he had always felt it was his mission to teach, to carry the banner of moral reconstruction, and here at forty we find him furnishing evidences of this inclination. In the Atlantic for October, 1875, there was published an unsigned three-page article entitled, “The Curious Republic of Gondour.” In this article was developed the idea that the voting privilege should be estimated not by the individuals, but by their intellectual qualifications. The republic of Gondour was a Utopia, where this plan had been established:
It was an odd idea and ingenious. You must understand the constitution gave every man a vote; therefore that vote was a vested right, and could not be taken away. But the constitution did not say that certain individuals might not be given two votes or ten. So an amendatory clause was inserted in a quiet way, a clause which authorized the enlargement of the suffrage in certain