In 1783 a committee of the Continental Congress concluded "that nothing is more properly a man's own an the fruit of his study, and that the protection and security of literary property would greatly tends to encourage genius and to promote useful discoveries." At the Constitutional Convention 1787 both James Madison of Virginia and Charles C. Pinckney of South Carolina submitted proposals that would allow Congress the power to grant copyright for a limited time. These proposals are the origin of the Copyright Clause in the United States Constitution, which allows the granting of copyright and patents for a limited time to serve a utilitarian function, namely "to promote the progress of science and useful arts".
Both houses of Congress pursued a copyright law during 1790's second session. They responded to President George Washington's 1790 State of the Union Address, in which he urged Congress to pass legislation designed for "the promotion of Science and Literature" so as to better educate the public. This led to the Patent Act of 1790 and, shortly thereafter, the Copyright Act of 1790.