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Department of State, 

February 22, 1821. 

Sir : I have the honor of transmitting, herewith, a Report upon 
Weights and Measures, prepared in conformity to a resolution of the 
Senate of the 3d March, 1817. 

With the highest respect, 
I am. Sir, 
Your very humhle and oh't servant, 


To the President of the Senate 
of the United States* 

i^iU LlDK/uvf 


TiiE Secretary of State, to whom, by a resolution of the Senate 
of the 5d of March, 1817", it was referred to prepare and report 
to the Senate, " a statement relative to the regulations and stand- 
<* ards for weights and measures in the several states, and re- 
*' lative to proceedings in foreign countries, for establishing uni- 
'* formity in weights and measures, together with such propositions 
•* relative thereto, as may be proper to be adopted in the United 
" States," respectfully submits to the Senate the following 


The resolution of the Senate embraces three distinct objects of at- 
tention, which it is proposed to consider in the following order : 

1. The proceedings in foreign countries for establishing uniforhii- 

ty in weights and measures. 

2. The regulations and standards for weights and measures in the 

several states of the Union. 

3. Such propositions relative to the uniformity of weights and mea- 

sures as may be proper to be adopted in the United States. 

The term imiformUtj, as applied to weights and measures, is sus- 
ceptible of various constructions and modifications, some of which 
would restrict, while otiiers would enlarge, the objects in contempla- 
tion by the resolution of the Senate. 

Uniformity in weights and measures may have reference 

1. To the weights and measures themselves. 

2. To the objects of admeasurement and weight. 
S. To time, or the duration of their establishment. 

4. To place, or the extent of country over which, including the per- 

sons by whom, they are used. 

5. To numbers, or the modes of numeration, multiplication, and 

division, of their parts and units. 

6. To their nomenclature, or the denominations by which they are 

r. To their connection with coins and moneys of account. 

In reference to the weights and measures themselves, there may be 
An uniformity of identity, or 
An uniformity of proportion. 


By an uniformity of identity, is meant a system founded on the 
})rinciple of applying only one unit of weights to all vveighable arti- 
cles, and one unit of measures of capacity to all substances, thus mea- 
sured, liquid or dry. 

By an uniformity of proportion, is understood a system admitting 
more than one unit of weights, and more than one of measures of ca- 
pacity; but in which all the weights and measures of capacity are in 
a uniform proportion with one another. 

Our present existing weights and measures aret or originally were, 
founded upon the uniformity of proportion. Tlie new French me- 
trology is founded upon the uniformity of identity. 

And, in reference to each of these circumstances, and to each in 
combination with all, or either of the others, uniformity may be 
more or less extensive, partial, or complete. 

Measures and weights are the instruments used by man for the com- 
parison of quantities, and proportions of things. 

In the order of human existence upon earth, the objects which suc- 
cessively present themselves, are man — natural, domestic, civil so- 
ciety, governmejit, and law. The want, at least, of measures of 
length, is founded in the physical organization of individual man, and 
precedes the institution of society. Were there but one man upon 
earth, a solitary savage, ranging the forests, and supporting his ex- 
istence by a continual conflict with the wants of his nature, and the 
rigor of the elements, the necessities for which he would be called to 
provide would he food, raiment, shelter. To provide for the wants of 
food and raiment, the first occupation of his life would he the chase 
of tliose animals, the flesh of which serves him for food, and the 
skins of which are adaptable to his person for raiment. In adapting 
the raiment to bis body, he would find at once, in his own person, the 
want and the supply of a standard measure of length, and of the 
proportions and subdivisions of that standard. 

But, to the continued existence of the human species, two persons 
of different sexes are required. Their union constitutes natural so- 
ciety, and their permanent cohabitation, by mutual consent, forms 
the origin of domestic society. Permanent cohabitation requires a 
common place of abode, and leads to the construction of edifices where 
tiie associated parties, and their progeny, may abide. To the con- 
struction of a dwelling place, superficial measure becomes essential, 
and the dimensions of the building still bear a natural proportion to 
those of its destined inhabitants. Vessels of capacity are soon found 
indispensable for the supply of water; and the range of excursion 
around tlie dwelling could scarcely fail to suggest the use of a mea- 
sui'e of itinerary distance. 

Measures of length, therefore, are the wants of individual man, in- 
dependent of, and preceding, the existence of society. Measures of 
surface, of distance, and of capacity, arise immediately from domes- 
tic society. They are wants proceeding I'Rther from social, than from 
individual, existence. With regard to the first, linear measure, na- 
ture in creating the want, and in furnishing to man, within himself. 


the means of its supply, has established a system of numbers, and of 
projioi'tions, between the man, the measure, and the objects measur- 
ed. Linear measure requii-es only a change of direction to become a 
measure of circumference; but is not thereby, without calculation, a 
measure of surface. Itinerary measure, as it needs nothing more than 
the prolongation or repetition of linear measure, would seem at the 
first ^ iew to be the same. Yet this is evidently not the progress of 
nature. As the want of it originates in a different stage of human exis- 
tence, it will not naturally occur to man, to use the same measure, or the 
same scale of proportions and numbers, to clothe his body, and to 
mark the distance of his walks. On the contrary, for the measure- 
ment of all objects which he can lift and handle, the fathom, the arm, 
the cubit, the hand's-brcadth, tiie span,*and the fingers, are the instru- 
ments pi'oposed to him by natui-e ; while the pace and the foot are 
those which she gives him for the measurement of itinerary distance. 
These natural standards arc never, in any stage of society, lost to in- 
dividual man. There arc probably few persons living who do not 
occasionally use their own arms, hands, and fingers, to measure ob- 
jects which they handle, and theip own pace to measure a distance upon 
the ground. 

Here then is a source of diversity^ to the standards even of linear 
measure, flowing from the difference of the relations between man and 
physical natuix;. It would be as inconvenient and unnatural to the 
organization of the human body to measure a bow and arrow for in- 
stance, the fii'st furniture of solitary man, by his foot or pace, as to 
measure the distance of a day's journey, or a morning's walk to the 
imnting grouiwl, by his arm or hand. 

IVIeasures of capacity are rendered necessary by the nature of fluids, 
which can beheld together in definite quantities only by vessels of sub- 
stance more compact than their own. They are also necessary for 
the admeasurement of those substances which nature produces in mul- 
titudes too great for numeration, and too minute for linear measure. 
Of this character are all the grains and seeds, which, from the time 
when man becomes a tiller of the ground, furnish the principal mate- 
rials of his subsistence. But nature has not furnished him with the 
means of supplying this w ant in his own person. For this measure 
he is obliged to look abroad into the nature of things ; and his first 
measure of capacity will most probably be found in the agg of a large 
bird, the shell of a cetaceous fish, or the horn of a beast. The want 
of a common standard not being yet felt, these measures will be of va- 
rious dimensions ; nor is it to be expected that the tiiought will ever 
occur to the man of nature, of establishing a proportion between his 
cubit aiul his cup, of graduating his pitcher by the size of his foot, 
or equalizing its parts by the number of his fingers. 

Measures of length, once acquired, may be, and naturally are, ap- 
plied to the admeasurement of objects of surface and solidity ; and 
hence arise new diversities from the nature of things. The connec- 
tion of linear measure with numbers^ necessarily, and in the first in- 
stance, imports only the first arrtlimetical rule of numerat-ion, ov adv 


dition. The mensuration of surfaces, and of solids, requires the for.- 
ther aid of multiplication and division. Merc numbers, and mere 
linear measure, may be reckoned by addition alone; but their appli- 
cation to the surface can be computed only by multiplication. The 
elementary principle of decimal arithmetic is then supplied by na- 
ture to man within himself in the number of his lingers. Whatever 
standard of linear measure he may assume, in order to measure the 
surface or the solid, it will be natural to him to stop in the process of 
addition when he has counted the tale equal to that of his fingers. 
Then turning his line in the other direction, and stopping at the same 
term, he finds the square of his number a hundred : and, applying it 
again to the solid, he finds its cube a thousand. 

But while decimal arithmetic thus, for the purposes of computation, 
shoots spontaneously from the nature of man and of things, it is not 
equally adapted to the numeration, the multiplication, or the divi- 
sion, of material substances, either in his own person, or in external 
nature. The proportions of the human body, and of its members, 
are in other than decimal numbers. The first unit of measures, for 
the use of the hand, is the aibit, or extent from the tip of the elbow to 
the end of the middle finger ; the motives for choosing which, are, 
that it presents more definite terminations at both ends than any of 
the other superior limbs, and gives a measure easily handled and car- 
ried about the person. By doubling this measure is given the ell, or 
arm, including the hand, and half the width of the body, to the middle 
of the breast; and, by doubling that, the fathom, or extent from 
the extremity of one middle finger to that of the other, with expand- 
ed arms, an exact equivalent to the stature of man, or extension from 
the crown of the head to the sole of the foot. For subdivisions and 
smaller measures, the sj)an is found equal to half tlie cubit, the palm 
to one third of the span, and the finger to one fourth of the palm. 
The cubit is thus, for the mensuration of matter, naturally divided 
into 24 equal parts, with subdivisions of which 2, 3, and 4, are the 
factors ; while, for the mensuration of distance, the foot will be found 
at once equal to one fifth of the pace, and one sixth of the fathom. 

Nor are the diversities of nature, in the organization of external 
matter, better suited to the exclusive use of decimal arithmetic. In 
the three modes of its extension, to which the same linear measure 
may be applied, length, breadth, and thickness, the proportions of 
surface and solidity are not the same with those of length : that which 
is decimal to the line, is centesimal to the surface, and millesimal to 
the cube. Geometrical progression forms the rule of numbers for the 
surface and the solid, and their adaptation to decimal numbers is 
among the profoundest mysteries of mathematical science, a mystery 
whicli had been impenetrable to Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Ptole- 
my ; which remained unrevealed even to Copernicus, Galileo, and 
Kepler, and the discove'y and exposition of which was reserved to 
immortalize the name of Napier. To the mensuration of tlie surface 
and the solid, the number ten is of little more use than any other. 
The numbers of each of the two or three modes of extension must be 


multiplied together to yield the surface or the solid contents : and, 
unless the object to be measured is a perfect squat-e oi* cube of equal 
dimensions at all its sides, decimal arithmetic is utterly incompetent 
to the purpose of their admeasurement. 

Linear measure, to whatever modification of matter applied, ex- 
tends in a straight line ; but the modifications of matter, as produced 
by nature, are in forms innumerable, of which the defining outward 
line is almost invariably a curve. If decimal arithmetic is incompe- 
tent even to give the dimensions of those artificial forms, the square 
and the cube, still more incompetent is it to give the circumference, 
the area, and the contents, of the circle and the sphere. 

There are three several modes by which the quantities of material 
substances may be estimated and compared; by number, by the space 
which they occupy, and by their apparent specific gravity. We have 
seen the origin and cliaracter of mensuration by space and number, 
and that, in the order of human existence, one is-the result of a ne- 
cessity incidejital to individual man preceding the social union, and 
the other immediately springing from that union. The union of the 
sexes constitutes natural society : their permanent cohabitation is the 
foundation of domestic society, and leads to that of government, 
arising from the relations between the parents and the offspring which 
their union produces. The relations between husband and wife im- 
port domestic society, consent, and the sacred obligation of promises. 
Those between parent and child, import subordination and govern- 
ment ; on the one side authority, on the other obedience. In the first 
years of infancy, the authority of the parent is absolute ; and has, 
therefore, in the laws of nature, been tempered by parental affection. 
As the child advances to mature age, the relations of power and sub" 
jection gradually subside, and, finally, are dissolved in that honor 
and reverence of the child for the parent, which can terminate only 
with life. When the child goes forth into the world to make a settle- 
ment for himself, and found a new family, civil society commences j 
government is instituted — the tillage of the ground, the discovery 
and use of metals, exchanges, traffic by barter, a common standard 
of measures, and mensuration by weight, or apparent specific gra- 
vity, all arise from the multiplying relations between man and man, 
now superadded to those between man and things. 

The difference between the specific gravities of different substances 
is so great, that it could not, for any length of time, escape observa- 
tion ; but nature has not furnished man, within himself, with any 
standard for this mode of estimating equivalents. Specific gravity, 
as an object of mensuration, is in its nature proportional. It is not 
like measures of length and capacity, a comparison between different 
definite poi-tions of space, but a comparison between different proper- 
ties of matter. It is not the simple relation between the extension of 
one substance, and the extension of another ; but the complicated re- 
lation of extension and gravitation in one substance to the extension 
and gravitation of anotlier. This distinction is of great and insu- 
perable influence upon the principle of uniformity, as applicable to a 


system of weights and measures. Extension and gravitation neither 
have, nor admit of, one common standard. Diversity is the law of 
their natuic, and the only uniformity which human ingenuity can es- 
tahlish between them is, an uniformity of proportion, and not an uni- 
foimity of identity. 

The necessity for the use of weights is not in the organization of 
individual mati. It is not essential even to the condition or the com- 
forts of domestic society. It presupposes the discovery of the pro- 
perties of the balance; and originates in the exchanges of traffic, af- 
ter the institution of civil society. It results from the experience 
that the comparison of the articles of exchange, which serve for the 
subsistence or the enjoyment of life, by their relative extension, is 
not sufficient as a criterion of their value. The first use of the ba- 
lance, and of weights, implies two substances, each of which is the 
test and the standard of the other. It is natural that these substances 
should be the articles the most essential to subsistence. They will 
be borrowed from the harvest and the vintage : they will be corn and 
wine. The discovery of the metals, and their extraction from the 
bowels of the earth, must, in the annals of human nature, be subse- 
quent, but proximate, to the first use of weights ; and, when disco- 
vered, the only mode of ascertaining their definite quantities will be 
soon perceived to be their weight. That they should, themselves, im- 
mediately become the common standards of exchanges, or otherwise 
of value and of weights, is perfectly in the order of nature; but their 
proportions to one another, or to the other objects by which they are 
to be estimated, will not be the same as standards of weight, and as 
standards of value. Gold, silver, copper, and iron, when balanced 
each by the other in weight, will present masses very different from 
each other in value. They give rise to another complication, and 
another diversity, of weights and measures, equally inaccessible to 
the uniformity of identity, and to the computations of decimal arith- 

Of the metals, that which, by the adaptation of its properties to 
the various uses of society, and to the purposes of traffic, by the 
quantities in which nature has disclosed it to the possession of man, 
intermediate between her pi'ofuse bounties of the coarser, and her 
parsimonious dispensation of the finer, metals, holds a middle station 
between them, wins its w ay as the common, and at last as the only, 
standard of value. It becomes the universal medium of exchanges. 
Its quantities, ascertained by weight, become themselves the stand- 
ards of weights. Civil government is called in as the guardian and 
voucher of its purity. The civil authority stamps its image, to au- 
thenticate its weight and alloy : and silver becomes at once a weight., 
money, and coin. 

With civil society too originates the necessity for common and uni- 
form standards of measures. Of the different measures of extension 
necessary for individual man, and for domestic society, although the 
want will be common to all. and frequently recurring, yet, the stand- 
,ards will not be unitoruj, cither witli reference to time or to persons. 


The standard of linear measure for eacli individual being in himself, 
those of no two individuals will be the same. At different times, the 
same individual will use different measures, according to the several 
purposes for which they will be waiite<l. In domestic society, the 
measures adaptable to the persons of the husband, of the wife, and 
of the children, are not the same ; nor will the idea of reducing them 
all to one common standard press itself upon their wants, until the 
multiplication of families gives rise to the intercourse, exchanges, 
and government, of civil society. Common standards will then be 
assumed from the person of some distinguished individual ; but acci- 
dental circumstances, rather than any law of natuie, will determine 
whether identity or proportion will be the character of their unifor- 
mity. If, pursuing the first and original dictate of nature, the cubit 
should be assumed as the standard of linear measure for the use of 
the hand, and the pace for the measure of motion, or linear measure 
upon earth, there will be two units of long measure ; one for the mea- 
sure of matter, and another for the measure of motion. Nor will 
they bei-educible to one ; because neither the cubit nor the pace is an 
aliquot part or a multiple of the other. But, should the discovery 
have been made, that the /oof is at once an aliquot part of the pace, 
for the mensuration of motion, and of the ell and fathom, for the men- 
suration of matter, the foot will be made the common standard mea- 
sure for both : and, thenceforth, there will be only one standard unit 
of long measure, and its uniformity w ill be that of identity. 

Thus, in tracing the theoretic history of weights and measures to 
their original elements in the nature and the necessities of man, we 
have found linear measure with individual existence, superficial, ca- 
pacious, itinerary measure, and decimal arithmetic, with domestic so- 
ciety ; weights and common standards, with civil society ; money, 
coins, and all the elements of uniform metrology, with civil govern- 
ment and law ; arising in successive and parallel progression to- 

When weights and measures present themselves lo the contempla- 
tion of the legislator, and call for the interposition of law, the first 
and most prominent idea which occurs to him is that of uniformity : 
his first object is to embody them into a system, and his first wish, to 
iHiduce them to one universal common standard. His purposes are 
uniformity, permanency, universality ; one standard to be the same 
for all persons and all purposes, and to continue the same forever. 
These purposes, however, require powers which no legislator has 
hitherto been found to possess. The power of the legislator is limit- 
ed by the extent of his territories, and the numbers of his people. 
His principle of universality, therefore, cannot be made, by the mere 
agency of his power, to extend beyond th-^ inhabitants of his 
own possessions. The power of the legislator k limited over time. 
He is liable to change his own purposes. He is not infallible : he is 
liable to mistake the means of effecting his own objects. He is not 
immortal : his successor accedes to his power, with different views, 
different opinions, and perhaps different j)i'inciples. The legislator 

:'^!! IIRPA'^Y 


lias no power over the properties of matter. He cannot give a new 
constitution to nature. He cannot repeal her law of universal muta- 
bility. He cannot square the circle. He cannot reduce extension and 
gravity to one common measure. He cannot divide or multiply the 
parts of the surface, the cube, or the sphere, by the uniform and ex- 
clusive number ten. The power of the legislator is limited over the 
will and actions of his subjects. His conflict with them is desperate, 
when he counteracts their settled habits, their established usages; 
their domestic and individual economy, their ignorance, their preju- 
dices, and their wants : all which is unavoidable in the attempt radi- 
cally to change, or to originate, a totally new system of weights and 

In the origin of the different measures and weights, at different sta- 
ges of man's individual and social existence; in the different modes by 
which nature has bounded the extension of matter ; in the incommen- 
surable properties of the straight and the curve line ; in the different 
properties of matter, number, extension, and gravity, of which mea- 
sures and weights are the tests, nature has planted sources of diver- 
sity, which the legislator would in vain overlook, which he would iu 
vain attempt to control. To these sources of diversity in the nature 
of things, must be added all those arising from the nature and history 
of man. In the first use of weights and measures, neither universali- 
ty nor permanency are essential to the uniformity of the standards. 
Every individual may have standards of his own, and may change 
them as convenience or humor may dictate. Even in civil society, it 
is not necessai'ij, to the pur'poses of traffic, that the standards of the 
buyer and seller should be the same. It suffices, if the proportions 
between the standards of both parties are mutually understood. In 
the progress of society, the use of w eights and measures having pre- 
ceded legislation, if the families, descended from one, should, as they 
naturally may, have the same standards, other families will have 
others. Until regulated by law, their diversities will be numberless, 
their changes continual. 

These diversities are still further multiplied by the abuses incident 
to the poverty, imperfections, and deceptions, of human language. 
So arbitrary and so irrational is the dominion of usage over the 
speech of man, that, instead of appropriating a specific name to eve- 
ry distinct thing, he is impelled, by an irresistible propensity, some- 
times to gives different names to the same thing, but far more fre- 
quently to give the same name to different things. Weights and mea- 
sures are, in their nature, relative. When man first borrows from 
his own person a standard measure of length, his first error is to give 
to the measure the name of the limb from which it is assumed. He 
calls the measure a cubit, a span, a hand, a finger, or a foot, impro- 
perly applying to it the name of those respective parts of his body. 
When he has discovered the properties of the balance, he either con- 
founds with it the name of the weight, which he puts in it to balance 
the article which he would measure, or he gives to the definite mass, 
•which he assumes for his standard, the indefinite and general name 


Qf the -weight. Such was the orij^inal meaning? of the weight which 
we call a pound. But, as different families assume different masses 
of gravity for their unit of weight, the pound of one bears the same 
name, and is a vei-y different thing from the pound of another. A\ hen 
nations fall into the use of different weights or measures for the esti- 
mation of different objects, they commit the still grosser mistake of 
calling several different weights or measures l)y the same name. And, 
when governments degrade themselves by debasing their coins, as un- 
fortunately all governments have done, they add the crime of fraud 
to that of injustice, by retaining the name of things which they have 
destroyed or changed. Even things which nature has discriminated 
so clearly, that they cannot be mistaken, the antipathy of mankind 
to new words will misrepresent and confound. It suffers not even 
numbers to retain their essentially definite character. It calls sixteen 
a dozen. It makes a hundred and twelve a hundred, and twenty- 
eight, twenty-five. Of all the tangles of confusion to be unravelled 
by the regulation of weights and measures, these abuses of language 
in their nomenclature are perhaps the most inextricable. So that 
when law comes to establish its principles of permanency, uniformi- 
ty, and universality, it has to contend not only with the diversities 
arising from the nature of things and of man ; but w ith those infi- 
nitely more numerous which proceed from existing usages, and delu- 
sive language ; with the partial standards, and misapplied names, 
which have crept in with the lapse of time, beginning w ith individu- 
als or families, and spreading more or less extensively to villages and 

In this conflict between the dominion of usage and of la^v, the last 
and greatest dangers to the principle of uniformity proceed from the 
laws themselves. The legislator having no distinct idea of the uni- 
formity of which the subject is susceptible, not considering how far 
it should be extended, or where it finds its boundary in the nature of 
things and of man, enacts laws inadequate to their purpose, incon* 
sistent with one another j sometimes stubbornly resisting, at others 
weakly yielding to inveterate usages or abuses; and finishes by in- 
creasing the diversities which it w as his intention to abolish, and by- 
loading his statute book only with the impotence of authority, and 
the uniformity of confusion. 

This inquiry into the theory of w eights and measures, as resulting 
from the natural history of man, w as deemed necessary as prelimina- 
ry to that statement of the proceedings of foreign coimtries for es- 
tablishing uniformity in weights and measures, called for by the re- 
solution of the Senate. 

It presents to view certain principles believed to be essential to the 
subject, upon which the historical statement required will shed con- 
tinual illustration, and which it v^ill be advisable to bear in mind, when 
the propositions supposed to be proper for tlie adoption of the United 
States are to be considered. 

In this review, civil society has been considered as originating in 
a single family. It can never originate in any other manner. But 

i4j on weights and measures. 

government, and national communities, may originate, either by the 
multiplication of families from one, or in compact, by the voluntary 
association of many families, or in force, by conquest. In the na- 
tions formed by the reunion of many families, each family will have 
its standard measures and weights already settled, and common stand- 
ards for the whole can be established only by the means of laijc^. It 
is a consideration from which many important consequences result, 
that the proper province of law, in relation to weights and measures, 
is, not to create, but to regulate. It finds them already existing, 
with diversities innumerable, arising not only from all tlie causes 
which have been enumerated, but from all the frauds to which these 
diversities give continual occasion and temptation. 

There are two nations of antiquity from wliom almost all the civil, 
political, and religious institutions of modern Europe, and of hei* de- 
scendants in this hemis})here, are derived — the Hebrews, and the 
Greeks. They both, at certain periods, not very distant from each 
other, issued from Egypt; and both nearly at the time of the first 
invention of alphabetical writing. The earliest existing records of 
history are of them, and in their respective languages. They exhibit 
examples of national communities and governments originating in 
two of the different modes noticed in the preceding remarks. The 
Hebrews sprung from a single family, of which Abraham and Saiali 
were the first founders. The Greeks were a confederated nation, 
formed by the voluntary association of many families. To their his- 
torical records, therefore, we must appeal for the actual origin of our 
own existing w eights and measures ; and, beginning w ith the most 
ancient of them, the Hebrews, it is presumed, that the scriptures may 
be cited in tlie character of historical documents. We there find, that 
all the human inhabitants of this globe sprung from one created pair; 
that the necessity of raiment adapted to the organization of their bo- 
dies, and of the tillage of the ground for their subsistence, arose by 
their fall from innocence; that their eldest son was a tiller of the 
ground, and built a city, and their second son a keeper of sheep; that, 
at no distant period from the creation, instruments of brass and iron 
were invented. Of the origin of weights and measures, no direct 
mention is made; but the Hebrew historian, Josephus, asserts, that 
they were invented by Cain, the tiller of the ground, and the first 
builder of a city. As the duration of human life was tenfold longer 
before the flood than in later ages, the multiplication of the species 
was proportionally rapid; and the invejitions and discoveiies of 
many ages were included within the life of every individual. In the 
early stages of man's existence upon earth, direct revelations from 
the Creator were also frequent, and impai-ted knowledge unattain- 
able but in a series of centuries to tlie merely natural energies of the 
human mind. The division of numbers by decimal arithmetic, and 
the use of the cubit as a standard measure of length, are distinctly 
proved to have been established before the general deluge. The divi- 
sion of time into days, months, and years, was settled. The ages of 
the patriarchs are noted in unitSj tens, and hundreds of years; and 


Noah, wcare told, built, by divine instruction, his ark three hundred 
cubits loiii^, titty cubits broad, ;in(l thiity cubits in height. 

Alter tlie general deluge, the dispersion of the human species, and 
the confusion of languages whicb ensued, must have destroyed what- 
ever uniformity of weights and measures miglit have existed, while 
the whole earth was of one language and of one speech. After no- 
ticing this great and miraculous event, the historical part of the 
Bible is chiefly confined to the family of Abi-aham, originally a 
Chaldean, said to have been very rich in cattle, in silver, and in 
gold. In his time, we find mention made of measures of meal. 
Abimelech gives him a thousand pieces of silver. He, himself gives 
to Hagar a bottle of water, and buys of Ephron, the Hittite, the field 
of Machpelah, for which he pays him, by weighty four hundred 
shekels of silver, current money w ith the merchant. At this period, 
therefore, we find established measures of length, of land, and of 
capacity, liquid and dry ; w eights, coined money, and decimal arith- 
metic. The elements for a system of metrology are complete; but 
the only uniformity observable in them is, the identity of weights 
and coin, and the decimal numbers. 

In the law given from Sinai — the law, not of a human legislator, 
but of God — there are two precepts respecting weights and mea- 
sures. The first, [Leviticus xix- 35, 36] *' Ye shall do no unrighte- 
'* ousness in judgment, in mete-yard (measure of length) in weigiit, 
" or in measure (of capacity). Just balances, just weights, a just 
'* ephah, and a just bin, shall ye have." The second, [Deuteronomy 
XXV. 13, 14, 15] *'Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, 
*• a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine house divers 
'* measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and 
"just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have." The 
weights and measures are prescribed as ali"eady existing and known, 
and wei-e all probably the same as those of the Egyptians. The 
first of these injunctions is addressed in the plural to the whole na- 
tion, and the second in the singular to every individual. The first 
has reference to the standards, which were to be kept in the ark of 
the covenant, or the sanctuary; and the second to the copies of them, 
kept by every family for their own use. The first, therefore, only 
commands that the standards should he just: and that, in all tran- 
sactions, for which weights and measures might be used, the princi- 
ple of righteousness should be observed. The second requires, that 
the copies of the standards used by individuals, should be uniform, 
not divers; atid not only just, but perfect, with reference to the 

The long measures were, the cubiff with its subdivisions of two 
spans, six palms or hand-breadths, and twenty-four digits or fingers. 
It had no division in decimal parts, and was not employed for itine- 
rary measure : that was reckoned by paces, Sabbath day's journeys, 
and day's journeys. The measures of capacity were, the ephah for 
the dry, and the hiii for liquid measure ; the primitive standard 
from nature of which was an egg-shell ; six of these, constituted th<^ 


logt a measure little less than our pint. The largest measure of ca,- 
pacity, the homers was common both to liquid and dry substances; 
and its contents nearly corresponded with our wine hogshead, and 
with the Winchester quarter. The intermediate measures were dif- 
ferent, and differently subdivided. They combined the decimal and 
duodecimal divisions: the latter of which may, perhaps, have arisen 
from the accidental number of the tribes of Israel. Thus, in liquids;, 
the bath was a tenth part of the homer, the bin a sixth part of the 
bath, and the log a twelfth part of the bin ; while, for dry measure, 
the ephah was a tenth part of the homer, the seah a third, and the 
omer a tenth part of the ephah, and the cab a sixth part of the seah. 
The weights and coins were, the shekel, of twenty gerahs; the maneh, 
■which for weight was of sixty and in money of fifty shekels; and 
the kinchar, or talent, of three thousand shekels in both. The ephah 
had also been formed by the process of cubing an Egyptian measure 
of length, called the ardob. The original weight of the shekel was 
the same as one-half of our avoirdupois ounce; the most ancient of 
weights traceable in human history. 

And thus the earliest and most venerable of historical records ex- 
tant, in perfect coincidence with speculative theory, prove, that the 
natural standards of weights and measures are not the same ; that 
even the natural standaids of cloth and of long measure are two, both 
derived from the stature and proportions of man, but one from his 
hand and arm, the other from his leg and foot ; that the natural 
standards of measures of capacity and of weights are different from 
those of linear measure, and different from each other, the essential 
character of the weight being compact solidity, and that of the ves- 
sel bounded vacuity ; that the natural standards of weights are two, 
one of which is the same with metallic money ; and that decimal arith- 
metic, as founded in nature, is peculiaily applicable to the standard 
units of weights and measures, but not to their subdivisions or frac- 
tional parts, nor to the objects of admeasurement and weight. 

With all these diversities, the only commands of the law for ob- 
serving uniformity were, that the weights and the measures should 
he just, perfect, and not divers, a great and a small. But this last 
prohibition was merely an ordinance against fraud. It was a precept 
to the individual, and not to the nation. It forbade the iniquitous 
practice of using a large weight or measure for buying, and a small 
one for selling the same article ; and, to remove the oppoitunity for 
temptation, it enjoined upon the individual not to have divers weights 
and measures, great and small, of the same denomination, in his 
bag when at market, or in his house when at home. But it was ne- 
ver understood to forbid that there should be measures of different di- 
mensions bearing the same name : and it appears, from the sacred 
history, that there actually were three different measures called a cu- 
bit, of about the relative proportion of 17, 21, and 35, of ourinches, 
to each other. They were distinguished by the sevei'al denominations 
of the cubit of a man, the cubit of the king, and the cubit of the 


In the vision of the prophet Ezckicl, duriiii^ the Babylonian cap- 
tivity — that vision which, under the resurrection of dead bones, sha- 
dowed fortjj the restoration and union of the houses of Ephraiin and 
of Judah, vvitli the rej)roaches of former violence and spoil, injus- 
tice and exactions, arc minified the exhoitations of future righteous- 
ness, particularly with reference to weights and measures : and there 
is a special command that tlie measures of capacity, liquid and dry, 
should be the same. 

** Thus saith the Lord God ; let it suffice you, princes of Israel, 
** remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take 
'* away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord God. Ye 
** shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath. The 
** ephali and the bath shall be one measure, that the bath may con- 
** tain the tenth part of an homer, and the ephali the tenth part of an 
<' homer ; the measure thereof shall be after the homer. And the shekel 
** shall be twenty gerahs : twenty shekels, live and twenty shekels, 
« fifteen shekels, shall be your nianeh. This is the oblation that ye 
*' shall offer; the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of wheat ; and 
** ye shall give the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of barley. 
<* Concerning the ordinance of oil, ye shall offer the tenth part of a 
" bath out of the cor, which is an homer of ten baths ; for ten baths 
** are an homer.'* 

Here we see combined the uniformity of identity, and the uniformi- 
ty of proportion. Thehomei* was a dry, and the cor a liquid, mea- 
sure of capacity : they were of the same contents : the ephah and the 
bath were their corresponding tenth parts, also of the same capacity. 
But the oblation of wheat and barley was to be a sixth part of the 
ephah, and the oblation of oil a tenth part of the bath. The obla- 
tions were uniform, but the measures were proportional ; and that 
proportion was compounded of the different weight and value of the 
respective articles. 

In the same vision of Ezekiel, the directions are given for the 
building of the new temple after the restoration of the captivity ; and 
all the dimensions of the temple are prescribed by a measuring reed 
of six cubits long by the cubit and an hand-breadth. " And these 
" (says he) are the measures of the altar after the cubits : the cubit 
•'* is a cubit and an hand-breadth.** [Ch. xliii, 1 3.] 

The book of Job is a story of a man, supposed not to have been 
descended from Abraham, and certainly not belonging to any of 
the tribes of Israel. It has reference to other manners, other cus- 
toms, opinions, aiid laws, than those of the Hebrews. But it bears 
evidence of the primitive custom of paying silver by weight, while 
gold and jewels were valued by tale ; and of that system of propor- 
tional uniformity, which combines gravity and extension for the men- 
suration of fluids. Speaking of wisdom, it says, [ch. xxviii, v. 15, 17] 
** It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the 
** price thereof. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it; and tiie 
** exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold." And, after- 


wards, in the same chapter, that ** God maketh the weight for the 
** winds, and and weiglieth the waters by vieaswe." 

The cubit was also a primitive measure of length among the Greeks ; 
but, at the institution of the Olympic games, by Hercules, his foot is 
said to have been substituted as the unit of measure for the foot-race. 
Six hundred of these feet constituted the stadium, or length of the 
course or stand, which thenceforth became the standard itinerary 
measure of the nation. It was afterwards by the Romans combined 
with the pace, a thousand of which constituted the mile. The foot 
and the mile, or tliousand paces, are our standard measures of length 
at this day. 

The foot has over the cubit the advantage of being a common ali- 
quot part both of the pace and the fathom. It is also definite at both 
extremities, and affords the natural means of reducing the two stand- 
ard measures of length to one. Its adoption was therefore a great 
and important advance towards uniformity: and this may account 
for the universal abandonment, by all the modern nations of Europe, 
of that primitive antediluvian standard measure, the cubit. 

Of the Greek weights and measures of capacity, the origin is not 
distinctly known ; but that w hatever uniformity ever existed in the 
system was an uniformity of pi'oportion, and not of identity, is cer- 
tain. They had weights corresponding to our avoirdupois and troy- 
pounds, and measures answering to our wine and ale gallons; not 
indeed in the same proportions; but in the proportions to each other 
of the weight of wine and oil. 

It has been observed that the process of weighing implies two sub- 
stances, each of which is the standard and test of the other; that, 
in the order of human existence, the use of weights precedes the 
weighing of metals, but that when the metals and their uses to the 
purposes of life are discovered, their value can at first be estimated 
only by weight, whereby they soon become standards both of weight 
and of value for all other things. This theory is confirmed by the 
history of the Greek, no less than by that of the Hebrew, weights 
and measures. The term talent, in its primitive meaning in the 
Greek language, signified a balance; and it was at once the largest 
weight and the highest denomination of money among the Greeks. 
Its subdivisions, the wma, and the drachma, were at once weights 
and money ; and the drachma was the unit of all the silver coins. 
But the money which was a weight, though substituted for many 
purposes, instead of the more ancient weight by which it had itself 
been tried, never excluded it from use. It had not the fortune of the 
foot, to banish from the use of mankind its predecessor. They had 
the weight for money, and the weight for measure. 

As there are thus in nature two standards of weight, there are also 
two of measures of capacity. From the names of the Greek mea- 
sures ol capacity, they were originally assumed from cockle and 
other shells of fish. But as these give no scales of proportion for 
subdivisions, wIkmi reduced to a system, their capacity was deter- 
mined by the two modifications of matter, extension and weight. 


Xike tlic Hebrews, tlioy had measures for liquid and dry substances 
atIucIi were the same; but with diftei-ent multiples and subdivisions. 
Their measures of whie and oil were determined by the weight of 
their contents; their measures of water and of grain, by vessels of 
capacity cuhed from measures of length. 

rhe weights and measures of the Romans were all derived from 
those of the Gi'eeks. The identity of one of their standard units of 
weight, with money and coin, was the same. ^9es, brass, was their 
original money: and as its payment was by weight, the term pound, 
libra, was the balance; and money was the weight of bi-ass in the 
balance. The general term soon came to be applied to a definite 
weight: and when afterwards silver came to be coined, the sestcriiuSf 
which signified two and a half, and the denarius, or piece of ten, 
meant the pieces of silver of value equal respectively to two and a 
half and to ten of the original bi-ass weights of the balance. The 
sestertius was the unit of money, and the denarius of silver coins. 

The Romans had also two pound weights; which were termed the 
metrical and the scale pound. " The scale pound," says Galen, 
** determines the wei^Af of bodies; the metrical pound, the contents 
"or quantity of spat-e which they fill." 

Tlieir measures of capacity for wet or dry substances were in like 
manner, in part, the same, but with different multiples a!id subdivi- 
sions. Like them they were formed of the two different processes of 
cubing the foot, and of testing wine and oil by weight. The amphora, 
or largest measure of liquids, weighed eighty pounds of water, and 
was formed by cubing, or, as they called it, squaring their foot mea- 
sure : it was for that reason called a quadrantal. But their congins, 
or unit of liquid measure, was any vessel containing ten metrical 
pounds weight of wine. The Silian law, enacted nearly three centu- 
ries before the Christian era, expressly declares that the quadrantal 
contains eighty pounds of wine, the congius ten pounds; that the seX' 
tariiis contains the sixth part of a congius, and is a measure both 
for liquid and dry substances; that forty-eight sextarii make a quad- 
rantal of wine, and sixteen librce a modius. The money pound, or 
pondOf and the metrical pound, w libra, were in the proportion to 
each other of 84 to 100, nearly the same as that between our troy 
and avoirdupois weights. [Arbuthnot on Coins, Weights, and Mea- 
sures, p. 23.] There is a standard congius of the age of Vespasian 
.still extant at Rome; and the inscription upon it marks, that it con- 
tains ten pounds of wine. 

Among the nations of modern Europe there are two, who, by their 
genius, their learning, their industry, and their ardent and success- 
ful cultivation of the arts and sciences, are scarcely less distinguish- 
ed than the Hebrews from whom they have received most of their 
religious, or the Greeks from whom they have derived many of their 
civil and political institutions. From these two nations the inhabi- 
tants of these United States are chiefly descended ; and fi'om one of 
them we have all our existing weights and measures. Both of them, 
for a series of ages, have been engaged in the pursuit of au uniform 


system of weights and measures. To this the wishes of their philaii- 
thropists, the hopes of their patriots, the researches of their philoso- 
phers, and the energy of their legislators, have been aiming with 
efforts so stupendous and with perseverance so untiring, that, to any 
person who shall examine them, it may well be a subject of astonish- 
ment to find that they are both yet entangled in the pursuit at this 
Jioui-, and that it may be doubted whether all their latest and greatest 
exertions liave not hitherto tended to increase diversity instead of 
producing uniformity. 

It was observed, at the introduction of these remarks, that one of 
the primary elements of uniformity, as applied to a system of weights 
and measures, has reference to the persons by whom they are used 5 
and it has since been noticed, that the power of the legislator is re- 
stricted to the inhahitants of his own dominions. Now, the perfection 
of uniformity with respect to the persons to whose use a system of 
metrology is adapted, consists in its embracing, at least in its apti- 
tude, the whole human race. In the abstract, that system which 
"would be most useful for one nation, would be the best for all. But 
this uniformity cannot be obtained by legislation. It must be impos- 
ed by conquest, or adopted by consent. When therefore two populous 
and commercial nations are at the same time forming and maturing 
a system of weights and measures on the principle of uniformity, un- 
less the system proves to be the same, the result as respects all their 
relations with each other must be, not uniformity, hut new and in- 
creased diversity. This consideration is of momentous importance 
to the people of this Union. Since the establishment of our national 
independence, we have partaken of that ardent spirit of reform, and 
that impatient longing for uniformity, which have so signally animat- 
ed Hie two nations from whom we descended. The Congress of the 
United States have been as earnestly employed in the search of an 
uniform system of weights and measures as the British Parliament. 
Have either of them considered, how that very principle of uniformity 
"would be affected by any, the slightest change, sanctioned by either, 
in the existing system, now common to both? If uniformity be their 
object, is it not necessary to contemplate it in all its aspects? And 
"while squaring the circle to draw a sti'aight line from a curve, and 
fixing mutability to find a standard pendulum, is it not worth their 
while to inquire, whether an imperceptible improvement in the uni- 
formity of things would not be dearly purchased by the loss of mil- 
lions in the uniformity of persons? 

It is presumed that the intentions of the Senate, in requiring a 
statement of the proceedings in foreign countries for establishing uni- 
formity in weights and measures will be fulfilled by confining this 
part of the inquiry to the proceedings of the two nations above men- 
tioned. It appears that a reformation of the weights and measures 
of Spain is among tlie objects now under the consideration of the 
Cortt s i»f that kingdom : and, as weights and measures are the neces- 
sa'^\ and universal instruments of commerce, no change can be effect- 
ed in the system of any one nation without sensibly affecting, though 


in very different degrees, all those with whom they entertain any re- 
lations of trade. But the results of this inquiry, newly instituted in 
Spain, have not yet been made known. France and Great Britain 
are the only nations of modern Europe who have taken mnch interest 
in the organization of a new system, or attempted a reform for the 
avowed purpose of uniformity. The proceedings in those two coun- 
tries have been numei-ous, elaborate, persevering, and, in France es- 
pecially, comprehensive, profound, and systematic. In both, the 
phenomenon is still exhibited, that, after many centuries of study, of 
invention of laws, and of penalties, almost every village in the coun- 
try is in the habitual use of different weights and measures ; which 
diversity is infinitely multiplied, by the fact, that, in each country, al- 
though the quantities of the weights and measures are thus different, 
their denomiirations are few in number, and the same names, as 
foot, pound, ounce, bushel, pint, &c. are applied in different places, 
and often in the same place, to quantities altogether diverse. 

During the conquering period of the French Revolution, the new 
system of French weights and measures was introduced into those 
countries which were united to the empire. Since the severance of 
those countries from France, it has been discarded, excepting in the 
kingdom of the Netherlands, where, by two ordinances of the king, 
it has been confirmed with certain exceptions and modifications, par- 
ticularly with regard to the coins. 

In England, from the earliest records of parliamentary history, 
the statute books are filled w ith ineffectual attempts of the legislature 
to establish uniformity. Of the origin of their weights and measures, 
the historical traces are faint and indistinct : but they have had, from 
time immemorial, the pound, ounce, foot, inch, and mile, derived 
from the Romans, and through them from the Greeks, and the yardj 
or girthf a measure of Saxon origin, derived, like those of the He- 
brews and the Greeks, from the human body, but, as a natural stand- 
ard, different from theirs, being taken not from the length or mem- 
bers, but from the circumference of the body. The yard of the Sax- 
ons evidently belongs to a primitive system of measures different from 
that of the Greeks, of which the foot, and from that of the Hebrews, 
Egyptians, and Antediluvians, of which the cubit was the standard. 
It affords, therefore, another demonstration, how invariably nature 
first points to the human body, and its proportions, for the original 
standards of linear measure. But the^ard being for all purposes of 
use a measure corresponding with the ulnUf or ell, of the Roman sys- 
tem, became, when superadded to it, a source of diversity, and an 
obstacle to uniformity in the system. The yard, therefore, very soon 
after the Roman conquest, is said to have lost its original character 
of girth ; to have been adjusted as a standard by the arm of king Hen- 
ry the First : and to have been found or made a multiple of the foot, 
thereby adapting it to the remainder of the system : and this may 
perhaps be the cause of the difference of the present English foot 
from that of the Romans, by whom, as a measure, it was introduced. 
The ell measure has, however, in England, retained its place as a 


standard for measuring cloth ; but, in the ancient statutes, which fof 
centuries after the conquest were enacted in the degenerate Latin of 
the age, the term ulna, or ell, is always used to designate the yard. 
Historical traditions allege that, a full century before the Conquest, a 
law of Edgar prescribed that there should be the same weights, and 
the same measures, throughout the realm ; but that it was never ob- 
served. The system which had been introduced by the Romans, how- 
ever uniform in its origin, must have undergwie various changes in 
the different governments of the Saxon Heptarchy. When thosfr 
kingdoms were united in one, it was natural that laws of uniformity 
should be prescribed by the prince ; and as natuial that usages of di- 
versity should be persisted in by the people. Canute the Dane, Wil- 
liam the Conqueror, and Richard the First, princes among those of 
most extensive and commanding authority, are said to have made 
laws of the like import, and tite same inefficacy. The Norman Con- 
quest made no changes in any of the established weights and mea- 
sures. The very words of a law of William the Conqueror are cited 
by modern writers on the English weights and measures; their im- 
port is: "We ordain and command that the weights and measures, 
** throughout the realm, be as our worthy predecessors have estab- 
*< lished." [Wilkins, Legg, Saxon, Folkes, cited by Clark, p. 150.] 

One of the principal objects of the Great Charter was the establish- 
ment of uniformity of weights and measui-es; but it was a uniformity^ 
of existing weights and measui-es ; and a uniformity not of identity, 
but of proportion. The words of the 25th chapter of the Great Char- 
ter of the year 1225 (9 Henry in.) are, in the English translation of 
the statutes, *' one measure of wine shall be through our realm, 
** and one measure of ale, and one measure of corn, that is to say, 
** the quarter of London : and one breadth of dyed cloth, that 
** is to say, two yards [ulne] within the lists : and it shall be of 
** weights as it is of measures." The London quarter, therefore, 
and the yard^ or ultittf were existing, known, established measures j; 
and the one measure of corn w as the London quarter. The one mea- 
sure of ale w as a gallon, of the same contents for liquid measure as 
the half peck was for dry. But the one measure of wine was a gal- 
lon, not of the same cubical contents as the half-peck and ale gallon, 
but which, when filled with wine, was of the same weight as the half- 
peck, or corn gallon, when filled with wheat. And the expressions, 
** it shall be of weights as it is of measures," mean that there shall 
be the same proportion between the money w eight, and the merchant's 
weight, as between the wine measure and the corn measure. 

The Great Charter, which now appears as the first legislative act 
in the English statutes at large, is not the Magna Charta extorted by 
tlie barons from John, at Runnimead, but a repetition of it by Hen- 
ry the Third in the year 1225, as confirmed by his son, Edward the 
First, in the year 1300. It is properly an act of this last date, though 
inserted in the book as of 9 Henry III., or 1225. 

In several of tlie subsequent confirmations of this charter, which, for 
successive ages, attest at once how apt it was to be forgotten by power. 


and how present it always was to the memory of the people, the real 
moaning of this 25th cliaptor aj)pcars to have heen misunderstood. 
It has been supjjoscd to have presci'ibed the unifoimity of identity, 
and not the uniformity of proportion ; that, by enjoining one measure 
of wine, and one measure of ale, and one measure of corn, its inten- 
tion was, that all these measures should be the same; that there should 
be only one unit measure of capacity for liciuid and dry substances, 
and one unit of weights. 

But this neither was, nor could be, the meaning of the statute. 
Had it been the intention of the legislator, he would have said, there 
shall be one and the same measure for wine, corn, and ale; and the 
reference to the London quarter could not liave been made, for nei- 
ther wine nor ale were ever measured by the quarter; and, instead of 
saying *' it shall be of weights as it is of measures," it would have 
said, there shall be but one set of weights for whatever is to be 

The object of the whole statute was, not to innovate, but to fix 
existing rights and usages, and to guard against fraud and oppres- 
sion. It says that the measure of corn shall be the London quarter; 
that cloth shall be two yards within the lists. But it neither defines 
the contents of the quarter, nor the length of the yard : it refers to 
both as fixed and settled quantities. To have prescribed that tiiere 
should be but one unit of weights and one measure of wine, ale, 
and corn, would have been a great and violent innovation upon all 
the existing habits and usages of the people. The chapter is not in- 
tended for a general regulation of weights and measures. It refers 
specifically and exclusively to the measure of three articles, wine, 
ale, corn; and to the width of cloths. Its intention was to provide 
that the measure of corn, of ale, and of wine, should not be the same ; 
that is, that the wine measure should not be used for ale and corn, 
nor the ale measure for wine. 

That sucli was and must have been the meaning of the statute, is fur- 
ther proved by the statute of 1266, (51 Henry lU.) and by the treatise 
upon weights and measures, published in the statute books as of the 
31 Edward I., or 1304 ; the first, an act of the same Henry the Third 
whose Great Charter is that inserted among the laws, and the second 
an act of the same Ed w aid the Fii'st whose confirmation of the Great 
Gharter is the existing statute. 

The act of 51 Henry 111., (1266) is called the assize of bread and 
of ale. It purports to be an exemplification, given at the request of 
tlie bakers of the town of Coventry, of certain ordinances, of the 
assize of bread, and ale, and of the making of money and measures, 
made in the times of the king's progenitors, sometime kings of 
England. It presents an established scale, then of ancient standing, 
between the prices of wheat and of bread, providing that when the 
quarter of wheat is sold at twelve pence, the farthing loaf of the best 
white bread shall w^eigh six pounds sixteen shillings. It then gra- 
duates the weight of bread accoi'ding to the price of wheat, and for 
,every si'X pence added t() t+»e quartei' of wheat, retlurefi.! though not 


in exact proportions, the weight of the farthing loaf, till, when the 
wheat is at twenty shillings a quarter, it directs the weight of the 
loaf to be six shillings and three pence. It regulates, in like manner, 
the price of tlie gallon of ale, by tlie price of wheat, barley, and oats; 
and, finally, declares, that, " by the consent of the whole realm of Eng- 
" land, the measure of the king was made; that is to say: that an 
*' English penny, called a sterling round, and without any clipping, 
*•' shall weigh thirty-two wlieat corns in the midst of the ear, and 
** twenty-pence do make an ounce, and twelve ounces one pound, and 
** eight pound do make a gallon of wine, and eight gallons of wine 
" do make a London bushel, which is the eighth part of a quarter." 

Henry the Third was the eighth king of the Norman race : and this 
statute was passed exactly two hundred years after the Conquest. It 
is merely an exemplification, word for word, embracing several or- 
dinances of his progenitors, kings of England; and it unfolds a sys- 
tem of uniformity for weights, coins, and measures of capacity, very 
ingeniously imagined, and skilfully combined. 

It shows, first, that the money weight was identical with the silver 
coins: and it establishes an uniformity of proportion between the 
money weight and the merchant's weight, exactly corresponding to 
that between the measure of wine and the measure of grain. 

It makes wheat and silver money, the two weights of the balance, 
the natural tests and standards of each other; that is, it makes wheat 
the standard for the weight of silver money, and silver money the 
standard for the weight of wheat. 

It combines an uniformity of proportion between the weight and 
the measure of wheat and of wine; so that the measure of wheat 
should at the same time be a certain weight of wheat and the mea- 
sure of wine at the same time a certain weight of wine, so that the 
article whether bought and sold by weight or by measure, the result 
was the same. To this, with regard to wheat, it gave the further 
advantage of an abridged process for buying or selling it by the num- 
ber of its kernels. Under this system, wheat was bought and sold 
hy a» combination of every property of its nature, with reference to 
quantity; that is, by number, weight, and measure. The statute 
also fixed its proportional weight and value with reference to the 
weight and value of the silver coin for which it was to be exchanged 
in trade. If, as the most eminent of the modern economists maintain, 
the value of every thing in trade is regulated by tlie proportional 
value of money and of wheat, then the system of weights and mea- 
sures, contained in this statute, is not only accou^ited for as originat- 
ing in the nature of things, but it may be doubted whether any other 
system be reconcileable to nature. It was with reference to this 
system, that, in the introduction to this report, it was obsei'ved, that 
our own weights and measures were originally founded upon an uni- 
formity of proportion, and not upon an uniformity of identity. In 
the system which allows only one unit of weights and one unit of 
measures of capacity, all the advantages of the uniformity of pro- 


portion arc lost. The litre of the French system is a weight for 
notljing but distilled watei-, at a given temperature. 

But with this statute of 126G, and with the admirable system of 
proportional uniformity in weights and measures, of which it i^ives 
the elements, it has fared still worse than with the twenty-Jifth chap- 
ter of Magna Charta. The most valuable and important f 'ature of 
uniformity in the system, the identity of the nummulary weiglit and 
of the standard silver coin, that feature which is believed to be of 
more influence upon the happiness and upon the morals of nations, 
than any other principle of uniformity of which weights and mea- 
sures are susceptible, w as first defaced by Edward the First himself. 
It was utterly annihilated by his successors. The consequence of 
which has been, that the object and scope of the statute of 1266 have 
been misunderstood by subsequent parliaments; that laws have been 
enacted professedly in conformity to this statute, but entirely subver- 
sive of it; and that anomalies have crept into the weights and mea- 
sures of England, and of this Union, which it appears to be impossi- 
ble to trace to any other source. 

The only notice which most of the modern writers upon English 
"weights and measures have taken of this statute has been, to censure 
it for taking kernels of wheat as the natural standat'd of weights ; 
with the very obvious remark that the wheat of different seasons and 
of different fields, and often even of the same field and the same sea- 
son, is different. But the statute is chargeable with no such uncer- 
tainty. The statute merely describes how the standird measure of 
the exchequer, by the consent of the whole realm of England, was 
made. The article, for which of all others the measure was most 
wanted, was wheat; and a measure was wanted which should give 
it, as far as was practicable, in number, weight, and measure. It 
took, therefore, thirty -two kernels of average wheat from the middle 
of the ear, and found them equal in weight to the silver penny ster- 
ling, new from the mint, round and without clipping. It then drops 
the numeration of wheat; but proceeds to declare that twenty such 
pence make an ounce, twelve ounces one pound, and eight pounds a 
gallon of wiMc, and eight gallons of wine a London bushel, which is 
the eighth part of a quarter. It must be observed heie, that it was 
not the measure but the weight of wine, which was used to form the 
standard bushel. It was not eight wine gallons, but eight gallons of 
wine. The bushel, therefore, filled with wheat, was a measure which, 
in the scales, would exactly balance a keg containing eight gallons 
of wine, deducting the tare of both the vessels. Now, the eighth part 
of this bushel, or the ale gallon, would be a vessel, not of the same 
cubic contents as the wine gallon, but of the same proportion to it as 
the weight of wheat bears to the weight of wine; the proportion be- 
tween the commercial and nummulary weights of the Greeks; the 
proportion between our avoirdupois and troy pounds. 

But neither the present avoirdupois, nor troy weights, were then 
the standard weights of England. The key -stone to the whole fabric 
of the system of 1266 was the weight of the silver penny sterling, 


This penny was tlie two hundred and fortieth part of the tower pound ; 
the sterling or easterling pound which had been used at the mint for 
centuries before the conquest, and which continued to be used for the 
coinage of money till the eighteenth year of Henry the Eighth, 1527', 
wiien the troy pound was substituted in its stead. The tower or eas- 
terling pound weighed three quarters of an ounce troy less than the 
troy pound, and was consequently in the proportion to it of 15 to 16. 
Its penny, or two hundred and fortieth part, weighed, therefore, 2^5 
grains troy ; and that was the weight of the thirty-two kernels of 
wheat from the middle of the ear, which, according to the statute of 
1266, liad been taken to foim the standard measure of wheat for the 
whole realm of England, It is also to be remembered, that the eight 
twelve ounce pounds of wheat, which made the gallon of wine, produc- 
ed a measure which contained nearly ten of the same pounds of wine. 
The commercial pound, by which wine and most other articles were 
weighed, was then of fifteen ounces. This is apparent from the trea- 
tise of weights and measures of 1304, which repeats the composition 
of measures declared in the statute of 1266, with a variation of ex- 
pressions, entirely decisive of its meaning. It says that, " by the 
*' ordnance of the whole realm of England, the measure of the king 
*' was made, that is to say : that tho penny called sterling, round, and 
" without clipping, shall weigh thirty -two grains of wheat in the 
*' middle of the ear. And the ounce shall weigh twenty pence; and 
*' twelve ounces make the London ])onnd ; and eight pounds o^ wheat 
*' make a gallon ; and eight gallons make the London bushel." It 
then proceeds to enumerate a multitude of other articles, sold by 
weight or by numbers, such as lead, wool, cheese, spices, hides, and 
various kinds offish; and, after mentioning nominal hundreds, con- 
sisting of 108 and 120, finally adds, "it is to be known that every 
** pound of money and ot medicines consists only of twenty shillings 
** weight ; but the pound of all other things consists of twenty-five 
*' shillings. The ounce of medicines consists of twenty pence, and 
<* the pound contains twelve ounces ; but, in other things, the pound 
*' contains fifteen ounces, and, in both cases, the ounce is of the weight 
*' of twenty pence." 

Wine and wheat therefore were both among the articles of which 
the pound consisted of fifteen ounces. By the statute of 1266, the 
gallon of wine contained eight such pounds of wine. By the sta- 
tute of 1304, the gallon [for ale] contained eight such pounds of 
wheat; and the weight of wine contained in eight such wine gallons, 
and the weight of wheat contained in eight such corn or ale gallons, 
was equally the measure of the bushel. 

The wine, to which the statute of 1266, and many subsequent En- 
glish statutes exclusively refei", was the wine of Gascoign, a province 
at tliat, and for a long period, under the dominion of the English 
kings, the same sort of wine which now goes under the denomination 
of Claiet, or Bordeaux. Its specific gravity is to that of distilled 
water as l',935 to 10,000, and its w eight is of 250 grains troy weight 
tQ the cubic inch. 


Witli tlicse data. wc#are enabled, accurately, to ascertain tlie di- 
mensions and contents of the bushel, the ale gallon, and wine {gallon, 
of 1266. The silver penny, called the sterling, to which 32 kernels 
of wheat were equiponderant, was equal to 22'» giains troy. Its 
pound of twelve ounces was equivalent to 5400 grains troy. The 
pound of fifteen ounces, by whicli wheat and wine were weighed, was 
equal to 6750 grains ti-oy. F/ight such pounds were equal to 54,000 
grains troy, which divided by 250, the number of grains troy, 
■weighed by a cubic inch of Bordeaux wine, gives a wine gallon of 
916 cubic inches. 

There is no standard wine gallon of that age extant in England ; but 
the weights and measures of England w e? e established by law in Ire- 
laud as early as the year 1351 : and by the act called Poyning's law, of 
10 Henry VII., (1493,) all the then existing statutes of England, re- 
latingto weights and measures, were made applicable to Ireland. The 
changes since effected in England have not extended to Ireland ; at 
least in relation to the measure of wine. The standard Irish wine 
gallon at this day is of 217.6 cubic itiches ; a difference almost im- 
perceptible in the quantity of the gallon, from the legal standard of 
1266, and the cause of which must have been this. 

There was another law, probably of date more ancient than the 
year 1266, in which the measure of the wine gallon was fixed by a 
different process. 

A statute of the year 1423, the second of Henry the Sixth, ch. ii, 
declares that, " in old time it was ordained, and lawfully used, that 
** tuns, pipes, tertians, hogsheads of Gascoigne wine, barrels of her- 
♦' ring and of eels, and butts of salmon, coming by w ay of merchan- 
** dise into the land, out of strange countries, and also made in the 
** same land, should be of certain measure; that is to say : the tun of 
" wine 252 gallons, the pipe 126 gallons, the tertian 84 gallons, the 
** hogshead 63 gallons, the barrel of herring and of eels 30 gallons, 
** fully packed, the butt of salmon 84 gallons, fully packed, &c. ; but 
** that of late, by device and subtlety, such vessels have been of much 
** less measure, to the great deceit and loss of the king and his people^ 
** whereof special remedy was prayed in the parliament." It then 
proceeds to re-enact that no man shall make in England vessels for 
those purposes, or bring wine, &c. into England in vessels of other 
dimensions, than those thus prescribed, upon penalty of forfeiture. 

The ordinance of old time, referred to in this act, is not now among 
the statutes at large, and is therefore probably of more ancient date 
than the Magna Charta of 1225. As it regulated the size of casks,, 
which, in the nature of the thing, were to be made in the country 
whence the wine was imported, it seems likely to have originated 
when Gascoign was under English dominion, and when the law of 
Bordeaux could be accommodated to the assize of the English ton. 
This assize of the ton is in its nature connected with the trade of the 
cooper, with the assize of hoops and staves, with the ai't of the ship- 
builder, and with the whole science of hydraulics and of navigation. 
The measure and form of the ton must be accommodated to the cha- 


racter of the si'listance which it is to contain, and to the convenience 
and safety of its conveyance by sea. It must be adapted for stowage 
to the necessary form of the ship ; to the volatile property of fluids ; 
to tlie concussions of tempestuous elements. It is in the composition 
of the ton that the natural connection between the weight of water, 
and cubic linear measure, first presents itself. The burden of the 
ship is the weight of tonnage which it can bear afloat upon the waves; 
that weight is equal to the weight of water which it displaces; the 
measure of the ship must be taken by the builder in linear measure. 
Now eigiity of the old easterling tower pounds make 432,000 grains 
troy weight, which, divided again by 250, the number of troy grains to 
a cubic inch of Bordeaux wine, give 1728 cubic inches, precisely the 
dimensions of an English cubic foot, one eighth part of which makes 
again the g?J!on of 216 cubic inches. And here we discover, again, 
the quadi'antai or amphora of the Romans, the cubic foot containing 
80 pwmds of wine. 

That the assize of the ton, whicli in 1423 was of old time, was 
equally well known and established \u 1353, appears from a statute 
of that date, 27 Edward III., ch. 8, directing that all wines, red and 
white, shojid be gauged by the king's gangers, and that in case less 
should be found in the tun or pipe than ought to be of right, after the 
assise of the tun, the value of as much as lacked should be allowed 
and deducted in payment. 

The casks of Bordeaux wine were then and still are made for 
stowage in such manner that four hogsheads occupy one ton of ship- 
ping. The ton was of thirty-two cubic feet by measure, and of 2016 
English pounds, of fifteen ounces to the pound, in weight; equal to 
2560 of the easterling tower pound. 

In comparing together the wine gallon as prescribed by the statute 
of 1266 and tliat derived from the assize of the tun, we find the 
former in the ascending ratio, beginning with the kernel of wheat 
and multiplying: the latter is formed in the descending ratio, begin- 
ning at the tun and dividing. In one process, the gallon is formed 
by weight; in the other, by measure. The hogshead of wine was the 
measure corresponding to the quarter of wheat : but there was a 
difference of eight pounds in their weight. The hogshead of wine 
weighed 504 and the quarter of wheat 512 pounds, of 15 ounces. 
The wine gallon of 216 cubic inches, prescribed by the statute of 
1266, was thus an exact eighth part of the English cubic foot of 
1728 inches. 

The wine gallon therefore is the congms of the Romans, weighing 
ten nummulary and eight commercial pounds, and measuring ex- 
actly the eighth part of a cubic foot. 

But the gallon of 216 cubic inches, the eighth part of the cubic 
foot, was derived originally from a measure of water, and was an 
aliquot part of the ton of shipping. The wine gallon of 1266 was 
made of eight easterling pounds of wheat; and, therefore, contained 
of water eight corresponding commercial pounds. But if the gallon 
df water, weighing eight pounds, was of 216 solid inches, the gallon 


of Gascoign wine, to be of the same weie^lit, would be of 217.6 solid 
inches, the precise contents of the standard Irish gallon to this day: 
and the specific gravity of that wine being to that of wheat as 143 to 
175, the corn gallon, balanced by this Irish gallon of 217.6 inches, 
must be of 266.17 cubic inches. The Rumford corn gallon of the 
year 1228, examined by the committee of the House of Com- 
mons in 1758, was found to be of 266.25 cubic inches. The Irish 
wine gallon and the Rumford corn gallon of 1228 were both made, 
with an accuracy wliich all the refinements of art of the present age 
could scarcely surpass, from the standard measure made, as the 
statute of 1266 declares, by the consent of the whole realm, and pre- 
cisely in the manner therein described. 

But, as the hogshead, measuring eight cubic feet, was required by 
the assize of the tun to contain only sixty-three gallons of wine, it 
followed of course that the gallon thus composed was of 219.43 
cubic inches; and as the weight of eight such gallons of wine was to 
form the bushel, the proportion of the weight of wine being to that of 
wheat as 143 to 175, the bushel would be of 2148.25 cubic inches, 
which is within two inches of the Winchester bushel. 

This system of weights and measures has been, by many of the 
modern English writers on the subject, supposed to have been esta- 
blislied by the statute of 1266. But, upon the face of the statute 
itself, it is a mere exemplification of ancient ordinances. The coin- 
cidences in its composition with those of the ancient Romans, proved 
by the letter of the Silian law, and by tlie still existing congius of 
Vespasian ; with tiiose of the Greeks, as described by Galen, and as 
shown by the proportions between their scale weight and their me- 
trical weight; and with that of the Hebrews, as described in the pro- 
phecy of Ezekiel ; show that its origin is traceable to Egypt and 
Babylon, and there vanishes in the darkness of antiquity. As found- 
ed upon the identity of nummulary weights and silver coins, and 
upon the relative proportion between the gravity and extension of 
the first articles of human traffic, corn and wine, it is supposed to 
have originated in the nature and relations of social man, and of 

It has been said, that the first inroad upon this system in Eng- 
land was made by Edward the First himself, by destroying the 
identity between the money weight and the silver coin. From the 
time of the Norman Conquest, and long before, that is, for a space 
of more than three centuries, the tower easterling or sterling pound 
had been coined into twenty shillings, or two hundred and forty of 
those silver pennies^ each of v^ Inch weighed thirty-tw o kernels of 
wheat from the middle of the ear. Edward the First, in the year 
1328, coined the same pound into two hundred and forty-thre«^ pen- 
nies of the same standard alloy. From the moment of that coinage, 
the penny called a sterling, however round, however undipped, had 
lost the sterling weight, though it still retained the name. This de- 
basement of the coin, once commenced, was repeated by successive 
sovereigns, till, in the reign of Edward the Third, the pound was 


coined into twenty-five shillings, or 300 pennies. The silver penny 
then weighed only 25| kernels of that wheat of which the penny of 
1266 weighed 32. It is probable that, in reducing the weight of 
their coins, none of those sovereigns were aware that they were 
taking away the standard of all the weights and of all the vessels of 
measure, liquid and dry, tliroughout the kingdom : but so it was. It 
destroyed all the symmetry of the system. It has been further af- 
fected by the introduction of the troy and avoirdupois weights. 

The standard measures of the exchequer had been made by the 
rules set forth in the statutes of 1266 and 1304. These standards 
were kept in tiie royal exchequer. In process of time, tlic standards 
themselves fell into decay, and called for renovation. In the year 
1494, shortly after the termination of the long and sanguinary wars 
between the houses of York and Lancaster, Henry the Seventh, in 
the tenth year of his I'eign, undertook to furnish forty-three of the 
principal cities of the kingdom with new copies of all the standard 
weights and measures then in the exchequer. Tliey were accordingly 
made and delivered to the representatives in parliament of tl)e re- 
spective counties: but it was soon discovered that they were all de- 
fective, and not made according to the laws of the land. From what 
cause this had arisen, does not appear ; but that the laws of the land 
to which they referred, namely, the statutes of 1266 and 1304, were 
and continued to be entirely misunderstood, is abundantly apparent 
from the statute which was made the very next session of parlia- 
ment, 1496, to remedy the evil. 

This act, after reciting tlie extraordinary attention of the king in 
Laving made at his great charge and cost, and having distributed, all 
those county standards of weights and measures, according to the 
old standards in the treasury; and after stating the disappointment 
which had ensued, upon the discovery of more diligent examination 
that they were all defective and not made accordi)ig to the old laws 
and statutes, proceeds to ordain, that the measure of abjshel contain 
eight gallons of wheat, that every gallon contain eight pounds of 
wheat, troy weight, and every pound contain twelve ounces of troy 
weight, and every ounce contain twenty sterlings^ and every sterling 
be of the weight of thirty-two corns of wheat that grew in the midst 
of the ear of wheat, acoirding to the old laws of the land: and the new 
standard gallon, after the said assize, was to be made to remain in 
the king's treasury forever. All the weights and measures, which 
had been sent by the act of the former year throughout England, were 
directed to be returned : others, conformable to the new standard, 
were to be made from them and sent back, after which, all weights 
and measures were to be made conformably to them. 

It is from the terms of this statute, that many of the English wri- 
ters have concluded that the kernel of wheat was the original stand- 
ard of English weights. It is by this statute made the standard of 
troy weight ; but it was not so according to the old laws of the land. 
It was not so in the measure declared in 1266, and 1304, to have been 


made by the consent of the whole realm of England. To prove this, 
it is only necessary to conipai-e the statutes to,s;etlier. 

The two first declare, that an En,glish pennif, called a sterlings 
round and without any clippinj?, will weigh thirty-two corns of wheat 
from the midot of the ear. That penny was the two hundied and 
fortieth part of the old tower jwund, and was one-sixteenth lighter 
than troy weight. Tlie weight of that penny in 1266 is therefore 
now known, but appears not to liave been known to the parliament 
of 1496. For the tower pound was then coined into thirty-seven 
shillings and six pence sterling, and, consequently, the penny called 
a stei'ling, instead of then weighing thirty-two grains of the wheat, 
which it weighed in 1304, would have weighed only seventeen of the 
same grains. 

The term penmj, therefore, is dropped in the act of 1496, but the 
term sterling is i*etained, and impi-operly applied to the penny weight 
troy. The penny of 1266 was both weight and coin. In 1496, the 
penny had ceased to be a coin, and the penny sterling, which was yet 
money, weiglied little more than half what it had weighed till after 
1304. The penny weight troy was never called a sterling ^ any where, 
or at any time, but in this act of 1496. It was neither the weight of 
the old tower standaid, nor was it the penny sterling of Henry the 
Seventh's own coinage. 

The statute of 1496 inverts the order of the old statutes ; it is not 
a composition^ but an analysis, of measures. It begins with the bush- 
el, and descends to the kernel. The act of 1266, to make the weight, 
numher, and measure, of corn, money, and wine, begins with the ker- 
nel, and ascends by steps to the weight of coin ; thence, to the mea- 
sure of wine, by the w eight of corn j thence, to the measure of corn, 
by the weight of w ine. The mere process of the composition estab- 
lishes the proportional measures. The statute of 1496 destroys the 
proportion altogether. It says that every gallon shall contain eight 
pounds of wheat troy weight, and every pound twelve ounces of 
troy weight. It substitutes, therefore, instead of the weight of the 
gallon of wine, prescribed by the statute of 1266, the measure of the 
Nvine gallon, for the eighth part of the bushel. The gallon, establish- 
ed by this act of 1496, is the gallon of two hundred and twenty-four 
cubic inches^ the Guildhall gallon, which in 1688 was found by the 
commissioners of the excise to be of that capacity. It contains eight 
pounds troy weight of wheat, and, consequently, eight pounds 
avoirdupois of Bordeaux wine, of 250 grains troy to the cubic inch. 
Its bushel would contain seventeen hundred and ninety-two cubic in- 
ches ; but if such a bushel ever was made, as the act required, it ne- 
ver was used as a standard. It must have been found to fall too far 
short of the old standards still existing ; and the real standard bush- 
els of Henry the Seventii, in the exchequer, instead of being made ac-^ 
cording to the process prescribed in his law of 1496, must have been 
copied from the older stajidard bushels then existing. 
• The gallon of two hundred and thirty-one inches was also a gallon 
made under the statute of 1496. But the wheat is of that kind thirty- 


two grains of which equipoise the penny of the old tower pound/ 
"while the wheat that forms the gallon of two hundred and twenty- 
four inches, is tliat of which thirty-two kernels weigh a penny weight 
troy. The weight of the corn in hoth gallons would be the samef 
but that, of which each kernel upon the average would be one six- 
teenth heavier than those of the other, would, by the combined pro- 
portion of gravity and numbers, occupy one thirty-second less of space. 
This is precisely the difference between the gallons of two hundred 
and twenty-four and two hundred and thirty-one solid inches. 

The debasement of the coin had destroyed its original identity with 
the money weight. The substitution of trmj weiglit, instead of the 
old easterling pound, for the composition of the gallon, destroyed the 
coincidence between the water gal Ion, derived from the ton, the eighth 
part of the cubic foot, and the wine gallon, containing eight money 
pounds of wheat. The wine gallon of t\vo hundred and twenty-four, 
or two hundred and thirty-one cubic inches, no longer bore the same 
proportion to the cubic foot of water ; one consequence of which was, 
that the hogshead of Bordeaux wine, which the law required to con- 
tain sixty-three gallons, no longer contained that number of English 
gallons ; but, from that day to this, has contained from fifty-nine to 
sixty-one. It still contains at least sixty-three Irish gallons. 

The act of 12 Henry VII, (1496,) intended, upon the face of it, ta 
be a mere repetition of the statutes of 1 266, and 1304, was thus a to- 
tal subversion of them. It was founded upon two mistakes j the first, 
a supposition that the penny sterling, described in those statutes, was 
the penny weight troy ; and the second, a belief that it was the mea* 
sure, and not the xOeight, of eight gallons of wine, which constituted 
the bushel. The causes of these mistakes were, first, that, in the lapse 
of two centuries, a great portion of which had been a period of ca- 
lamity and civil war, the successive debasements of the coin had re- 
duced the penny sterling to about half its weight as it was wh-^'u made 
the standard of comparison with thirty-two kernels of wheat ; and 
finding that the penny sterling of their own time, if used to make the 
new standard bushel, would reduce its size by nearly one half, which 
had perhaps been the mistake upon which the act of 1494 had been 
made, they must hastily have concluded that it was the penny weight 
troy, which was intended by the old statutes. The second was a mis- 
application of the term ^aWon, which, in its original meaning, and in 
its popular signification to this day, is exclusively a measure of li- 
quids, and not of dry substances. In the statute of 1266, it is ex- 
pressly called the gallon of wine. In the act of 1304, it was called 
the gallon, without addition, but meaning the same wine gallon. The 
measure for corn was the bushel ; and its subdivisions were the peck, 
pottle, and pint. The eighth part of the measure of a bushel was 
first c&Wed Si gallon, because it was used as the measure of the ordina- 
ry liquids brewed from grain, beer and ale. There never was j)ro- 
perly any corn gallon ; and the term was misapplie<l even to denote 
the measure of beer. Being a vessel of different dimensions, it ought 


to have had a different name ; and that alone would have prevented 
them from ever bein.i^ mistaken the one for the other. 

Tlie parliament of 1496 were setluced by those expressions, so of- 
ten re-echoed from year to year, and from century to century, that 
there should be but one weij^ht, and one measure, throughout the land. 
They mistook the uniformity of proportion, for the uniformity of 
identity. They construed tlie threefold *'onc measure of wine, and 
one measure of ale, and one measure of corn," ordained in Magna 
Charta, as if it meant that those three one measures should he the 
same. That these mistakes should be made, is not sui-prising when 
we consider that, in 1496, the art of printing was hut in the cradle; 
that no collection of the statutes had ever been printed ; that the lan- 
guages in which the statutes of 1266, and 1304, had been enacted, tlie 
Norman French, and the barbarous Latin of tlie thirteenth century, 
were no longer in use, at least in parliament; that the very records, 
by which the weight of the penny sterling in 1266 might have been as- 
certained, were, perhaps, not known to exist. But it is not so easy 
to explain how they could mistake the penny of the old easterling 
pound, which was still, and continued for forty years after to be, used 
at the mint for coining money, for the penny troy weight. 

We have seen that, in 1304, the easterling pound of twelve ounces 
was the money pound, and that the coi-responding commercial weiglit 
was a pound of fifteen of the same ounces. These were the result of 
a rough and inaccurately settled proportion between the specific gra- 
vity V)f wheat and wine, or wheat and water. Mr. Jefferson has justly 
remarked, that the difference between the specific gravity of wine 
and of water is so small, that it may safely, as between buyer and 
seller, be disregarded. And it was disregarded by those two acts of 
parliament, one of which made the wine gallon an eighth part of the 
cubic foot of water, while the othpr made it equiponderant to eight 
easterling pounds of wheat. So the proportion of the two pounds of 
twelve and fifteen of the same ounces was, upon a rough estimate, that 
the proportional weight of wheat and wine was as four to five, or as 
fourteen to seventeen and a lialf ; and it was afterwards assumed as 
of fourteen to seventeen. But if trade, and even legislation, may 
safely neglect small quantities, nature is no such accountant of more 
or less. It has been shown tliat the water gallon, of eight easterling 
twelve ounce pounds of wheat, corresponds with the gallon of two 
hundred and sixteen cubic inches, the eighth part of tlie cubic foot ; 
but that, when a Bordeaux wine gallon is to be made, containing tlie 
same eight pounds of wheat, it produces a gallon, not of 216, but of 
217.6 cubic inches. In the mode of forming the gallon and bushel, 
described in the act of 1266, it is not the loose calculations of man, 
but the unerring hand of nature, that establishes the proportions. 
The vessel that would hold eight money pounds of wheat was the 
wine gallon. The vessel that would balance, filled with wheat, eight 
gallons of that wine, was tlie bushel. Then, if a half peck of this 
Uushel was taken for u beer galloti. its prop ortion to the wine gallon 


would not be of fifteen to twelve, nor of seventeen to fourteen, but af 
one hundred and seventy-five to one hundred and forty-three. 

When the avoirdupois or the troy weights were first introduced 
into England, has b^en a subject of controversy among the English 
writers, and is not ascertained. The names of both indicate a French 
origin : but that no new weight or measure was brought in by the Nor- 
man Conqueror is certain, and the statute of weights and measures 
of 1304 proves that neither of them were then recognized by law* 
One of the most learned writers upon the coins,* says that troy 
weights were first established by this statute of Henry VII. of 1496; 
that it was owing to the intercursus magnust or great treaty of com- 
merce concluded between England and Flanders the year before ; that 
the Flemish pound was adopted as a compliment to the Duchess of 
Burgundy, and for the mutual convenience of all their payments, 
wiiich would then be adjusted by the same pound. 

This conjecture is ingenious, but not well founded. The statute of 
1496 did, in fact, legitimate troy weight for the composition of the gal- 
lon and the bushel, but it professed, and intended to introduce, no new 
weight or measure. Its purpose was to re-enact the composition of 
weights and measures of 1266. It was a legislative error, intended to 
correct another error committed at the last preceding session of parlia- 
ment in 1494, before the intercursus magnus was concluded. Instead 
of correcting the erroi', it rendered it irreparable. It was so far from 
correcting the error, that, although a standard wine gallon was made 
utider this statute, which was tlie Guildhall wine gallon of two hun- 
dred and twenty-four inches, there never was a standard bushel made 
by the rule prescribed in this statute : and if there had been, its cu- 
bic contents would have been not one inch more or less than seventeen 
hundred and ninety-two. 

The troy weight was never used by Henry VII. at the mint at all. 
He made a wine gallon by it, because the difference between a gallon 
of 217.6 inches, which was the old standard, and one of 224, which 
was made by his troy weights, was not large enough to make its 
incorrectness apparent. It was scarcely the difference of a small 
wine glass upon a gallon : and, as it was a difference of excess over 
the contents of the old standard, it might naturally be attributed to 
the decays or inaccuracy of that. He ordained that a bushel should 
be made by it; but a bushel made from the measure of his wine gal- 
lon, a bushel of seventeen hundred and ninety-two inches, would have 
contained at least three hundred and thirty inches, nearly twelve 
pounds in weight less than any of the old standards. This would 
have been found a difference utterly intolerable. It would have been 
necessary to recal and break up the new standards a second time, 
and to acknowledge a second error greater than the first. So the 
statute, so far as related to the composition of the bushel, was suf- 
fered to slumber upon the rolls ; the old standard bushels were still 
iTtaincd ; and new ones were also made, not by tlic troy, but by 

* Clarke. 


the avoirdupois pouiid of wheat : and hence it is that standard 
bushels of Henry tlie Seventh exist at the exchequer, one of 21 '•24 in- 
ches, which is the old standard, and one()f!3146 inches, which is the 
Winchester bushel, and, at the same time, corn gallons of 27^2 in- 

That the troy weia;ht was not introxluced into England by Henry 
the Seventh is further proved by two statutes; one of 1414, 2 Hen- 
ry y. ch. 4, and one of 1423, 2 Henry VI. st. 2, ch. 4 : in the first 
of which it is ordained, that the goldsmiths should give no silver 
worse than of the allay of the English sterling, and that they take 
for a pound of troif gilt but forty-six shillings and eight pence at the 
most : and, in the second, that silver, not coined, in plate, piece, or 
in mass, being of as good alLay as the sterling, should not be sold for 
more than thirty shillings the pound troy, besides the fashion, be- 
cause the same was of no more value at the coin than thirty-two shil- 
lings. Tiie tower easterling pound was at that time coined into thir- 
ty shillings, and the value of the troy pound of the same alloy was, 
©f course, thirty-two. 

From these two statutes it is apparent that, nearly a century before 
Henry the Seventh, the troy pound was used by the goldsmiths, who 
were the bankers of that age, and were foreigners, for weighing bul- 
lion and plate ; and that tlie proportion of the troy pound to the 
tower money pound was as sixteen to fifteen. 

That the troy pound, though adopted by Henry the Seventh for 
the composition of the bushel and gallon, was not introduced by him 
at the mi'it, appears equally clear. About the middle of the last cen- 
tury, Martin Folkes published liis tables of English coins, in which 
he cited a verdict remaining in the exchequer, dated 30th October, 
1527, 18 Henry VIII. in which are the following words: "And 
*• whereas, heretofore, the merchant paid for coynage of every pound 
" towre of fyne gold, weighing xi. oz. quarter troye, 2s. 6d. 
** Nowe it is determined by the King's highness, and his said coun- 
*** celle, tliat the aforesaid pounde towre shall be no more used and 
** occupied ; but all manner of golde and syl ver shall be wayed by the 
*' pounde troye, which maketh xii. oz. troye, which excedith the 
** pounde towre in weight three qiiarters of the ounce." [Clarke^ 
p. 15.] 

A French record of much earlier date, from the register of the 
Chamber of Accounts at Paris, cited also by Folkes, shows that, 
early in the fourteenth century, there were among the weights in 
common use in France two marks, of different gravity, one of troy, 
and the other of Roehelle, in the same proportion to each other, anfl 
that the last was called tlie mark of England. 

The Rocheile and easterling pound was therefore the same; anil 
that was the pound, eight of which in spring water were contained 
in the eighth part of the cubic foot, and formed the gallon of 216 
cubic inches. 

This proportion, as has been observed, was totally destroyed by 
the substitution of the troy pound by Henry the Seventh, in 1496;, 


instead of the Rochelle pound, for the composition of the bushel and 

As, by the treatise of weights and measures of 1304, only two 
weis^hts are mentioned, by which it asserts that all things were 
weiglied, this towre pound of twelve ounces, and the corresponding 
commercial pound of fifteen of the same ounces, it is clear that the 
troy weight was then unknown, or at least not used in England. 
But this reign of Edward the First was also the period when the fo- 
reign commerce of England began to flourish. In 1296, the famous 
mercantile society, called the Merchant Adventurers, had its first 
origin ; and another society of natives of Lombardy, the great mer- 
chants of that age, about the same time established themseh es in 
{England, under the protection of a special charter of privileges from 
Edward. These Lombards soon became the goldsmiths and bankers 
in England. [Hume, vol. ii. p. 330, ch. 13.] In the year 1354, the 
balance of exports above the imports was of more than 250,000 pounds ; 
and as the balances of that age could be paid for only in specie, 
whenever the balance was in favor of England it must have brought 
much foreign money into the kijigdom. The pound of the gold- 
smiths and bankers was the troy weight, and by them, there can be 
little doubt, it w as first introduced. The pound of fifteen ounces troy 
must have been introduced at the same time, by an accommodation 
of that weight to the old English rule — that when bullion and drugs 
were weighed by a pound of twelve ounces, all other things were 
weighed by a pound of fifteen of the same ounces. This pound of 
fifteen ounces, or 7200 grains troy, has never been recognized in 
England by law ; but, in many parts of England, it has been used 
under the name of the merchant's weight: and eight such paunds of 
wheat form precisely the gallon of 280 cubic inches, of which the 
standard quart in the excliequer is the fourth part. 

The time and occasion of the introduction of the avoirdu}iois 
pound into England is no better known than that of the troy weight. 
But it may be inferred, from the ancient statutes, that it was brought 
in by the same foreign merchants, with the troy, and as the corres- 
ponding weight to that as the weight for bullion and pharmacy. The 
first time that the term avoirdupois is used in the English statute 
book, is in tlie 9th of Edward III. stat. 1, ch. i. (1335,) the very 
statute which authorizes merchant strangers to buy or sell corn, 
wine, ft"yomk;jois, flesh, fish, and all other provisions, and victuals, 
wool, cloths, wares, merchandises, and all other vendible articles in 
any part of England. 

Eighteen years afterwards, in the celebrated statute staple of 
1353, [27 Edward III. ch. 10.] is the following provision: " ForAs- 
" much as we have heard that some meichants purchase avoirdupois, 
*' w oollens, and other merchandises, by one w eight and sell by ano- 
** ther, and also make dcceivable diminutions upon the weight, and 
*' also use false measures and yards, to the great deceit of us and of 
** all the commonalty aud of honest merchants: We therefore will 
" and establish, that one weight, one measure^ and one yard, be 


■*' tliron.£^iiout the land, as well without the staple as within, and that 
** woollens, and all manner of avoirdupois, shall he weighed by ba- 
** lances," inc. 

Iti these two statutes, the term avoirdupois manifestly refers, not 
to the weisjht, but to the article weij^hed. It means all rceii^hahlc 
articles, in contradistinction to articles sold by measure or by tale; 
and the one weight, meant by the statute staple, is the easterling 
pound of fifteen ounces, mentioned in the statute of weiii;htsand mea- 
sures of 1304. Money and bullion were not included amon,:^ these 
7veighabU' articles, because they had a special weight of their own, 
and because money was current by tale. Grain and liquids were not 
weighable articles, because they were bought and sold by measure. 
Hence arose naturally the practice of calling all articles bought and 
sold by weight in the traffic of these merchant strangers, articles 
having xveig/it, or weighable. 

That this is the meaning of the term avoirdupois is also demon- 
strated by an act of 14:29, (8 Henry VI. ch. 5.) which reciting these 
regulations of Edwai'd the Third, expressly says, that they require 
woollens, and all manner of weighable things, [toutz manerz des 
choses poisablez] bought or sold, to be weighed by even balance, 
with weights sealed according to tiie standard of the exchequer. 

The terms avoirdupois, and choses poisablez, were therefore sy- 
nonymous. But the merchant strangers had a weight of their own; 
the corresponding commercial weight proportional to their pound 
troy. This was the weight now called the avoirdupois pound, of 
sixteen ounces, but the ounce of which was not the same as that of 
the troy weight. The standard easterling pound of fifteen ounces at 
the exchequer weighed 6750 grains troy. The avoirdupois pound of 
the merchant strangers weighed 7000. The difference between them 
was but of about half an ounce, and one sees instantly what tempta- 
tions and opportunities this slight difference furnished to those un- 
principled merchants of whom the statute staple complains, of buy- 
ing by their own foreign larger weight, and selling by the weight af 
the exchequer. 

The statute staple of 1353, and the act of £ Henry VI., 1423, are 
both evidences of the conflict between the mint and exchequer eas- 
terling pounds on one side, and the troy and avoirdupois weights 
of the merchant strangers on the other. In this struggle, the latter 
ultimately prevailed, and completely rooted out tlie old English 
weights. The troy weight, being adopted by Henry the Seventh, in 
1496, for the composition of the bushel and gallon, and by Henry 
the Eighth in 1527 for making money at the mint, the avoirdupois 
pound came in as the corresponding commercial pound ; and a statute 
of 24 Henry VIII., ch. 3, 1532, directs, that beef, pork, mutto'n, and 
veal, shall be sold by weight, called haverdupois; the very lise of 
which expression, called haverdupois, indicates that it was a denomi- 
nation, as applied to the weight, of recent origin, and that the weight 
itself had not been long in general use for any purpose. 


A stntnte of the precedinj^ year, 23 Henry VIII., cli. 4, 1551, s. 15, 
had directed, that every cooper should make every barrel for ale 
** acco->'{liiig til the assise specified in the treatise called Comjmsitio Men- 
" suraruni : [the statute of 1 304] that is to say, evei-y barrel for ale, 
"shall contain thirty-two j^allons of the said assize, or above, of the 
" whicli eij£;!it s^allons make the common busliel to be used in this 
** realm of England," kc. 

By this statute, the ale j^allon was expressly declared to be the 
eighth part of the measure of the bushel. Now, it has been proved, 
that, by the Compnsitio Mensurarum^ the bushel was a measure con- 
taining of wheat the weight of eight gallons of wine. The eighth 
part of this measure, therefore, being the ale gallon, must bear the 
same proportion to the wine gallon, as the specific gravity of wheat 
bears to that of wine: and tlie wine gallon of 231 inches having been 
made by the rule of the Compositio Mensurarum, but by the troy weight 
of the statute of 1496, that is to say, weighing eight troy pounds of 
the wheat thirty-two kernels of which were^'cquiponderant to the 
penny sterling of 1266, the bushel, to balance eight such gallons of 
wine, must of necessity contain sixty-four avoirdupois pounds of 
wheat, and measure 2256 cubic inches. The ciglith part of this mea- 
sure is the gallon of 282 inches, which is to this day the standard 
ale and beer gallon of the British exchequer, and of these United 

And thus we have seen that all the varieties of standard gallons 
and bushels, which have been found, from the Irish gallon of 217.6 
cubic inches, to the ale gallon of 282, and from the ordained, but ne- 
ver made, bushel of 1792 inches, prescribed by Henry the Seventh's 
act of 1496, to the bushel of 2256 inches, of which the ale gallon is 
the eighth part, are distinctly traceable to the inconsistency of hu- 
man laws, and tlie consistency of the laws of nature. 

The statute of 1496 changed the contents of both the gallons, and 
of the bushel, without intending it. For, although the bushel of 1792 
inches was never made, or at least never deposited as a standard at 
the exchequer, yet new standard bushels were made from the new 
wine gallon, by the rule of the Compositio Mensurarum, and they 
produced the bushel of 2224 of Henry the Seventh, still extant at 
the excheqner. 

The Wincliester bushel of the exchequer, however, was not thus 
made. It was found in the year 1696 to contain 2145.6 cubic inches 
of spring water. Its ale gallon, therefore, by the statute of 15^, 
and the Compositio Mensurarum, would have been of 268.2, and its 
wine gallon of 219.2 cubic inches. Its difference from tlie propor- 
tions of the Irish wine gallon, and the Rumford corn gallon, is so 
slight, that there can be no doubt it was copied from a model made 
by the statute of 1266. 

That the capacity of the wine gallon, although it was very essen- 
tially changed, was not intended or understood to be changed by the 
statute of 1496, is proved by the statute of 28 Henry VIII. ch. 14, 
1 536 1 which re-enacts the old statutes requiring that the tun of wine 


should contain 252 j^allons, and all other casks of tlie same propor- 
tion, inchidini^ the liogshead of sixty-tl)ree e^allons. Now, tlic hogs- 
head which contained sixty-three gaHons of 217.6 cuhic incljcs, could 
contain no nioretlian sixty-one and a quaiter gallor.s of 224 inches, 
nor more than fifty-nuic and one thiid {gallons of 231 inches. The 
ordinary Bordeaux liogshead contains from tifty-ninc to sixty gaUons : 
and the size of this cask, being formed of a certain »;amber of staves 
of settled dimensions, and ma,de by tlw coopers in particular forms, 
has passed down, from age to age, without alteration; while the 
laws of England, and those of several of the United States, have re- 
quired that it should contain sixty -threcgallons of 231 cubic inches, 
because, five hundred years ago, the laws required it to contain sixty- 
three gallons of 219.5 inches. 

In the reign of Elizabeth, the change, which had been effected in 
the wine gallon by the act of 1496, was discovered in its effects upon 
another branch of trade ; but the cause of the change appears not to 
have been perceived. The statute of IS Elizabeth, ch. 11, (1570,) 
recites, that the peojile employed in the herring fishery ** had, time 
*' out of mind, used to pack their herring in barrels containing about 
" thirty -two gallons of usual ivinc measure, which assize had always 
** beeen gauged and allowed in the city of London, yet the measure 
** had lately been quarrelled at by certain informers, for not contain- 
'* ing thirty-two gallons by the old measure of standard, which theif 
" never did, though perad venture the extremity of old statutes in words, 
'* by some men^s constnidion, might be stretched to require so much." 
It then enacts, " that thirty-two gallons wine measure, which is about 
** twenty eight gallons by old standard, shall be the lawful assize of 
** herring barrels, any old statute to the contrary notwithstanding." 
This was cutting the Gordian knot. The wine gallon here referred 
to was the gallon of 231 inches, made by the troy weight wheat of 
flenry the Seventh. The old standard is the corn gallon of 1266, 
which, according to the Rumford quart examined by the committte of 
the House of Commons in 1758, was of 264.8, or, according to the 
Rumford gallon, was of 266.25 cubic inches. Now twenty-eight gal- 
lons of 264 inches are of precisely the same capacity as thirty-two 
gallons of 231. But, as the wine gallon at Guildhall, though it 
showed 231 inches by the gauge, did, in fact, contain seven inches 
less, and as the herring barrels were gauged according to the Guild- 
hall gallon, they would have fallen short nearly one gallon in the bar- 
rel of twenty-eiglit gallons by the old standard: and the act, the ob- 
ject of which was to rescue the herring fishei's from the fangs of in- 
formers, is cautious not to tie them down to too close a measure. The 
old statutes, the construction of which the act professes to consider 
as doubtful, are not named: hut the act of 23 Henry VIII., 1531, 
must have been tliat upon which the informers had quarrelled at the 
9ssize of the barrels used by the herring fishers. 

That act requires tiiat the coopers should make barrels of thirty- 
two gallons for ale, according to the assize of the Compositio Mensu- 
rarum — gallons, eight of which make the common bushel* Now, the 


act of 149G had expressly directed that every gallon should contain 
eight pounds of wheat troy weight, and that the bushel should contain 
eight such gallons of wheat. But tliis law, so far as it prescribed a 
new bushel, had never been executed : the old standard bushels re- 
mained. So that the statute for the coopers of 1531 was on* the side 
of the informers, and the statute of weights and measures of 1496 
was on the side of the herring fishers. Parliament found no expe- 
dient for the difticulty but to declare the usiial existing size of the 
herring barrels lawful, and to set all the old statutes aside, with a 
non obstante. 

If the parliament of 1496, contrary to their avowed intention, 
did actually change the capacity of the wine and corn giallons, and 
did ordain a much greater change of the capacity of tlie bushel, these 
varietie*^, effected by the law, while they w ere unknown to the legis- 
lators, were still less likely to come to the general knowledge of the 
people. The eagle eyes of informers would occasionally discover 
that the measures of the people fell short of the standards of the law : 
but the people took the standards as they came, and used the mea- 
sures which they and their fore-fathers, time out of mind, had em- 

The Restoration of 1660, after the convulsions of a civil Avar, 
formed a new jera, not only in the political history of England, but 
in that of their vessels of capacity. It was then that a new system 
of taxation commenced by the excise upon liquors. About the same 
time, also, commenced a new sera in the philosophical and scientific 
pursuits of the English nation, by the establishment of the Royal 
Society. Both these events were destined to have an important in- 
fluence upon the history of English weights and measures. 

The excise was a duty levied, by the gallon, upon malt liquors, and 
upon wines. The malt liquors were measured by the standard gallon 
at the treasury, made according to the cooperage act of 1531, by the 
rule of the Compositio Jteimirarum, applied to the troylweight wine 
gallon of the statute of 1496. This gallon, therefore, was neither 
the wine gallon of 1496, nor the eighth part of the old standard bush- 
el, nor of the Winchester bushel, but the gallon which, if filled with 
wlieatofthe troy weight specified in the statute of 1496, would ba- 
lance the wine gallon of 231 inches^ it was, therefore, a gallon of 
282 cubic inches. The wine was measured by the gauge of the wine 
gallon at Guildhall. 

Taxation and philosophy now began to speculate, at the same time, 
upon the weights and measures of England. In 1685, the weight of 
a cubic foot of spring water was found, by an experiment made at Ox- 
ford, to be precisely 1,000 ounces avoirdupois; and, in 1696, the 
Winchester bushel was found to be of 2145.6 cubic inches, and to con- 
tain, also, 1,000 ounces avoirdupois weight of wheat. Yet so total- 
ly lost were all the traces of the old easterling pounds of twelve and 
fifteen ounces, that this coincidence between the cubic foot of water, 
and the 1,000 ounces avoirdupois, gave an erroneous direction tofur- 
ilier inquiry ; for the real origiiml connection between the cubic foot 


and the Enc^lisli bushel was not formed by avoirdupois weij^hts and 
water, but by the oasterlintj; pound of twelve and fifteen ociices and 
Gasroij^n wine. It was the princi|)leof the quadi'antal and cowi^ius 
of the Romans, ap|)lied to the foot and the niimmuhiry pound of the 
Greeks; the measure which, by containing eight pounds of \\ heat, 
was intended to contain, at the same time, ten of the same pounds of 

In the year 168S. the commissioners of the excise instituted an in- 
quiry why beer and ale were always gauged at 282 cubical inches 
for the gallon, and other exciseable liquors by the wine gallon of 
231 inches. They addressed a memorial to the Loi-ds of the Trea- 
sury, stating these facts, and that, being informed the true standard 
wine gallon ought to contain only 224 cubical inches, they had ap- 
plied to the Auditor and Chamberlains of the Exchequer, who, upon 
examination of tiie standard measures in their custody, had found 
three standard gallons, one of Henry the Seventh, and two of 1601, 
which an able artist employed by them had found to contain each 
272 cuhical inches; that, finding no wine gallon at the Exchequer, 
they had applied to the Guildhall of the city of London, where they 
were informed the true standard of the wine gallon was, and they had 
found, by the said artist, that the same contained 224 cubical inches 
only: and ihey abided, that the gallons of other parts of the kingdom 
used for wine, had been made and taken from the Guildhall gallon. 
In consequence of this memorial, the Lords of the Treasury, the 
21st May, 1688, directed an authority to be drawn for gauging ac- 
cording to the Guildhall gallon; which was accordingly done: but 
the authority does not appear to have been signed. The ale gallon 
at the Treasury was of 282 inches; but the order of the Lords of the 
Tieasury for the benefit of the revenue would have reduced the gal- 
lon, both for malt liquors and wine, to the Guildhall gallon of 224. 
The merchants immediately took the alarm, and petitioned that they 
miglit be allowed to sell by the same gauge, of 224 inches to the gal- 
lon, by which they were to be required to pay the customs and excise. 
The commissioners of the customs not agreeing with those of the ex- 
cise, on the proposal for a new gauge, the opinion of Sir Thomas 
Powis, the attorney general, was taken upon it, who advised against 
any departure from the usage of gauging, because the Guildhall 
gallon was not recognized as a legal standard, and because by any of 
those at the exchequer the king would be vastly a loser. 

Sii" Thomas Fowis then refers to the old statutes, prescribing that 
eight pounds should make a gallon; and particularly to that of 1496, 
requiring that the eight pounds should be of wheat ; and as there was to 
be one measure throughout the kingdom, which could not be, unless it 
was adjusted by some one tliing, and that seemed to be intended 
wheat, therefore he did not know how 23 1 cubical inches came to be 
taken up, but did not think it safe to depart from the usage, and 
therefore the proposal was dropped. 

Sir Thomas Powis's reasoning, upon the statute of 1496, was per- 
fectly correct. That statute^ as well as manv others, does ordain ones^ 


measure throughout the kingdom ; it does ordain that every galloii 
shall contain eight pounds troy weight of wheat of thirty-two kernels 
to the pennyweight troy, which it strangely calls a sterling. Sir 
Thomas did not know how 231 inches came to be taken up ; because 
he did not know that the statute of 1496 had substituted the troy for 
the old easterling weight in the composition of the gallon. It was 
that change that brought up the 231 inches: for, if eight easterling 
twelve ounce pounds of wheat filled a gallon of 217.6 inches, eigiit 
troy pounds of the same wheat must of necessity fill a gallon of 231. 

The Guildhall wine gallon contained also eight troy pounds of 
wheat; but it was wheat thirty-two kernels of which weighed a 
pejinyweight troy. Every kernel on the average was -j^^ heavier 
than that which had been used for the composition of the gallon and 
bushel of 1266. The average kernel being specifically heavier, a 
pound weight of it occupied less space: on the other hand, the corn of 
lighter kernel would require a greater number of kernels to make up 
the same weight. The gallon of 1496 was to contain 61,440 kernels^ 
weighing in the aggregate eight pounds troy: and they would fill a 
space of 224 cubic inches. To make the same weight, eight pounds 
troy would take 65,280 kernels of the wheat of 1266: but these 
65,280 kernels would fill a space of 231 cubic inches. The differ- 
ence between the two was a compound of the increase of numbers 
and the diminution of weight. 

The advice of Sir Thomas Powis was, however, followed without 
further inquiry, and the use of the gauging rods was continued. 
But in 1700, the same inconsistency of the statutes, which, in the 
reign of Elizabeth had bred the quarrel between the informers and 
the herring barrels, generated a lawsuit between commerce and re- 
venue. It has been seen, that, by a statute of 2 Henry VI., ch. 11, 
confirmed by subsequent acts of 1483, 1 Richard III., ch. 13, and of 
1536, 28 Henry VIII., ch. 14, it had been ordained that every butt 
or pipe of wine imported should contain 126 gallons. The original 
statutes had reference to tlie Gascoign or Bordeaux wines, the casks 
of which were proportioned to the ton of thirty-two cubic feet. When 
afterwards the impoi'tation of Spanish wines became frequent, they 
were brought in casks of different dimensions from the assize : and 
the statute of Richard the Third, reciting that their butts had thereto- 
fore often been of 140 or 132 gallons, and complaining tliat they had 
been of late fraudulently reduced to 120 gallons or less, prescribed 
that they should thenceforth be of at least 126 gallons. The old 
fashion, of 140 gallons or more to the btitt of Malmsey and other 
Spanish wines, was then restored : and as the law was satisfied if the 
butts were of 1 26 gallons or more, their size beyond the usual di- 
mensions of the Gascoign standard remained unnoticed till tlie fiscal 
officer became interested in their contents. When customs and ex- 
cise came to call for their share of the Malmsey, the merchants for 
some years paid upon the butt as if it had contained only the 126 
gallons required by the law. But this calculation could not long suit 
the revenue. An action w as brought by the officers of the customs 


against Mr. Thomas Barker, an importing merchant, for the duties 
upon sixty butts of Alicant wine, for which he had paid, as if con- 
taining 126 gallons; but which, in fact, contained 150 gallons each. 
The crown officers showed, that the butt was to contain, by law, 126 
gallons; and Mr. Leader, the city gauger, Mr. Flamstcad, and othep 
skilful gangers, all agreed, that a wine gallon ought to contain 231 
cubical inches, and no more; that there was such a gallon, kept from 
time out of mind at Guildhall, (they were in this mistaken, for it con- 
tained only 224 inches,) that the wine gallon was less than the corn 
gallon, which was of 272, and the ale gallon, which was of 282 cubi- 
cal inches. 

The defendant insisted that the laws had directed that a standard 
should be kept at tiie Treasury ; that there was one there, containing 
282 cubic inches; that by that measure he had paid the duty; that 
the Guildhall gallon was no legal .standard: and merchants, masters 
of ships, and vintners, of twenty, thirty, forty years experience, all 
testified that Spanish wine always came in butts of 140 or 150 gal- 
lons or more. Whether Mr. Thomas Barker, when he came to sell 
his wine, retained his contempt for the Guildhall gallon, is not upon 
the record. 

After a trial of five hours, the attorney general made it a drawn 
battle; agreed to withdraw a juror; and advised to leave the remedy 
to parliament : and this was the immediate occasion of the statute of 
5 Anne, ch. 27. sec. 17., by which the capacity of the wine gallon is 
fixed, and has ever since remained, at 231 cubical inches. This act 
declares, that any round vessel, commonly called a cylinder, having 
an even bottom, and being seven inches diameter throughout, and 
six inches deep from the top of the inside to the bottom, or any vessel 
containing 231 cubical inches and no more, shall be deemed and 
taken to be a lawful wine gallon : and it is hereby declared, that 
252 gallons, consisting each of 231 cubical inches, shall be deemed a 
tun of wine, and that 126 such gallons shall be deemed a butt or pipe 
gf wine, and that 63 such gallons shall be deemed an hogshead of 

By an act of 13 William III. ch. 5, in 1701, the Winchester 
hushel had been declared the standard for the measure of grain ; and 
any cylindrical vessel of 18^ inches diameter and 8 inches deep, was 
made a legal bushel. By a subsequent statute of 12 Anne, ch. 17 
sec. 11, the bushel for measuring coal was to be of 19^ inches dia- 
meter from outside to outside, and was to contain a quart of water 
more than the Winchester bushel; which made it of 2217.62 cubical 

There are several late acts of parliament (1805, 45 George III.) 
which mention 272^ cubic inches as the contents of the Winchester 
gallon, making a bushel of 2178 inches; and others which recognize 
the existence of measures different from any of the legal standards 
pf the exchequer. By an act of 31 Geo. III. ch. 3, inspectors of corn 
returns are to make a comparison between the Winchester bushel 
and the measure commonly used in the city or town of their inspec- 


tion, and to cause a statement in writing of such comparison to be 
hung up in some conspicuous place. 

By these successive statutes, determining in cubic inches the ca- 
pacity of the vessels by which certain specific articles shall be mea- 
sured, the measures bearing the same denomination, but of different 
contents, are multiplied; and every remnant of the original uniformi- 
ty of propoition has disappeared, with the exception of that between 
the wine and ale gallons, and that between the troy and avoirdupois 

By the Englislj system of weights and measures before the statute 
of 1496, the London quarter of a ton was the ojie measui-e, to which 
tho bushel for corn, the gallon, deduced by measure, foi- ale, and tho 
gallon, deduced by weight, for wine, were all referred. The hogs- 
head was a vessel deduced from the cubing of linear measure, con- 
taining sixty-three gallons, and measuring eight cubic feet. The 
gallon thus formed, contained 219.43 cubic inches. This wine gal- 
h)n, by another law, was to contain eight twelve ounce pounds of 
wheat.' One such pound of wheat, therefore, occupied 27.45 cubic 
inches. The vessel of eight times 27.45 cubic inches filled with wine, 
tlie lifpior would weigh 54,857.1 grains of troy weight: and the 
•weigiit of eight such gallons of wine would be 438,856.8 grains troy. 
The specific gjavity of wine being to that of wheat as 175 to 143, 
the bushel thus formed would be of 2148.5 cubic inches; and its 
ei'Hith part, or ale gallon, would be 268.5 inches. This is only two 
inches more than the standard Winchester bushel of the exchequer 
■was found to contain, and two inches less than the bushel as pre- 
scribed by the act of 13 William III.; a difference which a variation 
in the temperature of the atmosphere is of itself adequate to produce. 
It proves, that the Winchester bushel has not without reason been 
preserved as the favorite of all standards, in s})ite of all the changes, 
errors, and inconsistencies, of legislation. But it also proves, that 
the ale and corn gallon ougiit to have continued as they originally 
were, of 268^ inches, and the wine gallon of 219^. 

The troy and avoirdupois weights are in the proportions to each 
other of the specific gravity of wheat and of spring water. The 
twelve and fifteen ounce easterling pounds were intended to be pro- 
portional between the gravity of wheat and wine. But they were 
roughly settled proportions, estimating the weight of wheat to be to 
that of wine as four to five, and the gravity of wine and of water to 
l)e the same. Under the statute of 1496, the wine gallon was of 224 
inches. If troy weight was to be introduced, a gallon of this capacity 
had the great advantage upon which the propoi'tion of uniformity had 
originally been established. The gallon contained exactly eight 
pounds avoirdupois of wine. The pint of wine, was a pound of wine. 
The corn gallon of 272 inches, corresponding with it, had the same 
advantage. It was filled with eight pounds of corn : a pint of wheat, 
was a pound of wheat; and the bushel of 2176 inches contained 64 
pounds avoirdupois of that wheat, 32 kernels of which weighed one 
pennyweight troy. But the hogshead, being of eight cubic feet. 


could have contained only 61} gallons, and the ton would have hcen 
of 247. 

The wine and ale gallons, now estahlished by law, of 231 and 
282 inches, are still in the same proportion to each other as the 
troy and avoirdupois weights : but neither of them is in any useful 
proportion to the bushel. The corn gallon only is in proportion to 
the bushel. Neither the wine nor the corn gallons are in any useful 
proportion either to the weights or the coins. But the troy and 
avoirdupois weights are, with all the exactness that can be desired, 
standards for each other: and the cubic foot of spring water weighs 
exactly 1000 ounces avoirdupois, by which means the ton, of thirty- 
two cubic feet measure, is in weight exactly 2000 pounds avoirdu- 

Such was originally the system of English weights and measures, 
and such is it now in its ruins. The substitution of cubic inches, to 
settle the dimensions of the gallons and bushels, which began with 
the last century, was a ciiange of the test of their contents from 
gravity to extension. They had before been measured by number, 
weight, and measure: they are now measured by measure alone. 
This change has been of little use in promoting the principle of uni- 
formity. As it respects the natural standard, it has only been a 
change from the weight of a kernel of wheat to the length of a kernel 
of barley: and although it has specified the particular standard 
bushels and gallons, selected among the variety, which the incon- 
sistencies of former legislation had produced, it has very unnecessa- 
rily brought in a third gallon measure quite incompatible with the 
primitive system; and it has legalizedjwo bushels of diffeiyjnt capa- 
city, so slightly different as to .iffcrd exevy facility to the Iraudulent 
substitution of the one for the otl.eri yef, in the measurement of 
quantities, resulting in a difference of between three and four per 

No further change in this portion of English legislation has yet 
been made. But the philosophers and legislators of Britain have 
never ceased to be occupied upon weights and measures, nor to be 
stimulated by the passion for uniformity. In speculating upon the 
theory, and in making exj)eriments upon the existing standards of 
their weights and measures, they seem to have considered the prin- 
ciple oi uniformity as exclusively applicable to identity, a»id to have 
overlooked or disregarded the unifoi-mity of proportion. They found 
a great variety of standards differing from each othei' : and instead 
of searching for the causes of these varieties in the errors and muta- 
bility of the law, they ascribed them to the want of an immutal)lo 
standard from nature. They felt the convenience and the facility of deci- 
mal arithmetic for calculation; and they thought it susceptible of 
equal application to the divisions and multiplications of time^ spacCf 
and matter. They despised the primitive standards assumed from 
the stature and proportions of the human body. They rejected the 
secondary standards, taken from the productions of nature most es- 
sential to the subsistence of man j the articles for ascertaining the 


quantities of which, wei^^hts and measures w ere first found necessary. 
They tasked their ingenuity and their learning to fijid, in matter or 
in motion, some immutable standard of linear measure, which might 
be assumed as the single universal standard from which all measures 
and all weights might be derived. In the review of the proceedings 
in France relative to this subject, we shall trace the progress and 
note the results hitherto of these opinions, which have thei'e been em- 
bodied into a great and beautiful system. In England they have 
been indulged with more caution, and more regard to the preserva- 
tion of existing things. 

From the year 1757 to 1764, in the years 1739 and 1790, and from 
the year 1814 to the present time, the British parliament have, at 
three successive periods, instituted inquiries into the condition of 
their own weights and measures, with a view to the reformation of 
the system, and to the introduction and establishment of greater 
uniformity. These inquiries have been pursued with ardor and per^ 
severance, assisted by the skill of their most eminent artists, by the 
learning of their most distinguished philosophers, and by the cotem- 
poraneous admirable exertions, in the same cause of uniformity, of 
their neighbouring and rival nation. 

Nor have the people, or the Congress of the United States, been 
regardless of the subject, since our separation from the British em- 
pire. In their first confederation, these associated states, and in their 
present national constitution, the people, that is, on the only two 
occasions upon which the collective voice of this whole Union, in its 
constituent chai-acter, has spoken, the power of Jixing the standard 
of weights and measures throughout the United States has been 
committed to Congress. A report, worthy of the illustrious citizen 
by whom it was prepared, and, embracing the principles most essen-^ 
tial to uniformity, w as presented in obedience to a call from the House 
of Representatives of the first Congress of the United States. The 
eminent person who last presided over the Union, in the parting 
message by which he announced his intention of retiring from public 
life, recalled the subject to the attention of Congress with a renewed 
recommendation to the principle of decimal divisions. Elaborate re- 
ports, one from a committee of the Senate in 1793, and another from 
a committee of the House of Representatives, at a recent period, have 
since contributed to shed further light upon the subject : and the call 
of both Houses, to which this report is the tardy, and yet too early 
answer, has manifested a solicitude for the improvement of the ex- 
isting system, equally earnest and persevering with that of the Bri- 
tish parliament, though not marked with the bold and magnificent 
characters of the concurrent labors of France. 

After a succession of more than sixty years of inquiries and expe- 
riments, the British parliament have not yet acted in the form of 
law. After nearly forty of the same years of separate pursuit of the 
same object, uniformityf the Congress of the United States have 
shown the same cautious deliberation : they have yet authorized no 
change of the existing law. That neither country has yet changed 


its law, is, perhaps, a fortunate circumstance, in reference to the 
principle of uniformity, for both. If this report were authorized to 
speak to both nations, as it is required to speak to the legislature of 
one of them, on a subject in v. hich the object of pursuit is the same 
for both, and the interest in it common to both, it would say- — Is your 
object uniformity? Then, before you change any part of your sys- 
tem, such as it is, compare the uniformity that you must lose, with 
the uniformity that you may gain, by the alteration. At this hour, 
fifteen millions of Britons, who, in the next generation, may be 
twenty, and ten millions of Americans, who, in less time, will be as 
many, have the same legal system of weights and measures. Their 
mile, acre, yard, foot, and inch — their bushel of wheat, their gallon 
of beer, and their gallon of wine, their pound avoirdupois, and their 
pound troy, their cord of wood^ and their ton of shipping, arc the 
same. They are of the nations of the earth, the two, who have with 
each other the most of that intercourse which requires the constant 
use of weights and measures. Any change whatever in the system 
of the one, which would not be adopted by the other, would destroy 
all this existing uniformity. Precious, indeed, must be that unifor- 
mity, the mere promise of which, obtained by an alteration of the 
law, w ould more than compensate for the abandonment of this. 

If these ideas should be deemed too cold and cheerless for the spi- 
rit of theoretical improvement^ if Congress should deem their powers 
competent, and their duties imperative, to establish uniformity as re- 
spects weights and measures in its most universal and comprehensive 
sense; another system is already made to their hands. If that uni- 
versal uniformity, so desirable to human contemplation, be an ob- 
tainable perfection, it is now attainable onhj by the adoption of the 
new French system of metrology, in all its important parts. Were 
it even possible to construct another system, on different principles, 
but embracing in equal degree all the great elements of uniformity, 
it would still be a system of diversity with regard to France, and all 
the folio wet-s of her system. And as she could not be expected to 
abandon that, which she has established at so much expense, and 
with so much ditficulty, for another, possessing, if equal, not greater 
advantages, there would still be two rival systems, with more despe- 
rate chances for the triumph of uniformity by the recurrence to the 
same standard of all mankind. 

The system of modern France originated with her Revolution. It 
is one of those attempts to improve the condition of human kind. 
Which, should it even be destined ultimately to fail, would, in its 
failure, deserve little less admiration than in its success. It is found- 
ed upon the following principles: 

1. That all weights and measures should be reduced to one uni- 

form standard of linear measure. 

2. That this standard should be an aliquot part of the circum- 

ference of t[ie globe. 

3. That the unit of linear measure, applied to matter, in its three 

modes of extension, ler-gth, breadth, and thickness, should be 
the standard of all measures of length, surface, and solidity. 


4. That the cubic contents of the linear measure, in distilled water, 

at the temperature of its greatest contraction, should furnish 
at once the standard weij^ht and measure of capacity. 

5. That for every thing susceptible of being measui'ed or weighed, 

there should be only one measure of length, one weight, one 
measure of contents, with tlieir multiples and subdivisions ex- 
clusively in decimal proportions. 

6. That the principle of decimal division, and a proportion to the 

linear standard, should be annexed to the coins of gold, silver, 
and copper, to the moneys of account, to the division of fime, 
to the barometer and thermometer, to the plummet and log 
lines of the sea, to the geography of the earth and the astro- 
nomy of the skies; and, finally, to every thing in human exis- 
tence susceptible of comparative estimation by weight or mea- 

7. That the whole system should be equally suitable to the use of 

all mankind. 

S. That every weight and every measure should be designated by 
an appropriate, significant, characteristic name, applied ex- 
clusively to itself. 

This system approaches to the ideal perfection of uniformity appli- 
ed to weights and measures ; and, whether destined to succeed, or 
doomed to fail, will shed unfading glory upon the age in which it was 
conceived, and upon the nation by which its execution was attempted, 
and has been in part achieved. In the progress of its establishment 
there, it has been often brought in conflict with the laws of physical 
and of moral nature ; with the impenetrability of matter, and with 
the habits, passions, prejudices, and necessities, of man. It has un- 
dergone various important modifications. It must undoubtedly still 
submit to others, before it can look for universal adoption. But, if 
man upon earth be an improveable being; if that universal peace, 
whicli was the object of a Saviour's mission, which is the desire of 
the philosopher, the longing of the philanthropist, the trembling hope 
of the Christian, is a blessing to which the futurity of mortal man 
has a claim of more than mortal promise; if the Spirit of Evil is, be- 
fore the final consummation of things, to be cast down from his do- 
minion over men, and bound in the chains of a thousand years, the 
foretaste here of man's etei-nal felicity; then this system of common 
instruments, to accomplish all the changes of social and friendly 
commerce, will furnish the links of sympathy between the inhabitants 
of the most distant regions ; the metre will surround the globe in use 
as well as in multiplied extension ; and one language of weights and 
measures will be spoken from the equator to the poles. 

The establishment of this system of metrology forms an era, hot 
only in the history of weights and measures, but in that of human sci- 
ence. Every step of its progress is interesting : and as a statement 
of all the regulations in France a)ncerning it is strictly within the 
scope of the rerjuisitions of both Houses, a rajjid review of its origin, 
progress, and present state, with due notice of the obstacles which it 


has encountered, the changes through wliich it has passed, and its 
present condition, is deemed necessary to the perforinance of the duty 
required by the call. 

In the year 1790, the present prince de Talleyrand, then bishop 
of Autun, distributed among the members of the constituent assem- 
bly of PVance a proposal, founded upon the excessive diversity and 
confusion of the weights and measures then prevailing all over that 
country, for the reformation of the systeu), or rather, for the founda- 
tion of a new one upon the principle of a single and universal standard. 
Aftei* referring to the two objects which had previously been sug- 
gested by Huygiiens and Ticard, the pendulum and the proportional 
part of the circumference of the earth, he concluded by giving the 
preference to the former, and presented the project of a decree. First, 
that exact copies of all the different weights and elementary mea- 
sures, 2ise(l in every town of France, should be obtained and sent to 
Paris : Secondly, that the national assembly should write a letter to 
the British parliament, requesting their concurrence with France in 
the adoption of a natural standard for weights and measures, for 
which purpose Commissioners, in equal luunbers from the French 
Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society, chosen by those 
learned bodies, respectively, siiould meet at the most suitable place, 
and ascertain the length of the pendulum at the 45th degree of lati- 
tude, and from it an invariable standard for all measures and weights : 
Thirdly, that, after the accomplishment, with all due solemnity, of 
this operation, the French Academy of Sciences should fix with pre- 
cision the tables of proportion between the new standards and the 
weights and measures previously used in the various parts of France ; 
and that every town should be supplied with exact copies of the new 
standards, and with tables of comparison between them and those of 
which they were to supply the place. This decree, somewhat modi- 
fied, was adopted by the assembly, and, on the 22d of August, 1790, 
sanctioned by Louis the Sixteenth. Instead of writing to the British 
parliament themselves, the assembly requested the king to write to 
the king of Great Britain, inviting him to propose to the parliament 
the formation of a joint commission of members of the Royal Society 
and of the Academy of Sciences, to ascertain the natural standard 
in the length of the pendulum. Whether the forms of the British con- 
stitution, the temper of political animosity then subsisting between 
the two countries, or the convulsions and wars which soon after- 
wards ensued, prevented the acceptance and execution of this pro- 
posal, it is deeply to be lamented that it was not carried into effect. 
Had the example once been set of a concerted pursuit of the great 
common object of uniformity of weights and measures, by two of the 
mightiest and most enlightened nations upon earth, the prospects of 
ultimate success would have been greatly multiplied. By no other 
means can the uniformity, with reference to the persons using tjio 
same system, be expected to prevail beyond the limits of eaih sepa- 
rate nation. Perhaps when the spirit which urges to the improve- 


ment of the social condition of man, shall have made further progreas? 
against the passions with which it is bound, and by which it is tra- 
melled, then may be the time for reviving and extending that gene- 
rous and truly benevolent proposal of the constituent national assem- 
bly of France, and to call for a concert of civilized nations to esta- 
blish one uniform system of weights and measures for them all. 

The idea of associating the interests and the learning of other na- 
tions in this great effort for common improvement was not confined 
to the proposal for obtaining the concurrent agency of Great Britain. 
Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland, were 
actually represented in the proceedings of the Academy of Sciences 
to accomplish the purposes of the national assembly. But, in the 
first instance, a committee of the Academy of Sciences, consisting of 
five of the ablest members of tlie academy and most eminent mathe- 
maticians of Europe, Borda, Lagrange, Laplace, Monge, and Con- 
dorcet, were cliosen, under the decree of the assembly, to report to 
that body upon the selection of the natural standard, and other prin- 
ciples proper for the accomplishment of the object. Tlieir report to 
the academy was made on the 19th of March, 1791, and immediately 
transmitted to the national assembly, by whose orders it was priftted. 
The committee, after examining three projects of a natural standard, 
the pendulum beating seconds, a quarter of the equator, and a quar- 
ter of the meridian, had, on full deliberation, and with great accuracy 
of judgment, preferred the last; and proposed, that its ten millionth 
part should be taken as the standard unit of linear measure ; that, as 
ii second standard of comparison with it, the pendulum vibrating se- 
conds at tlie 45th degree of latitude should be assumed ; and that the 
weight of distilled water at the point of freezing, measured by a cu- 
bical vessel in decimal proportion to the linear standard, should de- 
termine the standard of weights and of vessels of capacity. 

Foi' the execution of this plan, they proposed six distinct scientific 
operations, to be performed by as many separate committees of the 

1. To measure an arc of the meridian from Dunkirk to Barcelona, 
being between nine and ten degrees of latitude, including the 45th, 
with about six to the north and three to the south of it, and to make 
upon this line all suitable astronomical observations. 

2. T(.) measure anew the bases which had served before for the 
admeasurement of a degree in the construction of the map of France^ 

3. To verify, by new observations, the series of triangles, which 
had been used on the former occasion, and to continue them to Bar- 

4. To make, at the 45th degree of latitude, at the level of the sea. 
in vacuo, at the temperature of melting ice, observations to ascertain 
the number of vibrations in a day of a pendulum equal to the ten mil- 
lionth part of the arc of the meridian. 

5. To ascertain, by new experiments, carefully made, the weight iu 
vacuo of a given mass of distilled water at the freezing point. 


6. To form a scale and tables of equalization between the new 
vncasurcs and weigbts proposed, and tiioso wliich had been in com- 
mon use before. 

This report was sanctioned by a decree of the assembly : and four 
committees of the academy were appointed ; the three lirst of those 
enumerated objects havinj^ been intrusted to one committee, consist- 
ing of Mcchain and Dclambre. The experiments upoji tl»c pendu- 
lum were committed to Borda, Mechain, and Cassini ; those on the 
weight of water to Lefevrc Gincau, and Fabbroni; and the scale and 
tables to a large committee on weights and measures. 

The performance of all tliese oj)crations was the work of mor*; 
than seven years. Two of them, the measurement of the arc of the 
meridian, and the ascertainment of the specific gravity of water in 
vacuo, were works requiring that combination of profound learning 
which is possessed of the facts in the recondite history of nature al- 
ready ascertained, with that keenness of observation which detects 
facts still deeper bidden; tliat fertility of genius which suggests new 
expedients of invention, and that accuracy of judgment, which turns 
to the account, not only of the object immediately sought, but of the 
general interests of science, every new fact observed. The actual 
admeasurement of an arc of the meridian of that extent had nev£r 
before been attempted. The weigliing of distilled water in vacuo 
had never before been effected with equal accuracy. And, in the ex- 
ecution of each of these works, nature, as if grateful to tl>ose ex- 
alted spirits who were devoting the labors of their lives to the know- 
ledge of her laws, not only yielded to them the object which they 
sought, but disclosed to each of them another of her secrets. She had 
already communicated by her own inspiration to the mind of New- 
ton, that the earth was not a perfect sphere, but an oblate spheroid, 
flattened at the poles : and she had authenticated this discovery by 
tlie result of previous admeasurements of degrees of the meridian in 
different parts of the two hemispheres. But the proportions of this 
flattening, or, in other words, the difference between the circles of the 
meridian and equator, and between their respective diameters, had 
been variously conjectured, from facts previously known. To ascer- 
tain it with gr£ater accuracy was one of the tasks assigned to De- 
lambre and Mechain ; for, as it aftected the definite extension of the 
meridian circle, the length of the metre, or aliquot part of that cir- 
cle which was to be the standard unit of weights antl measures, was 
also proportionably affected by it. The result of the new admea- 
surement was, to show that the flattening was of ~-^ ; or that tiie ax- 
is of the earth was to the diameter of the equator as 333 to 334. Is 
this proportion to the decimal number of 1,000 accidental? It is con- 
firmed as matter of fact, by the existing theories of astronomical nu- 
tation and precession, as vn ell as by experimental results of the length 
of the pendulum in various latitudes. Is it also an index to another 
combination of extension, specific gravity, and numbers, hitherto un- 
discove^'ed? However this maybe, tlie fact of the proportion was, on 
this occasion, the only object sought. Tliis fact was attested by the 


tViminution of each degree of latitude, in the movement from the north 
to tlie equator; but the same testimony revealed the new and unex- 
pected fact, that the diminution was not regular and gradual, but 
very considerably different at different stages of the progress in the 
same direction ; from which the inference seems conclusive, that the 
earth is no more in its breadth than in its length, perfectly spherical, 
and that the northern and southern hemispheres are not of dimensions 
precisely equal. 

The other discovery was not less remarkable. The object to be 
ascertained was the specific gravity of a given mass of water in va- 
cuo, and at its maximum of density ; that is, at the temperature 
where it weighs most in the smallest space. That fluids are subject 
to the general laws of expansion and contraction from heat and cold, 
was the principle upon which the experiments were commenced. It 
was also know n that, in the transition of fluids to a solid state, the 
reverse of this phenomenon occurs, and that water, in turning to ice, 
instead of contracting, expands. It had been supposed that the freez- 
ing point was tiiat at which this polarity of heat and cold, if it may 
be so called, w as inverted, and that water, contracting as it cooled 
until then, began at once to freeze and to expand. The discovery 
made by Lefevre Gincau, aTid Fabbroni, w as, that the change took 
place at an earlier period; that water contracts as it cools, till at five 
degrees above of the centigrade, answering to forty-one of Fahren- 
heit's thermometer, and, from that term, gradually expands as it 
grow s cold, till fixed in ice at of the former, or thirty-tw o degrees 
of the latter. 

In the admeasurement of the arc of the meridian, and in the weigh- 
ing of the given volume of water, the standard measure and weights, 
previously established by the laws of France, were necessarily used. 
The identical measure was atoise or fathom belonging to the Acade- 
my of Sciences, which had been used for the admeasurement of se- 
veral degrees of the meridian between the years 1737, and 174 I, Ih 
Peru, and bad thence acquired the denomination of the Toise du Pe- 
rou. In 1766 it had served as the standard fi-om which eighty others 
had been copied, and sent to the principal bailiwicks in France, and 
to the chatelet at Paris. The instruments used by- Delambre and 
Mechain, for their mensurations, were two platina rods, each of 
double tiie length of this fathom of Peru. A repeating circle, a le- 
velling instrument, and a metallic thermometer, consisting of two 
blades, one of brass, and the other of platina, and calculated to 
show the difference of expansion produced upon the two metals by 
the ordinary alternations of heat and cold in tlic atmosphere, all in- 
vented by the ingenious and skilful artist Borda, were also among the 
instruments used by the commissioners. 

The weights with which the new standard was compared, were a 
pile of fifty marks, or twenty-five Paris pounds, called the weights 
of Charlemagne, and which, though not of the antiquity of that 
prince's age, liad been used as standards for a period of mai*e than 
five hundred years. 


•The fathom of Peru was divided into six standard royal foot of 
France, each foot into twelve thinnl)s, each thiunb intotwel\(' lines. 
The toise, therefore, was of seventy-two thuinhs, or 864 lines. The 
standard metre of platina, the ten millionth part of the quarter of 
the meridian, nieasured by the brass fathom of Peru, was fmind to 
he equal to 443 lines, and 295,956 decimal parts of a line: and as it 
was found impossible to fix in the concrete form a division smaller 
than the thousandth part of a line, the definitive length of the metre 
was fixed at 443,296 lines, equivalent, by subsequent experiments 
of the academy, to 39.5827 English inches; by the latest experi- 
ments of captain Kater to 39.37079 ; and by those of Mr. Hassler, 
in this country, to 39.3802. 

The Paris pound, mark-weight as it w^as called, (poids de marc,) 
of the pile of Charlemagne, consisted of two marks, each mark of 
eight ounces, each ounce of eight gros or drams, each gros of three 
deniers or pennyweights, and each denier of twenty-four grains. 
The pound, therefore, consisted of 9,216 grains, and was equal to 
fifteen ounces and fifteen pennyweights, or 7,560 grains troy. The 
grain was rather more than four-fifths of the troy grain, and had pro- 
bably, in the origin, been equivalent to the kernel of wheat, w liich 
the troy grain could scarcely have been. The cubic decimetre, or 
tenth part of the metre, of distilled water, at the temperature of its 
greatest density, weighed in vacuo, was found of equal weight with 
18.827 grains ^^^/^ of a grain; or two pounds, five gros, thirt^^-fivc 
grains ^y^ of the mark weight : and this, by the name of the kilo- 
gramme was made the standard weight, its thousandth part being 
the gramme, or unit, equivalent to 15,44572 grains troy, or about 
two and one-fifth jiounds avoirdupois. 

The capacity of the vessel containing this water was at the same 
time made the standard of all measures, liquid or dry : it w as called 
a litre, and is of the contents of 61.0271 cubic inches, about one- 
twentieth more than our wine quart. The metre was applied to su- 
perficial and solid measures, according to theii- proportions : the chain 
of ten metres being applied to land measure, and its square denomi- 
nated an arc; the cubic metre was called a stere. 

The principle of decimal arithmetic was applied exclusively to all 
these weights and measures : their multiples were all tenfold, and 
their subdivisions were all tenth parts. 

To complete the system, a vocabulary of new denominations was 
annexed to every weight and measure belonging to it. As a circum- 
stance of great importance to the final success of the system, it may 
be remarked that these two incidents, the exclusive adoption of deci- 
mal divisions, and the new nomenclature, have proved the greatest 
obstacles to the general introduction of tlie new weights and mea- 
sures among the people. 

It has indeed from its origin, like all great undertakings, been 
obliged to contend with the intemperate zeal and precipitation of its 
friends, not less than with prejudice, ignorance, and jealousy, of every 
description. The aUineasurement of the meridian was commenced 


at the very moment of the fanatical paroxysm of the BVench revolu- 
tion. At every station of their prog-ress in the fichi survey, the com- 
missioners were arrested by the suspicions and alarms of the people, 
who took tliem for spies, or engineeis of the invading enemies of 
France. The government was soon overthrown ; the Academy of 
Sciences abolished ; and the national assembly of the first constitu- 
tional monarchy, just at tiie eve of their dissolution, instead of wait- 
ing calmly for the completion of the great work which was to lay the 
foundation for a system to he as lasting as the globe, in a fit of itnpa- 
tience passed, on tiie 1st of August, 1793, a law declaring that the 
system should go immediately into operation, and assuming for the 
length of the standard metre the ten millionth part of the quadrant of 
the meridian according to the result of the old admeasurement of a 
degree in 1740, and arranging an entire system of weights and mea- 
sures, in decimal divisions, with new denominations, all of which were 
to be merely temporary, and to cease when the definitive length of the 
metre should be ascertained. This extraordinary act was probably- 
intended, as it directly tended, to prevent the further prosecution of 
the original plan : and though, soon after, it was followed by a 
decree of 11th September, 1793, authorizing the temporary con- 
tinuance of the general committee of weights and measures, which 
iiad been appointed by the academy, yet, on the 23d December of 
the same year, a decree of Robespierre's committee of public safety 
dismissed from the commission Borda, Lavoisier, Laplace, Coulomb, 
BrisSon, and Delambre, on the pretence that they were not republi- 
cans sulliciently pure. Mechain escaped the same proscription only 
because he was detained as a prisoner in Spain. 

Yet even Robespierre and his committee were ambitious, not only 
of establishing the system of new weights and measures in France, 
but of offering them to the adoption of other nations. By a decree of 
that committee of 11th December, 1793, the board or commission of 
weights and measures were directed to send to the United States of 
America a metre in copper and a weight, being copies of the stand- 
ards then just adopted. They were accordingly transmitted : and on 
the 2d of August, 1794, the two standards were, by the then French 
minister plenipotentiary Fauchet, sent to the Secretary of State, with 
a letter, recommending, with some urgency, the adoption of the sys- 
tem by the United States. This letter was communicated to Con- 
gress by a message from the President of the United States, of the 
8th of January, 1795. 

In the mean time the mensuration of the ai'c of the meridian was 
entirely suspended by the dismissal of Delambre, and the detention of 
Mechain. Its progress was renewed by a decree of the national con- 
vention of 7th April, 1795, (18 Germinal, An. 3) which abolished 
almost entirely the nomenclature of the temporary standards adopted 
in August, 1793, and substituted a new one, being that still recog- 
nized by tiie law, and the units of which have been already mention- 
ed ,• the metre, the gramme, the are, the litre, and the stere. To 
express the multiples of these units, the Greek words denominating 


ten, a hundred, a thousand, and ten thousand, were prefixed asaddi> 
tional syllables, while their tenth, hundredtii, and thousandth parts 
were denoted by similar prefixed syllables from the Latin language. 
Thus, the myria-metre is ten thousand, and the kilo-metre one thou- 
sand, the hecto-metre one hundred, and the deca-metre ten metres; 
each of those prefixed syllables being the Greek word expressive of 
those respective numbers ; while the deci-metre, the centi-metre, and 
the milli-metre, are tenth, hundredth, and thousandth parts, signi- 
fied by the Latin syllables respectively pi-efixed to them. The theory 
of this nomenclature is perfectly simple and beautiful. Twelve new 
words, five of wiiich denote the things, and seven the numbers, include 
the whole system of metrology ; give distinct and significant names 
to every weight, measure, multiple, and subdivision, of the whole sys- 
tem ; discard the worst of all the sources of error and confusion in 
weights and measures, the application of the same name to different 
things j and keep constantly present to the mind the principle of de- 
cimal arithmetic, which combines all the weights and measures, the 
proportion of each weight or measure with all its multiples and divi- 
sions, and the chain of uniformity which connects together the pro- 
foundest researches 'of science with the most accomplished labors of 
art and the daily occupations and wants of domestic life in all classes 
and conditions of society. Yet this is tlie part of the system which 
has encountered the most insuperable obstacles in France. The 
French nation have refused to learn, or to repeat these twelve words. 
They have been willing to take a total and radical change of things ; 
but they insist upon calling them by old names. They take the 
metre; but they must call one-third part of it a foot. They accept 
the kilogramme ,• but, instead of pronouncing its name, they choose 
to calJrone half of it a pound. Not that tiie tliird of a metre is a foot» 
or the half of a kilogramme is a pound ; but because they are not very 
different from them, and because, in expressions of popular origin, 
distinctness of idea in the use of language is more closely connected 
with habitual usage than with precision of expression. 

This observation may be illustrated by our own experience, in a 
change effected by ourselves in the denominations of our coins, a 
revolution by allexperience known to be infinitely more easy to ac- 
complish than that of weights and measures. At the close of our 
war for independence, we found ourselves with four English words,, 
pound, shilling, penny, and farthing, to signify all our moneys of ac- 
count. But, though English words, they were not English things. 
They were no where sterling: and scarcely in any two states of the 
Union were they representatives of the same sums. It was a Babel 
of confusion by the use of four words. In our new system of coin- 
age we set them aside. We took the Spanish piece of eight, which 
had always been the coin most current among us, and to which we 
had given a name of our own — a dollar. Introducing the principle 
of decimal divisions, we said, a tenth part of our dollar shall be call- 
ed a dimei a hundredth part a cent, and a thousandth part a mille. 
Ljke the French, we took all fhesc new denominations from the Latin 


language; but instead of prefixing them as syllables to the generic 
term dollar, we reduced them to monosyllables, and made each of 
them significant by itself, without reference to the unit of which they 
were fractional parts. The French themselves, in the application of 
their system to their coins, have followed our example ; and, assum- 
ing the franc for their unit, call its tenth part a deciine, and its hun- 
dredth a centime. It is now nearly thirty years since our new moneys 
of account, our coins, and our mint, have been established. The 
dollar, Hnder its new stamp, has preserved its name and circulation. 
The cent has become tolerably familiarized to the tongue, wherever 
it has been made by circulation familiar to the hand. But the dime 
having been seldom, and the mille never, presented in their material 
images to the people, have remained so utterly unknown, that now, 
when the recent coinage of dimes is alluded to in our public journals, 
if tlieir name is mentioned, it is always with an explanatory definition 
to inform the reader, tliat they are ten cent pieces ; and some of them 
which have found their way over the mountains, by the generous hos- 
pitality of the country, have been received for more than they were 
wortii, and have passed for an eighth, instead of a tenth, part of a 
dollar. Even now, at tbe end of thirty years, ask a tradesman, or 
shopkeeper, in any of our cities what is a dime or a mille, and the 
chances are four in five that he will not understand your question. 
But go to New York and offer in payment the Spanish coin, the unit 
of the Spanish piece of eight, and the shop or market-man will take 
it for a shiUing. Carry it to Boston or Richmond, and you shall be 
told it is not a shilling, but nine pence. Bring it to Philadelphia, 
Baltimore, or the City of Washington, and you shall find it recog- 
nized for an eleven-penny bit; and if you ask how that can be, you 
shall learn tliat, the dolhw being of ninety pence, the eighth part of 
it is nearer to eleven tiian to any otl»er number : and pursuing still 
further the arithmetic of popular denominations, you will find that 
half eleven is five, or, at least, that half the eleven-penny bit is the 
fi-penny bit, which fi-penny bit at Richmond shrinks to four pence 
half-penny, and at New York swells to six pence. And thus we have 
English denominations most absurdly and diversely applied to Span- 
ish coins; while our own lawfully established dime and mille remain, 
to the great mass of the people, among the hidden mysteries of poli- 
tical economy — state secrets. 

Human nature, in its broadest features, is every wliere the same. 
This result of our own experience, upon a small scale, and upon a 
single object, will easily account for the repugnance of the French 
people to adopt the new nomenclature of their weights and measures. 
It is not the length of the words that constitutes the objection against 
them, nor the difficulty of pronunciation ; for, li-pcnny bit is as hard 
to speak and as long a word as kilogramme, and eleven-penny bit. 
has certainly more letters and syllables, and less euphony, than 
myria-metre. But it is because, in the ordinary operations of the 
mind, distinctness of idea is, by the laws of nature, linked with the 
chain of association between sensible im-ages and their habitual 


♦Icnnniinations, more closely than with the exactness of logical 

The nomenclature of the French metrology was established by the 
law of 7th April, 1795, although the metre and the kih>gramme wero 
only provisi(»nal and not definitive. It was known that the difference 
between the provisional and definitive metre and kilogramme would 
be very small, scarcely perceptible: and by that inverted logic which 
presides over all preci[)itate legislation, it was concluded that because 
it was stnall it would be ujiimportant: instead of which, sound reason 
would have inferred, that, to the purpose of uniformity, the smaller 
the difference was, the gi-eater was the danger of its pi'oducing con- 
fusion between the temporary and the perpetual things which were to 
bear the same name. 

But with the hiisty call for a provisional metre and kilogramme, 
the law of 7th April, 1795, gave the definitive nomenclature, and di- 
rected the renewal of all the o])erations commenced under the direc- 
tion of the Academy of Sciences; and the persons employed uport 
them were reinstated in their functions, by the committee of public 
instruction of the national convention. A commission of twelve per- 
sons, Berthollet, Borda, Brisson, Coulomb, Delambre, Haiiy, La- 
grange, Laplace, Mechain, Monge, Prony, and Vandermonde, was 
appointed on the 17th of April, 1795, for the final accomplishment 
of the original plan ; the most important and laborious part of which, 
the admeasurement of the arc of the meridian, was immediately re- 
sumed by Delambre and Mechain. By them the whole distance from 
Dunkirk to Mont Jouy, near Barcelona, a distance of nine degrees 
and two thirds, more than a tenth part of the quadrant of the meri- 
dian, was measured by trigonometrical survey. The angles formed 
by every station with those next before and after it, rectified by the 
angles of elevation and depression formed by the inequalities on the 
surface of the ground, to reduce the whole to the level of the horizon, 
were measured and referred to the measure of two bases, onf between 
Melun and Lieusaint, the other between Vernet and Salces, near 
Perpignan ; each serving as a corrective upon the other. Observa- 
tions of azimuth ascertained the direction of the sides of the triangles, 
with reference to the meridian ; and astronomical observations as- 
certaint^d the celestial arc, corresponding with that which was mea- 
sured upon the ear'th. The distance from Dunkirk to Rhodez, about 
450 miles, was performed by Delambre ; and that from Barcelona to 
Rhodez, upwards of 200 miles, by Mechain. The base of Melun was 
of 6075.90 and that of Perpignan 6006.25 toises, each nearly seven 
miles : and though at the distance of near 400 miles from each other, 
the base of Perpignan, calculated by inference from the chain of tri- 
angles between them, differed from its actual admeasurement less 
than one foot. The portion of the distance allotted to Mechain was 
less than one third of the whole; but, traversing the Pyrenees, and 
being chiefly upon the Spanish territories, was attended witli more 
diificulties than those encountered by his associate. Mechain, in the 
execution of his task, had formed the project of extending the survey 


to the Balearic islands, Mhich would have made the portion of the 
arc south of the forty-fifth degree equal to that noj'thward of it. 
"With a fii'iiiness and perseverance of pursuit, amidst innumerahle 
obstacles, he had proceeded far in the execution of this supplementary 
plan. His triajigles were already extended fi*om Barcelona to Tor- 
tosa. Flis stations had been selected to Cullora. Six or seven tri- 
angles more would have carried his work to its termination in the' 
island of Ivica. Arrested by a fevei*, in his first progiess, and com- 
pelled then to abandon the attempt, he had resumed it after the re- 
sult of tiie original jdan had been ascertained, and the new system 
had been finally established by law. I'he hand which sets bounds to 
all human pursuits again and definitively met and closed his career. 
He died on the 20th of September, 1805, at Castellon de la Plana, 
in the Spanish province of Valencia. His more fortunate associate, . 
Delantbre, has })ublished, in three quarto volumes, under the title of 
thf '* Basis of tlie metrical decimal system, or measure of the arc of 
** the meridian between Dunkiik and Barcelona," all the details and 
results of this admirable operation. A fourth volume yet remains to 
Jbe j)ublished, which will contain the account of the actual execution 
since the death of Mechain, of the idea which he had conceived of ex- 
ieuding the admeasurement to the island of Formentara, and of the 
jidditioual extension of it northward to the Shetland islands, by con- 
necting it with the trigonometrical survey of Great Britain. This 
work, in passing to future ages, a monument of the philosophy, sci- 
ence, public spirit, and active benevolence of our own, will redeem? 
by the martyrdom of genius and learning in the cause of human hap- 
piness, the blood-polluted glories of cotemporaneous war. 

The reports of the proceedings of Delambre and Mechain, as well 
of their field surveys as of their astr. aomical observations, and all 
their calculations, were submitted to the inspection, scrutiny, and re- 
vision, of a committee of the mathematical and physical class of the 
national institute, that phoenix of science which had arisen from the 
ashes of the academy of sciences. The observations to ascertain the 
length of the pendulum, and the experiments for determining the spe- 
,cific gravity of distilled water at its maximum of density, were sub- 
mitted to the same ordeal. Two reports upon the whole result were 
jnade to the class, one by Tralles of the Helvetic Confederation, the 
other by Van Swinden of the Netherlands, two of the foreign asso- 
ciates, who had been invited to co-operate in the laboi*, and to parti- 
cipate in the honor of the undertaking. These two reports, combin- 
ed by Van Swinden into one, were then reported from the class to 
the generfil meeting of the institute, and by that body, with all suit- 
able solemnity, to the two branches of the national assembly of 
Fiance, on the 22dof June, 1799, together with a definitive metre of 
platina, made by Lenoir, and a kilogramme of the same metal, made 
b) Fortin. They were introduced by an appropriate address at the 
bar of the two houses, by the presiding member of the national insti- 
tute. La Place ; to which answers were returned by the respective 
presidents of the two legislative chambers, Ou the same day, the 


standard metre and kiloi»;rammc were deposited in tlie hands of the 
keeper of the public aicliives ; and a recoid of the fact was rnadeai«d 
sij^ned by bini. and by all the members of the institute, foreiij;!! asso- 
ciat'^s, and artists, m hose joint labors had contributed to the consum- 
mation of this moie than national undertaking. 

No apology will be deemed necessary by Cong'ress for dwelling 
upon these details which signalized the establishment of the Jievv' 
French metric;>.I system. The spectacle is at once so rare and so 
sublime, in which the genius, the science, the skill, and the power of 
^reat confederated nations are seen Joining hand in hand in the true 
spiiit of fraternal equality, arriving in concert at one destined stage 
of improvement in the condition of human kind; that, not to |)ause 
for a moment, were it even fi*om occupations not essentially connect- 
ed with it, to enjoy the contemplation of a scene so honorable to the 
character and caj)acities of our species, v ould aigue a want of sensi- 
bility to appreciate its worth. This scene formed an epocha in the 
history of man. It was an example a^tl an admonition to the legis- 
lators of every natif)n, and of all after-times. 

On the 10th of December, 1799, (19 Frimaire 8,) the temporary 
meti'e and kilogramme, which had been ordained by the laws of 1st 
August, 1793, and 7th Apiil. 1795 (18 Germinal 3,) were abolished. 
That metre had been of 443 lines and -^W of a line of the ancient foot, 
standarded by the fathom of Peru. The new and definitive metre 
was fixed at 443 lines yVo*o- ^''^ difference between them was about 
4 of a line, or -j-i^ of our inch, a difference imperceptible for all or- 
dinary uses; but very important as a standard variety, and imme- 
diately apparent when multiplied to the cube for the measure of ca- 
pacity and the weight. Thus the temporary kilogramme had been of 
18,841 grains niark weight, while the new and definitive kilogramme 
was reduced to 18,827.15 grains. 

During the violent ebullitions of the most inflammatory period of 
the French Revolution, it had been imagined that in the reformation 
of the system of weights and measures, upon the principle of unifor- 
mity, the mensuration of time ought to be included. But this was a 
different project from that of the reformed metrology, originating in 
motives less pure and ingenuous, connected with purposes interfer- 
ing with religious impressions, and quite inconsistent with one of the 
principal expedients of perpetuating the identity of the new weights 
and measures. The length of the pendulum beating seconds, it has 
been seen, is, in the new metrical system, the test of verification for 
that of the metre, in case the original platina standard should be 
lost. The pendulum beating seconds vibrates 86,400 times in the 
solar day of 24 hours. But, the fiei'y spii'its of the Revolution called 
for a reformation of tiie calendar, for a new constitution of the sea- 
sons, and above all, for decimal divisions. The establishment of the 
French republic was a new aira to the world. It had taken place on 
the 22d of September, 1792, the day of the autumnal equinox, when 
the sun entered the sign of the Balancx;, the symbol of equality. Be- 
fore it the Christian fera was to disappear. The new- y,ear was tOK 


commence with that day. The division of twelve months was to Le 
retained ; but they were all to be of three times ten or thirty days. 
The division of weeks of seven days, hearinning with one specially 
devoted to the worshij) of the Creator, and repose, was to be abo- 
lished ; but every tenth day was to be dedicated to some mora! ab- 
straction or virtue, such as liberty, equality, fi-aternity, patriotism, 
conjugal affection, filial piety, old a,2;e, and once a year to the Su- 
preme Creator, whose existence was formally authenticated by a de- 
cree of the national convention. After their thiity-six decads, there 
remained five, and in leap-year six complementary days, to which 
they gave a name which can scarcely be repeated with decency ; but 
which were to be all holidays, and in which were to be revived the 
Olympic games of ancient Greece. The names of the months were 
to be significant. The three successive months, composing each of 
the four seasons, were to have the same terminating syllable, which 
in its sound should convey to the ear its distinctive character. The 
first of the four was airf, which was supposed to indicate the solemn 
and majestic tranquillity of autumn ; the second ose^ a dull and heavy 
sound, marking the torpor and frigidity of winter ; the third ai, which 
had all the reviving influence and liquid harmony of spring; and 
the fourth dor^ burning to the fancy w ith the vivid ardors of summer. 
To these terminating syllables, each month had an appropriate pre- 
fix. Thus, in autumn, Vendemi-aiie, was the month of vintage ; 
Brum-aire, the month of fogs ; and Frim-aire, the month of incipient 
cold. From the winter solstice to the vernal equinox, there was 
Niv-ose, the month of snow ; Pluvi-ose, the month of rain ; and 
Vent-ose, the month of wind. These were succeeded by the darlings 
of the year ; Germin-al, the month of buds ; Flore-al, the month of 
blossoms ; and Prairi-al, the month of blooming meads. The pro- 
cession closed with the bounties and fervors of summer ; Messi-dor, 
the month of harvests ; Thermi-dor, the month of heat ; and Fructi- 
dor, the month of fruit. The days of their decad were to be deno- 
minated by their numbers from one to ten ; as Primedi, first day, 
Duodi, second day, and so on to Decadi, tlie tenth day ; which was 
to be the day of relaxation from labor, and of meditations upon vir- 
tue. But the clashing of the new calendar with the new metrology 
was the division of the solar day, not into 24 hours, of 60 minutes, 
with 60 seconds to the minute; but into ten hours, each of 100 mi- 
nutes, and each minute of 100 seconds. The pendulum of that day, 
therefore, would vibrate 100,000 times, and would be of quite a dif- 
ferent length from that which was to be the test of verification to the 

This system has passed away, and is forgotten. This incongruous 
composition of profound learning and superficial frivolity, of irreli- 
gion and morality, of delicate imagination and coarse vulgarity, is 
dissolved. This statue, with the form of Apollo and the face of Sile- 
nus, has crumbled into dust; but it was established by a law of the 
5th of October, 1792, and for the space of twelve years it was the ca* 


lendar of the French nafion. Henceforth it will only be remembered 
as preparing future problems in cbronolo^y. 

The division of the day into a hundred thousand parts had some 
reasons to recommend it, but was the first part of the system that 
was abandoned. It had been decreed as compulsory, with the new 
nomenclature of the calendai-, on the 24th of November, 1793, (4 
Frimaire 2,) but this regulation was indefinitely suspended by the 
law of 7th April, 1795, (18 Germinal 3.) 

On the 8th of April, 1802, when a First Consul, soon to be for 
life, had produced some perturbation of that balance, the symbol of 
equality in which the sun had first shone upon the French Republic, 
there passed a law, retaining the equinoctial or republican calendar 
for aU civil purposes, but resuming the solstitial or Gregorian calen- 
dar so far as to restore its week of seven days with theii* names, and 
its Sabbath of the first of them. The terms equinoctial and solstitial, 
in this law, applied to the new and old calendars, seem studiously 
selected to veil the balance of equality on one side, and the Sabbath 
of religion on the other. 

But on the 9th of September, 1805, (22 Fructidor 13,) in the 
month of fruits^ and when the sun of the French Republic had got, 
if not into the sign, at least deep into the constellation, of the Lion; 
when the legend of her coins bore on one side the name and head of 
Napoleon Emperor, and on the other, the name of the French Re- 
public, a senatus consultum ordained, that, from tlie 11th of that 
dull and heavy month of snows of the 14th year, the 1st of January, 
1806, should re appear, and the Gregorian calendar should be re- 
stored to use throughout the Republican Empire. 

The decimal divisions, and the fanciful contexture of the equinoc- 
tial calendar, were a soi-t of episode to the new system of metrology. 
The attempt to decimate the year in its number of days was equally 
useless and absurd. The five successive holidays at the close of the 
year, just at the season of the vintage, with the institution of ath- 
letic sports, were a waste of time, and a provocation to mischievous 
idleness, ill compensated by the retrenchment of sixteen Sundays in 
the year, at the distance of a week from each other, and devoted to 
the exercises of piety. 

The application of the metrical system to geography and astrono- 
my was a much more rational pait of the project ; but has been at- 
tended with diificulties in execution hitherto insuperable. In adopt- 
ing an aliquot decimal part of the quadrant of the meridian for the 
unit of long measures, it formed a natural division of the quadrant 
itself into ten parts, each of ten degrees. The degree would theu 
have been of 100,000 metres, and the number of degices to encircle 
the earth would have been four hundred. The degree, which is now 
of about sixty-nine English miles, would have been of about sixty- 
two, and the facility of all astronomical, geographical, and nautical, 
calculations, would have been much increased. But it would have 
rendered useless all the tables indispensable to the navigator, astro- 
nomei', and geographer; and^ ii' it Lad not produced the same effect 


upon all the maps and charts now in use, it would liave tended to pro- 
duce confusion between those of the old and those of the new system. 
The ancient division of the sphere, and, conscfjuently, of the circle, 
into 360, and therefore into quadrants of 90 decrees, ori/i^inated in 
the coincidence of the daily rotations of the earth in its orbit round 
the sun, or tiie apparent motion of the sun in the ecliptic, which, as 
rear as the approximation of numbers can brinj^ it, is of one degree 
every day. The division of the day into twenty-four houi'S, each of 
sixty minutes, is founded on a similar coincidence of time in the rota- 
tion of the earth round its axis, and the apj)arent daily revohition of 
the firmament round the earth resulting; from it; .ficiving- for the rising 
or setti)ig of each sign of the zodiac a term of two liours, and for 
each degree of the circle described by the earth in its I'otation a term 
of four minutes, or fifteen degrees lo t!ie hour. The adoption of the 
decimal divisions for the quadrant of the meridian, and foi- the circle, 
"Would have disturbed all these harmonies, as well as that of the sex- 
agesimal division of the circle by the radius; a division not perfectly 
exact, since the radius is not exactly the sixth j)art of the circum- 
ference, but which, having been found the most convenient for |)rac- 
tice, has been established from the remotest antiquity, and, being al- 
ready used by all the civilized nations of the earth, could not, by be- 
ing set aside, tend to uniformity, unless the method to supply its 
place could be alike secure of universal adoption. 

The divisions of the barometer had always been marked in inchesr^ 
and lines. The application to it of the decimetre, its multiples and 
divisions, had for observation and calculation the usual conveniences 
of the decimal arithmetic. The graduation of the thermometer had 
always been aibitrary and various in different countries. The prin- 
ciple of the instrument was every where the same, that of marking- 
the changes of heat and cold in the atmosphere, by the expansion and 
contraction which they produced upon mercury or alcohol. The range 
of temperature between boiling and freezing water was usually ta- 
ken for the term of graduation, but, by some, it was graduated down- 
wards from heat to cold, and by others upwards from cold to heat. 
By some the range between the two terminating points was divided 
into 80, 100, 150, or 212, degrees. One put the freezing, and another 
the boiling, point at 0. Reaumur^s thermometer, used isi Fiance, be- 
gan with for the freezing point, and placed the boiling ])oint at 80. 
Fahrenheit'8, commonly used in England, and in this country, has 
the freezing point at 32, and the boiling point at 212. The centi- 
grade thermometer, adopted by the new system, begins at the freez- 
ing point at 0, and places the boiling point at 100: its graduation, 
therefore, is decimal, and its degrees are to those of Reaumur as five, 
to four, and to those of Fahrenheit as five to nine. 

The application of the new metrology to the moneys and coins of 
France, has been made witli considerable success; not, however, with 
so much of the principle of uniformity as might have been expected, 
had it originally formed a part of tiie same jiroject. But the refor- 
mation of tlic ceius was separately pursued, as it has been with us : 


an«l, as the subject is of great complication, it naturally followed 
that, from the scpaiatc consti-Jiction of two intricate systems, tlie 
adaptation of each to the other was less correct than it would have 
been, had all the combinations of botii been included in the foiMuation 
of one great mastei'-pieco of machinei'y. It is to be regretted that, 
in the formation of a system of weights and measures, while such 
<?xtreme importance was attached to the discovery and assumption of 
a national standard of long measure as the link of connection between 
them all, so little consideration was given to that primitive link of 
connection between them, which had existed in the identity of weights 
and of silver coins, and of wiiich France, as well as cvL'vy other na- 
tion in Euiope, could still perceive the ruins in her monetary sysr 
tem then existing. Herlivre tournois, like the pound sterling, was 
a degeneracj', and a much greater one, from a pound weight of silver, 
but it had scarcely a seventieth part of its original value. It was 
divided into twenty sols or shillings ; and the sol was of twelve de- 
iiiers or pence. It had become a mere money of account : but the 
«cu, or crown, was a silver coin of six livres, nearly equivalent to 
an ounce in weight, and there were half crowns, and other subdivi- 
sions of it, being coins of one-fourth, one-fifth, one-eighth, and 
one-tenth, of the crown. There were also coins of gold, of copper, 
and of mixed metal called billon, in the ordinary circulations of ex- 
change. Shortly after the adoption of the provisional or temporary 
metre and kilogramme, a law of 16 Vcndemaire 2, (7th October, 
1793,) prescribed that the princij)al unit, both of gold and of silver 
coins, should be of the weight of ten grammes. The proportional 
value of gold to silver was retained as it had long before been estab- 
lished in France, at 151 for one : the alloy of both coins was fixed at 
one-tenth ; and the silver franc of that coinage would have been worth 
about thirty-eight cents, and the gold franc a little short of six dol- 
lars. This law was never carried into execution. It was superseded 
by one of 15th August, 1794, (28 Thermidor 3,) which reduced the 
silver franc to five grammes : and it was not ujitil after a law of 7 
Germinal 11, (28th March, 1803,) that gold pieces of twenty and 
forty francs were coined at 155 of the former to the kilogramme. 

In the new system, the name of livre, or pound, as applied to mo- 
ney or coins, was discarded : but the franc was made the unit both of 
coins and moneys of account. The franc was a name which had be- 
fore been in common use as a synonymous denomination of the livre. 
The new franc was of intrinsic value -^^ more than the livre. The 
franc is decimally divided into declines of -^^^ centimes of ji^, and 
millimes of yoVo* '^^ ^''^ unit; but the smallest copper coin in com- 
mon use is of five centimes, equivalent to about one of our cents. 
The silver coins are of one-fourth, one-half, one and two francs, and 
of five francs ; the gold pieces, of twenty and forty fi-ancs. The pro- 
portional value of copper to silver is of one to forty, and that of bil- 
lon to silver of one to four: so that the kilogramme should weigh 5 
francs of coi)per coin, 50 of the billon, 200 of the silver, and 3100 
of the gold coins; and the decime of billon should WTigh precisely 


two grammes. The allowances, known by the name of remedy fop 
errors in the weight and purity of the coins, are of j|^ upon copper, 
which is only for excess : those 'ipon the weight of billon are of ^^^^ ; 
upon silver t-§§^ ^o'' f>"6 quarter francs, j^^o for oHe-half francs, 
and of T^^^ or one per cent, on one and two franc pieces, and of 
T^^yo ^*^'" f'^^ franc pieces. That of the gold coins is of ■y-s'ss •> ^^1» 
excepting the copper, allowances either for excess or deficiency. But 
the practice of the mint never transgresses in excess ', and the deficien- 
cy is always nearly the whole allowed by law. The remedy of alloy is 
of-y/^^, eitherof excess or defect, for billon; of ^^^^^ for silver; and 
of ^^2^^ for gold. It is said that the actual purity of the coins, both 
of gold and of silver, is within y^j^o^ less than the standard. 

The conveniences of this system ai*e, 

First, The establishment of the same proportion of alloy to both 
gold and silver coins, and that proportion decimal. 

Secondly, The established proportions of value between gold^ 
silver, mixed metal, and copper coins. 

Thirdly, The adaptation of all the coins to the weights in such 
manner as to be checks upon and tests of each other. Thus the de- 
cime of billoH should weigh two grammes, the franc of silver five, 
the two fianc piece of silver and the five centime piece of copper 
each ten, and the five franc piece fifty. The allowances of remedy 
disturb partially these proportions. Thesp. are practices continued 
in all the European mints, after the reasons upon which they were 
originally founded have In a great measure ceased. In the imperfec- 
tion of the art, the mixture of the metals used in coining, and the 
striking of the coins, could not be effected with entire accuracy. 
There would be some variety in the mixture of metals made at 
different times, though in the same intended proportions, and in dif- 
ferent pieces of coin, though struck by the same process and from 
the same die. But the art of coining metals has now attained a per- 
fection, that such allowances have become, if not altogether, in a 
great measure unnecessary. Our laws make none for the deficiencies 
of weight : and they consider every deficiency of purity as an error, 
for which the officers of the mint shall be excused only in case of its 
being within -^\- part, or about joV^^ ? f®'" ^^ '* should exceed that, 
they are disqualified from holding their offices. Where the penalty 
is so severe, it is proper that the allowance should be large ; but, as 
obligatory duty upon the officers of the mint, an allowance of ^(jVtr 
would be amply sufficient for each single piece, and no allowance 
should be made upon tfie average. 

Among the difficulties attending all innovations upon established 
usages relative to weights and measures, are their application to the 
tonnage of ships and boats, and to the form and size of casks. We 
have seen, in the review of the history of English weights and mea- 
sures, how Henry the Seventh's change of the Rochelle for the troy 
pound affected the barrels of herring fishers, the hogshead of claret, 
and the butts of Alicant wine. The tonnage of ships, on the old es- 
tablished metrologies, was founded, like their weights and measures 


of capacity, upon a principle of combining specific gravity and occu- 
pied space. The ton of sluppin.g was adaptecl both for a wciglit and 
a measure. The capacity of a sliipas a measure is ascertained bv its 
inteinal cubical dimensions, wiiich, before the change of system in 
France, gave 42 royal cubic feet to a ton. The mode of a«hneasiire- 
ment was, like ours, a complicated multij)lication and division of 
length, breadth, and thickness, with given deductions and estimates, 
all finally divided by the standing number, 94, as ours is bv 95, and 
the quotient of which gives the number of wiiat may be called custom 
house tons. But the French ordiimnccs, like our law, did not indi- 
cate by what specific measure this length, breadth, and thickness, 
were to be taken. It was always perfectly understood here, tluit it is 
in feet, and tenths of feet ; and in France, that it was in royal feet 
and their tenths. Nothing can afford a more striking illustration of 
the construction which long established usage can give to law, than 
this admeasurement in feet and tenth paits of a foot; differing from 
that used in all other cases of feet and inches or twelfth parts; not 
expressly directed by law, and yet practised for these thirty years, 
probably without a question upon the meaning of the law. The at- 
tempt in France to apply it to the admeasurement by the metre, 
without changing the final common divisor 95, signally shows how 
cautiously complications of weigiits, measures, numbei-s, and coins, 
must be dealt with. The law of the 12th Nivose 2, (1st Jajiuary, 
1794,) directed those measures to be taken in the new metre and di- 
visions, without changing the final divisor, 95, to produce a number 
of tons. The consequence would have been, that the cubic numbers 
divided by 95 would have been metres and tljeir decimal parts, in- 
stead of feet and their decimal parts; and the quotient would have 
reduced the tonnage to about one third of its proper dimensions. To 
have produced a quotient of a number of tons, their final divisor 
should have been SO instead of 95. This mistake was precisely the 
same as that of the British parliament of 1496, when, thinking to re- 
enact the law of 1266, they prescribed a bushel to be made from 
sixty-four gallons troy weight of wheat of thirty-two kernels to the 
troy pennyweight, instead of a bushel of sixty-four pounds sterling 
at fifteen ounces to the pound, of wheat, thirty-two kernels of which 
weighed the penny sterling of Henry the Third. It was the same 
mistake which the Greek Church yearly repeats in celebrating Eas- 
ter, by the Julian calendar of 365 days 6 hours to the year, and the 
lunar cycle of nineteen years. And, to come nearer home to ourselves, 
it was the same mistake which our own statute book discloses, in 
estimating the British pound sterling four dollars forty-four cents, 
because one hundred and ten years ago Sir Isaac Newton found the 
Spanish Mexican piece of eight to be of the intrinsic value of four 
shillings and six pence sterling. 

The burden of a ship, as a weight, is ascertained by the depth of 

the water that she draws. On the principles of hydrostatics, the 

weight of any floating object is equal to that of the mass of water 

displaced by it: and the weight of a sliip's burden is the difference 



between the column of water drawn by her when in ballast, and 
■wlien laden. The draft of water, therefore, measured by the metre 
and its divisions, gives of itself the result, in tons of 1000 kilo- 
grammes, by the mere multiplication of the dimensions of the vessels ; 
the result giving cubic metises of water, each of which, saving the 
difference between the specific gravity of river or sea, and distilled 
water, will of course be of 1000 kilogrammes. 

I'he size of casks was among the objects intended to be included 
in the reformed system : and regulations were adopted prescribing, 
first, that their dimensions should be of uniform proportions, the dia- 
nietcr of the two ends, that of tlie centre, and the length of the bar- 
rels, being as 8, 9, and IO5 to each other; and, secondly, that their 
contents should be in decimal orsiibdecimal divisions of litres. Tables 
were published prescribing the dimension in millimetres of the length 
and diamctres of each cask, from the contents of 50 to those of 1000 
litres. But the forms and proportions of casks are different in dif- 
ferent countries, and in diflcrent ])laces of the same country. These 
difTeiences may ai'isc from the nature of the substance, liquid or dry, 
which they are to contain ; from the materials of which they are made 
or with which they are bound; from laws or usages long established, 
to which the cooper, the vintner, or bi-ewer, the merchant, the miller, 
and other numerous professions dealing in articles which are packed 
in barrels, have accommodated themselves from time immemorial. 
^Vitli regard to ai'ticles of exportation, the laws of other countries 
also interpose, by prohibiting their admission in casks of other di- 
mensions than those which have been used : and the instruction of 
"2 Frimaire 11, (23d November, 1802) revoked the regulation of 
I'luviose 7, (January, 1799) requiring only thenceforth, according to 
the proclamation of 11 Thermidor 7, (29tli July, 1799,) that no wines 
or other liquors should be exposed to sale, unless branded with the 
mark of their contents in litres ; with a recommendation, however, 
that casks should be made as much as possible in the dimensions and 
propoi'tions which had been ordained in Jaimary, 1799. 

The intentions of reformation upon the principles of uniformity 
and of decimal divisions were, in tlie novelty of the system, extended 
to the maiiner's compass, which it was proposed to divide into forty 
rhumbs of wind, insteajl of thirty-two ; to the log-line, the usual di- 
visions of which are proportioned to the marine mile of sixty to a 
degree; to the sounding line, which liad usually been divided by 
French mariners, not into their fathoms of six, but into bi'asses of 
live royal feet; and to the cable's length, which was of 100 toises. 
Some of these were consequences of the project for dividing deci- 
mally time, and the quadrant of the circle : and the others foUowed 
from the substitution of the metre for the foot and toise. 

The lapidaries and dealers in precious stones, throughout Eu- 
rojjc, have a weight peculiar to themselves, under the denomination 
of the carat, which is nearly of the weight of three grains troy, and 
which they divide into halves, quarters, eighths, and sixteenths. As 
this trade is of extremely limited extent, even in Europe, it was t« 


be considered only in the ori^anization of a system for universal ap- 

rt has been ohscrvccl, that, ainoiiu: the dilliciilties hitherto insu- 
pei-ahie, \vhicii liave opposed the cstiiblisliment in factof tliis systens, 
thus ai)pareiitly established by law, tlie most unmanageable of all 
has been found to be the adojition of the jiomenclatuie. It is cui-ious 
to observe the vai-ious expedients of legislation, to accommodate it- 
self to the pojxilar humors in this res|)ect. 

The law of the 1st of August, 1793, established all the pi'inciples 
of the new system, but under denominations dittri-ent fi'om those wiiich 
had ever been used before, and not less ditterciit fiom those which 
have been adopted since. It directed the Academy of Sciences t() 
compose an elementary book, containing a clear explanation of the 
new weights and measures, with tables of equalization, and instruc- 
tions for adapting them to those which had been in use until then. A 
few days afterwards the academy was itself abolished : but tlie duty 
of comj)osing the book was assigned to a temporary commission, or 
board of weights and measures, consisting of the same persons who 
had been employed as nrembers of the academy on the work. The 
book ^\as composed and published in the year 1794. But, on the 19th 
of January of that year, (30Nivosc2,) the nomenclature had already 
been changed; and, on the 7th of April, 1795, (18 Germinal 3,) 
a nomenclature entirely new, with the exception of three or four 
words, was enacted. The names ordained by this law of 7th x\pril, 
1795, are still the proper technical appellatiotis, and have already 
been mentioned, with their Greek and Latin prefixes of decimal mul- 
tiples and subdivisions. The same law directed that weights or mea- 
sures might be made of double, or of half the units and their tenth 
part, or tenth fold amounts; but that no other subdivision, or multi- 
ple, such as thirds, or quarters, or sixth, or eighth parts, should be 
allowed. The law of 19 Frimaire 8, ( 10th December, 1799,) de- 
clared the platina metre of 443,296 lines, and the kilogramme of 
18.827.15 grains mark weight, to be the definitive standard weight 
and measure; on the 13th Brumaire 9, (4th November, 1800,) the 
executive directory issued an arrcte, or order, authorizing, either in 
public writings or in habitual usage, what they called a translation 
into B'rench words of the authentic nomenclature ; so that the myria- 
metre might be called a league, the kilometre a mile, the litre a pint, 
the kilogramme a pound, the hectogramme an ounce, the gramme a 
denier, and so of all the rest, excepting the metres \^hich was to have 
no synonymous or translated name, and the stere, for firewood and 
measures of solidity. This ordinance was never executed : and the 
minister of the interior, by an order of 30 Frimaire 14, (21st De- 
cember, 1805,) directed all the subordinate administrations to use 
exclusively the denominations prescribed by the law of 7th April, 

An imperial decree of 12th February, 1812, presents the subject 
under a new aspect, by ordaining, 

1. That the luiits of weights and meaf^urcs should remain unchang- 
ed, as estabUshed by the law of 10th December, 1799. 


2. That tite minister of the interior should cause to be made instru- 

menti for weight and mensuration, presenting the fractions 
or multiples of the said units the most commonly used in com- 
merce, and accommodated to the wants of the people. 

3. That tliese instruments should bear on their respective faces the 

comparison of the divisions and denominations established by 
law, with those which bad been formerly used. 

4. That after a term of ten years a report should be made to the 

emperor of the result of experience upon the improvements of 
wliich the system of weights and measures might be suscep- 

5. That in the mean time the legal system should continue to be 

taught in all the scliools, and be exclusively used in all the 
public offices, and in all markets, halls, and commercial 
For the execution and explanation of this decree, an ordinance 
was. on the 28th of March, 1812, issued by the minister of the inte- 
rior . of the following purport: 

Ait. 1. Permission was granted to employ for the purpose of com- 

1. A long measure equal to two metres, to be called atoise, and 

to be divided into six feet. 

2. A measure erpial to one third of the metre, to be called a foot, 

to he divided into twelve thumbs, and the thumb into twelve 

Each of these measures shall bear on one side the corresponding 
di\isions of the metre, that is to say: the toise, two metres, divided 
into decimetres, and the first decimetre into millimetres ; and the 
foot, three decimetres and one third, divided into centimetres and 
millimetres, in all 333| millimetres. 

Art. 2. All cloths may be measured by a stick equal in length to 
twelve decimetres, to be called an ell, (aune,) which shall be divided 
into halves, quarters, eighths, and sixteenths, as well as into thirds, 
sixths, and twelfths. It shall bear on one of its sides the correspond- 
ing divisions of the metre, in centimetres only; that is to say, one 
hundred and twenty centimetres, numbered from ten to ten. 

Art. 4. Corn and other dry measure articles may be measured, in 
sales at retail, by a vessel equal to one-eighth of the hectolitre, which 
shall be called a boisseau, and shall have its double, its half, and its 

Art. 5. For retail sales of corn, seeds, meal, and roots, green or 
dry, the litre may be di\idcd into halves, quarters, and eighths. 

Art. 7. For retail sales of wine, brandy, and other liquors, mea- 
sures of one-quarter, one-eighth, and one-sixteenth of the litre may 
be used ; each of which measures shall be called by a name signify- 
ing its proportion to the litre. 

Ait. 8. F(»r retail sales of all articles which are sold by weight, 
the shopmen may employ the follow ing7f.s?m/ weights: 


The pomid, (livrc,) c(nial to lialf a kilograuiine, or 500 grammes, 

^vlucll shall be divided into sixteen onnces. 
The ounce, (once,) or sixteenth part of the pound, which shall be 

divided into ei,e;ht i^i'os. 
The gros, or eightii part of the ounce, which shall be divided into 

halves, quarters, and eighths. 
They shall bear, with their appropriate names, the indication of 
their weight iii grammes, namely : 

The pound . - - 500 grammes 

Half pound . . - 250 

Quarteron - - - 125 

Eighth, or i quarter - - 62.5 

Ounce - - - 31.3 

Half ounce . . - 15.6 

Quarter ounce, 2 gros - - 7.8 

Gros . . - - 3.9 

And such is at this day the system of weights and measures, or, ra- 
ther, such are the systems existing in France in their present condi- 
tion j for, it cannot escape observation, that this decree and explana- 
tory ordinance engraft upon the legal system an entirely new sys- 
tem, founded upon different, and, in many important respects, oppo- 
site principles. So that the result hitherto of the most stupendous 
and systematic effort ever made by a nation to introduce uniformity 
in their weights and measures, has been a conflict between four dis- 
tinct systems : 

1. That which existed before the Revolution. 

2. The temporary system established by the law of 1st August, 

3. The definitive system established by the law of 10th December, 
1799. And, 

4. The usual system, permitted by the decree of 12th February, 

This last decree is a compromise between philosophical theory and 
inveterate popular habits. Retaining the principle of decimal multi- 
plication and division for the legal system, it abandons them entirely 
in the weights and measures which it allows the peop^e tu use. In- 
stead of the metre and its decimals, it gives tlie people a toise of six 
feet, an aune of three feet and one-fifth, a foot of twelve thumbs, and 
a thumb of twelve lines. And these measures, instead of divisions 
exclusively decimal, are divisible in halves, thirds, quarters, sixths, 
eighths, twelfths, and sixteenths. Instead of a decimated kilogramme, 
it gives them a pound of sixteen ounces, an ounce of t'iglit gros, and 
a gros of seventy-two grains. The measures of capacity, vet and 
dry, have the same indulgence : and while the standard weight and 
measure are deposited in the national archives, the people have re- 
stored to them for use all the names and divisions of their ancient 
weights and measures, though not the same things. For the toise, 
w hich is twice the length of the metre, is not the old toise ; the foot, 
which is the third part of the metre, is not the pied de roi : but both 


are longer measures. The half kilogramme, which is a pound, if? 
not the ancient mark weight pound ; nor are the boisseau oi* litre 
those of ancient times : they arc all respectively near approximations 
to them. 

If the existing system and practice terminated here, it would be 
far from having attained the ideal perfection of uniformity ; but it is 
believed that, for a multitude of purposes, with this double and com- 
plicated system, there is yet a very extensive remnant in use of that 
which prevailed before the revolution. It appears, from questions at 
this time in discussion between the governments of the United States 
and of France, tliat the tonnage of the Fi-ench shipping is calculated 
by admeasurements in cubic royal feet : and it appears hence proba- 
ble that, in all the business of ship building, and in practical naviga- 
tion, those measures are still used. Without positive knowledge of 
tlie fact, the analogy of all experience warrants the conjecture, lliat 
in every part of France, remote from the capital, not only the use of 
the old legal system, but of the local weights and measures which 
prevailed in the various cities and districts of the country, is far from 
being eradicated. 

The changes which have forced themselves upon t!ie new system, 
under the attempt to reduce it to practice, should serve as admoni- 
tions to correct the errors of theory ; but not operate as discourage- 
ment to the pursuit of the principal object, uniformity. The French 
metrology, in the ardent and exclusive search for an universal stand- 
ard from nature, seems to have viewed the subject too much with 
reference to the nature of things, and not enough to the nature of 
man. Its authors do not appear to have considered, in all the bear- 
ings of the system, the proportions dictated by nature between the 
physical organization of man, and the unit of his weights and mea- 
sui'es. The standard taken from the admeasurement of the earth 
had no reference to the admeasurement and powers of the human 
body. The metre is a rod of forty inches : and by applying to it ex- 
clusively the ]>rin(iple of decimal divisions, no measure correspond- 
ing to the anciejit foot was provided. An unit of that denomination, 
though of slightly varied differences of length, was in universal use 
amoTig all civilized nations : and the want of it is founded in the 
dimensions of the human body. Pei-haps for half the occasions which 
arise in the life of every individual for the use of a linear measure, 
the instrument, to suit his purposes, must be portable, and fit to be 
carried in his pocket. Neither the metre, the half metre, nor the deci- 
metre, are suited to that purpose. The half metre corresponds in- 
deed with the ancient cubit: but perhaps one of the causes which have 
every where, since the time of the Gi-eeks, substituted the foot in the 
place of the cubit, has been the superior convenience of the shorter 
measure. Besides which, the cubit being the unit, the half cubit 
Miight serve the purposes of the foot ; but the metre, divisible only by 
two and by ten, gave no measure practically corresponding with the 
foot whatever. It appears also not to have been considered, that deci- 
mal arithmetic, although affording great facilities for thecomputatiou 



of numbers, is not equally well suited for the divisions of material 
substances. A glance of the eye is suilicient to divide material sub" 
staiuos into successive halves, fourths, eighths, and sixteenths. A 
slight attention will give thirds, sixths, and twelfths. But divisions 
of lifth and tenth pai'ts are among the most difficult that can he per- 
formed without the aid of calculation. Among all its conveniences, 
the decimal division has the great disadvantage of being itself divi- 
sible only by the numbers two and five. The duodecimal division, 
divisible by two, three, four, and six, would offer so many advan- 
tages over it, that while the Fivnch theory was in contemplation, the 
question was discussed, whether the reformation of weights and mea- 
sures should not be extended to the system of arithmetic itself, and 
whether the number twelve should not be substituted for ten, as tSie 
term of the periodical retui-n to the unit. Since the establishmunt of 
the Fi'ench system, this idea has been reproduced by phih)S0])hical 
critics, as an objection against it: and Delambre, in the third volume 
of the Base du Systeme Metrique, p. 302, has considered it, and as- 
signed the reasons for which it had been rejected. He admits, to the 
full extent, the advantages of a duodecimal over a decimal arithme- 
tic ; but alleges the difficulty of effecting the reformation, as the de- 
cisive reason against attempting it. 

The review of the proceedings in Great Britain and France, relat- 
ing to the uniformity of weights and measures, presents the genei*al 
subject under two very different aspects, from the combination of 
which, it is believed, useful practical results may be derived. Con- 
sidered as a whole, the established weights and measures of England 
are but the ruins of a system, the decays of which have been often 
repaired with materials adapted neither to the proportions, nor to 
the principles of the original construction. The metrology of France 
Is a new and complicated machine, formed upon ])rinciples of mathe- 
matical precision, the adaptation of which to the uses for which it 
was devised is yet problematical, and abiding with questionable suc- 
cess the test of experiment. 

The standard of nature of the English system is the length of the 
human foot, divided by the barley corn. That of the French system 
Is an aliquot part of the circumference of theeaith decimally divided. 

The material positive standard of the English system is an iron 
three foot rod in the British exchequer. That of France is a platina 
metre in the national archiA'^es. 

To the English system belong two different units of weight, and 
two corresponding measures of capacity, the natural standard of 
which is the difference between the specific gravities of wheat and 
wine. To the French system there is only one unit of weight and 
one measure of capacity, the natural standard of which is the specific 
gravity of watoi*. 

The French system has the advantage of unity in the weight and 
the measure, but has no common test of both. Its measure gives the 
weight only of water. The English system has the inconvenience of 
two weights and two measures ; but each measure is at the same time 


a weight. Thus the gallon of wheat and the gallon of wine, though 
of different dimensions, balance each other as weights. A gallon of 
wheat and a gallon of wine, each, weigh eight pounds avoirdupois. 
This observation applies, however, only to the original principle of 
the English system, and not altogether to its present condition. The 
difference between the specific gravity of wheat and wine, is still the 
difference between the troy and avoirdupois weights, but not between 
the wine and corn gallons. A third vessel of capacity, for which 
neither the necessity nor the use is perceived, has usurped the place 
of the corn gallon; and it has been shown how it was introduced. 
The acts of parliament prescribing the dimensions of the bushel and 
of the wine gallon in cubic inches, have assumed them from existing 
standards, or erroneous calculations : and the proportions between 
the measures of corn and of wine, which belonged originally to the 
system, are now transferred to tliose of wine and beer, for which, if 
the reason was that beer being a home made liquor and w ine a foreign 
production, beer a comfort of the poor, and wine a luxury of the 
rich, the former ought to be dealt out in larger portions, and more 
lightly touched with taxation, it proceeded from the best motives of 
political morality ; but which might have been as well accomplished 
by reducing the tax as by enlarging the measure. As vessels of ca- 
pacity for fluids, there can be no useful reason for different measure, 
excej)t the proportion of specific gravities. 

In the English system, tiie smaller of the two weights was origi- 
nally also identical with the coin : a pound of the weight was a pound 
sterling in silver money. But this property it has irrecoverably lost. 

In the French system, the weight is not a coin ; but the metallic 
coins are weights. Gold, silver, mixed metal, and copper, are all 
coined in proportions of weight and relative value prescribed by law. 

In our monetary system we have discarded the last trace of identity 
betweei. weights and coiiis, by ceasing to apply to money the name 
of pound or penny. Our coins are of prescribed weight and purity, 
but in no convenient or uniform proportions to each other. 

In the English system the two weights are standards of verification 
to each other; the two pounds being in the proportion to each other 
of 144 to 175, and the pound avoirdupois being of 7,000 grains troy. 
For quantities amounting to one fourth of a hundred pounds or more, 
the English avoirdupois weight requires an accession of 12 per cent. ; 
28 pounds pass for 25, 56 for 50, and 112 for 100. The original 
motive for this must have been the convenience of dividing the hun- 
dred into halves, quarters, eighths, and sixteenths, without making 
fractions of a pound. The true hundred can thus be divided into no 
whole number less than a quarter, or 25. 

In the English system, the standard linear measure is connected 
with the weights by the sjjecific gravity of spring water, of which a 
measure of one cubic foot contains one thousand ounces avoirdupois. 

In the French system, the standard linear measure is connected 
with the weight and the measure of capacity, by the specific gravity 
of distilled water, at its greatest density, one cubic decimetre of such 


water being tlie weight of the kilogramme, and filling the measure 
of the litre. 

In the English system, every weight and every measure is divided 
by diftcrent and, seemingly, arbitrary numbers; the foot into twelve 
inclies ; the inch, by law, into three barley corns, in practice some- 
times into halves, quarters, and eighths, sometimes into decimal parts, 
and sometimes into twelve lines j* the pound avoirdupois into sixteen 
ounces, and tlie pound troy into twelve, so that while the pound 
avoirdupois is heavier,' its ounce is lighter than tliose of the troy 
weight. The ton, in the Englisli system, is both a weight and a mea- 
sui-e. As a measure, it is divided into four quarters, the quarter into 
eight bushels, the bushel into four pecks, Ace. As a weight, it is di- 
vided into twenty hundreds, of 1 12 pounds, or 2240 pounds avoirdu- 
pois. The gallon is divided into four quarts, the quart into two pints, 
and the pint into four gills. 

In the French system, decimal divisions were prescribed by law 
exclusively. The binary division was allowed, as being compatible 
with it : but all others were rigorously excluded ; no thirds, no fourths, 
no sixths, no eighths, or twelfths. But this part of the system has 
been abandoned : and the people are now allowed all the ancient va- 
rieties of multiplication and division, which are still further compli- 
cated by the decimal proportions of the law. 

The nomenclature of the English system is full of confusion and 
absurdity, chiefly arising from the use of the same names to signify 
different things ; the term pound to signify two different weights, a mo- 
ney of account, and a coin j the gallon and quart to signify three dif- 
ferent measures ; and other improper denominations constantly open- 
ing avenues to fraud. 

The French nomenclature possesses uniformity in perfection, every 
Avord expressing the unit weight or measure which it represents, or 
the particular multiple or division of it. No two words express the 
same thing : no two things are signified by the same word. 

If, with a view to fixing the standard of weights and measures for 
the United States, upon the principles of the most extensive unifor- 
mity, the question before Congress should be upon the alternative* 
either to adhere to the system which we possess, or to adopt that of 
France in its stead, the first position which occurs as unquestionable 
is, that change, being itself diversity, and therefore the opposite of 
uniformity, cannot be a means of obtaining it, unless some great and 
transcendent superiority should demonstrably belong to the new sys- 
tem to be adopted, over the old one to be relinquisheil. 

In what then does the superiority of the French system, in all its 
novelty and freshness, over that of England, in all its decays, theo- 
i^tically consist ? 

1. In an invariable standard of linear measure, taken from nature, 
and being an aliquot decimal portion of the quarter of the meridian. 

2. In having a single unit of all weights, and a single unit of mea- 
sures of capacity for all substances, liquid or dry. 

lu • 


3. In the universal application of the decimal arithmetic, to the 
multiples and divisions of all weij^hts and measures. 

4. In the convenient proportions by which the coins and money of 
account ai-e adjusted to each other and to the weights. 

5. In the uniformity, precision, and significancy, of the nomen- 

1. If the project of reforming weights and measures had extended, 
as was proposed by the French system, to the operations of astrono- 
my, geograpliy, and navigation ; if thequadrant of the circle and of the 
sphere had been divided into one hundred degrees, each of one hundred 
thousand metres ; the assumption of that measure would have been an 
advantage much mure important than it is, or can be, in the present 
condition of the system. Whether it would have compensated fop 
ilisturbing tliat uniformity which exists, and which has invariably ex- 
isted, of the division into ninety degrees, with sexagesimal subdivi- 
sions of minutes and seconds, is merely matter of speculation. At 
least, it has been found im])racticable, even in France, to carry it in- 
to effect: and, without it, the metre, as the natural standard of the 
system, has no sensible advantage over the foot. To a perfect sys- 
tem of uniformity for all weights and measures, an aliquot part of 
the circumference of the earth is not only a better natural standard 
unit than the pendulum, or the foot, but it is the only one that could 
be assumed. Every voyage round the earth is an actual mensura- 
tion of its circumference. All navigation is admeasurement : and no 
j)erfect theory of weights and measures could be devised, combining 
in it the principle of decimal computation, of which any other natu- 
ral standard whatever could accomplisli the purpose. Its advantages 
over the pendulum are palpable. The pendulum bears no proportion 
to the circumference of the earth, and cannot serve as a standard unit 
for measuring it. Yet a system of weights and measures, which ex- 
cludes all geography, astronomy, and navigation, from its considera- 
tion, must be essentially defective in the principle of uniformity. 

But, if the metre and its decimal divisions are not to be applied to 
those operations of man, for which it is most especially adapted; if 
those who circumnavigate the globe in fact arc to make no use of it, 
and to have no concern in its proportions ; if their measures are still 
to be the nonagesimal degree, the marine league, the toise, and the 
foot ; it is surely of little consequence to the farmer who needs a mea- 
sure for his corn, to the mechanic who builds a house, or to the 
townsman who buys a ])ound of meat, or a bottle of wine, to know 
that the weight, or the measure which he emjdoys, was standarded 
by the circunifeience of the globe. For all the uses of weights and 
measures, in their ordinary apjilication to agriculture, traffic, and 
the mechanic arts, itis j)erfectly immaterial what the natural stand- 
ard, to which they are j-eferablc, was. The foot of Hercules, the 
arm of Henry the First, or the barley-corn, are as sufficient for the 
purpose as the pendulum, or the quadrant of the meridian. The 
important question to tliem is, the correspondence of their weight ov 
inea5>urc witii the positive standard. With the standard of nature. 


from which it is taken, they have no concern, nnless they can recur 
to it as a test of verification. However inipci't'cct for this end the 
human foot, or the kernel of wheat or hurley, may he, they arc at 
least easily accessible. It is a .ejreat and important defect of the sys- 
tems which assume the meridian or the pendulum lor their natural 
standard, that they never can be i-ecurred to without scientific ope- 

This is one great advantage which a natural standard, taken from 
the dimensions and proportions of the iiuman body, has over all others. 
We are perhaps not aware how often every individual, whose con- 
cerjjs in life require the constant use of long measures, makes his 
own person his natural standard, nor how habitually he recurs to it. 
But the habits of every individual inure liim to the comparison of the 
definite portion of his person, with the existing standard measures to 
which he is accustomed. There are few English men or women but 
could give a yard, foot, or inch measure, from their own arms, hands, 
or fingers, with great accuracy. But they could not give the metre 
or decimetre, although they should know their dimensions as well as 
those of the yard and foot. When the Russian Genei-al Suwarrow^,* 
in his Discourses under the Trigger, said to his troops, " a soldier's 
step is an arslieen ;" he gave every man in the Russian army the na- 
tural standard of the long measure of his country. No Russian sol- 
dier could ever afterwards be at a loss for an arsheen. But, although 
it is precisely twenty-eight English inches, being otherwise divided, 
a Russian soldier would not, without calculation, be able to tell the 
length of an English yard or inch. 

Should the metre be substituted as the standard of our weights and 
measures, instead of the foot and inch, the natural standard which 
every man carries with him in his own person would betaken away; 
and the inconvenience of the want of it would be so sensibly felt, that 
it would be as soon as possible adapted to the new measures : every 
man would find the proportions in his own body corresponding to the 
metre, decimetre, and centimetre, and habituate himself to them as 
well as he could. If this, conjecture be correct, is it not a reason for 
adhering to that system which was founded upon those proportions, 
rather-than resort to another, which, after all, will bring us back to 
the standard of nature in ourselves. 

2. The advantage of having a single unit of all weights and a single 
unit of measures of capacity, is so fascinating to a superficial view, 
that it would almost seem presumption to raise a question, whctiier 
it be so great as at first sight it appears. The relative value of all 
the articles which are bought and sold by measures of capacity, is a 
complicated estimate of their specific gravity and of the space which 
they occupy. If both these properties are ascertained by one instru- 
ment for any one ai'ticle, it cannot be applied with the same effect to 
another. Thus the litre, in the French system, is a measure for all 
grains and all liquids : but its capacity gives a weight only for dis- 
tilled water. As a measure of corn, of wine, or of oil, it gives the 
^pace whif;h they occupy, but not their weight. Now, as the weight 


of those articles is quite as important in the estimate of their quanti- 
ties as the space which they fill, a system which has two standard 
Units for measures of capacity, hut of which each measure gives the 
same weight of the respective articles, is quite as uniform as that 
which, of any given article, requires two instruments to show its 
quantity ; one to measure the space it fills, and another for its 
weight. It has heen ohscrved, that nature, in the relations which 
she has established hetween man and the eartli upon which he dwells, 
and in providing for the wants resulting to him from these relations, 
offers him in his owm person two natural standards even of linear 
measure; one for the range of his own movements upon the earth, 
and the other for articles loosened from the earth, and which are 
adapted to the immediate wants of his person. He finds by expe- 
rience that these may with increased convenience be reduced to one. 
It is not exactly so with weights or measures of capacity. From the 
moment wlien man becomes a tiller of the ground, and civil society 
is organized; from the moment when the mutual exchange hetween 
the wants of one and tlie superfluities of another commences; mea- 
sures of capacity and weights are necessary to the operation. The 
use of metals, r s common standards of value, is of later origin, and, 
when first applied to that purpose, they are always delivered by 
weight. The first and most important article of traffic is corn, the 
first necessary of life: wine and oil successively come next: milk 
and honey follow. For all these, weights and measures of capacity 
are indispensable. When the meials are first used as common instru- 
ments of exchange, the proportions of their qualities are estimated 
by their weight. But that weight could not be ascertained by itself. 
The metal being in one scale, there must be something else to balance 
it in the other: and that other substance, first of all, would, when- 
ever it should have come into use for food, be corn. It might next be 
wine. But thus compared, it would immediately be seen that the 
vessel containing of wine a counterpoise to the given metallic weight, 
would not contain a counterpoise of wheat to the same weight : and 
what could more naturally suggest itself than the device, to bring to 
the scales the wheat in a measure to balance the weight, and the wine 
in a measure to produce the same effect? The metallic weight w^ould 
then become the common standard for both, but would neither be the 
same weight by which its own gravity had been ascertained, nor a 
substitute for it. Thus, the operation of weighing implies in its na- 
ture the use of two articles, each of which is the standard testing the 
gravity of the other. And in the difference between the specific gra- 
vities of corn and wine, nature has also dictated two standard mea- 
sures of capacity, each of them equiponderant to the same weight. 

This diversity existing in nature, the troy and avoirdupois weights, 
and the corn and wine measures of the English system are founded 
upon it. In England it has existed as long as any recorded exist- 
ence of man upon the island. But the system did not originate there, 
neither was Charlemagne the author of it. The weights and mea- 
sures of Rome and of Greece were founded upon it. The Romans 


liad the minft and tlie Hhrn, tlic nuinimilai'V ])<)nnd of twcl\e ounces, 
and the commercial pound of sixteen. And tlie (ireeks, as well as 
the Romans, had a weij2;lit foi* small and precious, and a \veiii;lit for 
bulky and cheap commodities. The Greeks denon)inatcd them by 
si.a;nilicant terms, the wei^^ht for measure^ and the xvcls^lUfor money. 
Whether the ounce, of which these pounds were com|)OHed, was the 
same, is a subject of much controvei-sy, but of little importance to 
decide. At the period of the lower empire, these two weights were 
known by the name of the eastern and western pound. And the deno- 
mination of the former was the same in Eng-land : it was the easter- 
ling pound, and the origin of the term sterling in the English lan- 
guage: it , was the pound of the eastern nations, by which Europe 
was overrun in the decline of the Roman Emi)ire. The avoirdupois 
pound had the same origin : for it came through the Romans from 
the Greeks, and through them, in all probability, from Egyi)t. Of 
this there is internal evidence in the weights themselves, and in the 
remarkable coincidence between the cubic foot and the thousand 
ounces avoirdupois, and between the ounce avoirdupois and the 
Jewish silver shekel. The Greek foot was, within a fraction of less 
than the hundredth part of an inch, the same with that of England. 
The ounce avoirdupois is the same with the Roman and Attic ounce, 
and the exact double of the Jewish shekel. The Silian plehiscitum, 
or ordinance of the Roman people, of the year 509, two hundred and 
fifty years before the Christian era, declares, that a quadrantal of 
wine shall be eighty pounds, a congius of wine ten pounds; that six 
sextarii make a congius of wine, forty-eight sextarii a quadiantal of 
wine; that the sextarius of liquid and dry measures should be the 
same ; and that sixteen pounds make the modius. The congius was 
the Roman gallon, and the modius the Roman peck. The quad- 
rantal w as the same as the amphora, and was formed from tiie cubic 
foot of water, so that eighty pounds of wine were equal to a cubic 
foot of water. 

The same combinations are traced with equal certainty to the 
Greeks and Egyptians: and, if the shekel of Abraham was the same 
as that of his descendants, the avoirdupois ounce may, like the cubit, 
have originated before the flood. 

This diversity is, thei'efore, founded in the nature of things ; and 
may be stated by the following rule : that whatever is oold />?/ weight, 
in measure must have a measure for itself, which will serve for no 
other article, of different specific gravity ; and as w heat and wine are 
both articles of that description, as their specific gravities are very 
materially different, although they are very suitable to be weighed by 
the same weight, they yet require different measures, to place them 
in equipoise with that weight. The difference of specific gravity be- 
tween the vinous and watery fluids is so slight, that neither in the 
Greek, the Roman, nor the English system, was there any account 
taken of it. But with regard to oil, it appears that the Greeks had a 
separate measure adapted to its specific gravity, which they consi- 
dered as being in proportion to that of wine or water as nine to ten. 


Notwitlistaiidin.i^, tliei'cfore, the fust appearance of superior iiiii- 
fonnity and .simplicity, j)i'esented by the .single unit of wei.j^hts, and 
sini^le measure of capacity in the new system of Fiance, it apjiears 
to be more conformable to the order of nature, and more subservient 
to the purposes of man, that theie should be two scales of weight and 
two measures of capacity, graduated upon the respective s|)ecilic gra- 
vities of wheat and wine, than with a single weight and a single mea- 
sure, to he destitute of any indication of weight in the measure. 

This conclusion has been confirmed by a \cvy striking fact, which 
lias occurred in France under the new system. liy an ordinance of 
police, approved on the 6tli of December, 1808, by the Mini.ster of 
the Interior, it is prescribed that the sale of oil in Paris by retail 
shall be by weight, in measures, containing five hectogrammes, one 
double hectogramme, one hectogramme, ice. And these measures, 
being cylinders of tin, are stamped with initial letters, indicating 
that one is for sweet oil, and the other for lamp oil. So that here 
are two new measures of capacity altogether incongruous to tlie new 
system, each diftering in cubic dimensions from the other, though to 
measure the single article of oil, and both differing from the litre. 
They attach themselves indeed to the new system by weight, but 
abandon entirely its pretensions to unity of measure; and fall at 
once into the principle of the old system, of adapting the measure to 
the weight. 

By the usages of modern times, the weight of wine is of little or no 
consideration. Its first admeasurement is in casks, of different di- 
mensions in difi'erent places, and which cannot be made uniform, 
unless by a system of metrology common to many nations. It is 
sold wholesale by the cask or hogshead, the contents of which are 
asceitained by mechanical gauging insti'uments, adapted to the 
smaller measures of capacity of tlie country where it is to be consum- 
ed. These instruments give the solid contents of the vessel, and the 
number of the standard measures of the country which it contains. 
The gauging rods used in England and the United States give the 
contents in cubic iiichfs and wine gallons. As a test of the qua?jtity 
of wine contained in the cask, this mode of admeasurement is less 
certain and effectual than weight, especially if the cask is not full: 
l)ut, being more convenient and easy of application, and specially 
adapted to the legal measure of the gallon in cubic inches, it has su- 
perseded altogether the of weights as proofs of the quantity of 
wine. By retail, the article is sold either in the gallon measures 
fixed by law at 231 cubic inches, or in bottles of no definite measure, 
but containing an approximation to a quart or pint. 

Our system of weights and measures, by the substitution of the 
wine gallon of 231 for that of 224 cubic inches, has the advan- 
tage which it originally possessed of testing the accuracy of a wine 
measure by its weight. The average specific gravity of wine is of 
250 grjiins troy weight to a cubic inch : four inches therefore make 
a thousand grains, and twenty -eight inches a pint w eighing one pound 
avoirdupois. These coincidences would be of great utility and con- 


venience, and would be rendered still more so by another, which is, 
that tliis number of 224 inches is tlie exact decimal part of 2240, the 
nu.iiuer of pounds avoirdupois that go to a ton. As it now exists, 
therefore, tlie measure of the gallon of wine does not show its weight ; 
and the unity of tlie measure of capacity in the French system, is an 
adNaiitage not compensated by any benefit derived fi*om the different 
dimensions of our corn and wine gallons. 

Our country is not as yet a land of vineyards. We have no 
*< tlowery dales of Sil)ma, clad with vines." Wine is an article of 
imp<irtation; an article of luxury, in a great measure confined to the 
consumption of the rich. Its distribution in measure, and the exact- 
ness of the measure by wiiich it is distributed, is not an incident 
which every day comes home to the interests and necessities of every 
indi\idual. We have less reason for regretting, therefore, the loss 
of a measure which would prove its integrity by its weight; and more 
reason for prefeiring the uniformity of singleness in the French sys- 
tem of capacious measures, to the uniformity of proportion which be- 
longed originally to the English. That pro])oi'tion itself we have 
lost by the establishment of a wine gallon of 231, and a corn bushel 
of 2150 cubic inches : and although it exists in the troy and avaii'du- 
pois weights, and in the wine and beer gallons, it exists to none of 
the useful purposes for winch it was originally intended, and to which 
in former days it was tuined. 

The consumption of wine in modern times is exceedingly diminish- 
ed, not only by the substitution of beer, and of spirits distilled from 
grain in the countries where the vine is not cultivated, but by the 
use, now become universal, of decoctions from aromatic herbs and 
ber.'ies. Tea and coffee are potations unknown to the European 
world until within these two centuries: and they have probably di- 
minished by one-half the consumption of wine throughout the world. 

The measures, by which solid and liquid substances are sold, are 
not, and cannot conveniently be the same. The form and the sub- 
stance of the vessels in which they are kept are altogether different. 
Grain is usually kept in bags, until ground into meal. Liquids, in 
large quantities, are kept in wooden vessels of peculiar construction, 
founded upon the properties of fluids and the laws of hydrostatics : in 
small quantities, they are kept in vessels of glass, adapted by their 
form to the facility of pouring them off without loss. Such vessels 
are utterly unsuitable for containing grain, or any other solid sub- 
stance. The forms, both of casks and of bottles, are among the 
most difficult forms into which cubical extension can be moulded for 
ascertaining quantity by linear measure. I'hey not only contain the 
problem, hitherto unsolvable to man, of squaring the circle; but some 
of the most recondite mysteries of the conic sections. They are nei- 
ther cylinders, nor ellipses, nor cones, nor spheres; but a combina- 
tion of all these forms. Grain may be measured by a cylindrical or 
a cubical vessel, at pleasure. The cylindrical form is best adaj)tetl. 
to convenience ; and by the known proi)()rtion of the diameter to the 
riirle, its sofid contents in linear measure may be ascertained wilu 


sufdcieiit accuracy and little difficulty. Grain cannot be kept in 
vessels with large bodies, long necks, and narrow months. Liquids 
can be well kept for jn-eservation in no other. Grain is a swiftly 
perishable substance, which must generally be consumed within a 
year from its growth : wines and spirituous liquors in goieral may be 
kept many years, and the vessels in which they are kept must be of 
forms and substances calculated to guard against loss by evaporation, 
fermentation, or transudation. So different indeed are all the pro- 
perties of grain and of all liquids, that, instead of requiring the same 
measure to indicate their qualities, the call of nature is for different 
vessels, of dittercnt substances, and in different forms. The most 
certain and co)ivenient test for the accuracy of dry measures is linear 
measure ; that of liquids is weight. The sextarius of tlie Roman 
system, and tiie litre of the Frcncii, were measures common both to 
wet and dry substances. But in applying it, the Romans formed a 
liquid measure of ten pounds weight, and a dry measure of sixteen. 
The Fren,;t;h litre combines both the tests of linear measure and of 
weight for the single article of distilled water, at a certain tempera- 
ture of the atmosphere : but it is not the test of weight for any thing 
else. The licctolitre of wine or of corn is no indication of the weight 
of either. The sale of wheat, from the nature of the article, must 
usually be in large quantity, seldom less than a bushel. The unit of 
the measure declared in Magna Charta is the quarter of a ton, or 
eight bushels. Wine is an article the sale of which is as frequent in 
retail as by wholesale. The accuracy of its admeasurement in small 
quantities is impin-tant. In this respect it has an analogy to the pre- 
cious metals. In fine, the purchase and sale of liquid and dry sub- 
stances is, by the constitution of human society, not at the same 
times, or places, nor by the same persons. Their difference in the 
origin is that of the vineyard and the cornfield. They pass thence 
respectively to the wine press and the flour mill ; thence to the vint- 
ner and the flour merchant, in vessels already adapted to their re- 
spective conditions ; the corn having undergone a transformation 
requiring a different measure fi'om that of wheat. Trace them through 
all their meandcrings in the circulation of civil society, till they come 
to their common ultimate use for the subsistence of man ; it will never 
be found that the same measures are necessary for, or suitable to, 
them. The wheat comes in the shape of meal or of bread, to be mea- 
sured by weight ; and the liquors in casks or bottles, and still in the 
form given to them by distillatio)i. The distiller and the brewer, 
who manufacture the liiiuid from the grain, have occasion for both 
measures; but the articles come to them in one form, and go from 
them in the other ; nor is there any apparent necessity that they 
should receive and issue them by the same measure. 

There are conveniences in the intercourse of society, connected 
with the use of smaller and more minutely perfect weights and mea- 
sures of capacity, for sales of articles by retail, than by wholesale, 
and for articles of great price though of small bulk. Thus, drugs, 
as articles of comuiorcc, and in gross, are sold by tjie avoirdupois or 


Gomnipvcial pomul ; used as medicines, in minute quantities, and com- 
pounded by the apothecary, they are sold by the smaller or nummu- 
lary wcip;ht. The laws of Pennsylvania authorize innkeepers to sell 
beer, vithin the house, by the wine measure ; but, for that whicli they 
send out of the house, require them to use the beer gallon or quart. 
In both these cases the difierence of the measure forms part of the 
comi)ensation for the labor and skill of the apothecary, and part of 
the profits necessary to support the establishment of the publican. 
Theie is, finally, an important advantage in the establishment of two 
units of weights and of measures of capacity, by the possession in 
each of a standard for the verification of the other. It serves as a 
guard against the loss or destruction of the positive standard of either. 
The troy and avoirdupois pounds are to eacli other as 5,760 to 7,000. 
Should either of these standard pounds be lost, the other would sup- 
ply the means of restoring it. The same thing might be effected by 
the measures of beer and of wine. The French system has designat- 
ed the pendulum as such a standard for the verification of the metre. 
The English system gives, in each weight and measure, a standard 
for the other. 

The result of these reflections is, that the uniformity of nature fol" 
ascertaining the quantities of all substances, both by gravity and by 
occupied space, is a uniformity of proportion, and not of identity ; 
that, instead of one weight and one measure, it requires two units of 
each, proportioned to each other; and tliat the original English sys- 
tem of metrology, possessing two such weights, and two such mea- 
sures, is better adapted to the only uniformity applicable to the sub- 
ject, recognized by nature, than the new French system, which, pos- 
sessing only one weight and one measure of capacity, identifies weight 
and measure only for the single article of distilled water; the English 
uniformity being relative to the things weighed and measured, and 
the French only to the instruments used for weight and mensuration. 

S. The advantages of the English system might, however, be with 
ease adapted to that of Fraijce, but for the exclusive application ia 
the latter of the decimal arithmetic to all its multiples and subdivi- 
sions. The decimal numbers, applied to the French weights and mea» 
sures, form one of its highest theoretic excellencies. It has, however, 
been proved by the most decisive experience in France, that they are 
not adequate to the wants of man in society : and, for all the purpo- 
ses of retail trade, they have been formally abandoned. The conve- 
nience of decimal arithmetic is in its nature merely a convenience o£ 
calculation : it belongs essentially to the keeping of accounts ; but is 
merely an incident to the transactions of trade. It is applied, there- 
fore, with unquestionable advantage, to moneys of account, as we 
have done: yet, even in our application of it to tlie coins, we have 
not only found it inadequate, but in some respects inconvenient. The 
divisions of the Spanish dollar, as a coin, are not only into tenths, 
but into halves, quaiters, fifths, eighths, sixteenths, and twentieths. 
We have the halves, quarters, and twentieths, and might have the 
fifths : but the eighth makes a fraction of tlie gent, and the sixteenth 


even a fraction of a mill. These eighths and sixteenths form a very 
considerable proportion of our metallic currency : and although the 
eighth dividing the cent only into halves adapts itself without in- 
convenience to the system, the fraction of the sixteenth is not so 
tractable; and in its circulation, as small change, it passes for six 
cents, though its value is six and a quarter, and there is a loss by 
its circulation of four per cent, between the buyer and the seller. 
For all the transactions of retail trade, the eighth and sixteenth of a 
dollar are among the most useful and convenient of our coins: and, 
although we have never coined them ourselves, we should have felt 
the want of them, if they had not been supplied to us from the coin- 
age of Spain. 

This illustration, from our own experience, of the modification with 
"Vvhich decimal arithmetic is adaptable even to money, its most inti- 
Biate and congenial natural I'elative, will disclose to our view the 
causes which limit the exclusive application of decimal arithmetic to 
numberSf and admit only a partial and qualified application of thein 
to weight or measure. 

It has already been remarked, that the only apparent advantage of 
substituting an aliquot part of the circumference of the earth, instead 
ef a definite portion of the human body, for the natural unit of linear 
jmeasure, is, that it forms a basis for a system embracing all the ob- 
jects of human mensuration ; and that its usefulness depends upon 
its application to geography and astronomy, and particularly to the 
division of the quadrant of the meridian into centesimal degrees. In 
the noA'elty of the system, this was attempted in France, as well as 
the decimal divisions of time, aiid of the rhumbs of the wind. A 
French navigator, suffering practically under the attempt thus to na- 
vigate, decimally, the ocean, recommended to the national assembly 
to decree, thattiic earth should perform four hundred revt.lutions in 
a year, The application of decimal divisions to time, the circle, and 
the sphere, are abandoned even in France. And for all the ordina- 
ry purposes of mensuration, excepting itinerary measure, the metre 
is too long for a standard unit of nature. It was a unit most espe- 
cially inconvenient as a substitute for the foot, a measure to which, 
with trifling variations of length, all the European nations and their 
descendants were accustomed. The foot rule has a property very im- 
portant to all the mechanical professions, which have constant occa- 
sion for its use: it is light, and easily portable about the person. 
The metre, very suitable for a staff, or for measuring any portion of 
the earth, has not the property of being portable about the person : 
and, for all the professions concerned in ship or house building, and 
for all who have occasion to use mathematical instruments, it is quite 
unsuitable. It serves perfectly well as a substitute for the yard or ell, 
the fathom or perch ; but not for the foot. This inconvenience, great 
in itself, is made irreparable when combined with the exclusive 
principle of decimal divisions. The union of the metre, and of de- 
cimal aritlimetic, rejected all compromise with the foot. There was 
no legitimate extension of matter intermediate between the ell ani 


tlie palm, between forty inches ami four. This decimal despotism 
was found too arbiti-ary for endurance; not only the foot, but its duo- 
decimal di\ isions, were found to be no arbitrary or capricious i'lsti- 
tutions, but founded in the nature of the relations between man and 
things. The duodecimal division gives equal aliquot parts of the 
unit, of two, three, four, and six. By giving the third and the 
fourth, it indirectly gives the eighth and sixteenth, and gives facili- 
ty for ascertaining the ninth, or third of tiie third. Decimal divi- 
sion, in giving the half, does not even give the quarter, but by mul- 
tiplication of tlie subdivisions. It is incommensurable with the tldrdf 
^vhich unfortunately happened to be the foot, the universal standard 
unit of the old meti'ology. The choice of the kilogramme, or cubical 
decimetre of distilled water, as the single standard unit of weights, 
with the application to it of the decimal divisions, was followed by 
similar inconveniences. The pound weight should be a specific gra- 
vity easily poi'table about the person, not only for the convenience of 
using it as an instrument, but as the measure of quantities to be car- 
pied. To the common mass of the people, the use of weights is in 
the market, or tlie shop. The article weighed is to be carried home. 
It is an article of food for the daily subsistence of the individual or 
his family. As he has not the means of purchasing it in large quan- 
tities, it must often be sold in quantities repi-esented by the pound 
weight, which, like the foot rule, with various modifications, is uni- 
vei-sally used throughout the European world. Subdivisions of that 
weight, the half, the quarter of a pound, are often necessary to con- 
ciliate the wants and the means of the neediest portion of tlie people 5 
fliat portion to whom the justice of weight and measure is a necessa- 
ry of life, and to whom it is one of the most sacred duties of the le- 
gislator to secure that justice, so far as it can be secured by the ope- 
ration of human institutions. The half of the kilogramme was near- 
ly equivalent to the ancient Paris pound. But there was in the new 
system no half, or quarter of a pound ; because there was no quar- 
ter or eighth of a kilogramme. There was no intermediate weight 
between the pounds or half kilogramme, and the hectogramme, which 
was a fifth part of a pound. 

The iilref or unit of measures of capacity in the new system, had 
one great advantage over the linear and weight units, by its near 
equivalence to the old Paris pint, of which it was to take the place. 
But, on the other hand, decimal divisions are still more inappficable 
to measures of capacity for liqtiids, than to linear measures or 
weights. The substance in nature best suited for a retail measure of 
liquids, is tin : and the best form, in which the measure can be 
moulded, is a slight approach from the cylinder to the cone. Our 
quart and gallon wine and beer measures aie accordingly of that 
form, as are all the most ordinary vessels used for drinking. In the 
new^ French system, the form of all the measures of capacity is cy- 
lindrical ; and the litre is a measure, the diameter of which is half 
its depth. It is, therefore, easily divisible into halves, quarters, and 
eighths ; for it needs only thus to divide the depth, retaining thesanW; 


diameter. But all conveniences of proportion are lost, by taking 
one-tenth of the depth and i-etainine; the same diameter : and, if the 
diameter be reduced, there is no means, other than complicated cal- 
culation, squaiings of the circle, and extractions of cube roots, that 
wii! give one liquid measure wliich shall be the tenth part of an- 

In the promiscuous use of the old weights and measuref? and the 
new, whicli was unavoidable in the ti-ansition from the one to the 
other, the approximation to each other of the quarter and the fitth 
parts of the unit became a frequent source of the most pernicious 
frauds ; frauds upon the scanty pittance of the poor. The small 
dealers in groceries and liquors, and marketmen, gave the people the 
fifth of a kilogramme for a half poui<d, and the fifth of the litre for a 
half setier. The most easy and natural divisions of liquids are in 
continual halvings : and the Paris pint was thus divided into halves, 
quarters, eighths, sixteenths, and thirty-second parts, by the name of 
chopines, half setiers, possons, half possons, and roquilles. The half 
setier, just equivalent to our half pint, was the measure in most com- 
mon use for supplying the daily necessities of the poor ; and thus the 
decimal divisions of the law became snares to the honesty of the 
seller, and cheats upon the w ants of the buyer. 

Thus then it has been proved, by the test of experience, that the 
principle of decimal divisions can be applied only with many qualifi- 
cations to any general system of metrology ; that its natural appli- 
cation is only to numbers ; and that time, space, gravity, and exten- 
sion, inflexibly reject its sway. The new metrology of France, after 
trying it in its most universal theoretical application, has been compell- 
ed to renounce it for all the measures of astronomy, geography, navi- 
gation, time, the circle, and the sphere ; to modify it even for super- 
ficial and cubical linear measure, and to compound with vulgar frac- 
tions, in the most ordinary and daily uses of all its weights and all 
its measures. It has restored the foot, the pound, and the pint, with 
all their old subdivisions, though not exactly with their old dimen- 
sions. The foot, with its duodecimal divisions into thumbs and lines, 
returns in the form the most irreconcileable possible, with the deci- 
mals of the metre ; for it comes in the proportion of three to ten, and 
consists of 333| millimetres. This indulgence to linear measure is 
without qualification, and may be used in all commerce, whether of 
wholesale or retail. The restoration of the pound, the boisseau,* 
and the pint, is limited to retail trade. The fractions of the pound 
are as averse to decimal combinations as those of the foot. The 
eighth of a pound, for instance, is 625 decigrammes, each of about 11 

* One of the most abundant sources of error and ccnfnsion, in relation to weights 
and measures, arist- s from mistranslation of those of one country into the language of 
another. Thus, to c.dl the pinie of Paris, a pint, is to give an incorrect idea of its 
contents. The Paris pinte corresponded with our wine quart, containing 46.95 
French, or 58.08 E'lglish cubic inches. To call the boisseau a bushel, is a still greater 
incongruity between tlie word and the idea connected with it. The boisseau contain- 
ed 655 French cubic mclves, and was less than 1^ peck Enghsh. The minotj or three 
boisseaus, was the measure corresponding with the English bushel. 


'«rain troy weight. The half ofthis cij^hth is an ounce, 1o form which 
decimally requires a recourse to another fractional stage, and to say 
31.25 milligrammes. But tlie milligramme, being equivalent to less 
than J- of a grain troy weight, is too minute foi' accurate application; 
so that it is called, and marked upon the weight itself as 31.3deci- 
grammes. The half ounce, instead of 15.625 decimilligrannncs, is 
marked for 15. b tlecigiammes. The quarter of an ounce, instead of 
7.8125, passes for 7.8 decigrammes, and the gros, or groat, instead 
of 3.90625, is abridged to 3.9. The ounce and all the smaller 
weights, therefore, reject the coalition of subdivision by decimal and 
vulgar fractions : and the weights for account are difierent from the 
Aveights for trade. 

From the verdict of experience, therefore, it is doubtful whether 
the advantage to be obtained by any attempt to apply decimal arith- 
metic to weights and measures, would ever compensate for the in- 
crease of diversity which is the unavoidable consequence of change. 
Decimal arithmetic is a contrivance of man for computing numbers ; 
and not a property of time, space, or matter. Nature has no partial- 
ities for the number ten : and the attempt to shackle her freedom 
with them, will for ever prove abortive. 

The imperial decree of March, 1812, by the reservation of a pur- 
pose to revise the whole system of the new metrology, after a fur- 
ther interval of ten years of experience, seems to indicate a doubt, 
whether the system itself can be maintained. Ten years from 1812, 
was a period far beyond that which Providence had allotted to the 
continuance of the imperial government itself. The royal govern- 
ment of France, which has since succeeded, has hitherto made no 
change in the system. Whether, at the expiration of the ten years, 
limited in the decree, the proposed revisal of it will be accomplished 
by the present government, is not ascertained. In the mean time, 
the whole system must be considered as an experiment upon trial 
even in France : and should it ultimately prove, by its fruits, worthy 
of the adoption of other nations, it will at least be expedient to post- 
pone engrafting the scion, until the character of the tree shall have 
been tested, in its native soil, by its fruits. 

4. The fourth advantage of the French metrology over that which 
we possess, consists in the convenient proportions, by which the 
coins and moneys of account arc adjusted to each othei-, and to t!io 

This is believed to be agi'eat and solid advantage ,• not possessed 
exclusively by the French system, for it was, in high perfection, a 
part of the original English system of weights and measures, as has 
already been shown. It w as more perfect in that system, because 
the silver coins and weights were not merely pi-opoi'tioned to each 
other, but the sa7ue. This is not the case witli the French coins : 
and even thei rpropor/ions to the weights are distuibed and unhinged 
by the mint allowance, or what they call toleiation of inaccuracy, 
both of weight and alloy. This toleration, which fs also technically 
called the remedy, ought every where to be exploded, it is in no case 


necessary. The toleration is injustice: the remedy is disease. If it 
were the duty of this rcjjot-t to present a system ot weights, mea- 
sures, and coins, all referable to a single standard, combining with 
it, as far as possible, the decimal aritlmietic, and of which uniformi- 
ty shouhl be tlie pervading principle, without regard to existing 
usages, it would propose a silver coin of nine pai'ts pure and one of 
alloy : of tliickness equal to one-tenth part of its diameter ,* the 
diameter to be one-tent!i part of a foot, and the foot one-fourth part 
of the French metre. Tins dollar sisould be the unit of weights as 
well as of coins and of accounts ; and all its divisions and multiples 
should be decimal. The unit of measures of capacity should be a 
vessel containing the weight of ten dollars (jf distilled water, at the 
temperature of ten degrees of the centigrade tliermometer : and the 
cubical dimensions of this vessel sliould be ascertained by the weight 
of its contents,* the decimal arithmetic should apply to its weight, 
and convenient vulgar fractions to its cubical measure. This system 
once established, the standard weight and purity of the coin should 
be made an article of the constitution, and dcclajed unalterable by 
the legislature. Tlie advantage of such a system w ould be to embrace 
and establish a principle of uniformity with reference to time, which 
the French metrology does not possess. The w eight would be a per- 
petual guard upon the purity and value of the coin. No second 
weight would be necessary or desirable. The coin and the weight 
would be mutual standards for each other ; accessible, at all times, 
to every individual. Should the eflcctof such a system only be, as its 
tendency certainly would be, to deprive the legislative authoiity of 
the power to debase the coins, it would cut up by the roots one of the 
most pernicious practices that ever afflicted man in civil society. By 
its connection of the linear standard with the French metre, it would 
possess all the advantages of having that for a unit of its measures of 
length, and a link of the most useful uniformity with the whole French 

But the consideration of the coins is beyond the scope of the reso- 
lutions of the two Houses ; nor is their relation to the weights and 
measures of the country viewed, by the constitution and laws of the 
United States, as that of parts of one entire system. Excepting the 
application of decimal divisions to our money of account, and the es- 
tablishment of the dollar as the unit both of the money of account 
and of the silver coins, our moneys have no uniform or convenient ad- 
justment to our weights. The proportion of alloy is not the same in 
our coins of silver, as in those nf gold : and the only connection be- 
tween our monetary system and our w^eights and measures is, that 
the gravity and proportional purity of the coins is prescribed in troy 
weight grains. To obtain, therefore, the advantage existing in the 
French metrology, of easy proportions between the weights and 
coins, or the still greater advantage of idt^ntity between them which 
belonged to the old English system, an entire change would be ne- 
cessary i\i the fabrication of our coins, and in our moneys of account. 


It is, at least, extremely doubtful wlictlicr the benefits to be derived 
from such a cbaui^c would be efjuivaleiit to thedillicultics of achieving 
it, an<l the hazard of failing in the attempt. 

5. The last superior advantage of the French metrology is, tlie uni 
formitij, precision, and significancy, of its nomenclatui-e. 

In mere Kpccnlative theory, so great and unequivocal is tliis advan- 
tage, that it would furnisli one of the most powerful arguments for 
adopting the whole system to which it belongs. In every system of 
weights and measures, ancient or modern, with which wc are ac- 
quanited, until the new system of France, the poverty and imperfec- 
tion of language has entangled the subject in a snarl of inextricable 
confusion. The original names of all the units of weights and mea- 
sures have been improper ajiplications of the substances from w liich 
they were derived. Thus, the foot, the palm, the span, the digit, the 
tliumb, and the nail, have been, as measures, improperly so called, 
for the several parts of the human body, with the length of which 
tJiey corresponded. Instead of a specific name, the measure nsurped 
that of the standard from which it was taken. Had the foot rule 
Jbeen unalterable, theinconvenienceof its improper appellation might 
have been slight. But, in the lapse of ages, and the revolutions of 
empires, the foot measure has been every where retained, but infinite- 
ly varied in its extent. Every nation of modern Eui'ope has a foot 
measure, no two of which are the same. The English foot indeed 
was adopted and established in Russia by Peter the Great; but the 
original Russian foot was not the same. The Hebrew shekel and 
maneh, the Greek mina, and the Roman pondo, were weights. The 
general weight improperly applied to tiie specific unit of weight. 
The Latin w ord libra, still more improperly, was borrowed from the 
balance in which it was employed : libra was the balance, and at the 
same time the pound weight. The terms weight and balance were 
thus generic terms, without specific meaning. They signified any 
weiglit in the balance, and varied according to the varying gravities 
of the specific standard unit at different times and in different coun- 
tries. When, by the debasement of the coins they ceased to he identi- 
cal with the weights, they still retained their names. Tht^. pound 
sterling retains its name three centuries after it has ceased to exist as 
a weight, and after having, as money, lost more than two thirds of 
its substance. V/e liave discarded it indeed from our vocabulary ; 
but it is still the vnit of moneys of account in England. The livre 
tournois of France, after still greater degeneracy, continued until the 
late revolution, and has only been laid aside for the new system. 
The ounce, the drachm, and the grain, are specific nanies, indefinite- 
ly applied as indefinite parts of an indefinite whole. The English 
pound avoirdu])ois is heavier than the pound troy ; but the ounce 
avoirdupois is lighter than the ounce troy. The weights and mea- 
sures of all the old systems present the perpetual paradox of a whole 
notetpial to all its parts. Even numbers lose the definite character 
which is essential to their nature. A dozen become sixteen, twenty- 
eight signify twenty-five, ©ne hundred and twelve mean a hundred. 


The indiscriminate application of the same generic term to different 
specific things, and the misapplication of one specific tei-m to another 
specific thing, universally perv ade all the old systems, and are the in- 
exhaustible fountains of diversity, confusion, and fraud. In the voca- 
bulary of the French system, there is one specific, definite, significant 
word, to denote the unit of lineal measure ; one for superficial, and 
one for solid measure ; one for the unit of measures of capacity, and 
one for the unit of weights. The word is exclusively appropriated 
to the thing, and the thing to the word. The metre is a definite mea- 
sure of length : it is nothing else. It cannot be a measure of one 
length in one country, and of another lengtli in another. The gramme 
is a specific weight, and the litre a vessel of specific cubic contents, 
containing a specific weight of water. The multiples of these units 
are denoted by prefixing to them syllables derived from the Greek 
language, significant of their increase in decimal proportions. Thus, 
t(!n metres form a deca-metre; ten grammes, a deca-gram me; ten 
litres, a deca liti-e. The subdivisions, oi* decimal fractions of the 
unit, are equally significant in their denominations, the prefixed syl- 
lables being derived from the Latin language. The deri-metre is a 
tenth part of a metre ; the deci-gramme, the tenth part of a gramme ; 
the deci-Iitre, the tenth part of a litre. Thus, in continued multipli- 
cation, the hectometre is a hundred, the kilo-metre a thousand, and 
the myria-metre ten thousand metres ; while, in continued division, 
the centi-metre is the hundredth, and the milli-metre the thousandth 
part of the metre. The same prefixed syllables apply equally to the 
multiples and divisions of the w^eight, and of all the otiier measures. 
Four of the prefixes for multiplication, and three for division, are all 
that the system requires. These twelve words, with the franc^ the 
decime, and the centime, of the coins, contain the whole system of 
French metrology, and a complete language of weights, measures, 
and money. 

But where is the steam engine of moral power to stem the stubborn 
tide of prejudice, and the headlong current of inveterate usage? The 
cheerful, ready, and immediate axliiption, by the mass of the nation, 
of these twelve words, would have secured the triumph of the new 
system of France. The unutterable confusions of signifying the 
same thing by different words, and different things by the same word, 
would have ceased. The setier would no longer have been a common 
representative for twelve boisseaus of corn, for for^rteen of oats, for 
sixteen of salt, and for thirty-two of coal, and for eight pints of wine. 
The pound would no longer have been of ten, of twelve, of fourteen, 
of sixteen, and of eighteen ounces, in different pai'ts of the same 
country. The weights and the measures would have been both per- 
fect and just : and the blessing of uniformity enjoyed by France 
would have been the most effective recommendation of her system to 
all the rest of mankind. It is mortifying to the ])hilanthropy, which 
yearns for the improvement of the condition of man, to know that 
this is precisely the part of the system which it has been found im- 
practicable to carry through. 


The modern languajj^ oC all the matlicmatical and physical sciences 
i.s dorivod iVoni the (jl reck and Latin; Avith a partial excc|)tion of 
some terms which arc of Arabic origin. Gcoi^raphy, chemistry, the 
pure njathematics, hotaiiy, minerahii^y, zoolo.a;y, in all of wlilch 
j^reat discoveries have been made within the last three centuries, have 
borrowed l'iY»m tiiose jn'iniitivc lant^nai^cs almost invariably the words 
by which those discoveries have been expressed. They arc the lan- 
guages in which all that was heretofore known of art or scieiice was 
contained : nor arc tlic moral and jmlitical sciences less indebted to 
them for numei-ous additions to their vocabalaries which the])rogress 
of modern improvements lias reqiiii-ed. Hut there is a natural aver- 
sion in the mass of mankind to the adoption of words, to whidi their 
lips and cars are not from their infancy accustomed. Hence it is 
that the use of all technical language is excluded from social conver- 
sation, and from all liteiary composition suited to general reading; 
from poetry, from oratory, from all the regions of imagination and 
taste in the world of the human mind. The student of science, in his 
cabinet, easily familiarizes to his memory, and adopts witliout re- 
pugnance, words indicative of new discoveries or inventions, analo- 
gous to the words in the same science already stored in his memory. 
The artist, at his work, iinds no difficulty to receive or use the words 
appropriate to his own profession. But the general mass of mankind, 
of every condition, reluct at the use of unaccustomed sounds, audi 
shrink especially from new words of many syllables. But weights 
and measures are instruments indispensable, not only to the philoso- 
phical student and the professional artist ; tliey are the want of every 
individual and of evei-y day. They arc the want of food, of raiment, 
of shelter, of all the labors and all the pleasures of social existence. 
Weights and measures, like all the common necessaries of life, have, 
in all the countries of modern Europe, customary names of one, or, 
at most, of two, syllables. The units of the new French system have 
no more; but their multiples and subdivisions have four or five; and, 
although compounded of syllables familiar to those who had any ac- 
quaintance with the classical languages of Greece and Rome, thc}^ 
had a strange and outlandish sound to the ears of the people in gene- 
ral, who would never be taught to pronounce them. Hence, after an 
experience of several years, it was found necessary, not only to give 
back to the people the vulgar fractions of their measures, which had 
been taken from them, but all their indefinite and many-meani)ig 
words of pound and ounce, foot, aune and thumb, boisscau and pint. 
Since which time there have been, besides all the relics of the old 
metrology, two concurrent systems of weights and measures in 
France ; one, the proper legal system, with decimal divisions and 
multiplications, and the new, precise, and significant nomenclature; 
and the other a system of sufferance, with the same instruments, bui 
divided in all the old varieties of vulgar fractions, and witli the old 
improper vocabulary, made still more sx) by its adaptation to »e\v" 
and different things. 


Perhaps it maybe found, by more protracted and multiplied expe- 
rience, that this is the only uniformity attainable by a system of 
weights and mcasui'cs for universal use : that the same material in- 
struments shall be divisible decimally foi" calculations and accounts ; 
but in any other manner suited to convenience in the shops and mar- 
kets ; that their appropiiate legal denominations shall be used for 
computation, and the trivial names for actual weight, or mensuration. 

It results, however, from tliis review of the present condition of 
the French system in its native country, and from the comparison of 
its theoretical advantages over that which we already possess, that 
the time has not arrived at which so great and hazardous an experi- 
ment can be recommended, as that of discarding all our established 
existing weights and measures, to adopt and legalize those of France 
in their stead. The single standard, proportional to the circumfe- 
rence of the earth ; the singleness of the units for all the various 
modes of mensuratiwi ; the universal aj)pIication to them of decimal 
arithmetic; the unbroken chain of connection betv/een all weights, 
measures, moneys, and coins; and the precise, significant, short, and 
complete vocabulary of their denominations ; altogether forming a 
system adapted equally to the use of all mankind ; aftbrd such a com- 
bination of the principle of uniformity for all the most important ope- 
rations of the intercourse of human society ; the establishment of such 
a system so obviously tends to that great result, the improvement of 
the physical, moral, and intellectual, condition of man upon earth ; 
that there can be neither doubt nor hesitation in the opinion, that the 
ultimate adoption, and universal though modified application of that 
system, is a consummation devoutly to be wished. 

To despair of human im])rovcment is not more congenial to the 
judgment of sound philosophy than to the tem}>er of brotheily kind- 
ness. Uniformity of weights and measures is, and has been for ages, 
the common,, earnest, and anxious pursuit of France, of Great Bri- 
tain, and, since their independent existence, of the United States. To 
the attainment of one object, common to them ail, they have been 
proceeding by different means, and with different ultimate ends, 
France alone has proposed a plan suitable to the ends of all ; and 
lias invited co-operation for its construction and establishment. The 
associated pursuit of great objects of common interest is auiong the 
most powerful modern expedients for the im])rovement of man. The 
principle is at this time in full operation, for the abolition of the Af- 
rican slave-trade. What reason can be assig)ied, why other objects, 
of common interest to the whole species, should not be in like man- 
ner made the subject of common deliberation and concerted effort? To 
promote the intercourse of nations with eachother, the uniformity of 
their weigiits and measures is among the most efficacious agencies : 
.and this uniformity can be effected only by mutual understanding 
.and united energy. A single and universal system can be finally 
establistied only by a general convention, to which the principal na- 
tions of the world shall be parties, and to which they shall all give 
their assent. To effect this, would seem to be no difficult achieve- 


moni. It has one atlv.inta,qc over every plan oC moral or, political 
ini|)rovcmciit, not exceptin.a; the abolition of the slave-trade itself: 
thei-e neither is, nor can be, any i^reat counteractin_sji7i/rn'.sf to over- 
come. The conquest to be obtained is merely over prejudices, usa- 
m-es, and perhaj)s national jealousies. The whole evil to be subdued is 
diversity of o|)ini;)n with reiL>;ard to the means of attaininj^ the same 
end. Totlie formation of the French system, the learnin|2j and the, j^enius 
of other nations did co-operate with tiiose of her native sons. Tlie co- 
opeiation of Great Britain was invited; and there is no doubt that 
of the United States woukl have been accepted, had it been ofTcretk 
The French system embraces all the ii;reat and important principles 
of uniformity, wliich can be applied to weii^hts and measures: but 
that system is not yet complete. It is susceptible of many mollifica- 
tions and improvements. Considered merely as a labor-savins^ ma- 
chine, it is a new power, offered to man, incomparably greater than 
that which he has acquired by the new a,gency which he has given to 
steam. It is in design tlie greatest invention of human ingenuity sinco 
that of printin-g. But, like that, and every other useful and compli- 
cated invention, it could not be struck out perfect at a heat. Time 
and experience have already dictated many improvements of its me- 
chanism ; and othejs may, and undoubtedly will, be found necessary 
for it hereafter. But all the radical principles of uniformity are in 
the machine : and the more universally it shall be adopted, the more 
certain will it be of attaining all the perfection which is within the 
reach of human power. 

Another motive, which would seem to facilitate this concert of nji* 
tions, is, that it conceals no lurking danger to the independence of 
any of them. It needs no cojivocation of sovereigiss, armtd with mi- 
litary power. It opeiis no avenue to partial combinations and in- 
trigues. It can mask, under the vizor of virtue, no project of avarice 
or ambition. It can disguise no private or perverted ends, under the 
varnish of generous and benevolent aims. It has no final appeal to 
physical force; uo ultima ratio o£ cannon balls. Its objects arc not 
only jjaciilc in their nature, but can be pursued by no other than 
peaceable means. Would it not be strange, if, while mankind find 
it so easy to attain uniformity in the use of every engine adapted to 
their mutual destruction, they should find it impracticable to agree 
upon the few and simple but indispensable instruments of all their in- 
tercourse of peace and friendship and beneficence — that they should 
use the same artillery and musketry, and bayonets and swords and 
lances, for the wholesale trade of human slaughter, and that they 
should refuse to weigh by the same pound, to measure by the same 
rule, to drink from the same cup, to use in fine the same materials 
for ministering to the wants and contributing to the enjoyments of 
one another ? 

These views arc presented as leading to the conclusion, that, as 
final and universal uniformity of weights and measures is the com- 
mon desideratum for all civilized nations ; as France has formed, 
and for her own use has established, a system, adapted, by the Jiigh- 


est efforts of imman science, ini^cnuity, and skill, to the common pur- 
poses of all ; as this system is yet new, imperfect, siisceptihle of 
i2,-reat improvements, and struj^j^jling for existence even in the coun- 
try whicli gave it hirtli ; as its universal establishment would be a 
universal blessing ; and as, if ever effected,, it can only be by consent, 
and not by force, in which the energies of opinion must pi-ecedc those 
t)f legislation ; it would be worthy of the dignity of the Congress of 
the United States to consult the opinions of all the civilized nations 
w ith whom they have a friendly intercourse ; to ascertain, with the 
utmost attainable accuracy, the existing state of their respective 
weights and measures ; to take up and pursue, with steady, perec- 
vering, but always temperate and discreet exertions, the idea con- 
ceived, and thus far executed, by France, and to co-operate with her 
to the final and universal estal)lishment of her system. 

But, although it is respectfully proposed that Congi'ess should im- 
mediately sanction this consultation, and that it should commence, in 
the first instance, with Great Britain and France, it is not expected 
that it will be attended with immediate success. Ardent as the pur- 
suit of uniformity has been for ages in England* the idea of extend- 
ing it beyond tlic Britisii dominions has hitherto received but little 
countenance there. The operation of changes of opinion there is 
slow f the aversion to all innovations, deep. More tha,H two hun- 
dred years had elapsed from the Gregorian reformation of the calen- 
dar, before it was adopted in England. It is to this day still reject- 
ed thi-oughout the Russian empire. It is not even intended to propose 
the adoption by ourselves of the French metrology for the present. 
The reasons have been given for believing, that the time is not yet 
matured tor this reformation. Much less is it supposed adviseable 
to j)ropose its adoption to any other nation. But, in consulting thenv 
it will be proper to let them understand, that the design and motive 
of opening the communication is, to promote the final establishment 
of a system of weights and measures, to be comnron to all civilized 

In contemplating so great, but so beneficial a change, as the ulti- 
mate object of the proposal now submitted to the consideration of 
Congress, it is supposed to be most congenial to the end, to attempt 
140 present change whatever in our existing weights and measures; 
to let the standards remain precisely as tliey are ; and to confine the 
j)roGeedings of Congress at this time to authorizing the Executive to 
open these communications with the Eur()])ean nations where we have 
accredited ministers and agents,, and to such declaratory enactments 
and regulations as may secure a more perfect uniformity in tlie 
weights and measures now In use throughout the Union. 

The motives^ for entertaining the opinion, that any change in our 
system at the present time would be inexpedient, are four : 

First, That no change whatever of the system could be adopted, 
without losing the greatest of all the elements of uniformity, that re- 
ferring to the persons using the same system. This uniformity we 
now possess, in common v/ith the whole British nation ; the na- 


tion with wliicli, of all the nations of the earth, we have the most of 
that iutercourse which retiuires (he rotistaiit use of wciglits and mea- 
sures. No change is helieve<l possihle. other than that of the whole 
system, the heneht of which would compensate for the loss of this 

Secondly, Tliat the system, as it exists, has an uniformity of pro- 
portion very convenient and useful, which any alteration of it would 
disturh, and perhaps destroy ; the proportion between the avoirdu- 
pois and troy weights, and that h<'tween the avoirdnjirjis weight and 
the foot measui-c ; one cubic foot containing of spring water exactly 
one thousand ounces avoirdupois, and one pound avoirduj)ois consist- 
ing of exactly seven thousand grains troy. 

Thirdly, That the ex|)ei'icnce of France has proved, tiiat binary, 
ternary, duodecimal, and sexagesimal divisions, are as necessary ta 
tlie practical use of weights and measures, as the decimal divisions 
are convenient for calculations resulting from them ; and that no 
plan for introducing the latter can dispense with the continued use 
of the former. 

Fourthly, That the only material improvement, of which the pre- 
sent system is believed to be susceptible, would be the restoration of 
identity between weights and silver coins ^ a change, tlie advantages 
of which would be very great, but which could not be cifected with- 
out a corresponding and almost total change in our coinage an*! 
moneys of account; a change the more exceptionable, as our mone- 
taiy system is itself a new, and has hitherto been a successful insti- 

Of all the nations of European origin, ours is that which least re- 
quires any change in the system of their weights and measures^ 
AVith the exception of Louisiana, the established system is, and al- 
ways has been, throughout the Union, the same. Under the feudal 
system of Europe, combined with the hierarchy of the church of 
Rome, the people were in servitude, and every chieftain of a village, 
or owner of a castle, ])ossessed or asserted the attributes of sove- 
reign power. Among the i-est, the feudal lords were in the practice 
of coining money, and fixing their own weights and measures. This 
is the great source of numberless diversities existing in every part of 
Europe, proceeding not from the varieties which in a course of ages 
befell the same system, but from those of diversity of origin. The 
nations of Europe are, in their origin, all compositions of victorious 
and vanquished people. Their institutions are compositions of mili- 
tary power and religious opinions. Tiieir doctrines are, that free- 
dom is the grant of the sovereign to the people, and tiiat the sove- 
reign is amenable only to God. These doctrines are not congenial 
to nations originating in colonial establishments. Colonics carry 
with them the general laws, opinions, and usages, of the nation from 
which they emanate, and the prejudices and passions of the age of 
their emigration. The North American colonies had nothing mili- 
tary in their origin. The first English colonies on this continent 
were speculations of commerce : they commenced precisely at the pe- 
riod of that struggle in England between liberty and power, which. 


jiftei' lon.i;; and bloody civil wars, terminated in a compromise be- 
tween the two coniiictini^ principles. Tiic colonies were founded by 
that portion of the people, wiio were anayed on the side of liberty. 
Thcv brought with tlicm all the rights, but none of the servitudes, 
of th(' parent country. Their constitutions were, indeed, conformably to 
the spirit of the feudal policy, charters gi-anted hy the crown ; I)ut tiicy 
were ;ill adherents to the doctrine, that charters were not donations, 
but com})acts. They brought with them the weights and measures of 
the law, and not those ci any particular district or franchise. The only 
change wliich has taken ]ilace in England with regard to the legal 
standards of weights and measures, since the first settlement of the 
North American colonies, has been the sjiccification of the contents 
fff measures of cai)acity, by prescribing tiieir dimensions in cubical 
inches. All t'le standards at the exchequer are the same that tliey 
were at the first settlement of Jamestown; with the exception of the 
wine gallon, which is of the time of (jueen Anne: and the standards 
of the exchequer are the prototypes from which all the weights and 
measures of the Union ai-e derived. 

A particular statement of the regulations of tlie several states re^ 
lativc to weights and measures, is subjoined to this report, in the ap- 

The first settlement of tlie EnglLsb colonies on the continent of 
North America was undertaken towards the close of the reign of 
queen Elizabeth, in honor of whom it received the name of Virginia. 

During the same reign of Elizabeth, and cotemporaueous with the 
adventures which preceded the settlement of Jamestown, the act of 
{larliament of 1592 passed, defining in feet the statute mile. This 
luilc, together with its elementary units, the foot and inch, were tin; 
measures by which all tlie territories, granted by the successors of 
P:Llizabeth, in tiiis hemispliere, were defined. The foot and inch, from 
nsagc immemorial in England, and by a statute then of more than 
thvee centuries' antiquity, had been the elements of superficial, as well 
as of itincrai-y land measure. These, therefore, were not only the 
most natural measures for the use of the English colonies ; they were 
inwoven in their }n-imitive constitutions, and were brought with their 
charters, an essential part of their possessions. 

Among the earliest traces of colonial legislation in Virginia and 
in New England, we find acts declaring the assize of Lomlon, and 
the standards of the exchequer, to be the only lawful jirototypes of tlie 
weigiits ami measures of the colonies. The foot and inch wei-e of 
dimensions perfectly well ascertained: and in the year 1601, only 
seven years before the settlement at Jamestown, and less than 
twenty before that of Plymouth, new standards, not only of the yard 
and ell, but of tlic avoirdupois and troy weights, and of the bushel, 
corn gallon, quart, and pint, had been deposited at the exrhequer. 
There was neither uncertainty, nor perceptible diversity, with re- 
gard to the long measures or the weights ; but the standard vessels of 
capacity were of various dimensions. The bushel of IGOI contained 
2,124 cubic inches : it was therefore a copy from an older standard* 


made in cx.ict conformity to tlie rnlc prescribed in the statute of 
126G, and very probably tbe identical standard therein described. It 
contained ei.s;-lit corn gallons of wheat, ecfiiijonderant to eight Ii-ish 
gallons of Gascoign wine; of wheat, thirty-two kernels of which 
v.ere of equal weight with the round, unclij)ped j)eiiny sterling of 
r26G. Its corresponding wine gallon, therefore, would have been 
tiie Irish gallon of £17.6 cubic inches; and its corresj)onding corn 
gallon of 263.5 inches, an intermediate between the Rumford fpiart 
and gallon of 1228, and diflering less than one inch from either of 
tliem. There were two othei* standard bushels at the exchequer, ol 
the same dimensions ; one of the age of Heni-y the Seventh, and one 
dated 109]. This has been supposed to be a mistake for 1591 oi* 
1601. But as it is not probable that two standard bushels should 
have been deposited in the exchequer at the same time, or even at 
dates so near to each other, a conjectuie may be ir)dulged, that the 
1091 marks the date, when the standard measure, described in the 
statute of 1266 was made. Of that standard, these three bushels 
were unquestionably copies. 

The corn and the ale gallons of 1601 were of 272 cubic inches; 
and there was one of Henry the Seventh tlicre, of the same size, as 
rejjortcd by the artist who measured them for the commissioners of 
the excise in 1688. When measured again by order of the committee 
of the House of Commons, in 1758, they were repoi-ted to contain 
each about one inch less. The true size intended for all of them was 
272 ; and they were made by an application of the rule of 1266 to the 
troy weight wheat of the act of 1496. They w^re the eighth parts 
of a bushel of 2,176 inches ; and their corresponding wine gallon was 
the Guildhall gallon of 224 inches. 

There were, in 1601, a standard quart of 70 inches, and a pint of 
i)4.8 ; which were evidently intended to be in exact proportions to 
each other : and the gallon, to which they refericd, was t!ie gallon of 
282 inches. This would have made a bushel of 2,256 inches; and its 
corresponding wine gallon is of 231 inches. The standards, thus 
made, were by an application both of the w heat and of tlic rule de- 
scribed in the statute of 1266 to the troy weight gallon of 1496 ; that 
is, the w heat was of the kind, 32 kernels of which weighed the same 
as fhe old penny sterling, and of which the wir.e gallon contained 
eight pounds troy weight. There was a standard bushel of Henry 
the Seventh at the exchequer, of 2,224 inches, probably the bushel 
from which this quart and these ])ints were deduced. 

There was also the Winchester bushel of 2,145.6 cubic inches, mado 
in the reign of Henry the Seventh, but from its name evidently copi- 
ed from a standard which had been kept at Winchester when that 
place was the capital of the kingdom. This bushel had been made, 
by combining the rule of 1266 with the assize of casks which, in the 
statute of 1423, is declared to be of oW time^ by which the hogshead, 
or eight cubic feet of Gascoign wine, consisted of 63 gallons. That 
hogshead was a quarter of a ton of wine, as eight Winchester bushels 
contained a quarter of a ton of wheat, Tbe gallon was of 219? cubic 


mchcvs; and the corresponding; ale gallon Avas of 2G8. 2 inches. There 
was at the exchequer no wine or ale gallon of those dimensions ; he- 
cause the wine gallon of 224 inches, and the corn gallon of 272, made 
under the statutes of 1496 and 1531, had hecn substituted in their 
stead. At the exchequer, there was indeed no wine gallon at all. 
Those of older date than the act of 1496 had disappeared, and the 
gallon of 224 inches made according to that act, had been delivered 
flut of the exchequer to the city of London, and was at Guildhall. 

Such w as the state of the standards in London, at the time of the 
first colonial emigrations to this continent. 


Among the colony laws of Massachusetts, there is an act of the 
year 1647, directing the country treasurer h pj-ovide, at the country's 
charge, weights and measures of all sorts for continual standards. In 
the specification which ensues in the act, all the measures, of which 
there were standards at the exchequer, arc mentioned, with special 
discrimination of 7vine and ale measures; but the weiglits only after 
sixteen ounces to the pound, are named. They then had no occasion 
for the ti'oy weights. 

At a still earlier date, in 1641, it had been prescribed that all 
casks for any liquor, fish, beef, pork, or other commodities to be put 
to sale, should be of London assixe: and in 1646 a corresponding as- 
size of store's had been ordained. 

The law of 1647 did not expressly direct where the treasurer was 
to procure the standards : but the Exchequer and Guildhall were the 
only places where they were to be obtained ; and, from subsequent 
acts, the fact appears that they were obtained there. 

At the fiist session of tiie general court ujider the charter of Wil- 
liam and Mary, in 1692, two laws were enacted; one, re-ordaining 
the Londoii assize of casks, and specifying that the butt should con- 
tain 126 gallons, the puncheon 84, the hogshead 63, the tierce 42, 
and the barrel 31^ gallons; the other, for due regulation of weights 
and metisures, declai'ing that the brass and copper measures,/()r?uer- 
ly sent out of England, with certificate out of tlie exchequer to be ap- 
proved H inchestcr measure, according to the standard in the exche- 
(jucr, should be the public allowed standaid throughout the province 
for the proving and sealing all weights and measures thereby, and 
re-enacting, with an additional clause, the colonial law of 1647. 

An act of the year 1700 picscribes, that the bushel used for the 
sale of meal, Iruits, and other things, usually sold by heap, shall be 
not less than I82 inches w'ldo, within side; the half bushel not less 
than \3i inches; the peck not less than lOil, and the half peck not 
less than 9 inches. 

It is very remarkable that this law was enacted one year before the 
act of jjarlianient of 13 William IIL which gives and prescribes in 
cubical Indies tlic dimensions of the Winchester bushel. The object 
of the provincial Jaw was, to piohibit the use of bushels, which. 



thoiie;h of tlic same cubical capacity, slotihl be of sborter diameter 
and ji,reatcr dcptb. It was for tbe benefit of tbe heap. It prescribed, 
therefore, only the diameter, without mentioninj^ the depth ; but that 
diameter, for tlie busliel, is identically the same, 18^ inches, as the 
act of parliament of the ensuirij^ year declares to be the width of the 
Winchester bushel in the excljerpier. As the provincial standai'd 
must have been the model from which the law of the province took its 
measure of a diameter, its perfect coincidence with the subsequent 
definition of the act of parliament, is a proof of the correctness of the 
copy from the Winchester bushel of the exchequer. 

In 1705, the treasui-er of the jirovincc was required by law to pro- 
cure a beam, scale, and a nest of troy weights from 1'28 ounces down, 
marked with a maik or stamp used at the exchequer, for a public 
standard. Every town was to be provided with a nest of troy weights 
of diffei'ent form from the avoirdupois: and a penalty was annexed 
to the use of any other tiian sealed troy weights, for weighing silver, 
bullion, or other species whatsoever, pro])er and used to be weighed 
by troy weights. 

In the year 1707, there was an act of parliament, 6 Anne, ch. SO, 
*' for ascertaining the i*ates of foreign coins in her majesty's planta- 
** tions in America." It had been preceded, in 1704, by a proclama- 
tion of the queen, declaring the value of many foreign silver coins, 
and particularly of the Spanish piece of eight, or dollar. At that 
period, as in a ceilain degree at the present, the Spanish dollar and 
its parts formed the principal circulating coins of this country. The 
act declares the value of the Seville, Pillar, and Mexican pieces of 
eight, to be four shillings and six-pence sterling, and their weight to 
be seventeen pejinyweights and a half, or 420 grains. It forbids 
their being taken in the colonies at moie than six shillings each : and 
this act constituted what, from that time till the period of the Revo- 
lution, in Virginia and New Eiigland, was denominated ** lawful 
*• money." The act itself was published in the province of Massa- 
chusetts Bay with the statutes of the provincial legislature, as was 
practised with regard to all the acts of parliament, the authority of 
which was recognized. It may be here incidentally remarked, that 
the laws of Congi-ess, which estimate the value of the English pound 
sterling at four dollars and forty-four cents, are ail founded upon the 
proportions established by this act, although the weight and value, 
both of the dollar and of the shilling and pound sterling, have since 
that time been changed. Some further observations on this subject 
are submitted in the appendix: from which it will appear, that the 
real value of our silver dollai". in the silver English half crowns or 
shillings of this time, is four shillings, seven pence, and nearly one 
farthing; and that the pound sterling of such actual English silver 
coins is, in the silver money of the United States, not 4 dollars 44 
cents, but only 4 dollars, 34 cents, and 9 mills. 

In the year 1715 a light house was built at tJ»e entrance of Boston 
harbor; and a tonnage duty being levied upon vessels entering the 
-harbor, to defray the expense of building and supporting it, the rule 


of measurement for ascertaining the tonnage, prescribed by the act,^ 
was, that a vessel of two decks should be measured upon the main 
deck, fi'om the stem to the stern post, then subducting the breadth, 
from outside to outside, athwart tlie main beam, the remainder to be 
accounted her length by the keel, which, being multiplied by the 
breadth, and the product by one half the breadth for the depth, and 
the whole product divided by 100, the quotient was to be accounted 
the tonnage of the ship. Vessels of a single deck, or I5 deck, were 
to be measuied in the same manner, except the depth in hold, which 
was to be from the under side of the main beam to the ceiling. 

In 1730 a new set of brass and copper avoirdupois weights, and of 
measures, was imported from the Excliequer, with certificate of their 
being approved Winchester measure, according to the standard in the 
Exchequer. These were, by a new statute, declared to be the public 
standards of the province : and they continue to be those of the com- 
mon wealtii at this day. It does not appear that the troy weights 
were renewed at the same time. The standards of them had been 
imported only twenty-five years before, and could not need renewing. 
In 1751 the act of parliament introducing the Gregorian calendar 
was adopted, in the usual manner, by inserting it among the laws of 
the provincial legislature. 

Since the Revolution all the laws of the province have been revised : 
and, by an act of the Legislature of 26th February, 1800, all the 
principal regulations concerning weights and measures were renewed 
and confirmed. 

This law declares that the brass and copper measures, formerlij 
(1730) sent out of England with a certificate fi*om the Exchequer, 
shall be and remain the public standards throughout the common- 
wealth : and it requires the treasurer of the commonwealth to cause 
to be had and preserved a complete set of new beams, weights, avoir- 
dupois and troy, and measures of length and of capacity, wet and 
dry, to be used only as public standards. This act is to continue un- 
til Congress shall have fixed by law the standard of weights and 

A statute of 9th March, 1804, recites, that the troy weights used 
"by the treasurer of the commonwealth, as state standards, had, by 
long use, diminished and undergone an alteration in their propor- 
tions. (Hiey had then been just one century in use.) It directs 
him, therefore, to add, or cause to be added, a specified num- 
ber of grains to each of the weights, from that of 128 ounces to the 
half ounce; or to procure new weights of the same denomination, and 
conformable to the state standards, with such additions: which 
weights, so corrected, are declared to be the standards of troy weight 
for the commonwealth. By information from various sources, it is 
known that the standards of the state of Massachusetts are, at this 
time, perfectly conformable to those oftlie Exchequer. 

There are a multitude of laws regulating the assize of casks, as- 
signing different dimensions for containing different articles. They 
generally prescribe the length of the staves within the chimo, and 



somotimc«! the diamctci' of the heads. They also specify the weight 
of tiie ai-ticle which the cask is to contain. Staves are an ai-ticle of 
exportation ,• and their length, hreadth, and thickness^ are regulated 
by law. 


The laws of New Hampshire, and of Vermont, relating to weights 
and measures, appear to haive been modelled upon those of Massachu- 
setts. In both these states the standards are required to be accord- 
ing to the approved Winchester measures, allowed in England, in 
the Exchequer. The first act of New Hampshire to that effect was 
of 13th May, 1718, and the last of 15th December, 1797. The sta- 
tute of Vermont is of the 8th of March, 1797. Neither New Hamp- 
shire nor Vermont has established the authority of the troy weights 
by law. 


Rhode Island has no statute upon the subject. Her weights and 
measures are, however, the same, and her standards are taken from 
ihose of Massachusetts. 


In the laws and standards of Connecticut there are peculiarities 
deserving of remark. 

A statute of October, 1800, contains the following provisions: 
" That the brass measures, the property of this state, kept at the 
" Treasury, that is to say, a half bushel measure, containing one 
** thousand and ninety-nine cubic inches, very near, a peck measure 
** and half peck measure, when reduced to a just proportion, be the 
"standard of the corn measures in this state, which are called by 
" those names respectively ^ that the brass vessels ordered to be pro- 
** vided by this Assembly [one of the capacity of two hundred and 
*' twenty-four cubic inches]* and the other of the capacity of two 
" hundred and eighty two cubic inches, siiall be, when procured, the 
" first of them the standard of a wine gallon, and the other the stand- 
** ard of an ale or beer gallon, in this state ; that the iron, or brass 
" rod or plate, ordered by this Assembly to be provided, of one yard 
" in length, to be divided into three equal parts, for feet, in length, 
•* and one of those parts to be subdi>'ided into twelve equal parts, for 
" inches, shall be the standard of those measures respectively ; and 
*' that the brass weights, the property of the state , kept at tlie Trea- 
** sury, of one, two, four, seven, fourteen, twenty-eight and fifty-six 
•' pounds, shall be the standard of avoirdupois weight in this state." 

• These brackets, in the printed volume of the laws of Connecticut, indicate that 
the part enclosed has been repealed. 


A subsequent section (5) requires of the selectmen of each town to 
provide town-standards, of good and sufficient materials, which, for 
the standards of liquid measirre, shall be copper, brass, or pewter; 
also, vessels for corn nieasure, of forms and dimensions thus describ- 
ed: "A two quart measure, tlie bottom of wliich, on the inside, is 
*' four inches wide on two opposite sides, and four inches and a half 
*'on the two othei* sides, and its height from thence seven inches and 
"sixty-three hundredths of an inch;" [137.34 cubic inches.] A 
quart measure of" three inches square from bottom to top, through- 
*' out, and its height seven inches and sixty-three hundredths of an 
*' inch ;" [68.67 cubic inches.] A pint measure of three inclies square 
fi'Ofn bottom to top tiiroughout, and its height three inches and 
eighty-two hundredths of an inch : [34.38 cubic inches.] 

The assumption of the old Guildiiall wine gallon, of 224 inches, in 
this act, is the more surprising, inasmuch as a colonial statute of 
the year 1752 had already establislied the gallon of 231 inches. What 
the occasion of it was, has not been ascertained ; but it was probably 
taken fi'om an existing standard, which had been originally taken 
from ihe Guildhall gallon. Whatever the cause of it may have been, 
this part of the act was repealed the next year, (October, 1801) and 
the Treasurer was directed, without delay, to provide a vessel of 
brass, of five inches square from bottom to top throughout, and nine 
inches and twenty-four hundredths of an inch in height, containing 
two hundred and thirty-one cubic inclies, which was declared the 
standard wine gallon of tlie state. 

The half bushel nieasure, which in 1800 was the property of the 
state, kept at the treasury, containing 1099 cubic inches very near, 
Avas of course not originally derived from the Winchester bushel. 
By the colonial laws of Connecticut, it api)ears, that, as early as the 
year 1670, there were colony standards kept at Hartford : and the half 
bushel, which in the year 1800 was there at the treasury, the pro- 
perty of the state, was either one of those same standards of 1670, or 
a copy from it. That it was not borrowed from the Massachusetts 
standards is also manifest, because the Massachusetts bushel was 
copied from the Winchester bushel. It may be concluded, with great 
probability, that the Connecticut half bushel was first taken from 
the bushel in the exchequer of Henry the Seventh with a copper 
rim; though it contains thirteen cubic inches less than in proportion 
to that standaj'd. This difference, in so large a measure, may have 
been the effect of very slight inaccuracy in the first copy, increas- 
ed by the decay or the change of the vessel. The bushel with the 
copper rim was deposited at the exchequer after the act of 1496; 
and was made from the wine gallon of that act, with the rule of the 
act of 1266, and the pound of fifteen ounces troy weight. The quart 
and pint at the exchequer of 1601, were formed fi-om this bushel. 
The pint differs less than half an inch from that prescribed by this 
act of Connecticut of 1800. 

In the laws of Connecticut, as in those of New Hampshire and 
Vermont, there is no formal establishment or recognition of troy 


vrei(2;hts ; nor does there appear to be any standard of them existing 
in the state. But in the lists of rateable estate, piesciibed by the 
laws of Connecticut, silver plate is estimated at one dollar eleven 
cents per (nnice. which must obviously be intended the ounce troy. 

The assize of casks is rei^ulated by various laws : and the dimen- 
sions of the barrel for packing salted provisions for exportation are 
the same as those established in Massachusetts and New York. The 
London assize of tight casks, from the jjuncheon of 12G to the barrel 
of 31^ gallons, was co-eval with the first legislation of the colony; 
and was re-enacted by a statute of 1795. It expressly declares that 
these gallons shall be of 231 cubic inches ; and directs that they shall 
be computed by taking, in inches and decimal parts of an inch, the 
bulge or bung diameter, each head diameter, aiid the length within 
the cask, with Gunter's rule of gauging. 

'J'he assize of staves is the same as in Massachusetts. 

By an act of October 1796, the standard weight of wheat is de- 
clared to be sixty pounds nett to the bushel. 


New York was originally the seat of a colony from the Nether- 
lands, the settlers of w liich doubiless brought w ith them the weights 
and measures of their own country. Tow ards the close of the seven- 
teenth century it fell into the possession of the English ; and on the 
19th of June, 1703, an act of the colonial legislature established all 
the English weights and measures, according to the standards in the 
excliequer. This act was drawn with great care, and evidently with 
the purpose of embracing all the provisions of the then existing 
English statutes, regulating weights, measures, and casks, particu- 
larly those of 1266, 1304, 1439, and 1496, without being aware of 
the utter incompatibility of those statutes with one another. 

Instead, however, of adopting in terms the London assize of casks, 
from the ton of 252 gallons downwards, this act prescribes in inches 
the length and head diameters of the various casks; and, by a very 
remarkable peculiarity, changes the names of all the dry casks. It 
directs that 

The Hogshead shall be 40 inches long', 33 inches in the bulge, 27 inches in the head. 
Tierce . .36 . . 27 . . . .23 

B^irrel . .30 . . 26 . . . .22 

H^ilf barrel . . 25 .. 20 .... 16 

Qtiarter barrel .20 . . 16 . . . .13 

But it adds, that tite barrels shall contain 311 gallons wine mea.sure, 
or within half a gallon more or less, and all other casks in jiropor- 
tion. This last pi-ovision adopted the whole London assize U,v tiglit 
casks. But the dimensions prescribed for the hogshead^ give a cask 
of about 126 gallons, which, in the London assize, nwide the butt 
or pipe : and thus the New York tierce was of 80 gallons, which 
constituted the real contents of the London puncheon; the New^ York 


barrel was of 60 .G;aIlons, answering to the London ho.i;shead ; and 
the New York half barrel of 30 2;allons, to the London barrel. 

On the 10th of April, 1784, the legislature of New York passed an 
act to ascertain weights and »neasures within the state. It declares 
the standard weights and nieasui-os which were in tlje custody of 
William Hardenbrook, public sealer and marker in tbc city and 
county of New York, at the time of tbe declaration of Independence^ 
■which were according to the standard of the exchequer, to be the 
standards throughout the state. Wiilijim Hardenbrook was directed 
to deliver them to the clerk of the city and county of New York, and 
to make oath that they were the same wbicii he had received from the 
court of exchequer. 

By an act of rth March, 1788, the standard weight of wheat 
brought to the city of New York for sale, was fixed at sixty pounds 
nett to the bushel. 

On the 24th of March, 1809, passed an act relative to a standard 
of long measure, and for otiier purposes. It declares a brass yard 
measure, engraved and sealed at the exchequer of Great Britain, 
procured in 1803 by the corporation of New York, presented to the 
state, and deposited, with authenticating documents, in the secre- 
tary's oflice, to be the standai'd yard measui-e of the state. 

The last statute, upon this subject, of New York, is an act, to re- 
gulate weights and measui-es, and passed on the 1 9th of March 1813; 
which declares that there shall be one just beam, one certain weight 
and measure for distance and capacity; that is to say, avoirdupois 
and troy weights, bushels, half-bushels, pecks, half-pecks, and quarts f 
and gallons, half-gallons, quarts, pints, and gills ; and one certain 
rod for long measure, according to " the standard in use in the state 
** on the day of the declaration of the Independence thereof, and that 
*' the standard of weights and measures in the office of the Secretary of 
** the State, which is according to the standard in the couit of ex- 
»' chequer in that part of Great Britain called England, shall be and 
*' remain the standard for ascertaining all beams, weights and niea- 
*' sures throughout the state, until the Congress of the United States 
*' shall establish the standard of weights and measures for the United 
" States." 

The assize of casks continues as it was regulated by the act of 
}703: but a variety of special statutes assign dimensions diffeient 
from it for barrels in which beef, pork, fish, flour, pot and pearl 
ashes, &c. are packed for exportation. These, as in the New Eng- 
land states, are adapted to contain a certain specified weight of each 
article. The assize oi' staves regulated by an act of 26th March, 1813, 
is substantially the same as that of Massachusetts : and as the capa- 
city of the barrel must always dej)end in a great degree upon the size 
of the staves and headijig of which it is made, the contents of all 
these barrels vary little from 30 gallons wine measure of 231 cubic 
inches equal to 6,930 inches, 



[n New-Jcrscy, which was oi-i^'inally a part of the Dutch settle- 
»nont, the Eiija:lish wcii^lits and measures were established at a later 
peiiod than in iNew York. An act of the colonial legislature, of 13th 
Aue;ust, 1725, recites, in its preamble, that nothinji^ is more agreea- 
ble to common justice and ecpiity than that throughout the province 
there should be ojjrjust weight and balance, one true and perfect stand- 
ard for measures, for 7vant whereof experience had shown that ma- 
ny frauds and deceits had happened ; for remedy of which, it esta- 
blishes, in the first section, an assize of casks for packing of beef and 
pork, since altered ; and in the second, declares, that there shall be 
one Just beam and balance, one certain standard for "weights, that 
" is to say : for avoirdupois and troy weights, one standard for mea- 
"sures, bushels, half bushels, pecks, and half-pecks, one just stand- 
•' ard for liquid measures, that is to say : wine and beer measure ; 
" and one yard ; all which shall be according to the standard of the 
"•exchequer in Great Britain." 

The phraseology of this statute has some resemblance to that of* 
the 25th chapter of Magna Charta, and may serve as a lucid commen- 
tary upon it j for, although its avowed object is uniformity, and even 
nnity of standard, it expressly sanctions two weights, avoirdupois 
and troy, and two liquid measures for wine and beer. This statute 
also, as well as that of New York of 1813, shows that tiie term gal- 
lon is improperly used when applied to dry measure, its real denomi- 
nation being that of half-peck. 

The laws of New Jersey relating to the assize of barrels have been 
various. By an act of 1774, revived in 1783, the barrel is required to 
contain SH wine gallons, and not i a gallon more or less ; half-bar- 
rels 16 gallons, and not onequart more or less. The assize of staves 
(26th September, 1772.) is materially the same as in all the eastcrru 


In the year 1700, two laws relating to weights and measures were 
enacted by the colonial legislature. Tlie first [laws of Pennsylvania, 
Bioren's edition, vol. 1, page 18] ordains, that brass standards of 
weights and measures, according to the standards for the exchequer, 
should be obtained, and kept in each county. Sec. 2. That a brass 
half-bushel, then in Philadelphia, and a bushel and peck proportion- 
able, and all lesser measures and weights coming from England, be- 
ing duly sealed in London, or other measures agreeable therewith, 
should be accounted good till the standard should be obtained. Sec. 5. 
That no person should sell beer or ale by retail, but bij beer measure, 
according to the standard of England. 

The second, not only adopted ti»e London assize of casks, but re- 
fiuired that all tight casks, for beer. ale. rider, pork, beef, and oil, an*? 

84 g 











all such commodities, should be made of good, sound, well seasonedj 
white oak timber, and coritain. 
The Puncheon 




Half" barrel - - 

wine measure, accoiding to the practice of the neighboring colonies. 
This act regulated the assize of staves for hogsheads and barrels ; 
and prescribed that tobacco hogsheads should be four feet long, or 
within an inch more or less, 32 inches in tlie head, equal to the gauge 
of Mai-yland, and be four hogsheads to a ton ; that the flour cask 
should be not above double the gauge of wine measure; the half bar- 
rel to be of 3I5 gallons, and the barrel of 63 gallons wine measure. 

As the gauge of Maryland was adopted for tobacco, so that of New 
York was assumed for flour, by constituting the barrel and half-bar- 
rel at double the gauge of wine measure. The origin of this must 
have been in the measures of the Dutch colonies, which had reference 
to the lastf or double ton of shipping, the customary measure of the 
Netherlands instead of the ton. 

But the most remarkable peculiarity of these two laws of Pennsyl- 
vania, enacted at the same session of the legislature, was, that while 
one of them applied the London assize of wine measure to the casks 
which were to contain beer, ale, and cider, the other expressly pro- 
hibited the retailers of beer and ale from selling those liquors other- 
wise than by beer measure ; so that the retailers were obliged to buy 
by the small and to sell by the large measure. This inconsistency be- 
tween the two statutes will not surprise us when we recollect that it 
occurred precisely at the time when the trial in the court of exche- 
quer of England was litigated, concerning the duties to be paid on 
Mr. Thomas Baikcr's impoi-tation of Alicant wine. For while he, 
upon a claim to pay duties upon wine only by beer measure, was re- 
ducing the Attorney general, after a trial of five hours, to withdraw 
a juror, and cast tlie remedy upon parliament, the legislature of 
Pennsylvania, by the same erroneous application of the same name to 
diffeient things, were, certainly without intentioji, but, in eff 'ct, enjoin- 
ing upon all the publicans of the province to pay for beer by wine 
measure. It was a whimsical operation of the same incongruity 
happening in the two hemispheres at the same time, that, while Bar- 
ker was struggling successfully against the supreme authority of the 
mother counti-y, to pay for wine by beer measure, the Pennsylvania 
publicans, by the acts of their provincial legislature, were compelled 
to [)ay for beer by wine measure, and yet to be paid for it by its own. 
The remedy to these disorders was applied in England and in 
Pennsylvania also about the same time. In both cases, however, it 
was partial ; applied only to the special inconvenience without reach- 
ing the source of the evil. Pailiamcnt only defined the capacity of 
the wine gallon, fixing it at 231 cubic inches. The Pennsylvania le- 
gislature, by an act of 1705, [P. L. Biorcn's edition, vol. 1, cb. 138.. 


p. 43,] reciting the inconsistent provisions of their two acts of 1700, 
and ingenuously remarking, that, in consequence of thcni, retailers are 
obliged to sell by far greater measure than they buy, released thcni from 
this burthcusome obligation, by authorizing innkeepers to sell beer by 
wine measure in their houses, and by beer measure to persons to car- 
ry it out of the house. The real evil, in both cases, had ])iocecded 
from calling the two different measures of liquids by the same name. 
If the beer gallon had been called ahalfpeckf no such questions, and 
110 such clashing legislation, would ever have arisen. The statute 
of 1700, which had prescribed the London assize of casks, was re- 
pealed only in March, 1810. 

The assize of staves and heading was fixed, in Pennsylvania, by a 
statute of 1759, [chap. 439, vol. 1, p. 222.] It was, with slight va- 
riations, the same as in all the states eastw ard of it. The necessary 
width of all staves, for exportation, was, by this act, fixed at 3 2 inches. 
By a subsequent act [30th March, 1803, ch. 2362, vol. 4, p. 83] 
staves of three inches wide are allowed as merchantable. Uninspect- 
ed staves or heading may, by an act of 1790, [ch. 1501, vol. 2, p. 
629] be used within the state. A great multitude of statutes in Penn- 
sylvania, as in all the other navigating states, have regulated the as- 
size of casks, adapting them to contain weight of the respective arti- 
cles to be exported in them, and to the convenience of stowage in ships. 
This, as has been shewn, was the original foundation of the London 
assize of the ton, and of the whole English system of weights and 
measures: and this, in the act of Pennsylvania, of 12th September, 
1789, [ch. 1422, vol. 2, p. 490,] is expressly assigned as one of the 
reasons for requiring casks of given dimensions. 


In 1705, " An act for regulating weights and measures," directs^ 
that each county should obtain standard brass weights and measures, 
according to the queeri's standards for the exchequer; that a standard 
brass half-bushel should be taken from that in Philadelphia, to which 
the bushel and peck should be proportionable. It authorizes the use 
of measures and weights coming from England, duly stamped in 
London, or others agreeable tlierewith, till the standards should be 
procured : and it prescribes that beer or ale should be sold in retail, 
only by beer measure. 

Subsequent acts of the legislature of Delaware define the cord of 
fire-wood, rate gold and silver coins by their weight in troy penny- 
weights and grains; and regulate the assize of casks for flour, corn, 
and Indian meal, in exact conformity to that of Pennsylvania. 


The first act concerning weights and measures to be found in the 
printed editions of the statutes of this state, is of the year 1715, ch. 
10. " An act relating to the standard of English weights a^d mea- 


•* sures," the preamble of which recites, that the standards are verjr 
much impaired in several of the counties of the province, and in 
some wholly lost or unfit for use. It therefore directs the justices 
of the several county courts to cause the standards they already had 
to be made complete, and to purchase new standards where they had 
none ; and requires them to take security from the standard-keepers 
for the due execution of their office, and the safe-keeping of the stand- 
ards ill future. 

What these standards were, is ascertained by recurrence to the re- 
cords of the state for the laws, the titles only of which are given in 
the printed compilations of the statutes. 

In 1657, at the first general assembly of which any record is ex- 
tant, a bill for corn measures is one of forty-two which were prepared 
and propounded to the lord proprietary for his assent ; but which 
were not enacted into laws, nor is tiiere any copy of them to be found 
upon the record. 

The next year, 1638, an act for measures and weights was one of 
thirty-six bills twice read and engrossed ; but never read a third time, 
nor passed the House. There were in this bill several remarkable 
peculiarities. It provided that there should be one standard measure 
throughout the province, to be appointed by the lieutenant general, 
and a sealer of measures ; that all contracts made for the payment 
of corn should be understood of corn shelled; that a barrel of new 
coi'u, tendered in payment at, or afore, the 15th of October, in any 
year, should be twice shaked in the barrel, and afterwards heaped as 
long as it will lye on ', and at, or before, the feast of the nativity, 
should be twice shaked and filled to the edge of the barrel, or els® 
not shaked, and heaped as before ; and after the said feast it should 
not be shaken at all, but delivered Uy strike. No steelyards or other 
weights not sealed by the lieutenant general, or by the sealer ap- 
pointed by him, were to be used, except it be small weights sealed in 
England. The act was to continue till the end of the next general 

In 1641 there passed an act for measures^ which, after reciting the 
inconveniences from the want of a set and appointed measure, where- 
by corn and other grain might be bought and sold within the pro- 
vince, provides, that from thenceforth the measure used in England 
called the Winchester bushel should be only used as the rule to mea- 
sure all things sold by the bushel or barrel ; and the barrel was to 
contain five such hushels. The sheriff of each county was to procure 
and keep such a standard bushel, whereby others should be sized 
and sealed, and penalties were affixed to the use of any others. 

This act was to continue only two years, and then expired; bat 
the Winchester bushel has, from the time of its enactment, remained 
the standard dry measure of Maryland. 

In 1671 passed an act foi* providing a standard, with English 
weights and measures, in the several and respective counties within 
tliis province. And this statute, though omitted in all the late printed 
''tlitions of the laws of Maryland, established the standard, recog- 


vu'zcd by the existing act of 1715, and by all the subsequent laws ot" 
Maryland relating to tlie subject. 

The preamble complains, that much fraud and deceit is practised 
in tlie ])rovince, by false weights and measures : for prevention of 
vhich it enacts — 

That no inhabitant, or trailer hither^ shall use in trading any other 
weights or measures than are used and made, according to the sin- 
tute of Henry the Seventh R^ing of England in that case made and 
provided, [tl»e statute of 1496.J 

That, for the discovery of abuses, nine persons, who arc indicated 
by name, one for each county then in the province, should set u\) a 
standard at their own houses, and provide by the next shipping, or 
the shipping then next following at farthest, twelve half liundred 
weights, a quartern, half-quartern, seven pounds, four pounds, two 
pounds, and one pound; also, each person six stamps for making still- 
yards and weights, to be lettered from A to I, one letter for each 
county ; also, each person to have nine irons, numbered from one to 
nine, and another with cypher, for the numbering of stillyards and 
pea, that they might not be changed, and to procure brass measures 
of ell and yard, to be sealed in England ; also, a sealed bushel, half- 
Lushel, peck, and gallon, of Winchester measure, and gallon, pottle, 
quart, pint, and half-pint, of w ine measures, with three burnt stamps 
for the w ooden measures and three other stamps for the pewter mea- 
sures, to be all of the same letter Mith their other stamps; and that 
these weights, measures, and stamps, should be kept by those nine 
persons at their respective houses, to which all persons were to bring 
their stillyards to be tried, stamped, and numbered, once a year, and 
also their barrels, which were to contain five bushels, and other mea- 
sures, to be sealed. 

The act further provides penalties for using other weights and 
measures, and, in case of the death of any of the nine persons named 
as standard-keepers, directs that other persons should be appointed 
by the commissioners of the respective county courts in their stead. 

The limitation of the act was to three years, or the end of the next 
general assembly. It was revived and continued by several succes- 
sive acts till 1692, when there passed " An act for the settling of a 
** standard with English weights and measures within the several 
** and respective counties in this province.'* 

This is in substance a re-enactment and confirmation of the statute 
of 1671, providing, that the justices of the county courts should, from 
time to time, appoint a person in each county to keep the standards, 
and to provide all such weights and measures as were w anting, ac- 
cording to the directions of the act of 1671, and an additional set for 
Cecil county, with stamps to be marked K. 

1704, September 21, ch. 71, An act relating to the standard of En- 
glish weights and measures, has the following preamble : 

** Whereas there is now a standard of weights and measures agree- 
** able to the standard of weights and measures in her majestifs exche- 
*• ^uer in England settled within the several counties of this province;" 


After this preamble, the act directs, that all persons, whether inha- 
bitants or foreigners, shall bring their stilliards, with which lliey 
weigh and receive their tobacco, every year to be tried, stamped, and 
luunbered ; and every person, trading with bushels, half bushels, &c. 
shall have them tried and stamped at the standard, except such as 
come out of England and are thei-e stamped : and penalties are pre- 
scribed for buying or selling by stilliards or dry measures not thus 
tried and stamped, but they are not extended either to the weights or 
the liquid measures. 

The titles only of all these statutes are given in the printed edi- 
tions of the statutes of Maryland. But the parts of them which pre- 
scribe the standard are yet in full force. The law, is the memorable 
act of parliament of 1496 : and the fact, in Maryland as in England, 
is, tiiat the standards have been copied from those in the exchequer. 

In ir65, (1st Nov. ch. 1) was passed a supplementary act to the 
act of 1715, already noticed, entitled "An act relating to the stan- 
dard of English weights and measures.'* 

The preamble recites, that, in the act of 1715, there is no penalty 
upon buyers by unstamped dry measures, as there is upon sellers; 
whence persons refuse to buy grain, flaxseed, and other commodities, 
unless by measures larger than the standard. 

It, therefore, proiiibits, upon ^5 penalty, buying by such mea- 

Neither of these two acts takes any notice either of long or liquid 
measures, or of weights. But tlie standards had been established by 
the statute of 1671, and have continued to this time. Beer measure 
appears never to have been formally established by the statute law of 
Maryland : but troy weight is explicitly recognized in the act of No- 
vember, 1781, (ch. 16) to declare what foreign gold and silver coin 
shall be deemed the current money of the state. It fixes the value of 
several of those coins, proportionable to their weight, in ounces, pen- 
nyweights, and grains, intending, though not naming, troy weight; 
but rating Spanish milled pieces of eight at seven shillings and six 
pence, and French and English crowns at eight shillings and four 

In 1796, by an act to erect Baltimore, in Baltimore county, into a 
city, and to incorporate the inhabitants thereof, the corporation (sec.- 
9) are empowered to regulate and fix the assize of bread ; to pro- 
vide for the safe-keeping and preservation of the standard of weights 
and measures used within the city and precincts ; also, to regulate 
the assize of bricks, &c. And, in 1805, by an act supplementary to 
the act incorporating Baltimore as a city, it is ordained, Congress 
not having yet fixed any standard of weights and measures, that the 
mayor and city council siiall have and exercise the right of regulat- 
ing all weights and measures within the city and precincts by the 
present standard, until one shall be determined on by Congress. 

The assize of casks has been in Maryland, as in the other parts of 
the Union, both before and since our Revolution, a subject of frequent 
and voluminous legislation. As early as the year 1658, there had 


passed an act, concerning tlie ,a:aua;c of tobacco hoj^slicads, vvliicli had 
prescribed the length and diameter at the head of those casks, the di- 
mensions of which were then the same as those used in Virginia. In 
1676, this law^ was re-enacted with some additional sections, and was 
from time to time contiiuied nntil 1732. 

In November, 1763, by an act for amending the staple of tobac- 
co, &c. the hogsheads containing that article were required to be 48 
inches in the length of the stave, and 70 inches in the whole diameter 
within the staves, at the croze and bulge; a regulation repeated in 
the act of November, 1801, to regulate the inspection of tobacco, 
which is now in force. 

In 1745, there passed an act for the gauge of barrels for pork, beef, 
pitch, tar, turpentine, and tare of barrels for flour or bread. It did 
not prescribe the dimensions of flour and bread casks ; but directed, 
that ail barrels, made or used for either of those articles, should 
be of the size and gauge to contain at least the quantity of 31^ gal- 
lons wine measure, and that the contents of every pork or beef bar- 
rel, for exportation or sale, should be at least 220 pounds nett of meat. 

This act, though originally limited in duration to three years, and 
the end of the next session of the assembly, has, by successive re- 
enactments always limited, been continued in force to this day. 

Another act, of 1786, for the inspection of salted provisions, ex- 
ported and imported from and to the town of Baltimore, required 
that the staves of beef and pork barrels should be 29 inches long, and 
18 inches diameter at the head. And these regulations, though su- 
perseded at Baltimore by the exercise of the powers vested in the 
coiporation of that city, have been extended to other parts of the 
state, and are yet in force. 

The size of fish barrels had been prescribed by the same act. But, 
in February, 1818, by an act to regulate the inspection of salted fish, 
it was directed, that the barrel staves should be 28 inches in length, 
the heads seventeen inches between the chimes, and to contain not 
less than 29, nor more than 31 gallons; tierces to hold not less than 
45, and half-barrels not less than 15 gallons. 


Among the earliest records of the general assembly of tlie colony 
of Virginia, is an order of the 5th of March, 1623-4, that there be no 
weights nor measures used, but such as should be sealed by officers 
appointed for that purpose. 

By an act of 23d February, 1651-2, it was ordained, that a barrel 
of corn should be accounted five bushels of Winchester measure^ 40 
gallons to the barrel. The commissioners of the monthly courts were 
to keep sealed barrels, and to seal such as should be brought to them. 
Whoever used unsealed barrels or bushels was to forfeit thirteen 
shillings and four pence, and sit on the pillory ; and the measure and 
barrel deficient was to be broken and burnt. And for defective 


tveightSf it was ordained that the offender should be punished ac- 
cording to the statute in that case jM'ovided. 

An act of 5th October, 1646, declares, that merchants and others, 
as well Dutch as Englisli, practice deceit by diversity of weights and 
measures used by them ; and enacts, that no merchant or trader^ 
whether English or Dutch, shall trade with other weights and mea- 
sures, than according to the statute of parliament in such cases pro- 
vided. What this statute of parliament was, is explained by an act 
■of S3d March 1661-2, \vhich declares, that, *' Whereas dayly expe- 
** Hence shcweth that much fraud and deceit is practised in this co- 
<* lony by false weights and measures," for prevention thereof, no 
inhabitant, or trader hither, shall trade witii any other weights or 
measures than are used and made according to the statute of 12 
Henry VII. ch. 5. [the statute of 1496,] in that case provided; and 
that, for discovery of abuses, county conmiissioners shall provide 
sealed weights of half hundreds, quarternes, half qiiarternes, seaven 
pounds, fower pounds, two pounds, one pound, measures of ell and 
yard, of bushel, half bushel, peck, and gallon, of Winchester mea- 
sure ; gallon, pottle, quart, pint, half pint, of wine measure out of 
England ; to be kept by the first of every commission at the house, 
and a burnt mark of (cv.) and a stamp for leaden weights and pewter 
potts, whither all persons, not using weights and measures brought out 
of England, and sealed there, shall bring all their barrels (which 
are to contain five bushels) and other measures to be sealed and their 
€tillyards to be tried. Then follow penalties (in tobacco) for selling 
hy other than scaled weights and measures, and upon commissioners 
for not providing standards. 

Thus in Virginia, as in Maryland, the English statute of Henry 
VII. of 1496, has for near a century and a half been nominally the 
law of the land concerning weights and measures; while, at the 
same time, the actual weights and measures of c.ipacity have been 
copies from the standards in the Exchequer, not one of which has 
ever been conformable to the statute of 1496. And this very act of 
Virginia, of 1661, while establishing by law the exclusive troy 
A\eight, wine gallons, and never-made bushel, of the English act of 
1496, requires of the county commissioners to provide the avoirdu- 
pois weights and the IVinchcster measures of the English Exchequer. 

In the year 1734, a new and amendatory act *' for more effectual 
" obliging persons to buy and sell by weights and measures accord- 
** ing to the English standard," i*epeated all the principal provisions 
of the act of 1661, omitting, however, all reference to the English 
act of parliament of 1496. And since the Revolution, by an act of 
ihe legislature of Virginia, of 26th December, 1792, this act of 1734 
is continued, to remain in full force until the Congress of the United 
States shall have otherwise provided. 

Among the numerous wise and honorable examples, which the 
commonwealth of Virginia has given to her sister states of this 
Union, has been that of an undertaking to compile and publish a 
complete collection of her statutes at larger that is, of all the acta of 


her legislative asscniblios, from the first settlement of the colony to 
the present tin)e. This work is, at this time, in the process of pub- 
lication : and, besides exhibiting the series of all the direct proceed- 
ings for the regulation of weights and measures, contains a mass of 
information, sliedding light on every portion of our national history. 
TJie connection of weights and measures with the successive progress 
of this legislation, is more intimate and remarkable from tlie fact, 
that the original staple commodity of the colony, tobacco, was, for 
more than a century, not only merchandise, but money. It was the 
circulating medium of exchange ; and to a great degree so continued, 
until supplanted by the modern and less valuable article of bank 
paper. To trace the varieties of value, affixed to this article of to- 
bacco, in its character of a circulating medium, as rated by legisla- 
tive enactments, in comparative estimation with other articles of traf- 
fic, with the sterling currency of the mother country, with foreign 
coins of gold, silver, and copper, with the assessment of taxes, the 
levies of imposts, the wages of labor, and the compensations for pub- 
lic service, would be an incjuiry into facts of high and interesting cu- 
riosity, but too far transcending the immediate objects of Congress, 
to be properly comprised in this report. It must suffice to say, that 
the inspection laws relating to this article have been so numerous 
and so variant, tliat the collection of them would alone fill several 
volumes. The latest of these laws, and that which is now in force, 
is of 6th March, 1819, and provides, that the tobacco hogshead shall 
not be more than 54 inches long of the stave, nor more than 34 in- 
ches at the head within the crow, making reasonable allowance for 
prizing, not exceeding two inches above the gage in the prizing head ; 
and that it shall contain 1,250 pounds nett of tobacco, with certain 
allowances for shrinkage. 

The assize of casks for other articles, as in most of the other states 
in the Union, is regulated by different laws, adapted to the different 
articles. The barrel for tar, pitch, and turpentine, by an act of 26th 
December, 1792, must contain 31^ wine gallons, the precise nominal 
dimensions of the old English wine barrel or half hogshead, as pre- 
scribed by acts of parliament time out of mind. But, by the same 
act of 1792, barrels for beef and pork are to contain 204 pounds nett 
of meat, with an allowance of 2i per cent, for shrinkage ', and are to 
he of capacity from 29 to 31 gallons. By another act of 28th De- 
cember, 1795, barrels for fish are to be of not less than 30, nor more 
than 32 gallons. By an act of 8th January, 1814, the barrel of salt 
is to contain five bushels ; agreeing thereby with the primitive Vh'- 
ginian corn barrel of 1631. But an act of 18th February, 1819, now 
requires that the barrels for bread, flour, or Indian meal, should be 
made of staves 27 inches long, and be of \7h inches diameter at 
the head, and contain 196 pounds of flour or meal. 

The size of staves and heading is regulated by an act of 21st Feb- 
niaiy, 1818, as follows^ 


Staves — long butt, from 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 9 inches long, 
from 5 to 6 inches broad, 
from 2 to 22 inches tliick, 
Short butt I ^^^^^^ ^ ^^^^ g j^ ^ jgg^ g jj^^jjg^ ^ 
and pipe J ^' 

from 3 to 4 inches broad, 
from 4 of an inch to 14 thick. 
Hogshead — from 3 feet 6 to 3 feet 9 inches long, 
from 3 to 4 inches wide, 
from 3 to li inch thick. 
Barrel — from 2 feet 8 to 2 feet 10 inches long, 
not less than 3 inches wide, 
not less than i of an inch thick in any place. 
Heading — of 28, 30, 32, in due proportion, and not more 
than 34 inches long, 
from 5 to 7 inches broad, dressed and clean of 
sap, and from ^ to 1 i inch thick. 


The only law of this state relating to weights and measures, a 
knowledge of which has been obtained, was enacted prior to the Ame- 
rican revolution, during the administration of Governor Gabriel 
Johnston, and is yet in force. It prohibits the use, in trade, by all 
the inhabitants or traders within the province, of any weights and 
measures other than are made and used according to the standard in the 
English Exchequer, and the statutes of England in that case provid- 
ed. It charges the justices of the county courts to provide, at the 
char-ge of each county, sealed weights of half hundred, quarter of 
hundred, seven pounds, four pounds, two pounds, one pound, and 
half pound ; measures of ell and yard, of brass or copper, measures 
of half bushel, peck, and gallon, of dry measure, and a gallon, pottle, 
quart, and pint, of wine measure. It prescribes the appointment of 
standard-keepers in each county, to whom all weights and measures 
of the inhabitants are to be brought to be sealed, and who are to be 
sworn to the faithful discharge of their duties : and it subjects to 
suitable penalties the various offences of falsifying weights and mea- 
sures, or of trading with such as have not been duly tried by the 
standard and sealed. It also repeals all former laws of the province 
upon the subject. 


By an act of 12th April, 1768, the public treasurer was required to 
procure, of brass or other proper metal, one weight of 50 pounds, one 
of 25 pounds, one of 14 pounds, two of 6 pounds, two of 4 pounds, two 
of 2 pounds, and two of 1 pound, avoirdupois weight, according to the 
standard of London ; and one bushel^ one half bushel, one peck, and 


ffne half peck measures, according to the standard of London. The 
weights were to be stamped or marked in figures denominating their 
weight, and to be kept by the public treasurer : and by these weights 
and measures, declared to be the standards, all others in the province 
were to be regulated. By another act, of 17th March, 1785, subse- 
quent to the Revolution, the justices of the county courts were au- 
thorized to regulate weights and measures within their respective ju- 
risdictions, and to enforce the observance of their regulations by ade- 
quate penalties. 


An act of the state legislature of 10th December, 1803, declares 
the standard of weights and measures established by the corporations 
of the cities of Savannah and Augusta to be the fixed standard of 
weights and measures within the state ; and that all persons buying 
and selling shall use that standard until the Congress of the United 
States shall have made provision on that subject. It directs the jus- 
tices of the inferior courts, in the respective counties, to obtain stand- 
ards conformable to those of the corporation of one of those cities j 
and prescribes regulations for keeping the standards, and for trying, 
marking, and sealing, by them, the weights and measures of indivi- 
duals, with penalties for using, in traffic, any others not correspond- 
ing with them. 

An ordinance of the city council of Augusta directs that all weights 
for weighing any articles of produce, or merchandise, shall be of the 
avoirdujwis standard w^eights ; and all measures for liquor, whether 
of wine or ardent spirits, of the wine measure standard j and all mea- 
sures for grain, salt, or other articles usually sold by the bushel, of 
the dry, or Winchester measure standard. And it prohibits the use 
of any other than brass or iron weights, thus regulated, or weights 
of any other description than those of 50, 25, 14, 7, 4, 2, 1, i, ^', 
pound, 2 ounces, 1 ounce, and downwards. 


An act of the legislature, of 11th December, 1798, reciting in its 
preamble that Congress are empowered by tlie federal constitution to 
fix the standard of weights and measures, and that they had not pass- 
ed any law for that purpose, recognizes, as thereby remaining in 
force within that commonwealth, the act of the General Assembly of 
Virginia, of the year 1734. 

It therefore authorizes and directs the governor to procure one set 
of the weights and measures specified by the Virginian act of 1734, 
with measures of the length of one foot and one yard ; and declares 
that the bushel dry measure shall contain 2150| solid inches, and the 
gallon of wine measure 231 inches. It provides that these standards 
shall be kept by the secretary of state of tJic commonwealth ; that 


the governor shall cause to he made and transmitted to each county, 
scales and standards conformahle to those of the state, which are to 
be kept by persons to be appointed by the county courts, and with 
which all the weights and measures, used in trade by individuals, are 
to be made to correspond. 


From a communication received from the governor of tbe state of 
Termessee, it appears that there is in that state no standard of weights 
and measures fixed by the legislature. 


The only act of the legislature of the state of Ohio, on this subject, 
is of 22d January, 1811. It directs the county commissioners of 
each county in the state to cause to be made one half bushel measure, 
to contain 107 5 j\ solid inches, which is to be kept in the county seat, 
and to be called the standard. 


Before the accession of Louisiana to the union of these states, the 
weights and measures used in the province were those of France, of 
tlie old standard of Paris. An account of these, and of the present 
state of the weights and measures in the state of Louisiana, is sub- 
mitted in the appendix to this report. 

By an act of the legislature of 21st December, 1814, the governor 
of the state was required to procure, at the expense of the state, 
weights and measures corresponding with those used by the revenue 
officers of the United States, togetlier with scales and a seal, to be 
deposited in the custody of the secretary of the state, to serve a-s the 
general standard for the state. 

Provision was also made by the same act for the appointment of an 
inspector at New Orleans, and for furnishing standards to the seve- 
ral parishes throughout the state. 

By the last section of this act, a special dry measure is ordained, 
by the name of a barrel, to contain three and a quarter bushels, ac- 
cording to the American standard, and to be divided in half and quar- 
ter barrel. The capacity of this measure, containing, according to 
the law, 6988.86 cubic inches, is referrible to none of the usual dry 
measures of the ancient Paris standard ; but corresponds with tolera- 
ble exactness with the ancient Bordeaux half-hogshead, and witli the 
assize of barrels prescribed by almost all the states of the Union, for 
packing beef, pork, and flour, for exportation. 


An act of the territorial legislature, of 17th September, 1807, au- 
thorized the courts of common pleas of the respective counties in the 


territory, whenever they niij>'ht think it necessary, to procure a set of 
measures and weiejhts for tljc use of the county ; namely, one measure 
of one foot, or twelve inches English measure, so called ; one measure 
of thi-ee feet, or thirty-six inches English measure; one half hushcl 
for dry measure, to contain 1075] solid inches ; one gallon measure, 
to contain 231 solid inches ; the measures to he of wood, or any me- 
tal, as the court may think proper ; also, one set of avoirdupois 
■weights, to be sealed with the name or initial letters of the county. 
These weights and measures were to be kept by the clerks of the 
county courts, for the purpose of trying and sealing those used in 
their counties. After due notice given by the courts tliat these stand- 
ards had been procured, all persons were proliibited from buying or 
selling by weights or measures not corresponding with them : and 
the clerk was to try and seal all weights or measures brought to him 
therefor corresponding with the standard. This act was to continue 
in force till Congress should otherwise provide. 

The provisions of this act are, in substance, and nearly to the let- 
ter, repeated in an act of tlie state legislature, of 21st January, 1818. 

There is also an act of 24th December, 1816, regulating the in- 
spection of tobacco ; and one of 2d January, 1819, regulating the in- 
spection of flour, beef, and pork. The assize of hogsheads and of 
casks, prescribed in them, is the same as that of the Virginia laws. 


An act of the territorial legislature, of 4th February, 1807, di- 
rected the treasurer to procure a set of the large avoirdupois weights, 
according to the standard of the United States, ii one were establish- 
ed, but if there were none such, according to the standard of London, 
•with proper scales for weights ; together with measures of foot and 
yard, dry measures of capacity, and liquid wine measures. He was 
also required to furnish each county in the territory with a set of 
weights, scales, and measures, conformable to the above standards, 
to be kep.t by a person appointed by the county courts, under oath, 
and accessible to all persons desirous of having their weights and 
measures tried and sealed. Penalties were also annexed to the use of 
weights and measures not corresponding with these standards. 

A subsequent act, of 23d December, 1815, further required of the 
treasurer to procure six sets of the weights and measures as above 
described, and to distribute them at suitable places in the several 
counties of the territory ; and additional penalties were prescj-ibed 
for the use of weights and measures not corresponding with the 

An act of the legislature of the state of Mississippi, of 6th Februa- 
ry, 1818, "to provide for inspections, and for other purposes," con- 
tains many other regulations for the keeping of the standard weights 
and measures, and for securing conformity to them. It makes no al- 
teration of the standard, but confirms, ** until Congress shall fix a 


*'^ standard for the United States," that which had already been esta- 
blished. It also requires that barrels of flour should contain 196 
pounds nett; and barrels of pork and beef 200 pounds nett of meat. 


The territorial act of 17th September, 1807, passed while the state 
of Illinois formed a part of the Indiana territory. 

But by an act of the legislature of this state ** regulating weights 
" and measures," of 22d March, 1819, the county commissioners of 
each county in the state were required to procure, at the expense of 
the county, one foot and one yard English measure ; a gallon liquid 
or wine measure, to contain 231 cubic inches; corresponding quart, 
pint, and gill measures, of some proper and durable metal ; a half 
bushel dry measure, to contain eighteen quarts, one pint, and one gill, 
wine measure, or 1075.2 cubic inches, and a gallon dry measure, 
to contain one-fourth part of the half bushel, these two measures to 
be of copper, or brass ; also, a set of weights, of one pound, one half 
pound, one eighth pound, and one sixteenth pound, made of brass or 
iron, the integer of which to be denominated one pound avoirdupois, 
and to equal in weight 7,020 grains troy, or gold weight. These 
Aveights and measures are to be kept by the clerk of the county com- 
missioners, for trying and sealing the measures and weights in com- 
mon use. 

All persons are authorized to have their w eights and measures tried 
by the standards, and sealed ; and are forbidden, upon suitable pe- 
nalties, to buy or sell by others not corresponding with them. 

The most remarkable peculiarity of this act is, its departure from 
the English standard weights by fixing the avoirdupois pound at 
7,020 instead of 7,000 grains troy. 


This state having formed a part of the Mississippi territory, pre- 
viously to the admission of the state of Mississippi into the Union in 
1817, the acts of that territory of 4th February, 1807, and 23d De- 
cember, 1815, embraced this section of territory. No act of the state 
legislature of Alabama, on this subject, is known to have been passed. 


The territorial legislature, by an act of 28th July, 1813, directed 
the several courts of common pleas within the territory to provide, 
for and at the expense of the respective counties, one foot and one yard 
English measures; one half bushel, to contain 1075| solid inches, 
for dry measure ; one gallon, to contain 231 solid inches, and smaller 
liquid measures in proportion ; to be of wood, or any metal the court 


should think proper; also, otie set of avoirdupois wcii^lits, and one 
seal, with the initial of the county inscrihcd thereon : all to he kept 
by the clerks of the coui-ts of common pleas, or circuit courts, for the 
purposes of trying and sealing the measures and weights used in their 

The use, or keeping to huy or sell, of weights or measures not cor- 
responding with these standards, after due notice, w as prohibited un- 
der penalties by the same acts ; but with a proviso, that all contracts 
or obligations, made previous to the taking effect of the act, should 
be settled, paid, and executed, agieeably to the weights and measures 
in common use when the contracts or obligations were made or en- 
tered into. 


By the act of Congress of 27th February, 1801, concerning the 
District of Columbia, the laws of the state of Virginia, as they then 
existed, were continued in force in the part of tlie District whicli had 
been ceded by that state, and the laws of Maryland in the part of the 
District ceded by Maryland. 

The act to incorporate the inhabitants of the city of Washington, 
of 3d May, 1802, authorizes the corporation to provide for the safe 
keeping of the standard of weights and measures fixed by Congress, 
and for the regulation of all weights and measures used in the city. 

The supplementary act, of 24th February, 1804, gives the city 
council power to establish and regulate the inspection of flour, to- 
bacco, and salted provisions; and the gauging of casks and liquors. 

And by the act of 4th May, 1812, further to amend the charter of 
the city of Washington, further power is given to the corporation to 
regulate the measurement of, and the weight by which, all articles 
brought into the city for sale shall he disposed of. 

The weights and measures of tl^e city have, accordingly, been re- 
gulated by various acts of the corporation, conformably to the stand- 
ard used in the state of Maryland. The inspection laws, the assize 
of tobacco hogsheads and flour casks, the dimensions of bricks and 
of cord w^ood, are all formed upon the same model. The weight of 
bread is adapted once a month to the price of flour : but by a special 
ordinance, all coal for sale within the city is sold by a measure con- 
taining five struck-standard half bushels, stamped and marked by the 
sealer of weights and measures, and the stricken measure of which 
is considered as two bushels. 

As preliminary remarks, in reference to that part of the resolutions 
of both Houses, which requires the opinion of the Secretary of State 
with regard to the measures which it may be proper for Congress to 
adopt in relation to weights and measures, it may be proper to state 
the extent of what can be done by Congress. Their authority to act 


is comprised in one line of the constitution, being the fifth paragraph 
of the eighth section and first article ; in the following words: ** tojix 
the standard of weights and measures.''* 

It may admit of a doubt whether under this grant of power is in- 
cluded an authority so totally to sub\'^rt the whole system of weights 
and measures as it existed at the time of the adoption of the constitu- 
tution, as would be necessary for the introduction of a system similar 
to that of the French nation. To^x the standard, appears to be an 
operation entirely distinct from changing the denominations and pro- 
portions already existing, and established by the laws, or immemo- 
rial usage. And this doubt acquires a further claim to consideration, 
if it be true, as the experience of other nations seems to warrant us in 
the conclusion, that there is no object of regulation by human power, 
in which the prescriptions of a government are so difficult to be car- 
ried into execution. Throughout Europe, in tlie most absolute as 
well as in the freest governments, every historical research presents 
a fruitless struggle on the part of authority to introduce order and 
uniformity : and an unconquerable adherence of custom to the diver- 
sities of usage among the people. There is perhaps less of this diver- 
sity in the United States, than in any country in Europe. At the 
adoption of the constitution all the weights and measures in common 
use throughout the United States were derived, either by the statutes 
of the states, or by an invariable usage, which had supplied the place 
of law, from the standards in the English exchequer. Hence, the 
English foot, divided into twelve inches, was the unit of all measures 
of matter in length, breadth, or thickness. Its various multiples of 
the yard, ell, perch, pole, furlong, acre, and mile, were all recog- 
nized by the laws, and in the familiar use of the people. The avoir- 
dupois and troy weights with the difference of modification of the 
latter as used for weighing the precious metals or apothecary's drugs 
in retail, the wine gallon of 231, and the beer gallon of 282 solid 
inches, were equally well known, and in general use, and the Win- 
chester bushel, of 2150.42 solid inches, formed the general standard 
of all the dry measures of capacity. 

In many of the states the standards established by statute had 
been procured from the court of exchequer ; and the only variety dis- 
cernible in the legislation of the states on this subject, arises from a 
difference existing in the several standai'ds of the same measures at 
the exchequer, and at Guildhall in London. 

In the exercise of the authority of Congress, with a view to the 
general principle of uniformity, there are four different courses of 
proceeding which appear to be practicable. 

1. To adopt, in all its essential parts, the new French system of 
weights and measures, founded upon the uniformity of identity. 

2. To restore and perfect the old English system of weights, mea- 
sures, moneys, and silver coins, founded upon the uniformity of pro- 

3. To devise and establish a system, in which the uniformities of 
identity and of proportion shall be combined together, by adaptations 
of parts of each system to the prmciples of the other. 


4. To adhere, without any innovation whatever, to our existing 
\veights and measures, merely fixing the standard. 

1. In the review which has been taken, and the comparison which 
has been submitted to Congress, between the old English, and the 
new French, or as they may w ith more propriety be called, the an- 
cient aud the modern systems of metrology, it has been the endeavor 
of this report to show, that, while each of these systems embraces prin- 
ciples of the highest importance, neither of them includes all the ele- 
ments resulting from the nature of the relations between man and 
things as created beings, and between man and man in society, ming* 
ling in the purposes to which weights and measures are applicable. 
The opinion lias been expressed, that the uniformity of proportion in 
the ancient system, uniting weight and measure by the relative gra-» 
Tity, extension, and numbers, incident to dry and liquid substances, 
possessed advantages, of which the uniformity of identity in the mo- 
dern system was entirely deprived ; that the property of the ancient 
system, by which the money weight and the silver coin were the same, 
the most useful of all uniformities of which weights, measures, money, 
and coins are susceptible, was very imperfectly adapted to tire modern 
system of France ; that the French system, admirable as it is, look- 
ed, in its composition, to weights and measures, more as exclusively 
matters of account, than as tests of quantity ; that, in its eagerness 
for extreme accuracy in the relations between things, it lost sight a 
little of the relations of weights and measures with the physical or- 
ganization, the wants, comforts, and occupations of man ; that, in its 
exclusive partialities for decimal arithmetic, it forgot the inflexible 
independence and the innumerable varieties of the forms of nature, 
and that she would not submit to be trammelled for the convenience 
of the counting house. The experience of the French nation under 
the new system has already proved, that neither the immutable stand- 
ard from the circumference of the globe, nor the isochronous vibra- 
tion of the pendulum, nor the gravity of distilled water at its maximum 
of density, nor the decimation of weights, measures, moneys, and 
coins, nor the unity of weight and measure of capacity, nor yet all 
these together, are the only ingredients of practical uniformity for a 
system of weights and measures. It has proved, tliat gravity and 
extension w ill not walk togetlier with the same staff ; that neither the 
square, nor the cube, nor the circle, nor the sphere, nor the revolu- 
tions of the earth, nor the harmonies of the heavens, will, to gratify 
the pleasure, or to indulge tlie indolence of man, be restricted to com- 
putation by decimal numbers alone. 

The substitution of an entire new system of weights and measures, 
instead of one long established and in general use, is one of the most 
arduous exercises of legislative authority. There is indeed no diffi- 
culty in enacting and promulgating the law ; but tiie difficulties of 
carrying it into execution are always great, and have often proved 
insuperable. Weights and measures may be ranked among the ne- 
cessaries of life, to every individual of human society. They enter 
into the economical arrangements and daily concerns of cvci'y family.. 


They are necessary to every occupation of human industry; to the 
distribution and security oi' every species of property ; to every 
transaction of trade and commerce ; to the labors of the husbandman 5 
to the ingenuity of the artificer; to the studies of tlie philosopher; to 
the researches of the antiquarian ; to the navigation of the mariner, 
and the marches of the soldier ; to all the exchanges of peace, and all 
the operations of war. The knowledge of them, as in established 
use, is among the first elements of education, and is often learnt by 
those who learn nothing else, not even to j-ead and write. This know- 
ledge is rivettedin the memory by tlie habitual application of it to the 
employments of men throughout life. Every individual, or at least 
every family, has the vveiglits and measures used in the vicinity, and 
recognized by the custom of the place. To change all this at once, is 
to affect the well-being of every man, woman, and child, in the com- 
munity. It enters every house, it cripples every hand. No legisla- 
tor can attempt it with any prospect of success, or any regard to jus- 
tice, but upon two indispensable conditions : one, that he shall furnish 
every individual citizen easy access to the new standards which take 
the place of the old ones ; and the other, that he shall enable him to 
kjiow the exact proportion between the old and the new. A multi- 
plication of standard copies to a great extent is indispensable; and 
the distribution of them throughout the country, so that they maybe 
within the means of acquisition to every citizen, is among the duties 
of the government undertaking so great a change. Tables of equa- 
lization mnst be circulated in such a manner as to find their way into 
every house ; and a revolution must be effected in the use of books for 
elementary education, and in all the schools where the first princi- 
ples of arithmetic may be taught. All this has been done in France ; 
and all this might be done perhaps with more ease in the United 
States. But, were the authority of Congress unquestionable to set 
aside the whole existing system of metrology, and introduce a new 
one, it is believed that the French system has not yet attained that 
perfection which would justify so extraordinary an effort of legislative 
power at this time. 

The doubts entertained whether an authority, so extensive as this 
operation would require, has been delegated to Congress, are strength- 
ened by the consideration of the character of the executive power, 
corresponding with the legislative authority. The means of execu- 
tion for exacting and obtaining the conformity of individuals to the 
ordinances of the law, in the case of weights and measures, belong 
to that class of powers which, in our complicated political organiza- 
tion, are reserved to the separate states. The jurisdictions to which 
resort must be had for transgressions of this description of laws, are 
those of municipal police. In England they were originally of tlie 
resort of views of frankpledge in every separate manor, and have 
since been transferred to the clerks of the market and to the justices 
of the peace. The sealers of weights and measures, oflicers who have 
the custody of the standards, and the authority to compare with them, 
from time to time, the weights and measures used by individual**, aird 


to prosecute for all ofTencesby variations from the standards, and the 
courts before whom all siicli oflciiccs arc ti-iahle, arc institutions not 
only exist in j^ in almost every state in the Union, but essentially be- 
lonj^ing to that portion of public authority suited to the state admi- 
nistration rather tlian to that of the Union. It is a general princi- 
ple of our constitutions, that, with every delegation of legislative au- 
thority, a co-extensivc power of execution has been granted. AlTairis 
of municipal and domestic concern have, for obvious reasons, been 
reserved to the state authoi-ities ; and of tliis character arc most of 
the regulations and penal sanctions for securing conformity to the 
standai'ds of weights and measures. In^x/?i^ the standard^ it is be- 
lieved that Congress must rely almost entirely, if not altogether, 
upon state executive authorities, for carrying their law into execu- 
tion. And, although tins reliance may be safely indulged in I'elation 
to a law which should merely fix the uniformity of existing standards, 
its efticacy would be very questionable in the case of a law of great 
and universal imiovation upon the habits and usages of the people. 
Of such a law the transgressions could not fail to be numerous ; any 
doubt of the authority of the legislator would stimulate to systematic 
resistance against it : and the power of eiiforcing its execution being 
in other hands, naturally disposed to sympathise with the offender, 
the whole system would fall into ruin, and afford a new demonstra- 
tion of the impotence of human legislation against the laws of nature, 
in the habits of man. 

2. The restoration of the old English, which was also the Greek 
and Roman, system of weights, measures, and silver coins, founded 
upon the uniformity of proportion, would require an exercise of au- 
thority no less transcendent than the introduction of the French sys- 
tem. Its advantages were, the identity of the money weight and 
silver coin, the wine gallon at once a multiple of the money weight, 
and an aliquot part of the cubic foot ; and its proportions of the mo- 
ney and commercial pounds, and of the wine and corn gallons, to the 
lelativc specific gravity of wine and wheat. But, as all these combi- 
nations were founded upon the assumption that the relative gravity of 
wheat to wine was as 4 to 5, and that the gravity of wine and of spring 
water was the same ; and as it allowed of the making of the wine 
gallon by the two processes, by the weight of wheat multiplied, and 
by the weight of the cubic foot of water divided, the result of the two 
processes was not exactly the same. The Irish gallon, of 217.6 
inches, was made by one process ; and thQ Rumford gallon, of 266.25, 
was its corresponding corn and ale measure. A wine gallon of 219.5 
rubic inches was made by assuming 252 gallons as the measure of 
the toil, or 32 cubic feet ; and its coi-responding corn measure was 
the Winchester bushel, with an ale gallon of 268. The Winchester 
bushel is the only existing relic of the old English system, which has 
outlived all the clianges of the lav.s, and all the revolutions of ages. 
Should that be retained, and its contents fixed at 2148.5, to restore 
and perfect the whole system by an exact combination of the two 
modes of forming the water gallon, without regard to the weight of 
10 '■ * ' 


wine, would require a liquid gallon of 219.5 inches, a dry gallon of 
268.5, a money pound of 5714. 28, and a commercial pound of 6944^44 
grains troy. This money pound shouhl then be made the weight of 
the unit of silver coins, of a settled standard purity, and might be 
decimally divided, lilie our present silver coins, and decimally or duo- 
decimally divided as a weight. Or, the ton might be declared to con- 
tain 256 gallons, of 216 cubic inches ; in which case the money pound 
would be of 5625, and the commercial pound of 6836 grains troy ; the 
corn and ale gallon of 262.5, and the bushel of 2100 cubic inches. If 
the old easterling 13-and 15 ounce pounds should be restored, and the 
gallon, according to its primitive composition, be made to contain 
ten 12 ounce pounds of wine, it would then be, considering the gravi- 
ty of wine as of 250 grains troy to a cubic inch, of the same capacity 
of 216 cubic inches. It would also contain eight 15 ounce pounds, of 
6750 grains troy; but the proportion between the two pounds would 
not be exactly that between the gravity of wheat and wine. The 
wine gallon, filled with eight 12 ounce pounds of wheat, would con- 
tain, in wine, eight pounds, not of 6750, but of 6608 grains ; and, if 
divided into fifteen ounces, the ounce would not be the easterling, but 
the avoiidupois ounce. 

3. The proportions between the existing troy and avoirdupois 
weights, and between the wine gallon of 231, and the beer gallon of 
282 cubic inches, are more exactly those between the specific gravity 
of wheat and of spring water, than were the easterling pounds of 10 
and 15 ounces, or those of the primitive gallon of2l6 inches with 
the ale gallon deduced from the Winchester bushel. They are exact, 
to the utmost degree of precision ; but these proportions are without 
use. Neither does the wine gallon contain an exact number of pounds 
©f wine, nor is the beer gallon an aliquot part of the bushel. These 
were proportions, in their origin, of great usefulness, but imperfectly 
settled. The whimsical operation of time and human laws upon 
them has been to make the proportions perfect, but to render them 
useless. There are, nevertheless, very useful proportions in our ex- 
isting weights and measures, one of wiiich is between the ton measure 
of water and the pound avoirdupois. As 1,000 ounces avoirdupois 
weigh exactly one cubic foot of water, it follows that the ton of 2,000 
pounds weight is the ton of 32 cubic feet measure. Tlie other is be- 
tween the pound avoirdupois and the pound troy ; the former con- 
sisting of precisely 7,000 grains troy. The pound avoirdupois is 
therefore the connecting link between weight and linear measure. 
It is at once a test and standard of the cubic foot, of the ton measure, 
and of the troy weight j while the foot, the ton, and the troy vyeight, 
are each, by this connecting link, tests and standards of each other, 
and of the avoirdupois pound. But tlie thirty-two cubic feet, which 
arc at once the ton weiglit of two thousand pounds, and the ton mea- 
sure of water, are not sufiicicnt, as measure, to contain the same 
weight of wlicat. Tiic bushel is the measure containing the same weight 
of wheat which the cubic foot contains of water. Thirty-two bush- 
»:Is, therefoi'c, contain the ton weight, of two thousand pounds avoir- 


dupois : but they would make a ton measure within a small fraction 
of o9 cubic feet. 

The avoirdupois pound of 16 ounces, and of 7,000 j^rains troy, is 
used, however, only for quantities of less than a quarter of a hundred 
pounds. It tlicn receives an accession of 12 per cent, on its quanti- 
ty : the quarter of a lunidrcd contains 28 pounds, the hundred 112, 
and the ton of 2,000 actually cor.tains 2,240. If the hundred and 
twelve pounds should be considered as a nett hundred, each pound 
would be of 7,840 grains troy weiejht, and would bring it within one- 
quarter of an ounce tr-oy to the weight of tiie French half kilogramme 
or usual pound. If the wine gallon were, as under the statute of 
1406 it should have been, and as the Guildhall gallon before the sta- 
tute of 5 Anne actually was, of 224 inches, it would have had two 
further useful coincidences: it would have contained just eight pounds 
avoirdupois of wine ; eight pounds ti'oy weight of wheat ; and a num- 
ber of cubic inches in decimal subdivision to the number of pound?* 
avoirdupois in the ton of 2,240, or twenty hundred of 1 12 pounds. 

There are two changes, therefore, in our existing weights and 
measures, which would restore and perfect tlie system of ancient 
metrology ; one, to maketlie troy weight the unit of our silver coins, 
in which case it might be decimally divided as coin, retaining its di- 
visions into ounces, pennyweights, and gi*ains, as a weight ; and the 
ot."er, to restore the wine gallon of 224 inches, with its corresponding 
ale gallon of 272, and bushel of 2,176 inches. 

But it has been already remarked, tliat in the ancient system, 
founded on the uniformity of proportion between the relative exten- 
sion and gravity of wlieat and wine, there were, in the double sets of 
weights and measures of capacity, two advantages; one, of a general 
nature, resulting from it as proportional, without reference to the 
articles selected for settling the proportions; and the other special, 
arising from the selection of wheat and wine as the articles. The 
first belongs to every proportional system, of which the proportion 
between the standards is accurately ascertained, and consists in this, 
that each weight and each measure is a test and standard for all the 
others. The second depends on the selection of the articles, and is 
limited to the conveniences and facilities of trade, commerce, and na- 
vigation, as incidental to them. Reasons have been suggested, why 
the two articles of wheat and wine should have been selected in the 
primitive system, as heir g, from the nature and physical constitution 
of man, the first, and, for many ages, the greatest and most important 
articles of trafiic. The necessity for establishing a proportion be- 
tween the relative weight and measure of those articles, was also dic- 
tated by the practice of transporting them both by sea in ships. 

The space in cubic feet which would be filled by a determinate 
weight of each of them was an object of essential importance to be 
known, not as a philosophical theory, but for every mechanical ope- 
ration of the commerce. The size of the cask must be adapted to the 
capacity and the burthen of the ship : and when the ton weight of 
wine bad been adapted to the ton measure of water, it became of the* 


utmost use to make the measure of corn so correspond with the cask 
of wine, as to contain tlie same determinate quantities by weight. 
But in modern times, and especially to these United States, neither 
wheat nor wine is an article of primary importance in domestic 
trade, or in foreign commerce. Whatever may be the capacities of 
our country for producing wine, they have hitherto scarcely been 
discovered. Tea and coffee have taken the place of wine as com- 
forts, or next to necessaries of life ; and have degraded that article 
into the class of luxuries. We import little, and export none of it. 
We receive it in the casks of the several countries from wliicli it 
conies : and although the laws of some of our states, as well as those 
of England, still exhibit the absurdity of requiring that the hogshead 
should contain 63 wine gallons of 231 cubic inches, because it once 
contained 63 gallons of 219^ inches, yet no one complains that the 
real hogshead is just what it was 600 years ago, without either swell- 
ing to tiie dimensions of queen Anne's cubic inches, or contracting 
tlie gravity of its contents to the troy weight of Henry the Seventh. 
We raise vast quantities of wheat, but export it almost exclusively iu 
its manufactured state of fiour. The weight of wine is, between the 
i)uyer and seller, never a subject of inquiry. We have universally 
theWinchester bushel, defined by the 1 3 William HI, of 2,150.42 cubic 
inches, with the single exception of the state of Connecticut, whose 
standard bushel is very near 2,198 inches. And the laws of many of 
the states require, that the bushel should contain 60 pounds avoirdu- 
pois of wheat. Should a standard bushel now be made in the manner 
described in the statute of 1266, it would be a measure of 2,148.5 
cubic inches, and would contain 60§ avoirdupois j)ounds of wheat. 
The relative proportion between the extension and specific gravity of 
wheat and wine is to us, therefore, of no importance or use in our 
system of weights and measures. When the wine gallon contained 
a determinate weight of the liquor, and was at the same time a 63d 
part of eight cubic feet, there were motives of convenience and utility 
in using another measuiefor ale and beer, which, being brewed from 
grains, had natural proportions to the measures used for them. It 
was natural, therefore, to employ the eighth part of the measure of 
the bushel as the beer gallon, though at the^ same time a vessel of 
smaller size was used for the measurement of wine. But since the 
weight of wine, and the proportions of its measuring vessel to the 
cubic foot, have ceased to be of any account, there is no purpose of 
utility answered by the employment of two different measures for dif- 
ferent fluids ; while there is great tendency to error and fraud in the 
use of two such measures, of the same materials and bearing the same 

4. Our system of weights and measures is, therefore, susceptible 
of great improvements, by restoring some of the principles which 
belonged to the system from which it was originally derived. It is 
perhaps still more improvable, by the adoption of some of tlie prin- 
ciples contained in the new French metrology. There is no doubt 
that the decimal divisions might be introduced to great advantage 


tooth into linear measure by the ad()])tion of the metre, and into 
weiajlits, by identifying the money weis^ht with the silver coin. It is 
believed that a system, en)bracin.e: the essential advantas^es of all the 
three, might, without much dilKculty, be combined ; and that it would 
be better adapted than citlier of them, to the use of all human kind, 
and thus secure, in its utmost possible extent, the uniformity with 
reference to j)ersons. 

Weights and measures, and the final establishment of a system for 
tbem, with a view to the utmost practicable extent of uniformity, arc 
at this moment under the deliberative consido-ation of four poi)ulous 
and conunercial nations — Great Britain, France, Spain, and the 
United States. The interest is common to them all : the object of 
uniformity is the same to all. Could they agree upon one result, the 
advantages of that agreement would be great to each of them sepa- 
rately , and still greater in all their intercourse with one another. 
But this agreement can be obtained only by consultation and concert. 
It is, therefore, respectfully proposed, as the foundation of pi-oceed- 
ings necessary for securing ultimately to the United States a system 
of weights and measures which shall be common to all civilized na- 
tions, that the President of the United States be requested to com- 
municate, through the ministers of the United States, in France, 
Spain, and Great Britain, with the governments of those nations, 
upon the subject of weights and measures, with reference to the ])rin- 
ciple of uniformity as applicable to them. It is not contemplated by 
this proposal, that the communication should lead to any conventional 
stipulations or treaties ; but it is ho])ed that the comparison of ideas, 
and the mutual reciprocation of observation and reflection, may ter- 
minate in concurrent acts, by which, if even universal uniformity 
should be found impracticable, that which would be obtained by each 
nation would at least approximate nearer to perfection. 

In the mean time, should Congress deem it expedient to take im- 
mediate steps for accomplishing a more perfect uniformity of weights 
and measures within the United States, it is proposed that they should 
assume as their principle, that no innovation upon the existing 
weights and measures should be attempted. 

To fix the standard of weights and measures of the United States 
as they now exist, it appears that the act of Congress should embrace 
the following objects : 

1. To declare what are the weights and measures to which the 
laws of the United States I'cfer as the legal w eights and measures of 
the Union. 

2. To procure positive standards of brass, copper, or such other 
materials as may be deemed adviseahle, of the yard, bushel, wine 
and beer gallons, troy and avoii-dupois weights ; to be deposited in 
such public oflice at the seat of government as may be thougiit most 

3. To furnish the executive authorities of every state and territory 
with exact duplicates of the national standards deposited at the seat 
of government. 


4. To require, under suitable penal sanctions, that the weJ£^hts and 
measures used at all the custom-houses, and land surveys, and post 
offices, and, generally, by all officei's under the authority of the 
United States, in the execution of their laws, should be conformable 
to the national standards. 

5. To declare it penal to make or to use, with intent to defraud, 
any other weights and measures than such as shall he conformable to 
the standards. 

1. The existing w^eights and measures of all the states of this Union 
are derived from the exchequer, or from the laMs of Great Britain. 
The one common standard, from which they are all deduced, is the 
English foot, divided into twelve inches, and tlsrec of which constitute 
the yard. The positive standard yard is a brass rod of the year 1601, 
in the British exchequer. The unit of measure is the foot of twelve 
equal inches. The inch, by the English laws, is divided into three 
equal parts, called hajley-corns ; but this division is not used in prac- 
tice. The practical divisions of the inch, are, at option, binary, or 
decimal; that is, of halves, quarters, and eighths; or of tenths, hun- 
dredths, and thousandths. Tinrty-two cubic feet of spring water, at 
the temperature of 56 degrees of the thermometer of Fahrenheit, con- 
stitute the ton weight of two thousand pounds avoirdupois. Tlie 
pound avoirdupois consists of sixteen ounces ; tiie ounce, of sixteen 
drams. The pound avoirdupois is equal in weight to seven thousand 
grains troy, or to fourteen ounces, eleven pennyweights, sixteen 
grains troy. The troy pound consists of twelve ounces ; each ounce 
of twenty pennyweights, each pennyweight of twenty-four grains. 
It is otherwise divided for the use of apothecaries ; but the grain and 
the pound are the same. The troy pound is equal in weight to 1 3 
ounces and 2f drams avoirdupois. 

The bushel is a cylindrical vessel 18^ inches in diameter, and eight 
inches deep; or any vessel of 2,150.42 cubic inches. It is divided 
into four pecks, each peck into four pottles, each pottle into two 
quarts, eacli quart into two pints. 

The ale and beer gallon is a vessel of 282 cubic inches. It is di- 
vided into four quarts, each quart into two pints, each pint into four 

The wine gallon is a vessel of 231 cubic inches ; divided, like the 
beer gallon, into wine quarts, pints, and gills. 

Any cubic vessel of 12.9 inches in length, breadth, and thickness, 
is of equal contents with the Winchester bushel. Any cubic vessel 
of 6.55767, is of equaJ contents with the ale gallon. Any cubic vessel 
of 6.1 3579 is a wane gallon. 

For tlie purposes of the law, it will be sufficient to declare, that 
the English foot, being one-third part of the standard yard of 1601 
in the exchequer of Great Britain, is the standard unit of the mea- 
sures and weights of the United States; that an inch is a twelfth part of 
this foot ; that thirty-two cubic feet of spring water, at the temperature 
of 56 degrees of Fahrenheit's thermometer, constitute the ton weight, 
of 2,000 pounds avoirdupois; that tfee gross hundred of avoirdupois 


weight consists of 112 pounds, the half hundred of 56, and the quar- 
ter liujidred of 28, the eighth of a hundred of 14, and the sixteenth of 
a hundred of 7 pounds ; tliat the troy poujid consists of 5,76^ grains^ 
7,000 of which grains are of equal weight with the avoirdupois pound . 
that the bushel is a vessel of capacity of 2,150.42 cubic inches, th^ 
wine gallon a measure of 231, and the ale gallon a measure of 282 
cubic inches. 

The various modes of division of these measures and weights, the 
ell measure, and the application of the foot to itinerary, superficial, 
and solid measui^, producing the perch, rood, furlong, mile, acre, 
and cord ot wood, may he left to the established usage, or specifical- 
ly declared, as may he judged most expedient. The essential parts 
of the whole system are, the foot measure, spring water, the avoirdu- 
pois pound, and the troy grain. 

2. For the purpose of uniformity, it would be desirable to obtain 
a copy, as exact as the most accomplished art could make it, of the 
standard yard of 1601, in the exchequer of Great Britain, made of 
the same niaterial, brass, but divided with all practicable accuracy 
into three feet, and thirty-six inches, and each inch further divided 
into tenth and hundredth parts. This rod, with the words, ** stand- 
** ard yard measure of the United States — three feet — thirty-six 
*' inches :" and the date of the year engraved on one of its sides, 
should be enclosed in a wooden case, and deposited for safe-keeping 
in one of the offices at the Capitol. From the foot measure of this 
yard, the standard bushel, and two gallons, should be made. The 
avoirdupois pound, and the troy weight of 256 ounces, should be 
made exactly conformable to the standards in the exchequer. I'he 
weights of 56, 28, 14, and 7 pounds avoirdupois, should be made ex- 
act multiples of the pound weight. But no subdivisions of the bushel 
or gallons, or of the avoirdupois pound, should be placed among the 
standards. An enactment, that no subdivisions of the standards, other 
than in the due proportion to them, should be legal, would avoid the 
inconvenience and the varieties which multiplied material standards 
always produce. All the standards should, like the yard, have their 
names, as standards of the United States, the date of the year, and a 
designation of quantity engraved upon them. On the bushel, for in- 
stance, — " 2150^'*o\ c"bic inches^" on the wine and ale gallons, re- 
spectively, 231 and 282 inches; on the avoirdupois pound " 7,000 
** grains troy weight, avoirdupois pound," on the troy weights " 256 
" ouiices — 12 ounces, and 5,760 gjains to the pouml troy weights." 
These standards, all enclosed in suitable cases, to preserve them from 
injury, and, as effectually as possible, from decay, should be deposit- 
ed in the custody pf a sworn and responsible officer, with tiie stand- 
ard yard. 

3. These national standards being thus made and deposited, exact 
copies of them should be made of the same materials, substituting for 
the words *' standard of the United States," engraved upon the ori- 
ginals, the words " United States" standard, state "of :" and 

these copies should he transmitted to the executives of every state in 


the Union. The standard for the territories might leave the name of 
the state to he engraved when the territory should pass to that condi- 
tion : and the standards for the District of Columhia might properly 
he committed to the charge of the clerk of the supreme court of the 
United States. 

4. It should he made the duty of the collectors, surveyors, and na- 
val otRcersof the customs, the registers of the land offices, and receiv- 
ers of puhlic moneys, of the postmaster general, arid all postmasters, 
the quartermasters, and commanding officers at military posts of the 
army, the commanding officer and purser of every vessel of the navy, 
the commanding officer at the military academy, of all Indian agents, 
and of the marshals of the several judicial districts of the United 
States, to ascertain, and to certify in writing, upon oath, to the heads 
of their respective departments, that the weights and measures used 
by them, in the discharge of their official duties, are conformable t<r 
the standards of the United States. And to secure the future obser- 
vance of this uniformity, every such officer, civil or military, to be 
appointed hereafter, should, together with the oath to support the 
constitution of the United States, have administered to him an oath 
that he will, in the discharge of his official duties requiring the em- 
ployment of weights and measures, scales and beams, use such as are 
conformable to the legal standards of the United States, and not 
knowingly any others. To the penalties of removal from, and dis- 
qualification for office, might he added a right of action for damages, 
given' to any person injured by the wilful neglect or refusal of any 
such officer to observe the requisitions of the law. 

5. The offence of fraudulently or wilfully making or selling any 
w'eight, measure, scales, or beam, to be used as conformable to the 
United States' standards, and not conformable, might be made pun- 
ishable by fine and imprisonment, upon presentment and conviction 
before the circuit courts of the United States. 

The existing laws of all the states should be declared, so far as 
they are conformable to the act of Congress ^xi?t^ the standard, to 
remain unrepealed and in full force. All sealers of weights and mea- 
sures, and all persons appointed under the authority of the several 
states for the custody of standards, should be required to ascertain 
them to he conformable to the standards of the United States. It is 
scarcely possible that any law of the United States to establish uni- 
formity of weights and measures throughout the Union, should be 
madecifectual, without the cordial aid and co-operation of the state 
legislative and executive authorities. This is one of the most power- 
ful reasons whiclihave led to the conclusion, that, in fixing the stand- 
ard, all present innovation should be avoided. The standards of all 
the states are now, or by their laws should be, the same as those 
herein proposed, excepting only the Connecticut bushel, the change 
in which w ill be inconsiderable. Several of the states have systems 
well organized, and in full operation for the uniformity of their 
Aveights and measures. Tiie standards of many of them are incorrect j 
some from careless usage and decay ; others from heaving been copies 


of copies made witlioiit much attentiou to accuracy ; ami, others from 
having transferred to this country all the varieties of the original 
standards in the exchequer. The ohject of the act, the substance of 
which is now proposed to Congress, would be, to make the uniformi- 
ty already existing by the laws and usages of every part of the Union 
more effectual and perfect in point of fact. The table* of a return 
from the several custom houses of the United States will shew the 
extent of the existing varieties ; and while they add new demonstra- 
tion of the justness of the sentiment universally prevailing, that the 
authority delegated to Congress by the constitution, of fixing the stand- 
ard, should be exercised without delay, they also show that the best 
exercise of that authority will be by making it essentially auxiliary 
to the efficacy of the existing state laws. 

In the consultation which it is proposed that Hie President of the 
United States should be requested to authorize and conduct with fo- 
reign governments, with a view to future, more extonsive, and perfect 
uniforuiity, there is one object, which, it is presumed, may be accom- 
plished with little difficulty or expense, and by means of which the 
standard from nature of the new French system, the metre, may be 
engrafted upon our system without discomposing any of its existing 

In all the proceedings, whetlipr of learned and pliilosophical insti- 
tutions, or of legislative bodies, relating to weights and measures' 
within the last century, an immutable and invariable standard from 
nature of linear measure has been considered as the great desideratum 
for the basis of any system of metrology. It is one of the greatest 
merits of the French system to have furnished such a standard for the 
benefit of all mankind, in the metre, the ten millionth part of the 
quarter of the meridian. Of the labors, and researches, and liberal ex- 
pense, and art, and genius, which have been lavished by France upon 
this operation, and of tiie success with which it has been accomplished, 
the notice which it amply merited has already been taken in this re- 
port. Since this great and admirable undertaking has been achieved, 
a disposition to detract from its merit and usefulness has been occa- 
sionally manifested. Some philosophical speculators have started 
doubts whether the metre is really the forty millionth part of the cir- 
cumference of the earth ; and indeed whether such a measure can, with 
perfect accuracy, be ascertained by human art. Other standards 
{'rem nature have been suggested as preferable to the arc of the meri- 
dian : individual passions and antisocial prejudices have insinuated 
themselves into the inquiry : and the question between the metre and 
•the pendulum has almost festered into a test of party controversy, and 
an engine of national jealousy. In the establishment of the French 
system, the pendulum, as well as tlie meridian, has been measured ; 
but the standard was, after long deliberation, after a cool and impar- 
tial estimate of the comparative advantages and inconveniences of 
both, definitively assigned to the arc of the meridian, in departure 

* See Appendix. 
17 .... 


from an original prepossession in favor of the pendulnm. Two rea- 
sons are deemed decisive for concurring in tlie principle of this deter- 
mination ; one, that the eartli being the greatest object of actual mea- 
surement within the physical powers of man, an aliquot part of its 
circumference is the only measure, which, applicable to that object, 
is also equally applicable to every other purpose of weight or men- 
suration ; and the other, that this standard once settled is invariable, 
while the pendulum, being of different lengths in different latitudes, 
is essentially defective in one of the most important principles of uni- 
formity, that o( place or capacity of application to every part of the 

It is proposed, therefore, to discard all consideration of the pendu- 
lum : as the theory of its vibrations, however interesting in itself, is 
believed to be, since the definitive determination of the metre, useless, 
witii reference to any system of weights and measures. Nor is it of 
more importance to know whether the metre really be, within the ten 
thousandth part of an inch, an exact aliquot part of the circumference 
of the earth. An error to that, or even to a greater extent, ad- 
mitted to be possible, leaves for all practical purposes of human life, 
even including the operations of geography and astronomy, the me- 
tre as perfect a standard for weights and measures as any other that 
ever was devised, and a much more poi-foct ohc than the pendulum. 

It is therefore submitted to the consideration of Congress, that, in 
the act for fixing the standard of weights and measures for the United 
States, together with a definition of the foot, its exact proportion to 
the standard metre of France should be declared : to effect which pur- 
pose with the utmost attainable accuracy, it would be necessary to 
compare together the identical measure, to be used hereafter as the 
standard linear measure of the Union, with the standard metre in pla- 
tina, deposited in the national archives of France. It is not doubted 
that tiie French government would readily give their assent to this 
operation, and would agree that it should be i)crformed in such man- 
ner as to settle, definitively, for the future use of both countries, the 
exact proportion to the ten thousandth part of an inch, between the 
foot measure of the United States and the metre. From the perfec- 
tion which the instruments used for comparing together measures o-f 
length have attained, accuracy to that extent may be effected. But 
the necessity of sucli an operation for the definitive settlement of this 
proposition is ajjparent, from the fact, that the comparisons hitherto 
made in France, and in England, and in the United States, though 
all made with all possible care, have terminated in results so differ- 
ent, that it would scarcely be safe to assume either of them as the pro- 
portion to be declared by a legislative act. 

In the attempt to determine distances of spaceless thaa the 200th 
part of an inch, the experiment is met by obstacles, in the temperature 
and pressure of the atmospliere, and in the different degrees of their 
influence upon tlic matter to be measured. Heat and cold, moist and 
dry. high and low, affect the metals of which measures are composed 
Avith various degrees of dilatation and contraction. Brass, the metal 


of which the Eni>lish standards arc formed, beinj^ a compound metal, 
is variously dilatable: and, although tables have been formed of the 
degrees in which the snnple metals are expanded by heat, accoi-ding 
to the scale of the thermometer, }et, as tliose tables, made l)y difl'er- 
ent men, do not agree, no perfect reliance can be had upon them- As 
yet no experiments of admeasurement, made by different i)crsons, at 
different times, but of the same standards, have exhibited results, ap- 
proximating within one two-hundredth ])artof an inch : of a cojitrary 
result, the examples are numerous, and so remarkable that they de- 
serve to be noticed more jiarticularly. 

in the year 1797, sir George Shuckburg Evelyn measured, with 
Trnughton's microscopic beam compass and scale, all the standards 
at the exchequer; the scale made by Sisson for Graham in 1742, the 
parliamentai-y standards of 1758 by Bird, the scale used by general 
Roy for the measurement of the base, and several others. The result 
of his experiment was publislied in the transactions of tiie Royal So- 
ciety of that year. He found that the standard yard of Elizabeth at 
the exche(pier marked 36.015 inches, Bird's parliamentary standard 
of 1758, 36.00023, and general Roy's scale 36,00036, on the scale 
of Trough ton. 

In the year 1818, captain Henry Katcr, one of the commissioners 
of the prince regent, with the same microscope beam conij)ass of 
Troughton, measured the same scale of general Roy, and found 39.4 
inches on the latter to be equal to 39.40144 on the scale of Troughton. 
The difference between these two results is x^§|^^, or rather more 
than a hundredth ])art of an inch. Captain Kater, to account for it, 
supposes, that when sir George Shuckburg made the comparison, the 
two scales were not at the same temperature: but sir George Shuck- 
burg, in his own account of his experiments, expressly mentions his 
leaving together another of the scales with that of Troughton, by 
which he measured it 24 hours, that they might acquire the same tem- 
perature ; and marks the state of the thermometer (51.7) when he 
measured the scale of general Roy. Captain Kater states the ther- 
mometer, when he measured it, to have been at 70. 

A diffei'cnce equally striking has happened in the experiments 
made in France and England, to ascertain the relative proportions 
of the English foot and of the French metre. The result of numerous 
experiments, made in France under the direction of the National In- 
stitute, or Academy of Sciences, has been to announce the metre to 
be precisely equal to 39.3824 English inclies. The result of captain 
Kater's experiments, after numerous others under the direction ot the 
Royal Society, is the declaration, that the French metre is equal to 
39.3708 English inches. The difference is -r^^lo of an inch, more 
than one hundredth part, and as nea,r as possible the same as that of 
the experiments of captain Kater and •>f sir George Shuckburg Eve- 
lyn, upon the scales of Troughton and of general Roy. 

A very interesting account of experiments made in this country by 
Mr. Hassler, to ascertain the length of the metre, is subjoined to this 
report, from which the mean length of four standard metres was 


found to be 39.38024797 English inches upon a scale of Troughton's, 
of equal perfection with that of sir George Shuckburg Evelyn. 

Again ; in the year 1814, the committee of the house of commons 
resolved, and, in 1815, the house itself enacted, that the length of a 
pendulum vibrating seconds, in the latitude of London, had been as- 
certained to be 39.13047 inches of Bird's parliamentary standard 

In the year 1818, captain Kater reported, as the result of his ex- 
periments, that the length of the pendulum vibrating seconds in va- 
cuo at the level of the sea, at the temperature of 62° of Fahrenheit, in 
latitude 51° 31' 8" 4'" north. (London) was 39.13842 inches of the 
same Bird's parliamentary standard yard. 

The difference is il^^o, or a one hundred and twenty-sixth part 
of an inch. 

By assuming a mean average from all these experiments, and the 
yard of Elizabeth at the exchequer (the standard from which all the 
long measures of the United States are derived,) as the measure 
of comparison, we might be warranted in taking 39.38 English 
as the length of the French platina standard metre, and 39.14 as the 
length of the pendulum vibrating seconds in the latitude of London. 
And if the attempt at a minuter decimal fraction than that of the 
100th part of an inch in the making of metallic measures, should 
terminate again in disappointment, it is nevertheless true, that, to 
obtain accuracy even to that extent, the microscopic beam compasses, 
and the micrometer marking subdivisions to the 25,000th part of an 
inch, are essential auxiliaries : for in this, as in all the energies^ 
moral or physical, of man, the pursuit of absolute perfection is the 
only means of arriving at the nearest approximation to it, attainable 
by Ijuman power. 

When the proportion shall be thus ascertained, by a concurrent 
agreement with France, the act might declare that the foot measure 
of the United States is to the standard platina metre of France in sucli 
proportion that 39.3802 inches are equal to the metre, and tliat 
472.5623 millimetres are equal to the foot. The proportion of the 
troy and avoirdupois pounds to the kilogramme might be ascertained 
with equal accuracy, and declared in like manner. A platina metre 
and kilogramme, being exact duplicates of those in the French na- 
tional archives, should then be deposited and preserved with the na- 
tional standards of the United States. 

It is not proposed that the standard yard measure of the United 
States should be made of platina ; but that it should be of the same 
metal as the yard of 1601, at the Exchequer, from which it will be 
taken. The very extraordinary properties of platina, its unequalled 
specific gravity, its infusibility, its durability, its powers of resist- 
ance against all the ordinary agents of destruction and change, give 
it advantages and claims to employment as a pi'imary standard for 
weights and measures, and coins, to which no other substance in na- 
ture has ecpial pretensions. The standard metre and kilogramme of 
France are of that motal. Should the fortunate period arrive when 


iFie improvement in the moral and political condition of man will ad- 
mit of the intt'oduction of one universal standard, for the use of all 
mankind, it is hoped and believed that the platina metre will be that 
measure. But, as the principle respectfully recommended in this re- 
port is that of excluding all innovation or change, for the present, of 
our existing weights and measures, it is with a view to unif()rmity that 
the preference is given, for the clioice of a new standard, to the same 
metal of which that measure consists which has been the standard of 
our forefathers from the first settlement of the English colonies, and 
is exactly coeval with them. It is not unimportant that the standards, 
to he transmitted to the several states of the Union, should be of the 
same metal as the national standards, of which they shall he copies. 
The changes of the atmosphere produce different degrees of expansion 
and contraction upon different metals : and, when a measure of brass 
or copper is to be taken from a measure of platina, the differences of 
their expansibility become subjects of calculation, upon data not yet 
ascertained to entire perfection. The selection of platina for the 
French kilogramme has been attended with the singular consequence, 
that the standard of the archives is not of the same weight as the 
standard for use. The latter is of brass ; and the copies taken from 
it for the real purposes of life are of the same weight in the air, hut 
not of the same weight as the platina standard, because that is the 
weight of the cubic decimetre of distilled water in vacuo. Whenever 
calculations of allowances for atmospheric changes in the different 
metals are introduced into the comparison of measures, estimates 
take the place of certainty ; and different results proceed from dif- 
ferent times, places, or persons. The very immutability of platina, 
therefore, makes it unsuitable for a practical standard of mutable 
things. Change, and not stability, is the uniform measure of change. 
Justice consists in estimating every thing by the law of its nature : 
and, to illustrate this idea by applying it to moral relations, it may 
be observed, that, to bring mutable substances to the test of immuta- 
ble standards, would be like charging disembodied spirits to pass sen- 
tence by the laws of their sui>erior nature upon the frailties and in- 
firmities of man. 

The plan which is thus, in obedience to the injunction of both houses 
of Congress, submitted to their consideration, consists of two parts, 
the principles of which may be stated : 1. To fix the standard, with the 
partial uniformity of which it is susceptible, for the present, excluding 
all innovation. 2. To consult with foreign nations, for the future and 
ultimate establishment of universal and permanent uniformity. Anaiw- 
logy is due to Congress for the length, as well as for the numerous im- 
perfections, of this report. Embracing views, both theoretic and histo- 
rical, essentially different from those which have generally prevailed 
upon the subject to which it relates, they are presented with the dif- 
fidence due from all individual dissent encountering the opinions of 
revered authority. The resolutions of both houses opened a field of 
inquiry so comprehensive in its com])ass, and so abundant in its de- 
tail, that it has been, notwithstanding the lapse of time sin,ce the 


resolution of Ihe Senate, as yet but very inadequately explored. It 
was not deemed justifiable to defer longer tbe answer to the calls of 
both houses, even if their conclusion from it should be the jiropriety 
rather of fuither inquiry than of immediate action. In freely avow- 
ing the liopethat the exalted purpose, fiist conceived by France, may 
be improved, porfected, and ultimately adopted by the United States, 
and by all other nations, e?jual freedom has been indulged in pointing 
out the errors and imperfections of that system, which have attended 
its origin, progi'ess, and present condition. The same liberty has 
been taken with the theory and histoi-y of the English system, with 
the further attempt to shew that the latter was, in its origin, a sys- 
tem of beauty, of symmetry, and of usefulness, little inferior to that 
of modern France. 

The two pai'ts of the plan submitted are presented distinctly from 
each other, to the end that either of them, should it separately obtain 
the concurrence of Congress, may be separately carried into execu- 
tion. In relation to weights and measures thiougliout the Union, wc 
possess already so near an approximaticiu to uniformity of law, that 
little more is required of Congress for fixing the standard than to 
provide for the uniformity of fact, by procuring and distributing to 
the executives of the states and tei-ritories positive national stand- 
ards conformable to the law. If there be one conclusion more clear 
than another, dcducible from all the hisioi-y of mankind, it is the 
danger of hasty and inconsiderate legislation upon weights and mea- 
sures. From this conviction, the result of all inquiry is, that, 
while all the existing systems of metrology are very imperfect, and 
susceptible of improvements involving in no small degree the virtue 
and happiness of future ages; while the impression of this truth is 
profoundly f.nd almost universally felt by the wise and the powerful 
of the most enlightened nations of the globe; while the spirit of im- 
provement is operating with an aidor, perseverance, and zeal, honor- 
able to the human character, it is yet certain, that, for the successful 
termination of all these labors, and the final accomplishment of the 
glorious object, permanent and universal uniformity, legislation is 
not alone competent. A concurrence of will is indispensable to give 
efficacy to the precepts of power. All trifling and partial attempts 
of change in our existing system, it is hoped, w ill be steadily dis- 
countenanced and rejected by Congress ; not only as unworthy of the 
high and solemn importance of the subject, but as impracticable to 
the purpose of uniformity, and as inevitably tending to the reverse, 
to increased diversity, to inextricable confusion. Uniformily of 
weights and measures, permanent, universal uniformity, adapted to 
the nature of things, to the physical organization and to the moral 
improvement of man, would be a blessing of such ts-anscendent mag- 
nitude, that, if there existed upon earth a combination of j)ower and 
will, adequate to accomplish the result by the energy of a single act, 
the being who should exercise it would be among the greatest of 
benefactors of the human race. But this stage of human perfecti- 
bility is yet far remote. The glory of the first attempt belongs to 


France. France first surveyed the subject of weights and mea- 
sures in all its extent and all its compass. France first beheld it as 
involving the interests, the comforts, and the morals, of all nations 
aiui o( all after ages. In forming her system, she acted as the repre- 
sentative of tiie whole human race, present and to come. She has 
established it by law within her own territories ; and she has offered 
it as a benefaction to the acceptance of all other nations, l^hat it is 
worthy of their acceptance, is believed to be beyond a question. But 
opinion is the queeu of the world ; and the final prevalence of this 
system beyond the boundaries of France's power must await the 
time when the example of its benefits, long and practically enjoyed, 
shall acquire that ascendency over the opinions of other nations 
which gives motion to the springs and direction to the wheels of 

Respectfully submitted. 


Department of State, Febrnary 22, 1821. 


A 1. 

With a view to ascertain the existing varieties of fact in the weights 
and measures used at the several custom houses of the United States, 
and thereby the state of the standards in the several states, the fol- 
lowing circular letter was, at the request of the Secretary of State, 
addressed, by the Register of the Treasury, to the collectors of the 
customs throughout the Union : 


Treasury Department, 

Register's Office, JVovemher 15, 1819. 

Sir : I am requested by the Secretary of State to ask the favor of 
your early information to that department, relative to the standard of 
weights and measures, used at the custom house in the collection of 
the duties of the United States ; and to observe, that it will be parti- 
cularly acceptable to be informed, whether, in dry measure, any 
other than the Winchester bushel and its parts, is used ; and the ca- 
pacity thereof, that is, its diameter at the top and bottom, and its 
depth in inches, and tenths of inches. In liquid measure, whether 
wine or beer measures are respectively used for wines and beer, or, 
whether confined to wine measure, both for beer and wine. In re- 
spect to weights — whether the troy weight is at all used, and whether 
Dearborn's patent balance is altogether adhered to, in collecting the 
duties on articles paying duty by the pound or hundred weight. 

I am, 6cc. 

P. S. Be so good as to state the number of grains by your troy 
weight, which your avoirdupois pound weighs. 

The following table is the result of the answers received from the 
collectors. As the cubic foot, or 1728 cubical inches of spring water, 
at the temperature of 56 degrees of the thermometer, weighs 1,000 
ounces avoirdupois, the Winchester bushel of 2150.42 inches contains 
77 lb. 12oz. 7i drams of the same water, and the half bushel 38 lb. 
14 oz. 3| drams. The returns will shew how nearly the actual 
weights and measures correspond with those proportions. It will 
not be expected that experiments made at the custom house with scales 


adapted to heavy weights, in constant use, and with such water as 
was nearest at hand, should be marked with philosophical precision, 
or very minute accuracy. But it is evident they were generally made 
with great care, and, in several instances, repeated with various 
kinds of water. From the experiments of sir George Shuckburg 
Evelyn, it appears that the specific gravity of distilled water, at the 
temperature of b2, is 2525 grains troy to a cubical inch ; and of that 
water the bushel should contain 77 lb. 9oz. H drams, and the half 
bushel 38 lb. 12 oz. 8| drams. Mr. Pollock found the specific gra- 
vity of the pump water at Boston to be 253.6042 grains troy to the 
cubic inch, and of that water the statute Winchester bushel should 
contain 77 lb. 14 oz. 8^ drams, and the half bushel 38 lb. 15 oz. 4i 
drams. From 38 lb. 12 oz. to 39 lb. may be, therefore, considered as 
the range within which the different kinds of fresh water should fill 
the correct standard copper or brass half bushel. 

In several of the returns it is apparent that the weight certified in- 
cludes that of the wooden vessel which held the water. By the ex- 
periment of the late venerable William Ellery, collector at Newport, 
it appears that of two half bushels of the same dimensions, one of 
copper and the other of wood, the former contained I5 ounces more 
than the latter, and both of them half an ounce more of spring than 
of rain water : and by experiments of G. Davis, inspector at New 
Orleans, from whom a very interesting report was received, it ap- 
pears, that, by weighing tlie wooden half bushel before it had been 
filled, and after it was emptied of Mississippi river water, there was 
a difference of nearly 1 5 ounces, to be accounted for partly by the 
absorption of the water into the wood, and partly by the adhesion of 
it to the sides and bottom of the vessel. 

By the testimony of Mr. John Warner, a brass founder in London, 
much employed in making for country corporations brass standard 
weights and measures, duplicates of those in the exchequer, given 
before the committee of the house of commons in the year 1814, it 
Avas shewn that from the extreme difficulty and expense of turning a 
bushel measure truly cylindrical, the practice of the ti-ade is, notwith- 
standing the act of parliament, to pay no attention to the dimensions 
of the measures which they make, but to rely entirely upon the trials 
by the weight of water which they contain. From all the admea- 
surements which have been made of the English standards, it is appa- 
rent that neitlier the weight of water which a bushel or half bushel 
jiiay be found to hold, nor the direct measurement by the depth and 
diameters of the vessel, can be relied upon by itself to ascertain its 
exact capacity ; and even when one of these tests is applied as a, 
check upon the other, the lesult may differ to the extent of four or five 
inches upon a half bushel. The corn gallons at the exchequer, 
which in 1688 were found by a skilful artist to be of 272 cubic inches, 
in 1758 were, when remeasured by order of the committee of the 
house of commons, returned as of 271 or less, and one of them 
tried in April, 1819, by sir George Clerk and Dr. WoUaston, ap- 


peared by the weight of water which it held, to he only of 270.4 

If this apparent diminution should he attributed to the decay of tlie 
vessel in the lapse of time, that will not account for the opposite re- 
sult of tlie two expei'iments upon the bushel, which, by direct mea- 
surement in 1758, was found to be of 2124 cubical inches, and in 1819, 
by the weight of water it contained, was of 2128.9 inches. The sta- 
tute Winchester bushel is a cylinder 18^ inclies in diameter and eight 
inches deep : a difference of j^^ of an inch either in the depth or 
diameter increases or diminishes the contents of the vessel nearly 
three cubical inches. Mathematical instruments are now construct- 
ed by which the division of j^l^^ part of an inch may be discerned ; 
but such refinement of art cannot be applied to the making of vessels 
of the size of a bushel, or its half. In all such vessels inequalities in 
the depth, diameter, or circumference, are unavoidable, producing 
differences in their capacity of more than five cubical inches ; the 
test, therefore, by the weight of water tliey will hold, is more effec- 
tual for accuracy than that of measurement ; its results, however, de- 
pend upon the correctness of the scales and weights as well as upon 
the care and attention with which the experiment is made. 

As the patent scales of Dearborn are used in most of the custom 
houses throughout the Union, few of them possess the avoirdupois 
heavy weights. The correctness and convenience of the patent scales 
are generally attested by the collectors, who have them in use, and 
may be relied upon with all the confidence of which any steelyard can 
be susceptible. 

The beer measure and the troy weight are seldom used except in 
the principal and most populous ports. Of forty single avoirdupois 
pounds the average weight in troy grains was 6998. In all the 
principal ports they were exact, within one grain, witii the exception 
of New York, where the custom house pound was five or six grains 
over weight : but where that of the city was exact. 

p. 140- 

TABLE of the Measures of Capacity and Weights used at the several Custom Houses of the United States. 























Inch. dec. 

Inch. dec. 

Inch, dec 

Cub. in. dec. 

lbs. 05. 




22, 1819 

Wingate, I. joii. 






37 1 






Winchester measure. 



Lane. D. 










do. no troy weights 




Jaivis, Edward S. - 

Frenchman's Bay - 





42 3 

12* river 

near 32 


Not used 

do. 110 troy weight 

Winchester intended. *This must include the 
weight of tlie half bushel measure. 




Storer, Joseph 










No beer 

7,039 Dearborn at Kennebunk 

Scales and weights at Wells. Standard from 
tlic town of Arundel. 




Smith, George S. - 

Macbias - 





37 10 





0,996 Dearborn. Troy not used 




12, 1820 

Tliaclicr, Stephen - 






38 8 






6,998 [Dearborn's scales used 

7,004 1 before the late war 


Wiiicliester. The standards are kept at East- 









Also for 


i peck 









4, 1819 

Hook, Josiali 






39 7 




No beer 

Dearborn. No troy 




llsley, Isaac 

Portland and Fal- 1 
mouth - J 




38 3 
S8 7 

8 lain J 




r Dearborn principally ") 
(_ used. No troy / 




Granger, D. 








■Wine for 


7,032 Dearborn 

Winchester. The pound was weiehed at the 



Coolv, Francis 

Wiscasset - 
A'exv UampsMre. 







Wine only 

7,013 or thereabouts, D. 



Upliam, Timothy 

Portsmouth, bushel 








Wine for 


7,004 Troy not used 

Winchester. These, except the pound of 7,004 
grains, are tlie standard. 

i bushel 





38 12 



4 lb. 27,996 

Hardened copper measures and weights of the 
state of New-Hampshire, imported from 
England before tbe Revolution, and deposit- 
ed, by Mr. Upham's request, at the custom 



Dearborn. Henry - 

Boston, copper 





39 2 




Dearborn used 

Winchester four bushel tubs used. 



Marquand, Joseph - 










7,000 do. 




Kittredge, John 






39 4 



Wine only 

6,938 do. Troy not used 




Williams, Nathaniel 

Digliton, coppci- 






37 6 





6,992 by an ounce of 437 

Winchester. Dearborn's patent not used. 



Hawes, Jolin 

New Bedford 

4 bushel tub 







38 14 

12 rain 




7,000 Dearborn 

Winchester. The four bushel tub is for salt 
and coal. 



Green, Isaiali L. 






38 8 



No beer 

do. No troy 





Cook, Thomas, jr. - 
Morton, Martin T. 






38 4 


Wine for 


0,9995 do. 
G.urs do. 

Winchester. Troy used only for gold and silver. 

yVincheatel: ditto. 

Mode Island. 



Coles, Thomas 

Pro\idence, copper 





39 4 




No Beer 

0,977 <lo. No troy 

Winchester. Dearborn's patent not used for 



Collins, Charles 

Bristol, bushel 







Mine for 


6.984 do. do. 

lieinp and iron. 



Ellcry, William 

Newport, cojjper 





38 14 
38 15 

12 rain 
4 spring 
4 rain 1 

12 springj 






Windiester. Dearborn's patent not used. 

A state law, of the re\'isioii of January, 1798, 







38 13 

»8 13 


Both by 


■ ■ - { 

prescribes gayging by Gunter's scale, and a 
rule to find tbe mean diameter of casks. 



20, 1820 

Gushing, T. H. 

New Loudon 





39 6 

Wine for 



The laws of Connecticut make no mention of 



tlie Winchester bushel. 



10, 1819 

Bradley, Walter 


A\iv Vork. 





39 8 



W'ine only 


6,969 Dearborn 



Gelston, David 

New York, copper 





78 13 

4 rain 




7,007 by N. Y. Bank scales 

The New York city yard is too short, being, 

Swilt, J. G. 

2 bushel tub for salt 
Sealer's standard b 

do. Iialfgallon 

do. quart 

and coal 


By Gunter's 


7,005J U. S. Bank do. 
7,000 Cily pound 
6,999 Sealer's pound 

ujion a copy from Bird's scale of 1758, ouly 
35.97 inches. 
Dearborn's balance used for small weights. 



p. i40—i. 

TABLE (A 2)— Continued. 




















JVew Fork. 

Inch. dec. 

Inch. dec. 

Inch, dee. 

Cub, in. dec. 

lb, ox. dr. 



20, 1819 

Hawley, I. 

Rochester, a i bushel 






Gauging rod 

from N. York 

Sealer's ounce 438, of which 1 
the pound is 7,008 J 

Dearborn's balance used. The three half bush- 






els belonged to different mcrcliants; they 






and the sealer's weiglits and measures wei-e 
from Albany. 

JVew Jersey. 



7, 1820 

Brewster, John - 

Perth Amboy 



r bushel sea 

led in New 





Beam and scale with avoirdupois weight only 



25, 1819 

Steele, John 

Philadelphia, copper 





39 6 Schuylkill 





Dearborn's balance not used. 









38 10 6 spring 


Wine only 


Dearborn's troy weight not used. 




M'CulIoch, Jas. H. 

Baltimore, brass 





77 8 rain 



No standard 


Dearborn. The wine gallon contains 81b. 2oz. 
avoirdupois rain water. 




Willis, John 

Oxford, two h bush. 

District of Columbia. 





40* spring 




No troy but for money 

*Weight of the vessels must he included. Good 
wheat weighs by them from 58 to 62 pounds 
per bushel. 





38 3 13 mixed 




7,010 No troy 

t See the note on the standards of the District 

Georgetown, peck 





19 7 64 





of Columbia 




Mason, Thomson 






38 13 8 river 


Wine for 



Dearborn's balance used, except for iron. 



Holland, Nathaniel 






41 10* - 

Wine for 



*Must include the weight of the vessel. 




Mallory, Charles K. 

Norfolk, copper 





78 river salt 





Dearborn, except for salt. 



Jones, Joseph 






39 river 





Dinwiddie county standards. 



Gibbon, I. 

Richmond, copper 

JVorth Carolina. 





77 8 well 

Calipper and 



Henrico county standards. 




Sawyer, Enoch - 






39 12 spring 

Wine for 


Troy not used 

Dearborn's balance used altogether. 



24, 1820 

Tredwell, Samuel 






38 11 rain 


Gauging rod 

7,014 do. not used 

The weights were procured from New York. 



20, 1819 

Hawks, Francis 






43 12* spring 



7,032 not used 

Standards imported from England. *Must in- 
clude the weight of the half bushel. 



Singleton, Thos. S. 




- 25 



8 well or amine 


do. gauging 


do. do. 

lyry meusure staiiJ.ird from ATcH' York. 





Fagan, L. 
Blount, Thomas H. 






38 8 river 
36 6 spring 



No troy weights 

*Therc must be an cn-or in this measure. 
Dearborn's balance used and preferred. 



Pringle, James R. 

South Carolina. 





78 saltish well 
77 9 8 cistern not 




6,999i Troy not used 

Dearborn's balance used altogether. 




Bullock, A. S. - 






38 river 


Wine for 


6,999J do. 




Clark, Frederick 

St. Mary's 





38 12 spring 

Wine only 


39 8 rain 




4, 1820 

Chew, Beverly - 
Davis, G. inspector 

New Orleans 

2 bushel tub 





39 6 2 13 dry 
38 7 5 wet, river 





7,004 by 2 lb. of 14.008 

Dearborn's balance is used. A dozen bottleB 
of wine or of beer are found to contain 24 
gallons of each, according to their respect- 
ive standards. 




Lewis, Addin 


The measu 

res were oht 

aincd from 

New York 




Dearborn's balance 

The Mississippi county standaids were ohtain- 
ed fioui Philadelphia. 


A 3. 

^ote on the weights and measures of capacity in the Districl of Co- 

By the constitutional law of the District, the standard weights and 
measures of Alexandria are derived from Virginia, while those of 
Washington city and Geoi-getown are from the standai-d of Mary- 
land. The law, in both states, as has been shewn, is, and for more than 
one hundred and fifty years has been, the same, namely : the act of 
parliament of 1496, for the statute book. The Winchester measure, 
avoirdupois w eights, and the Exchequer standards for practice. The 
avoirdupois pound of Alexandria is one of the most defective in the 
Union, being 50 grains troy, or more than two pennyweights, short of 
7,000 grains. The half bushel is also too small ; its primitive stand- 
ard having been, not the Winchester bushel, but one of the oldest 
Exchequer standards, made under the statute of 1266. It is 16 cu- 
bical inches less than the parliamentary Winchester half bushel. 

The Georgetown peck is in exact proportion to the Winchester 
bushel. Its pound avoirdupois is too light by 30 troy grains. 

The new measures at Washington lately obtained at Baltimore, 
are a half bushel, peck, and half peck, of copper, lined with tin, cy- 
lindrical in form ; the half bushel and peck with a hole and cock in 
the centre of the bottom, to let off the water. 

The half bushel appears to have been intended to be of 1 3 inches dia- 
meter, and eight inches depth, which would have given i064 inches of 
cubical contents. This would correspond almost exactly with one stand- 
ard bushel at the English Exchequer, which was tried in April, 1819, 
by weight of water, and found to hold 2128.9 inches ; but, of the new 
"Washington half bushel, neither the depth nor the diameter are uniform. 
They vary to the extent of a quarter of an inch, in different parts of 
the vessel. The bottom is not perfectly flat, but bulges a little in- 
ward at the centre; nor is the edge of the top circumference perfectly 
level ; so that, while on one side it overflows, it is left not entirely 
full on the other. Its mean diameter is, with sufficient exactness, 
13 inches, and its depth 7.9, which gives 1058.6 inches for its cubical 
contents. This is 16.61 inches leas than it ought to be. 

It was found to contain 46lb. 5oz.lSpwt. or 267,672 grains, troy 
weight, of mixed rain, river, and pump water, with Fahrenheit's ther- 
mometer at 42% and then overflowed at one side of the border, while 
on the opposite side there was about -j\ of an inch yet to fill. This 
also gives 1058.6 inches as its capacity. It contained of wheat, in 
stricken measure, Sllb. 4oz. 55dr. avoirdupois, of which the old 
half bushel had contained 32lb. 

The peck has in its dimensions the same irregularities, though in 
less degree than the half bushel. Its diameter is ten inches j its 
depth from 6.7 to 7, with a bottom bulging inward. The mean 
depth is about 6.9* and its contents^ by that measure, are 541 inches. 


It holds 23lb. 8oz. 15 pwt. or 136,680 grains troy of water, giving also 
541 inches, being 3.4 inches more than the standard measure. 

The half peck is 7.5 diameter, and 6.25 inches deep, which gives 
276.25 inches for its contents. It holds 12lb. loz.4pwt. or 69,696 
grains troy of water, or 276.5 inches, being 8 inches more than the 
standard measure. 

Although each of these measures, separately taken, is incorrect, 
they are so far just in the aggregate, that the half bushel and the 
peck, with the half peck twice filled, would yield, with perfect exact- 
ness, a bushel of the legal standard of 2150.42 cubic inches. 

The half bushel, peck, and half peck, which had been used as 
standards at Washington until the last autumn, were much more ex- 
act, both in their proportions to one another, and in their conformity 
to the Winchester bushel, than those now substituted in their stead. 
The one pound avoirdupois had been of 6,962 grains, or 38 grains too 
light. The weights now are 

1 pound 7,010 grains troy 10 "j 

2 14,024 - 24 I grains too much. 
4 28,062 - 62 J 

The wine gallon is of 231 solid inches, and the smaller measures 
proportional to it. There are no standards either of ti-oy weight or 
beer measure. 

I'ABLE shewing the proportions of the several Measures of Capacity prescribed by the English Statutes, at different periods, compared with existing ancient Stand- 
ards of the Exchequer, and elsewhere.* 




Cubic inches. 

Existing Standard. 

Cubic iiuhes. 


Cubic inches. 

Existing standard. 

Cubic inches. 


Cubic inches. 

Existing standard. 
Cubic inches. 

1225. By Magna Charta, cli. 25, explained by 
1266. St. 51 Henry III. ; and by the treatise of 1304 weiglits and 
measures of 31 Edward I. ..--.-. 
t With pound sterling of 12 ounces = 5,400 grains troy : and 
pound for other things of 15 ounces = 6,750 grains troy. 


217.6 Irish gallon 


266.25 Rumford gallon of 1228 


2124 Exchequer bushel of 1091. Old Rufus. 
2124 do. of Henry VII. without rim. 
2128.9 dk. of Elizabeth, 1601. 

1353. By assize ofthe tun. Statute of provisors, 2? Edward III. stat. 
),ch. 8. ...... 

14394 And by St. 18 Henry VI. ch. 17 - - - - 


217.6 do. 


266.25 do. 


2145.6 Winchester bushel at the Exchequer. 
2150.42 do. by act of 13 WUliam III. 

1496.$ Statute of 12 Henry VII. ch. 5; according to its letter with 
troy pound of 12 ounces - . . . 







;496. Same statute, with application of the rule Composilw Mmsura- 
rum of 1266, to the pound troy of 12 and of 15 ounces 


224 do. 


280 Exchequer quart of 1601 
278.4 Exchequer pint, of 1601 and 1602 


2224 Exchequer bushel of Henry VII. with rim. 
2217.62 Coal bushel by act 12 Anne, stat 2, ch. 17; 

1496. game statute, with application of the rule of 1266, to the pound 

of 12, and pound avoirdupois of 16 ounces 
1532. Statute 24 Henry Vm. ch. 3. . - . . 


224 do. 


272 Exchequer gallon of Henry VII. 
271 Gallon of 1601 marked E. E. 
270.4 Gallon of 1601 marked E. 



1496. Same, 12 Henry VII. ch. 5, with application of tlic rule of 

1266, and wheat of 32 kernels to 224 grains troy ; and Stat. 23 Henry VIH. ch. 4, sec. 13. 
1705. Stat. 5 Anne, ch. 27, sec. 17. 

23 i 

None before 5 Anne 

282 Treasury ale gallon 



B 2. 

* Tlie obji'ct of this table is to sltew : 

Ist. That the varieties of the ancient standard measures of ca])acity in England correspond very exactly with the variations of 
the laws. 

2d. That by the statute of 1266, the bushel was of capacity to contain wlicat equal not to the measure, but to the wri^/if of eight 
gallons of wine. 

Sd. That the statute of 1496»cantrary to its professed intention, not only changed the pound sterling for the pound troy, but, 
by its letter, cliangcd the capacity of the bushel from the tveight of eight gallons of w ine, to the meusme of eight gallons 
troy weight of wheat, which was a gallon of 224 cubic inches. 

4th. That, so far as concerns the corn or ale gallon, and the bushel, this act of 1 496 was never executed. That no such stand- 
ard bushel as it prescribes was ever made. 

ith. That by the statute of 23d Henry VIII. chapter 4, section IS, the ale gallon is deftued equal to one-eighth of the mcnsiire of 
the bushel, with express reference to the Compositio Mensuraiumof 1266. 

11266. Stabtte olst nenry III. Compositio Mensurnrum am! treatise of 1304. 

1 Penny Sterling round and undipped siiAix weigh 32 Wheat Corns. 

1 Ounce ..... 20 Pence. 

1 1 ound - - . . . ]o Ounces. 

8 Pounds - . . . . 1 Gallon of ;f'i«c. 

8 Gallons of Wine .... j Bushel. 

8 Bushels .... , Quarter Qf London, 

t Statute IBth Bcnrij VI. cha-pter 17. Ancient assize of tiieTun. 

1 Tun = 252 Gallons; 1 Gallon ,\ of 8 Cubic Feet, = 219.43 Cnbir Inrhc 

1 Pipe 126 

1 Tertian S4 

1 Hogshead 63 

() Statute 12(A Heuri/ VU. chapters. 1496. 

Measure of one Bushel 

Every Gallon 
Evciy Pound 
Every Ounce 
E\ery Sterling 

8 Gallons of Wheal. 

8 Pounds Troy Weigiit of Wlicai. 

• 12 Ounces Troy Weight. 

20 Sterlings, [meaning Pennyweights Troy. 

32 Corns of Wheat. 

\\Stutjite?.Sd Henry VIII. chapter 4, section 13. 1531. 

Every Ale Barrel shall be made according to the assize speciOed in the Compositio Mcnsuravum : that is to say, to conjaiu ?» 
gallons ofthe said assiztn/ the which S gallons maUe the common bushel. 




MtCf on the proportional value of the pound sterling and the dollar* 

The whole amount of the commercial intercourse between two 
countries, within a given time, say a year, may be considered as the 
barter of an equivalent portion of their respective productions. The 
balance of trade is the excess of exportation from the one, and of im- 
portation to the other, beyond the equivalent value of specific articles 
of the trade. 

In the practice of commerce, all the articles of the trade are valu- 
ed in the established currencies of both countries; each article first 
in tlie country from which it is exported, and secondly in that to 
which it is imported. The balance of the trade must be discharged 
by some article of equal agreed value to both parties. There are two 
precious metals gold and silver^ which, by the common consent of all 
commercial nations, ai-e such articles ; and there is no other. 

These two metals constitute also the principal basis of the money j^ 
or specie currency of all commercial countries ; and as they are va- 
riously modified by weight and purity in the coins of different coun- 
tries, a common standard must be resorted to, by whicli the relative 
value of the coins of the two countries may be ascertained and settled 
in their commercial dealings with each other. 

Some one specific coin or money of account on each side is assum- 
ed between which a proportional value is established as the conven- 
tional par of exchange. Thus, between tlie United States and Great 
Britain, the dollar of the former and the pound sterling of the latter, 
with their respective subdivisions, are assumed as the standards of 
comparative value, and the conventional proportion of value between 
them, commonly used in their commercial intercourse, and sanction- 
ed by several acts of Congress, has settled the par of exchange at one 
pound sterling for four dollars and forty four cents in the United 
States, while, in Great Britain, it is at four siiillings and six pence 
for the dollar. 

But observe: 

First, That here are already two different bases of exchange — the 
American, which assumes the pound sterling for the unit, and esti- 
mates it in the proj)ortional parts of the dollar, and the English, 
which assumes the dollar for the unit, and values it in the propor- 
tional parts of the pound sterling. This would have been immaterial, 
if the calculations upon which the exchange was originally settled, 
had been correct. But the results of the two estimates are not the 
same. If the dollar is worth four shillings and six pence, the pound 
sterling is equivalent to four dollars forty-four cents four milles, and 
an endless fraction of four decimal parts. If the pound sterling is 
worth four dollars and forty four cents, four shillings and six pence, 
or fifty -four pence, are equal only to ninety-nine cents and nine milles. 
The difference is of one mille in a dollar, or one" thousand dollars in 
a million^ 


Secondly, That the elements of this exchange, the two objects ol 
comparative estimated value, are not homogeneous. The dollar of 
the United States is at once a money of account, and a specific silver 
coin, while the pound sterling, at the time when the exchange was 
settled, was only a money of account, having no coined representa- 
tive in one piece of either of the precious metals. Since that time, 
indeed, the pound sterling has found a spurious representative in pa- 
per notes of the Bank of England, and of late a more truly sterling 
repr<'^e:itative in the piece of gold which is called a sovereign. So 
that the pound sterling in England is an indefinite term, represented 
by three different materials, that is, in gold, by the sovereign, or by 
the guinea, with deduction of a shilling; in silver, by twenty shil- 
lings, or four crowns, or in paper, by a bank note. 

In tiie United States, their coins, both of gold and silver, are legal 
tenders for payments to any amount; but in England silver coin is 
a legal tender for jiayments only to an amount not exceeding forty 
shillings, and by the restrictions of cash payments by the bank, the 
only actual currency, the only material in which an American mer- 
chant having a debt due to him in Etigland can obtain payment is 
Bank of England paper. So that at this time the materials of ex- 
change between tlie United States and England are, on the side of the 
United States gold or silver, on the side of Great Britain, bank 

Suppose an American merchant has a debt due to him in England, 
which is remitted to him in gold bullion, or coins of the English 
standard, say ^10,000. He receives of pure gold 196 pounds, 2 
ounces, 3 pennyweights, 22 grains, for which, when coined at the 
mint of the United states, he receives 45,657 dollars 20 cents. The 
pound sterling, therefore, yields him 4 dollars 56.572 cents. And 
such is the value of the pound sterling, if the par of exchange be esti- 
mated in gold, according to the standard of purity common to both 

If the payment should be made in silver bullion, at 66 shillings 
the pound troy weight, according to the present English standard of 
silver coinage, he would receive only 43,489 dollars and 43 cents, 
and the pound sterling would only nett him 4 dollars 34.8943 cents. 

The pound sterling, therefore, estimated in gold, 
h worth ' '' ^ - - - S4 56.5720 

In silver 4 34.8943 

Making a difference of 21.6777 

Half of which 10.8388 

Added to S4 34.8943 
And deducted from 4 56.5720 
Makes what is called the medium par of exchange, $4 45.7331. 

It is contended by some writers upon the commercial branch of poli- 
tical economy, that this medium is the only equitable par of exchange; 
but this is believed to be an error. It is, perhaps, of as little im- 


portaiife what the fonventional par of exchange is, as ^vhcther a 
piece of linen or of broadcloth .should be measured by a yard or au 
ell. The actual exchange is never regulated by the medium or any 
other par, but by tiic i-elative value of bullion in the two countries at 
the time of the transaction ; by tlie relative proportions between the 
value of gold and silver established in their I'espective laws,- by the 
proliibitions of exportation of bullion sometimes existing, and the du- 
ties upon its exportation levied at others; by the laws, which, in 
some countries, make gold alone, in others silver alone, in others 
again both silver and gold, legal tenders for the payment of debts ; 
by the existing condition of the commerce of the two countries, and 
of each of them with all the rest of the world ; and last, and most of 
all, by the substitution of paper currency instead of the precious me- 
tals, in one or both of the countries, and the existing depreciation of 
the paper. 

But the law of the United States, first enacted on the 31st July, 
1789, sect. 18, prescribing that, for the payment of duties, the pound 
sterling of Great Britain shall be estimated at 4 dollars 44 cents, 
[U. S. Laws, Bioren's edition, vol. 2, page 22] is not so indifferent. 
This provision of the law has been continued in both the collection 
laws, since enacted, and, by that of 2d March 1799, [3 U. S. Laws, 
sect. 61, page 193] is still in force. 

By section 30 of the act of Congress of 31st July, 1789, the duties 
were made receivable in gold and silver coin only ; the gold coins of 
France, England, Spain, and Portugal, and all other gold of equal 
fineness, at 89 cents per pennyweight; the Mexican dollai- at 100 
cents; the crowns of France and England at one dollar and 11 cents 
each, and all silver coins of equal fineness at one dollar and eleven 
cents per ounce. 

As this was one of the first experiments of legislation under the 
present constitution of the United States, it is unnecessary to make 
upon it many of the remarks which suggest themselves; but, with 
regard to those of its provisions which are still in force, let us ob- 

That, on the 31st July, 1789, there had been no suspension of spe- 
cie payments by the Bank of England. The pound sterling, if paid 
in gold, yielded 113.0014 grains of pure metal. If paid in silver. 
1718.72 grains of pure silver. 

That the dollars and cents in which this pound sterling was esti- 
mated by the act of 31st July, 1789, were not the dollars and cents 
of the standard now established, but of the standard established by 
the resolution of the old Congress of 8th August, 1786, and their 
ordinance of 16th October of the same year, [l U. S. Laws, page 
646] by which the dollar was to contain 375.64 grains of pure sil- 
ver, and the eagle 246.268 grains of pure gold. 

This dollar had been assumed as the money unit of the United 
States, upon a report from the Board of Treasury, dated 8th April. 
1786, from which report it appears that the board intended and be 
tieved that it would he of equal valne with the Spanish dollar, thuri 


generally current in the United States at four shillings and six pen€e 
sterling; excepting an allowance which they proposed to make for 
the waste and expense of coinage of silver. They made a similar 
allowance of ^ per cent, upon the coinage of gold. 

The ordinance assumed, for the standard of purity, both of gold 
and silver coins, eleven parts fine, and one part alloy. This stand- 
ard was, with respect to gold, the same as that of England. But the 
English standard of silver coins is eleven ounces and two penny- 
weights of fine, to eighteen pe^my weights of alloy ; so that, while the 
English pound troy weight, ol" coined silver, contained 5,328 grains 
of pure metal, that of the United States, 4)y the standard then es- 
tahlished, contained only 5,280 grains. 

In the elaborate calculations of the report, which were adopted as 
the basis of ti)e ordinance, no allowance whatever is made for this 
difference of 48 grains in the pound troy, between the English stand- 
ard and that prescribed for tlie United States. It expressly states 
that the English mint price of standard silver is sixty-two shillings 
sterling, and professes to prepare a dollar oi equal value, excepting an 
allowance of two percent, for waste and coinage. It then draws a 
[.roportion without reference to the difference between the two stand- 
ards, and computes the sixty-two shillings of the English standard 
jiound troy, as if they contained only 5,280, while they really con- 
tained 5,328 grains. The object of this omission apparently was, 
together with the two per cent allowance for waste and coinage, to 
preserve what the report states to have been the proportional value 
established by custom in the United States, between coined gold and 
silver of fifteen and six tenths for one, while their proportional value 
in the English coins was 15.21 for one. 

The ordinance for the establishment of the mint, and for regulating 
the value and alloy of coin, therefore prescribed that bullion, or fo- 
reign coin, should be received there as follows : 

Uncoined gold, or foreign gold coin, eleven parts fine, and one part 

alloy . - . 1 lb. troy weight §209 77 

Silver, 11 pai'ts fine and 1 part alloy 1 lb. - - 13 77 7 

And so in proportion to the fine gold and silver in any other foreign 
coin, or bullion. And the dollar to be issued from the mint of the 
United States was settled at 375.64 grains of pure silver, because 
the report of the Board of Treasury had first supposed, contrary 
to that fact, that there were only 5,280 grains of pure silver in sixty- 
two shillings of English silver coin, consequently, only 383.225 
grains, instead of 387, in four shillings and six pence, and then pro- 
vided an allowance of two per cent, for waste and coinage. By 
these operations it seems to have been thought that the standard dol- 
lar of the United States would be of equal value with the Spanish 
dollar, then current in this country, and with four shillings and six- 
pence of English silver coin. Thus, while, by the 18th section of the 
act of 31st July, 1789, the pound sterling was estimated, for the pay- 
ment of duties, at four dollars and forty-four cents, by the 30th sec« 


lion of the same act, every pound stcilina; paid in j^uincas, or other 
gohl, was received for 84.57.143, and if paid in Kni^lish crowns, 
was received for S4. 57. 5445. 

That the calculations upon whidi the rated value of gold and sil- 
ver coins was fixed were loose and inaccurate, is apparent. Thi^ 
gold coins of France and Spain were rated as of the same standard of 
purity with those of England and Portugal ; the crown of France as 
of equal value with the Phiglish crown ; both without reference to 
their weight, and both as equivalent to an ounce of silver of the same 
fineness. It was well know n and intended that all these coins should 
be rated at more than tlieir intrinsic value, compared with the pound 
sterling, as estimated at 4 dollars 44 cents, or with the standards of 
gold and silver coins of the United States then established. The 
dillierenccs might be considered in the nature of a discount for prompt 
payment of the duties. And, as the merchants of the United States 
w ere deeply indebted in England, inasmuch as the pound sterling was 
undervalued, the difference was clear profit to them in discharging 
the balances due to their English creditors. 

Tiieact of 31st July, 1789, was, at the succeeding session of Con- 
gress, repealed, and that of 4th August, 1 790, substituted in its stead, 
[:2 U. S. Laws, p. 131.] The 40th and 56th sections of this act 
correspond with the 18th and 30th sections of that of 1789. The 
pound sterling is again rated at S4.44, and the coins as before. 

But on the 2d April, 1792, passed the act establishing a mint and 
regulating the coins of the Ur.ited States : by which the whole sys- 
tem established by the ordinance of 1786 was abandoned, and differ- 
ent principles and different standards were assumed. The standard 
of gold coins was left at 1 1 parts fine to one of aHoy ; but instead of 
246.268 grains of pure gold, the eagle was required to contain 247;^ 
grains. The silver standard was altered from 11 parts in 12 of fine, 
to 1485 parts in 1664. Instead of 375.64 grains of pure silver, the 
dollar was required to contain only 37 ly\ grains, and its weight, 
instead of 409 grains, was fixed at 4 16. The proportional value be- 
tween gold and silver was fixed by the same law, at fifteen for one ; 
and instead of the allowance of two per cent, for waste and coin- 
age, the principle was adopted of placing gold and silver coined at the 
same rate as uncoined, and of delivering at the mint coined, the same 
weight of pure metal as should be brought to it in bullion or foreign 

By this operation the value of the silver dollar as compared with 
British silver coin was reduced from 52.4539 pence sterling to 51.8409 
pence; and the pound sterling, from S 4.57.5445, was raised to be 
worth §4.62.955 ; and, at the same time, the value of the dollar esti- 
mated in the English gold coin was raised from 52.304 to 52.5656 
pence, and the pound sterling was reduced in the gold coin of the 
United States from S 4.57. 143 to S 4.56.572. 

'1 he act establishing the mint had, however, no direct reference to 
the value or the rates of foreign coins. But on the 9th February, 
1793, passed the act regulating foreign coins, and for other purposes. 


[2 U. S. Laws, p. 328,] which made the gold coins of Great Bi'itaiu 
and Portugal of their then standard a legal tender for the payment of 
all debts and demands at the rate of 100 cents for every 27 grains of 
their actual weight. The gold coins of France and Spain at the rate 
of 100 cents for every 27| grains : Spanish dollars weighing not less 
than 415 grains at 100 cents ; French crowns weighing not less than 
459 grains, 110 cents each. Tiie 55th [56th] section of the act of 
August, 1790, was repealed, hut the 40th section was left in force, 
and the pound sterling was still receivable for S4.44. It was, how- 
ever, thenceforward, whether paid in the gold coins of England or of 
the United States, worth S 4.56.572. 

A new collection law was enacted on the 2d March, 1799, whicii is 
still in force. In the 6lst section of which [3 U. S. Laws, p. 193,] 
the pound sterling of Great Britain is again rated at 4 dollars 44 
cents; while, in the 74th section, the gold coins of Great Britain of 
the standard prior to 1792, arc receivable at the rate of 100 cents for 
every 27 grains. But a proviso is added to tlie 61 st section, that the 
Piesident may establish regulations for estimating duties on goods, 
invoiced in a depreciated currency ; and a proviso to the 74th, that 
no foreign coins but such as are a lawful tender, or made receivable 
by proclamation of the President, shall be received. 

In the act of 9th February, 1793, the English crown was not rated 
at all, and from that time no English silver coin has been a legal 
tendei', nor consequently receivable in payment of duties. 

The act of lOth April, 1806, regulating the currency of foreign 
coins in the United States, continued the rates established by the 
74th section of tlie act of 2d March, 1799 ; and it required of the 
Secretary of the Treasury to cause assays to be made every year, 
and report them to Congress, of the foreign coins made tenders by 
law, and circulating in the United States. 

29th April, 1816, [6 U. S. Laws, p. 117.] Act regulating the 
currency within the United States of the gold coins of Great Britain, 
Fi-ance, Portugal and Spain, the crowns of France, and five franc 

Gold coins of Great Britain and Portugal 27 grs. — 100 cts. or 88| 
cts. per dwt. 

France . . 27^= do. 87i 

Spain . . 28i = 84 

Crowns of France, weighing 449 grs. 1 10 cents, or^lA7 per oz* 

Five franc pieces 386 grs. 93.3 1.16 do. 

3d March, 1819. Act to continue in force the above act. 

After 1st November, 1819, foreign gold coins cease to be a tender. 
Rest of the act to be in force till 29th April, 1821. 

The act of 2d April, 1792, establishing the mint, was founded, in 
its principal features, upon the report of the Secretary of the Trea- 
sury, Hamilton. It is remarkable that in this report all notice of the 
ordinance of Congress of 16th October, 1786, is omitted. 

It says, " a prerequisite to determining witli propriety what ought 
" to be the money unit of the United States, is to endeavor to form 


"as accurate an idea as the niitiirc of the case Avill admit of, uliat 
*' it artiially is. The poiiinl, lliotia;!! of various value, is the Jiiiit of 
*' the money of account of all tiie states. But it is not e<jually easy 
" to pronounce what is to be considered as the unit in the coins. 
" There being no Jormalregulalion on tliepoint. (the resolutions of Coii- 
** gress of the 6th July, 1785, and 8th Auajust, 1786, havin.i^ nevoi' 
** yet been carried into operation) it can only be inferred IVoia usas^e 
" or practice." 

Now the ordinance of 16th October, 1786, was a formal regulation, 
Nvhich recognized the principles, in regard to the unit of coins, of the 
lesolutions of 6th July, 1783, and 8th August, 1786; and the Con- 
gi'ess, under the new constitutioji, had, by the two successive collec- 
tion laws of 31st July, 1789y and 4th August, 1790, not only rated 
the foreign moneys of account, but foreign coins, by the standard of 
dollars and cents, established in the resolution of 8th August, 1786. 
Millions of dollars had been received in revenue, under those laws, 
in foreign coins estimated in those dollars and cents. A pamplilet 
was published by Mr. Boardley at Philadelphia, in 1789 : in which he 
sliews that the real value of the dollar, in the first collection law, 
was 52.46 pence sterling, and not 54, and adds : " I do not consider 
*' whetlicr this valuation accords with a late declaration that twenty 
*' shillings stei'ling shall be estimated at the value of 4 dollars and 44 
"cents of the present dollar,* but I recommend it to the considera- 
" tion of otliers." 

In the Gazette of the United States, of 24th October, 1789, is an 
essay entitled " A few thoughts concen.iiiig a proper money of ac- 
" count, by a gentleman of Virginia," in which it is fully sliewn that 
the valuation of the pound sterling, " as it stands rated by Congress 
*' at 4 dollars 44 cents," was inconsistent with the j)ennyweight of 
gold rated at 89 cents ; that the pound sterling should be rated at 4 
dollars 57g\T cents, or the pennyweight of foreign gold coin at 86i^ 
cents, instead of 89, which it states to be greatly to the injury of the 

The alterations IVom the system established by the old Congress, 
recommended in Mr. Hamilton's report, and adopted by the law for 
establishing the mint, were, a dollar of 37 H grains ])ure silver, in- 
stead of 375.64 grains; an eagle of 247^ grains pure gold, instead 
of 246. 268; 15 for 1 proportional value of silver and gold, instead 
of 15.6 for 1. Gratuitous coinage, instead of a duty of two per cent, 
for the bullion sent to the mint to be coined. 

Mr. Hamilton proposed to leave the standard of purity of the silver 
coin at 11 parts in 1 2 pure, as it had been established by the old Con- 
gress. But, in this respect, the law departed from the principles of 
the Secretary. It took the weight as well as the pure contents of the 
Spanish dollar, then in circulation, for a model ; not indeed its legal 
weight and purity, which would have been 420 grains, at lOj parts 
in 12 pure silver ; but its actual weight and purity, with the allow- 
ances for remedy, and ascertained by the average from a considera- 
ble number of the Spanish dollars, of the coinage since 1772, which 


were then in actual circulation. The result gave us a dollar of 416 
grains, and containing 37H grains of pure silver. 

Jn the coins of tlie United States there is no allowance for what is 
called tiie remedy of weight,- but assays of all coins issued from tlie 
mint are made, and if any of them are found inferior to the standard 
prescribed, to the amount of more than ^i^ pait, t!ie otKccrs of the mint, 
by whose fault the deficiency has arisen, are to be dismissed. This 
provision was adopted from what was stated in Mr. Hamilton's re- 
port to be the practice of the mint in England. 

By the acts of incorporation of the Banks of the United States, 
their bills, payable on demavd, are made receivable in all payments to 
the United States, unless otherwise directed by Congress. 

By the acts of 31st July, 1789, and 4th August, 1790, the gold 
coins of Great Britain were rated at 89 cents the pennyweight. By 
the act of 9th February, 1793, passed after the change of the stand- 
ard of our domestic coins, British gold coins were rated at 27 grains 
to the dollar, equivalent to 88| cents the pennyweight, at which they 
stand to this day. 

In the year 1797 the British parliament passed an act restricting 
the Bank of England from paying theii- own notes in specie, a re- 
striction which has been continued to this day, with certain excep- 
tions, by recent acts of parliament. The pound sterling, therefore, in 
all English invoices and accounts, is now neither gold n«)r silvei", but 
hank paper. This paper has been at times so depreciated that Spa- 
nish dollars have been issued by the bank itself, successively, at five 
shillings and five shilliags and sixpence the dollar, and they have 
passed in common circulation at six shillings. 

In the year 1816 there was a coinage of silver at the mint, in 
which the pound troy weight of standard silver was coined into 66 
shillings, instead of 65 shillings, which had been the standard before. 

And an act of parliament of 2d July, 1819, confirms the restric- 
tions upon cash payments by the bank, until the first day of May, 
1823, with the following exceptions. 

1. That, between 1st February and 1st October, 1820, any person 
tendering to the bank its notes payable on demand, to an amount not 
less than the price or value of sixty ounces of gold, at the rate of 
lour pounds one shilling per ounce, shall receive payment in gold, of 
the lawful standard at that rate of ^4 Is. per ounce. 

2. That, from 1st October, 1820 to 1st May, 1821, such payments 
shall be made in gold, calculated after the rate of ^3 19s. 6rf. per 

3. And that, from the 1st of May, 1821, to the 1st of May, 1823, 
they shall be make in gold, calculated after the rate of ^3 17s. }Oid. 
per ounce. All these payments to be made, at the option of the bank, in 
ingots or bars, of the weight of sixty ounces each, and not otherwise. 

Throughout this whole canto of mutability, the pound sterling of 
Great Britain, from the 31st July, 1789, to this day, has been rated 
by the laws of the United States, at 4 dollars and 44 cents. 


There Ivas probably been no time since the establishment of the 
mitit of the United States, nor since the first establishment of the dol- 
lar as the unit of account in the moneys of the United States, when 
this has been the intrinsic value of the pound sterling, whether com- 
puted in gold, silver, or bank paper. 

A proclamation of Queen Anne, issued in the year 1704, declared 
that the Spanish, Seville, and Mexican, pieces of eighty (as dollars 
wese then called) had, upon assays made at the mint, been found to 
weigh seventeen pennyweights and a half (420 grains,) and to be of 
the value of four shillings and sixpence sterling, from which the in- 
ference is conclusive that they contained of pure silver 387 grains, 
and the proclamation accordingly })rohibited their passing, or being 
received, for more than six shillings each, in the currency of any of 
the British colonies or plantations. An act of parliament in 1707, 
corroborated by penalties the prohibition contained in the proclama- 
tion. Six shillings for the Spanish dollar became thenceforth the 
standard of lawful money in the colonies, although the currencies 
of some of them afterwards departed from it. In 1717 Sir Isaac 
Newton, being master of the mint, again made assays of the Spa- 
nish dollars, and found them still to contain 387 grains. From 
this standard they successively fell off in 1731, in 1761, and in 1772 ; 
since which their average weight and purity has been that at which 
the dollar of the United States is fixed. 

The dollar being thus of the intrinsic value of four shillings and six 
pence sterling, the pound sterling was of course equivalent to 4 and | 
of the dollar. This w as the par of exchange, computed in the silver 
eoins of the two countries, for even then if the computation had been 
made between their gold coins, the result would have been different. 

Thus, wiiile the laws of the United States, in establishing their 
mint, and the unit of their currency, have assumed for their standard 
the Spanish dollar of 1772, in the calculations of their revenue and 
their estimate of the English pound sterling, they have adopted the 
Spanish dollar of 1704. 

But when, in 1704, the value of the Mexican dollar was fixed at 
four shillings and six pence, it was because it contained 387 grains 
of pure silver, the same quantity which was also contained in four 
shillings and six pence of English coined silver. At this time, four 
shillings and six pence sterling of English silver coin, contain only 
363i grains of pure silver, and the dollar of the United States con- 
tains 371:1 grains. 

The following statements show the relative present value of the 
dollar and pound sterling in the gold and silver coins of both coun- 
tries, in gold bullion, as payable by tlie Bank of England, and isi 
English bank paper at its current value in 1815, 

1. Gold. 

One pound troy weight of standard gold in England contains 5,280 
giTiins of pme gold. It fs coined iato ^46 14.«. 6d. or 11,2T4 pence." 


Then 11,214 : 5,280 :: 240 : 113.0014 grains of pure gold in a 
pound sterling. 

In the United States 24.75 grains of pure gold is coined into a dol- 
lar, or 247.5 grains to an eagle. 

Then 24.75 : 1 :: 113.0014 : 4.56572 dollars, cents, &c. to ^1. 

Thus tlie pound sterling in gold is worth |S4 56.572. 

And as 5,280 : 11,214 :: 24.75 : 52.5656. 

Dollar in English gold 4s. 4.5656. 

Pound sterling in gold S4 56.572. 

2. Silver. 

One pound troy weight of standard silver in England contains 
5,328 grains of pure silver, and is coined into 66 shillings, or 792 

The dollar of the United States contains 371.25 grains of pure silver. 

Then, 5,328 : 792 :: 371.25 : 55.1858. 

Dollar in English silver 4s. 7.1858. 

792 : 5328 :: 240 : 1,614.545 grains pure silver in a pound. 

371.25 : 1,614,545 :: 1 : 4.548943. 

Pound sterling in silver S4 34.8943. 

Medium par dollar, 4s. 5.8757 pence. 

*' •^•'Mfit ^^Z 'O-S^SS = S4 45.r331 med. par£ slg. 

in silver 4 34.8943 + 


Value of the pound sterling and dollar in gold and silver coins, in gold 
bullion, and in English hank paper. 

Value of United States dollar in English silver coin Fence stg. 

at 66 shillings per lb. troy weight - - - 55.1858 

In English gold coin at ^3 17s. \Oid. per oz. - 52.5656 

In English bank notes in 1815, - - - 72. 

In gold bullion at ^4 Is. per oujice, - - - 54.675 

English pound sterling, in silver coin, w^orth in the D. Cents. 

United States, silver dollars, - - - 4 34.8943 

Gold coin at ^3 17s.- lOid. per oz. in United States gold, 4 56.5720 

In English banknotes, 1815, - - - 3 33.3333 

In gold bullion at ^4 Is. per, onnre, . . 4 38.957^ 

In ditto at 4, r - - - 4 44.4444 


D 1. 

Mr. Hassler io the Secretary of StatCf 

Newark, N. J. l6^/t October, 1819. 
Most honored sir : When I had the lionor to see you relative to 
my appointment for the boundary line, tiie conversation falling upon 
French and English standards of weights and measures, I mentioned 
to you that I had brought a complete set of them with the instruments 
for the survey of the coast, of which I handed you a catalogue. 

Mentioning at the same time that I had made comparisons of those 
standards of length-measures, and some others which I had besides, 
(having not had time to extend it to the standards of weights.) 

Since then, I could not occupy myself with this subject, until late- 
ly in the course of the papers upon the scientific part of the survey of 
the coast, which I prepared for publication. 

I have, therefore, now the pleasure to fulfil my promise, and your 
desire of that time, by forwarding you herewith an extract of this 
paper, containing the part which may interest you, with the necessary 
details to convey the conviction of accuracy necessary in such sub- 
jects to inspire confidence in the results. 

You will observe that these are not so full and extensive as I in- 
tended them to be. I am sorry that the circumstances which befel 
this, in a national point of view, so honorable and useful work, have 
also in this part frustrated the aim of my exertions. 

I believe however, what has been obtained will be sufficient for 
your purpose of a report to Congress upon this subject. 

If you should wish any thing more t)iat I could be able to do, I will 
do it with pleasure. 

You may probably conclude with me from the comparisons of Cap- 
tain Kater and other circumstances, that a platinum meter copy will 
yet remain much inferior in real scientific value, to the iron original 
of the committee which I had in trial, and that the large expansion 
reduction necessary in the comparison by the English way of giving 
the i^tio of the standard, may introduce some uncertainty by the less 
accurately known expansion of platinum. 1 have, besides, repeatedly, 
and, also, in these comparisons, had some reasons to suspect that co- 
pies are most generally shorter than the original in standards cut to 
a determined length. 

I have the honor to be. 

With perfect respect and esteem. 
Most honored. Sir, 

Your most obedient humble servant, 
The honorable John Quinct Adams, 

Secretary of State to the United States, 
Washington City. 



Comparisons of French and English standard length measures made 
in March, IHlTfhjF. R. Hassler. 

The two length measures which have been the most scientifically 
ascertained and compared, are the French and the English. 

They are essentially different in their principles, and of different 
metals, which circumstance has always presented difficulties in their 

The English standard is a brass scale of undetermined length, di- 
vided into inches and tenths of inches. They are of different ages 
and accuracy, and successively perfectioned by various artists, by 
making new scales of any convenient length from the mean of distan- 
ces taken upon the old scales. Sir George Shuckburgh Evelyn's 
account of comparisons of a number of them may be consulted for the 
nearer details, (Philosoph. Trans, of London.) 

The French standard is a certain determined unit of length in iron, 
given by a bar cut off to the given length, either a toise, or a meter. 
The accounts of their comparison, ratio, and the determination of the 
latter from nature, is contained in detail in the Basedu Systeme Me^ 

Whoever has attempted to copy an absolute length, or to multiply 
it with accuracy, to form a long;«tandard from a short one, will soon 
have discovered that great care is needed in the choice of means. 
Beam-compasses and similar means are fully unsatisfactory for both. 
This conviction, and the perusal of the different modes of proceeding 
used in Europe in the v^orks of this nature, decided me to adopt for the 
unit measure of the bars, to be used in the base-measuring apparatus, 
the mechanical combination of four iron bars, of two metres length 
each, (of which account is given in another part of the papers,) an 
additional deciding reason for this w as, that I had to my disposition 
for this use one of the metres standarded by the committee of weights 
and measures in Paris in 1799, which is therefore equally authentic 
with the one in Paris itself, and places the accuracy of my unit mea- 
sure above all possible doubt, while of any other measure I could 
only obtain the copy of a copy. The comparison of this with the 
other copies mentioned in this paper, and my bars, rendering it be- 
sides comparable to any standard by mere numerical calculation. 

The comparisons to be related here were made in February and 
March, 1817, and intended to be repeated befoi*e the measurement of 
the first base line of the survey of the coast ; which, having become 
impossible, by events which I was too far from supposing possible, I 
will here only give the result of what was done. 

The following are the different standards compared and their ori- 
gin, which is the first thing to be related minutely : 

1st. An iron metre standarded at Paiis in 1799, by the committee 
of wciglits atid measures, composed of members of the institute and 
/oreigu deputies, ad hoc, — its breadth is 1,"1 Engl, its thickness = 


()"37, like all metres tlicn made, to which it is exactly similar, it 
bears the stamp of tiic committee, namely, a section ot" the elliptic 
earth, of which one quadrant is clear, with the numher 10,000,000 
inside of the arc, the other tliree quadrants heiuji^ shaded. 

My friend, Mr. J. G. Tralles, now member of the academy of Ber- 
lin, was at that time deputy of the Helvetic rej)ublic for this purpose, 
and, as appears by the account of the proceedings, the foreij^n mem- 
ber who attended the construction and coniparison of the length mea- 
sures. He was so kind as to have this metre made expressly for me 
simultaneously with all the others, passing in all respects the same 
process and comparisons ; and on his return to make me a present of 
this, as well as of a kilogramme, also standarded by the committee, 
under the direction of Mr. Van Swinden, (being No. 2.) 

2d. A very well executed iron toise, with its mother, in which it 
fits, forming with it a bar of three inches broad and half an inch thick. 
It is made by Canivet a la Sphere a Paris ; this is engraved upon it, 
together with tlie notice, *' Toise de France ctalonce le 16me86re, 1768, 
** a la temperature de 16° du thermometre de Mr. la Rcauimir.*' On 
the back edge of the toise a line is drawn in the middle over the whole 
length, and, from a peri)endicular crossing this line near one extre- 
mity, a point is laid off near the other extremity ; along this line is 
engraved '* La double longueur du pendule sous V equateurf" a point be-, 
ing also in the middle, at the simple length of the jjendnlum. 

Having been in Paris in 1796, the heirs of Mr. Dionis du Sejour,. 
■who had died shortly before, had given this toise to the celebrated 
artist, Mr. Lenoir, to sell it, from whom I bought it, considering it 
as the best and most authentic standard of this kind in private 

It is well known that about the time stated for the standarding of 
this toise, the Academy of Sciences had in contemplation to establish as 
a natural standard the double length of the pendulum under the equa- 
tor, marked on this toise, probably to this very purpose, in which 
Mr. Dionis du Sejour must, by his situation at the academy, have 
taken particular interest. The work denotes its intention to a valu- 
able purpose. 

3d. Two copies of the toises of Mr. Lalande, which have been com- 
pared in England with Mr. Bird's scale of equal parts in 1768, af- 
ter the return of Messrs. Mason and Dixon from the measurement of 
the degree in Maryland. These copies being of the same size and 
shape as the originals. 

When I was in Paris, in 1793, Mr. Lalande communicated to me 
the above toises, for the use of the survey of Swisserland, w hich I had 
then begun. Mr. Tralles and I made two copies of each of them, 
those here compared being one set. The toises of Mr. Lalande are 
known to be marked A and B, but only on the woods in which tliey 
are framed, and from which they can easily be changed : our's were 
marked upon the iron itself, so as we found them, in the time, an the 
toises of Mr. Lalande. 


N. B. The standards hitherto mentioned, I brought with me to 
this country at my first arrival in 1805, and ceded them some tima 
after to John Vaughan, Esq. of Philadelphia, who has been so good 
as to lend them to me for the intended comparison. 

4th. The brass metre standarded by Lenoir, No. 16 of the collection 
of instruments for the survey of the coast, which was compared at 
the Observatory of Paris, as per certificate of Mr. Bouvard and Ar- 
rago, its breadth is =1."1 English, its thickness =0."18. The cer- 
tificate, dated at the Observatory, 16th March, 1813, says of it: 
** En applicant a nos mesures une correction dependante de I'inega- 
'* lite de dilatation des deux metaux, il nous a semble qu' a zero du 
** thermometre (centigrade) le metre en cuivre de Mr. Hassler^ se- 
** roit plus court que I'Etalon en fer de nos archives de -ji^me. do 
** millimetre." 

Mr. Lertoir, who has been employed by the comitee of weights 
and measures to construct the standards, had taken the precaution, 
at that time, to make one brass metre, which passed all the compari- 
sons with the others, at the standard temperature of 0° centigrade, 
at which, therefore, it is equal to the authentic iron metres, and forms 
the only direct mean of comparison between French and English 
measure. Of this metre the pi'csent is a copy, wliich I thought so 
much more interesting to have, as the original is unique in its kind, 
and the comparison of it witli the English standard possible by di- 
rect means. 

5th. One iron toise of Lenoir, No. 15 of the collection of instru- 
ments for the survey of the coast. It is near two inches broad, and 
about a fourth of an inch thick. Its comparison at the observatory 
at Paris, by the certificate quoted above, says it to be exactly equal 
to the toise of Peru, preserved at the said observatory. 

6th. One iron metre, standarded by Lenoir, No. 1 8 of the cata- 
logue of instruments for the survey of the coast. It is of the same 
breadth and thickness as the iron metres of the comitee, but was not 
compared at the observatory of Paris, on account of being received 
too late. 

7th. An iron bar, similar to the metre just mentioned, which I in- 
tended to bring to the proper metre length, for myself, being yet too 
long. It was used in the comparison; as well as an operation neces- 
sary for its standarding, as to vary the means of combination in the 
comparisons. It has not been worked since this, having been re- 
served for a future comparison. 

8th. A brass standard scale, of English measure, of 82 inches, di- 
vided on silver to every tenth of inches, made by Mr. Trougliton, No. 
14 of the catalogue of instruments for the survey of the coast. It 
has the arms of the United States engraved upon it, and " Trougliton^ 
London, 1813." It is three inches broad, and half an inch thick. 

To it belongs an apparatus for comparing measures by two com- 
pound microscopes, sliding on a rule of equal breadth and thickness 
with the standard ; and adjustable parallel to it one microscope, hav- 
ing a micrometer reading directly the is^-qq of au iuch. 


A description of this arrangement existing already in Nicholson's 
Journal, though on a much smaller scale, all details may here be 

Tlie scale was divided by Mr. Troughton with the utmost care and 
accuracy, so justly praised in this eminent artist. It contains the dou- 
ble length of the principal part of his own scale, of which an account 
lias been given in the paper of Sir George Shuckburgh, above quoted. 
Mr. Troughton compared his scale first again in itself, and made a 
table of errors for the same, in like manner as he has described in his 
method of hand dividing (Philosophical Transactions, 1809) and then 
laid off the scale here used, correcting each point according to this 

To give to a bar of a certain thickness an accurate length, by a 
cut perpendicular to its length, is an operation which cannot be per- 
formed by the free hand, which will always work it uneven, and most 
likely rounded. To do this with accuracy I had a tool constructed, 
&c. ^:c. 

(The description of this tool, the iron bars, and the manner in 
which they have been worked, may here be passed over, merely men- 
tioning that the four bars were of equal breadth and thickness with 
the metres, and lettered A, B, C, D.) 

For the actual comparison, the unequal thickness of the different 
standards obliged to support them, so as to bring them exactly to 
the elevation of the thickest, for which the foci of the microscopes are 
adjusted, and the value of the micrometer determined. In the com- 
parison of the metres the brass scale was the thickest, and in that of 
the toises the toise of Canivet. The influence of this necessary sup- 
porting, when done only partially, is very great, tlierefore I had 
pine rules, made of sufficient breadth and length to support fully the 
standards and the butting pieces, which were used in reading off, as 
■will be said immediately, and of the accurate thickness to bring each 
of tiie metres exactly to the focus, and free from all parallax. As it 
is completely inadmissible to take the edge of a bar, if ever so sharp, 
as object under the microscope for the purpose of comparison, because 
it never forms a good image, pieces cut off from the end of the above 
mentioned bars, (which had originally been made purposely about nine 
inches too long) were placed at the two ends of the metres, under 
comparison, to make the reading from the separation lines, presented 
by their close contact, which were not thicker than the lines of the 
scale. These pieces were from two to four inches long, worked to 
jthe exact thickness of the metre, or toise, with which they had to 
serve, and by rubbing with emery and oil one against the other, turn- 
ing them in all positions, they were brought to make exact contact 
on the whole surface, which afterwards joined to the metre did the 
same with it, and on account of their equal thickness presented a 
plane crossed by the partition line. Upon this the micrometer wires 
which cross each other under an angle of about 30°, were brought, by 
optical contact, so that the partition line bisected the angle exactly in 
the crossing point of the wires. 


The microscopes were furnished with paper reflectors, by a piece 
of white paper placed in a forw ard inclified direction between the 
microscopes and tlicir supports, by wiiich the light was reflected 
upon the scale or standard in the direction of the division lines, as re- 
quired to avoid all shades of the lines, or partitions, which prevent 
accurate reading. 

To prevent the influence of the heat of the observer's body upon 
the scale and apparatus, a large sheet of paper w as nailed to the 
work bench, near the microscopes, where the observer approaches, 
and 1 worked with gloves on for the same reason. 

From seven to twelve thermometers were constantly laying over 
the scale and the standards, and read off at proper intervals of time. 

The workbench itself was near double as long as the scale, to ob- 
tain a sufficient length fully accurate plane, it was in this respect ac- 
curately adjusted before the woik, and so placed in respect to the 
windows, that each microscope corresponded to the best equal light 
from a separate window ; the bench was made of two three inch 
planks at right angle, and upon six legs. 

There was no fire made iii the room during the comparison ; and, 
for a number of days before, the windows were besides left open day 
and night, to bring the room to a steady temperature, being equal ta 
that of the atmosphere. 

For the intended comparison of a day all was prepared the day be- 
fore, and left lying just fit to begin the observations the next day, in 
order that all parts might be fully at rest, and after verification in 
the morning the actual comparison begun. 

All these precautions are necessary to obtain satisfactory results,: 
as I think may be observed by what w ill follow. 

The possible inaccuracy of the readings may be considered in the 
flirect ratio of their number, having four metres, and the scale hold- 
ing the sum of two, I had the mean to halve this error by comparing 
always two together alternately, reading their sum at once on th& 
scale, and forming an equation between the results, to obtain the value 
of each individual metre. This method had yet the advantage of 
leaving the observer fully unprejudiced upon what he shall read, as 
the combination of the different measures and the different influence 
of temperature occasions a variation which precludes previous esti- 

To this effect, the microscopes were placed to the decimal on the 
scale nearest to the sum of two metres, viz: 78."7 or 78."8, which 
was taken from +1" to 79,"8, which approximated it nearest to the 
middle of the scale. AVhen the scale had been removed, and the two 
metres with their support properly laid under, so as to bring the mid- 
dle of their breadth under the centre of the microscopes, the middle 
contact was exactly made, and with a magnifying glass verified, 
then the butting pieces being laid on, the coincidence of one end with 
the crossing wires of the fixed microscope was obtained by longitu- 
dinal motion, and the micrometer w ires being moved upon the other 
line of contact, between the metre end and the butting piece, the va- 


hie of tlic correspond i>ii^ subdivisions was read on the micrometer, 
by its revolutions and subdivisions. 'J^he lonc^itudinal motion cannot 
be made by band; it is obtained by I ii^bt strokes witb a proper piece 
of wood, and lequires dexterity and care, particularly not to sepa- 
rate tbe different pieces by the counter stroke. 

The value of the micrometer parts was to be previously ascertain- 
ed by accurate and repeated measurements of a decimal on tbe scale 
in different places; by a mean of many, 1 found undei- tbf^ adjustment 
for tbe metres 0."1 on the scale = l."004 of the micrometer. 

At last the individual value of tbe distance used on the scale in re- 
lation to the mean value of tbe same distance resulting from the mea- 
surement of it, on as many parts of the scale as was admissible, was 
to be determined, in order to give tbe true mean value of the distance 
of the points of the scale compared. This was done by about 50 
measurements principally after the comparison had been made, and 
befoi'e any alteration bad been made in the microscopes. So I found 
tbe distance used, or 79."8 — l."0 = r8."800172 of tiie mean value 
of tbe scale; to this, therefore, all the values obtained by the metre 
comparison were ultimately referred. 

To shorten the manner of registering the results and the combi- 
nation of the metres and their position, the following mode of nota- 
tion was adopted: 

IVIc denotes the iron metre of the committee of weights and measures. 
Ml - - Lenoir. 

M& - brass metre of Lenoir. 

Mj - iron bar which I intended to bring to a metre length. 

Mc+^ - metre of the committee and that of Lenoir together, 

all marks np. 
M3+/ - tbe same metres, all marks down. 

And, in like manner, in the other combinations, tbe adding of the 
special marks at tbe top, denoting always tbe sum of the metres so 
indicated, and the inversion of the letters the inversion of these me- 

I'he 15th March, early in tlie morning, the eleven thermometers 
wiiicb had been lying over night on tbe scales, prepared tbe evening 
before, were read ; after having verified that all was in order, then 
it was further observed, as by the following table: 




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O T- 00 1-1 

■n 1-1 m 



»0 G? 

G! CO 00 

00 00 CO 00 

CO CO m 




Oi o 

to O 00 

in to to to 

m 05 t^ 



»f5 to 

in to in 

in in in in 






t^ t^ 

t^ t- b. 

t^ »-- t^ b- 



1 1 

t I 1 

?: i 1 1 








- Q 




« a. 


m K 

1-1 •-" Oi 

G^ m 00 G5 

E P 


T— 1 

G! CO 

t^ 00 00 

Ci CJl 05 o 

S « 



Tf -^ ■^ 

tt ■^ Tf m 



+ + 

+ + -P 

k^ SH If-H 


d -^ ^ 
m m m 

+ + -P 



















Tlie final I'csults of these comparisons form therefore the following 
table of the Miliies of the different meters compared at the tempera- 
tui-e of 32° of both metre and scales, in English inches : 

I Date of Uic com- Mc. ML Mb. Mj. 


15th Mai-ch, 39.380932064 SOjirOOtJllS 59.379854162 

18UiMiu-ch, A. ^r. 

P. M. 



Means - 39.381022708 39.37972015 

Correction of the brass meti-e by the certificate 

- +0.00039381 



which applied, gives the metre corrected - - - 39.38024797 

These results might now be compared with those obtained by va- 
rious comparisons made in England, these being however always 
stated so as taking the metre at 32°, and in value of the English scale 
at 62% it is necessai'y to reduce them all for 30° diftercnceofto;aper- 
atuje full expansion of the brass. As I have not now the books in 
which they are related, and am ignorant, so various are they, which 
English standard and expansion has been used ; supposing, however, 
that it has most generally been that of Borda, I will here only pre- 
sent, in a tabular shape, the different results as I have them, and re- 
duc • them to 32°, to compare them with my results. Observing, at 
the same time, that they are yet subject to the differences between the 
English standards themselves, which are in some instances greater 
than the differences of these results, as may be seen by the paper of 
Sir G. Shuckburgh, quoted above, and the account of Mr. Pictet, of 
Geneva, made in London in 1802. Borda's expansif)n for brass be- 
ing 0.00000999, (though I have seen it lately stated at 0.0000101, on 
what ground I do not know, unless I suppose a mistake.) 

Authority or observer. 

Value sjiven at 



DifTereiice with my 
Reduced to 32°. results of commit- 
tee nietie. 

39.38126801 +0.0002453 
— 380896 —0.0001267 

— 381696 +0.0006733 

— 37079 


H- 0.0004633 
+ 0.0002933 

The Roy. Soc. accepted 
in 1800 
Mr. Pictet in 1802 
Mr. Kater on S. G. 

Shuckburgh's scale, 

lately, 1818 
The same on Bird's scale 
(Unknown which of Bird's 

scales, there being a 


I do not compare by my ratio of expansion, because they were not 
made or known at the times of the older comparison ; of course could 
never have been employed in them. 

The 21st March, I took the different standards of the toise under 

The toise of Canivet being half an incli French in thickness, and 
the hrass scale half an inch English, this difference was compen.sated 
by laying four thicknesses of white paper strips under the wliole 
length of the scale; the microscopes were adjusted to fit this toise, 
and then the scale adjusted to it ; the other toises had rules of proper 
thickness to bring them to the same focus. 


Tlie distance of 76. "8, as nearest to the toise was taken between 
the micfoscopes, from + 2" to 78. "8 on tlie scale as bringing the 
measure again nearest the middle of the scale. 

The value of the micrometer was determined by repeated measure- 
ment of the decimal on the scale between 78.7 and 78.8 and found 
that it measured 0."1005S by the micrometer; the readings here gi- 
ven, will, therefore, be corrected by this value of the micrometer, 
by which they will represent regular decimals of this individual sub- 

It was of course also here intended to compare the distance taken 
on the scale with all the other measures of the same distance which 
can be measured on the scale, and the value of the micrometer upon 
a great number of decimal divisions, to obtain a mean value of it. 
But it being necessary to begin the pyrometrical experiments before 
the cold weather should cease, I delayed this comparison until after, 
or to another opportunity, which did not occur before I delivered the 
whole of these standards, and the scale, with the other instruments. 
The values here obtained will, therefore, remain individual, unless 
some future occasion should present to make this necessary trial of 
the scale on the indicated length, when the results here given may 
be corrected accordingly. 

The microscopes being screwed fast, and the 0." of the micrometer 
not agreeing fully with tlje division of the scale, which, for small dif- 
ferences it is not proper to correct by the screw of the sliding piece, 
I used the better method of reading repeatedly the divisions of 78.7 
and 78,8 on the micrometer, taking the point of the micrometer so 
determined, by a mean, for the zero, from which the readings of the 
micrometer are to be subtracted, as the micrometer read yet by sub- 
traction from 78. "8, this point being 78."8001375, all the readings 
given immediately, are to be subtracted from the number instead of 
78. "8 only. 

I intended of course also to repeat the comparison with the mi- 
croscope reading directly or onwards, but the same reasons stated 
prevented the execution of it. 

Using again abridged notations for the registering of the results, 

I called C = the toise of Caniyet -) j^^^.ti ^^g ,ett^r 

L = - Lenoir ! \ j.u ^ \ 

-t Til 1 1 A )> when the marks 

1"^=^ - Lalande marked A j i • , , ,. 

j„ _^ n \ laid downwards. 

In the toise of Canivet, thi-ee points were observed on the length of 
the contact, lettered as follows : = — 

i, at i of the contact from the inner corner 

in, in the middle of the contact '»- 

€f at 0."05 from the outer end of the contact 


In the toise of Lenoir only the middle was taken, (which is mark- 
ed by a line,) like in the comparison at Paris. The same was done 
with' the toises of Lalande. The turning end for end of the toise of 
Canivet in both cases related was impossible, on account of its breadth. 
These comparisons present the following table: 



•3 ** 






















.3 2 


















1— 1 










































>ft o o 

G^ »0 -^ 

00 c» o 
»o in lo 

o o o 







in t^ G 

t^ 00 «o 

in m >« 

o o o 
d d d 



CO >o -a o o 

1-1 o a> o 05 

o o S d "=> 

O O ~^ O O 
















G^ in 



CO t-. 

-^ G< 



in in 

o o 

o o 

o o o o 







tJ Ir* M t^ 






























• r^ 









c en 

» OP 


t^ o -^ »n 

M" r- Tf Tf 

Tf b~ Oi 00 

CO G? C> 00 

CO CT> O Tf 

Tf 1— I O 00 

b>» Tf "^ ^ 

; t, ^ b, 

S I 1 1 





G^ O '-' K^ fi 
G^ C^ G^ Tf ••* 

b^ 00 cr> >— ' •» 

OS 00 ^3 Tf 00 

•'S O Tf K. «0 

O ^ — — I t^ 

0000 'H 

0000 g 

d d d d — 


y cS S 

no = 

O -G 


O 5^ O 



c S o 

O „ 0) 

*" = &/) 

<B <U C 

O V >-< 

7 o a> 
•*^ .d 




c*^ O Tf Tf 
Oj Tf »rt ^ 

+ + + + 

b- OS GJ O 

Tf 00 O t-^ 

b^ CO CO Tf 

G! 00 CO t^ 

Tf O 00 CO 

l^ Tf 

CO Tf 
I I 

O? O Tf ift 


Tf CO t^ 00 






Having no books about inT> in wbicb I could see for the details of 
compaiison of toiscs with Knj^lisli measures, the comparison Just 
quoted is the only one with which I could compare mine, and the iii 
feriority of the two toises of Mr. Lalande in every respect renders it 
of very little importance. 

In the comparison of 1768, the mean adopted as result was 

— - — = 76.734 at the temperature of 62% which is stated to be 

0.024 of an inch longer than when determined by Mr. Graham. I 
have not before me sufficient data to judge of the propriety of the 
mean adopted, as it does not follow immediately from the two indivi- 
dual results stated in my notice. In respect to the temperature it 
seems that both toiscs and the scale of Bird of equal parts were sup- 
posed both at the temperature of 62". Reducing this result to 32% 
by different ratios of expansions, it presents the following result com- 
parable with mine : 

Ratio of difference of Amount of Ex- -^ , „„ 

Elxpanbion. pansion, ^^'^'^ ^' *^ 

By Borda's expansion 0.00000352 0.0081031 76.7421031 

By Trough ton's 0.0000039 0.0089779 — .7429779 

By my experiments 0.000003545495 0.0081618 — .742162 

Which are all smaller than mine, and I should suppose to deviate 
more from trutli, as they would give a more erroneous proportion 
between the metre and toise. But I must again observe, that my 
results may yet be subject to a small correction by the i-eduction of 
the distance used on the scale to its mean value, as has been done 
witli the metres. 

The ratio between metre and toise, which may be quoted, as well 
for curiosity' sake, as also as a kind of trial of my comparison, 
may here be stated in all combinations which the different stand- 
ards admit ; and I have in doing so the private interest of giving the 
ratio of the toise of Canivet to an authentic metre ; because this 
toise has served in 1796, to Mr. Tralles and myself, to measure a 
base line of more than 40,000 feet by an arrangement of toises bars, 
which were standarded in it. 

The ratio of the metre to the toise, or the metre expressed in deci- 
tnals of the toise, is given by Mr. Delambre. 
Metre"= 0.5131 11 185 

With my denomination is obtained : 





^ :0.5131355' 

, =0.513145 


= 0.513146 








?^ =0.513146 

* 2 


f^ =0.513131 
A + B 


Captain Kater's comparison of the metre with Bird's scale woiihl 

B. Sc. 



B. Sc. 

:=- = 0.5131658 

With sir George Shuckburgh's scate the deviation would be still 


JVewark, J^ew Jersey, October, 1819^ 

E 1 — a, 


Governor of JSTew Hampshire to the Secretary of State. 

Executive Department, 

Eppiiig, ^"ovember 21 f 1818. 

Sir : By the last mail I received your letter of the 4th instant re- 
questing a cjpy of the law of New Hampshire of 1718, upon the sub- 
ject of weiguts and measures, and a statement of each scale beam.. 


weif^ht, and measure, described in the act of 1797, and where, and ia 
Avhosc custody, they are ke|)t. 

I herewith send you a copy of the law of 1718, and of an additional 
act passed the 6th of George HI. upon that subject. I transcribed 
them from books in my library ; and, as 1 presume you do not wish 
to use tiiem in a court of law, I did not suppose it nect^ssary to send 
to the Secretary of tliis State for official copies, especially as I doubt 
whether even copies remain of both those laws in that otUce. 

I have taken measures to obtain the requisite information respect- 
ing the scale beams, weights, and measures, belonging to this state> 
and as soon as I obtain it will write you on the subject, 
I have the honor to be, 
With much respect, sir. 
Your obedient servant, 

Hon. JoHTf QuisrcY Adams, 

Secretary of State U. S» Washington. 

E i—b. 

Copy of an Act passed by the General Court or Assembly of the Province 
ofJK^erv Hampshire, in JSTew England, begun and held at Fortsmouth, 
on the ISth day of May^ 1718. 


To the end that weights and measures may be one and the same 
throughout this Province, 

1 . Be it enacted by his Excellency the Goveiiior, Council^ and Repre^ 
sentatives, convened in General Assembly^ and by the authority of the 
samef That tlie treasurer of this province shall provide one set of 
weights and measures as are according to the approved Winchester 
measures, allowed in England in the exchequer, which shall be pub- 
lic allowed standards throughout this province, for the proving and 
sealing of all weights and measures thereby : and the town clerk of 
every town within this province, not already supplied, sliall, witbin 
three months next coming, provide, upon the town charge, one bushel, 
one half bushel, one peck, one ale quai-t, one wine quart, one ell, 
one yard, one set of brass weights to four pounds after sixteen ounces 
to the pound, with fit scales and steel beam, tried and proved by the 
aforesaid standard, and sealed by the treasurer, or his deputy, in his 
presence^ which shall be kept and used only for standards in the se- 
veral towns, who is hereby authorized to do the same, for which he 
shall receive, from the town clerks of every town, two pence for eve- 
ry weight and measure so tried, proved, and s'ealed. And the town 
clerk of every town shall commit the weights and measures unto the 

17^ APPENDrS. 

custody of the select-men for their town, for the time being, who, 
Avith the town clerk, are enjoined to choose an able man for a sealer 
of all weights and measures for their own town, from time to time, 
and until another be chosen, who shall be presented to the next court, 
or some justice of the peace, to be sworn to the faithful discharge of 
his duty, and shall have power to send forth his warrants by the 
constables to all the inhabitants of each town, to bring in all such 
weights and measures as they make any use of, in the month of April, 
from year to year, at such time and place as he shall appoint, and 
make return to the sealer in writing of all persons so summoned ; that 
tlicM and there all such weights and measures may be proved and 
sealed, witli the town seal ; which is likewise to be provided by the 
town clerk, at each town charge, who shall have for every weight 
and measure, so sealed, one penny, from the owner thereof at the 
first scaling. And all such weights and measures as cannot be brought 
to their just standard, he shall deface and destroy : and, after the 
first sealing, he shall have nothing so long as they continue just with 
the standard. 

£. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid^ That, if any 
Constable, select-men, or sealers, do not execute these laws, so far as 
to each and every of them appertains, shall forfeit for every neglect 
the space of one month, the sum of forty shillings ; the half to the in- 
former, the other half to the use of the poor of the town where such 
default is found; and every person neglecting to bring in their 
weights and measures at the time and place appointed, being only 
warned thereof, shall forfeit three shillings and four-pence ; the one- 
half thereof to the use of the poor, as aforesaid, the other half to the 
sealer ; and the penalties herein mentioned to be levied by distress, 
by warrant fi-om any justice of the peace within this province. 

3. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid. That, ineve- 
ry'seaport town within this province, the town clerk is to provide, like- 
wise, upon tlie town charge, one hundred weight, made of iron, to be 
tl'ied, proved, and sealed, as aforesaid, and one half hundred, and 
one quarter of an hundred, and one fourteen pound weight, made of 
iron, to be tried, proved, and sealed, as aforesaid, and to be kept as 
standards in the said several towns, to be used as before for other 
weights and measures as is directed. 

4. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all steel- 
yards that are or shall be approved of by the standards, shall be al- 
lowed of in any of the towns of the said province, and be in the liber- 
ty of both buyer and seller to weigh by which they please. 

5. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all mea- 
sures by which meal, fruits, and other things, usually sold by heap, 
shall be sold, be conformable, as to bigness, to the following di- 
mensions, viz : The bushel not less within side than eighteen inches 
and half wide, the half bushel not less than thirteen inches and three 
quarters wide, the peck not less than ten inches and three quarters 
wide, and the half peck not less than nine inches wide. xVnd if any 
person, at any time, from and after the first day of October next. 


after the publication of this act. shall sell, expose to sale, or ofTcr any 
meal, fruits, or other thinj^s usually sold hy heap, by any other mea- 
sure than is aforementioned, as to bij^ness and breadth, such person be- 
ing complained of and convicted before any Justice of peace within this 
province, of so doina;, shall forfeit and pay, to the use of the poor of 
the town wheic the oflence is committed, the full value of the meal, 
fruits, or other things so sold, or oflered to sale; and such justice 
may commit tlic oftender to prison, until payment be made of the 
said forfeiture, or cause the same to be levied by warrant of distress, 
and paid unto the town treasurer, or overseers of the poor, to the use 
of the poor aforesaid ; and shall also cause such measure to be defac- 
ed : any law, usage, or custom, to the contrary in any wise notwith- 

6. And be if further enacted hy the authority aforesaid^ That the 
sealer appointed in each town within this province, from time to time, 
shall be, and hereby is, empowered to goto the houses of such of the 
inhabitants as, upon warning given in manner as is above appointed, 
shall neglect to bring or send in their beams, weights, and measures, 
to be proved and sealed at the place assigned for that purpose, and 
shall there prove and seal the same, and shall demand and receive of 
the owner of every beam, weight, and measure, proved and sealed, 
two pence, and no more : and every person that shall refuse to have 
their beams, weights, and measures, viewed, proved, and sealed, 
shall forfeit the sum of five shillings ; one moiety thereof to the use of 
the poor of the town, and the other moiety to the sealer, to be re- 
covered as is above provided. And if any person shall bring his 
beam, weights, or measures, to be proved and sealed at any other 
time than on the day or days set by the sealer for tliat purpose, he 
shall in like manner pay two pence for each that shall be tried and 

7. Jnd be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any 
person, from and after the first day of September next, after the pub- 
lication of this act, shall sell, vend, or utter, any goods, wares, mer- 
chandises, grain, or other commodities whatsoever, by other beams, 
weights, or measures, than such as shall be proved and sealed as this 
act requires, the person so offending shall lose or forfeit the sum of 
live shillings for each offence of that kind ; one moiety thereof to the 
use of the poor of the town where the offence shall be committed, the 
other moiety to the sealer or informer, w ho shall prosecute the same, 
to be heard and determined by one or more of his majesty's justices 
of the peace. 

8. And be it further enacted by the mithority aforesaid. That all 
beams, weights, and measures, kept for standards in the several 
towns, shall be proved and tried by the public standard at the end of 
ten years, from time to time ; and all town standards shall be stam])ed 
Avith this mark, PNH 5 ^ny law, usage, or custom, to the contrary 


E 1 — c. 

Copy of an Actjmssed 6th George III, 

Jin Mt in addition to an Mt, entitled *' Jin Act for regulating Weiglitu; 

and Jleasures." 

Whereas the said act, by experience, is found ineffectual to answer the 
good end thereby intended, as the penalties therein imposed aie in- 
sufficient to enforce a due observance thereof: Wherefore, 

1. Beit eiiactedhj his Excellency the Governor f Council, andBepre- 
sentativeSf convened in General Jissembly, and it is herebj enacted and 
ordained by the authority of the same. That, from aiid after the passing 
of tiiis act, every person who sliall neglect to bring in their weights 
and measures at the time and place appointed, (being duly warned 
thej'cof,) shall forfeit the sum of forty shillings, to be recovered and 
applied in the same manner as by the said act is directed, for re- 
coverijig the fine therein inflicted for such neglect. 

2. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid^ That when 
and so often as the sealey of weights and measures, '• any town or 
parish within this province, shall have probable cause of suspicion 
that any inhabitant has two sets of weights and measures, according 
to one, whereof, (being legal) the said inhabitant buyeth, and with 
the other (being liglitcr or smaller) he selleth, and secreteth the lat- 
ter, or produceth not the same to the sealer, it shall and may be law- 
ful for the said sealer, verbally, to warn tiie said inhabitant to ajx- 
pear before the next justice of the peace for the said province, who 
is hereby authorized and required to examine the said iidiabitant upon 
oath (witliout fee or reward) touching the same weights and measures,, 
that so the fraud (if any ihere be) may be detected ; and if the said 
inhabitant, so verbally warned as aforesaid, shall refuse to attend 
upon the said justice as aforesaid, the said justice, upon satisfactory 
proof of the said warning, shall issue his warrant to apprehend such 
delinquent, and bring him, or her, before him, when, if the said de- 
linquent shall refuse to answer upon oath, he, orr she, shall incur and 
forfeit the same penalty as in the said act is inflicted on persons who 
shall sell, vend, or utter, any goods, wares, merchandise, grain, or 
other commodities, by other beams, weights, or measures, than such 
as shall be proved and sealed as the same act requires, and pay cost 

3. Jlnd be it further enacted. That, for tlie future, the selectmen of 
the said towns and parishes, (not already provided) shall, at the 
charge of the towns and parishes, respectively, procure all those 
weights and measures which, by the law aforesaid, are to be provided 
by the town clerks, and improved and used as standards for the said 
towns and parishes ; and in default tiiereof, for the term of six 
months from the passing of this act, those selectmen who shall be de- 
linquent hei'cin shall forfeit and pay the sum of ten pounds, for the 


«se of tiie poor of the town or parish where the selectmen shall be so 
ncglij;ent, to be levied by distress and sale of their goods and chattels, 
by warrant from any justice of tiie peace. 

E 1— fZ. 

«5/j act regulating scale beams f steelyardsy weights^ and measures. 

Sec. 1. Beit enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives fin 
General Court convened. That the governor, by and with tiie advice of 
council, be, and hereby is, authorized and empowered to appoint a 
sealer of weights and measures in each county in this state. 

Sec. 2. Jind be it further enacted. That each sealer of weights and 
measures, appointed as aforesaid, shall provide, at the expense of the 
state, one complete set of scale beams, weights, and measures, similar 
to those now owned by this state ; which shall bo kept by him as 
standards for tlie use of said county. And it shall be the duty of said 
sealer of weights and measures to try and prove by said standards 
all scale beams, steelyards, weights, and measures, which shall be 
brought to him for that purpose by the sealers of weights and mea- 
sures chosen in the respective towns in said county ; and to seal suck 
as shall be found just, agreeable to said standards, who shall receive 
six cents for every scale beam, steelyard, weight, and measure, so 
tried, proved, and sealed. 

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, Thatthe selectmen of every town 
in this state shall provide, at the proper expense of their respective 
towns, one complete set of weights and measures, and a scale beam 
as aforesaid, for the use of said town, of such materials as the town 
shall think proper, provided the liquid measures be of some kind of 

Sec. 4. Andbe it further enacted, That each town in this state shall, 
at their annual meeting, choose one suitable person for sealer of weights 
and measures in said town, who shall be sworn to the faithful dis- 
charge of his duty, who shall notify the inhabitants to bring in all 
scale beams, steelyards, weights, and measures, as they make use of, 
in the month of May, from year to year, at such time and place as he 
shall appoint, by posting up a notification at every meeting house in 
said town, and if there be no meeting house, then at some public place 
in said town, three weeks successively prior to the day appointed ; 
and the said sealer shall try, prove, and seal, all such scale beams, 
steelyards, weights, and measures, as shall be brought to him, and 
shall be found just, agreeable to said standards ; and he shall have for 
every scale beam, steelyard, weight, and measure, so sealed, two 
cents from the owner thereof at the first sealing, and after the first 
sealing one cent only, so long as they continue just with the standard. 

Sec. 5. Jnd be it further enacted, That all measures by which meal, 
fruit, and other things usually sold by heap, shall be sold, be of the 
following dimensions, viz : the bushel not less within side than 
eighteen inches and a half widej the half bushel not loss than thirteen 


inches and three quarters wide ; the peck not less than ten inches and 
three quarters wide ; and thelialfpeck not less than nine inches wide. 
And if any person at any time from and after the first day of Septem- 
ber next, shall sell, expose to sale, or offer any meal, fruit, or other 
things usually sold by heap, by any other measure than is aforemen- 
tioned, as to bigness and breadth, such person, being complained of, 
and convicted before any justice of the peace within the county of so 
doing, shall forfeit and pay to the use of the poor of the town where 
the offence is committed, the full value of the meal, fruit, or other 
things so sold, or offered to sale, with costs. 

Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That the sealer of weights and 
measures appointed in each town within this state, from time to time, 
shall be, and hereby is, empowered to go to the houses of such of the 
inhabitants, having been duly notified as aforesaid, who shall neglect 
to bring or send in their scale beams, steelyards, weights, and measures, 
to be proved and sealed at the place assigned for that purpose, and shall 
there prove and seal the same, and shall receive of the owner for every 
scale beam, steelyard, weight, and measure, proved and sealed, 
twenty cents and no more ; and every person that shall refuse to have 
their scale beams, steelyards, weights, and measures, viewed, proved, 
and sealed, shall forfeit the sum often dollars, one moiety thereof to 
the use of the poor of the town, and the other moiety to the sealer ; and 
if any person shall bring his scale-beams, steelyards, weights, or 
measures, to be proved and sealed, at any other time than on the 
day or days set by the sealer of weights and measures for that pur- 
pose, he shall, in like manner, pay three cents for every scale-beam, 
steelyard, weight, ot* measure, that shall be tried and sealed, and one 
cent and a half for such as do not need sealing. 

Sec. 7. And be it further enacted. That if any person, from and 
after the first day of September next, shall sell, vend, or utter, any 
goods, wares, merchandises, grain, or other commodities whatso- 
ever, by other scale-beams, steelyards, weights, or measures, than 
such as shall be proved and sealed as this act requires, in any town 
where provision is made, and notification given agreeably to this act, 
or shall fraudulently so sell, utter, or vend, any goods, wares, mer- 
chandises, grain, or other commodities, by any scale-beams, steel- 
yards, weights, or measures, that may be so sealed, that siiall prove 
unjust, the person so offending shall forfeit a sum not less than one 
dollar, nor more than ten dollars, with costs, for each offence ; one moi- 
ety thereof to the use of the poor of the town where the offence shall 
be committed, the other moiety to the informer who shall prosecute the 

Sec. 8. And be it J urther enacted. That all scale-beams, steelyards, 
weights, and measures, kept for standards in the several towns, shall 
be proved and tried by the public county standards at the end of every 
five years from time to time. 

Sec. 9. And be it further enacted. That if the selectmen of any 
town in this state neglect to comply with their duty in procuring 
weights and measures, and a scale-beam, as by this act is required.. 


tliey shall forfeit the sum of one hundred dollars, to he recovered, 
one half for the use of the county in which the ne.^lert shall happen, 
and the other half for the use of the person who shall sue for the 

Sec. 10. »9nd be it further enacted^ That when any sealer of 
weights and measures, that may be duly appointed in any town 
where a scale-beam, weights, and measures, are provided according 
to this act, shall neglect to notify the inhabitants as aforesaid, shall 
forfeit the sum of fifty dollars, and for neglecting the duties i>f his 
office in any other respect, from one to twenty dollars ; one half for 
the prosecutor, the other half for the use of the town where such ne- 
glect shall happen. And all penalties and compensations mentioned 
in this act, may be sued for and recovered by action, bill, plaint, or 
information, in any court proper to try the same. 

Sec. 11. And be it further enactedy That the sealer of weights and 
measures for each county may make use of such seal as he may 
think proper, provided a description thereof, in writing, be lodged in 
the secretary's office before it be made use of, and that the sealer of 
weights and measures chosen by each town, respectively, shall use 
such seal as the town may agree on, a record of which being pre- 
viously made in the town records. 

Providedf That this act shall remain in force till superseded by an 
act of the general government.* 
Approved, December 15, 1797. 

E 1 — e. 

Governor of J\rew Hampshire to the Secretary of State* 

New Hampshire Executive Department, 

Eppingf January 4, 1819. 

Sir : I regret that circumstances beyond my control have prevent- 
ed me till this time from returning an answer to that part of your let- 
ter of November 4, 1818, requesting a statement of the scale beams, 
weights, and measures, owned by this state, and where, and in whose 
custody, they are kept. 

The state owns, of dry measures, a bushel, a half bushel, and other 
measures of that kind, down to the smallest denomination. These 
measures are of copper, the bushel weighing about 100 lbs. and the 
others in proportion. 

Oi liquid mesisures there are a gallon, and half gallon ; these are 
of block tin. 

The weights are a 56 lb. 28 lb. and 14 lb. and two or three of a 
smaller denomination ; these also are of copper. 

The measures and weights are at Portsmouth, in the office of Robert 
Neal, Jr. Esq. commissary general of this state. 

' The operation of this act was postponed bv four several acts till 10th Decemhec, 1801 - 


As to scale beams and steelyards, I can find none owned by this 

I have the honor to be, &c. 

Hon. John Quincy Adams, 

Secretary of State U. S. Washington. 

E 3— a. 

State of Vermont, Executive Department, 

Shaftsburijf January 20, 1818. 

Sir : In compliance with a request from the Department of State, 
I have the honor to enclose to you a copy of a law of this state re- 
lating to weights and measures, which is the only act now in force 
in this state relative to a standard of weights and measures. 

Mere accident, and not intentional delay, has prevented a more 
speedy compliance with said request. 

I am, sir, with great respect. 

Your most obedient servant, 

Hon. John Q. Adams, 

Secretary of State of the U. S. 

E 2—/;. 

An Act relating to Weights and Measures* 

Sec. 1. It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the state of 
Vermontf That the treasurer of this state shall provide, and keep in 
good order and repair, in his oftice, one complete set of weights and 
measures necessary for the use of this state, according to the approv- 
ed Winchester measure allowed in England in the exchequer, namely : 
one half bushel, one peck, one half peck, one ale quart, one wine gal- 
lon, one two quart wine measure, one quart, one pint, one half pint, 
one gill, and one half gill wine measure ; one English ell, one yard, 
one set of iron weights, namely : one fifty-six pound weight, one 
twenty-eight pound weight, one fourteen, one seven, one four, one 
two, and one pound iweight, and a suitable scale and beam necessa- 
ry for the use of the same ; also, one set of brass weights, from one 
ounce to four pounds, at the rate of sixteen ounces to the pound, and 
a suitable scale and steel-beam, necessary for the use of the same, 
tried and approved according to said standard of Winchester; which 
sliall be considered and understood to be the public standard through- 


out this state, for the approviiij? and scaling all wci.s^hts and mea- 
sures. Which standard of weigljts and measures shall be provided 
by the treasurer of this state, fi'om time to time, as the same shall 
become necessary, and kej)t in his ollicc. And, if the said treasurer 
shall neglect to procure and keep in his oflice afoiesaid all or any 
of the weights, measures, scales, or beams, as aforesaid, he shall 
forfeit and pay one hundred dollars for each and every six months he 
shall be so deficient, with costs, to be recovered before any coiiit of 
competent jui'isdictionj one moiety of which sum to the prosecutor, 
and the other moiety to the treasury of the county in which such 
prosecution shall be had. And each and every county treasurer with- 
in this state shall, at the expense of their respective counties, pro- 
vide, within six months, and keep the same in repair in his office, all 
the aforesaid weights, measures, beams, and scales, according to the 
standard abovementioned, proved and sealed by the treasurer of this 
state; and shall, from time to time, keep the same in his office in 
good order and repair. And the selectmen of every town within this 
state shall provide, from time to time, as they may be wanted, at the 
expense of the town, one half bushel, and one peck, of the follow- 
ing dimensions, namely : the half bushel in diameter, within side, 
not less than thirteen inches and three quarters of an inch ; the peck 
not less than ten inches and three quarters within side ,• one half peck, 
one ale quart, one wine gallon, one two quart, one quart, one pint, 
one half pint, one gill, one half gill, wine measure ; one English 
yard ; one set of brass weights from one ounce to four pounds avoir- 
dupois weight, with scales and steel beam ; all the above measures, 
weights, scales, and beams, to be tried, proved, and sealed, by the 
county treasurer, according to the aforesaid standard of Winchester 
provided by the respective counties, which shall be kept only for 

Sec. 2. dnd it is hereby further enacted. That all steelyards that 
are, or shall be, approvedf of by the standard, shall be allowed of in 
any town of this state, and be at the liberty of both buyer and seller 
to weigh by. 

Sec. 3. dnd it is hereby further enacted, That all weights, mea- 
sures, scales, and beams, provided by the respective towns within 
this state as aforesaid, shall yearly, and every year, be delivered to 
the sealer of weights and measures, who shall be chosen and sworn, 
as the law directs, in the several towns. And the sealer of weights 
and measures, within every town in this state, shall post up a noti- 
fication in writing, in the month of January annually, requiring all 
and every person, within their respective towns, to bring in to said 
sealer of weights and measures all such weights and measures by 
which they respectively buy or sell, giving, at least, fourteen days' 
notice of the time appointed for sealing as aforesaid. And the seal- 
ers of such weights and measures may demand and receive, from the 
owner of all weights and measures, so tried, proved, arid sealed, by 
the town seal, two cents for each weight or measure so sealed by 
him. And, if any person shall carry any weights or measures to be 


sealed at any time, after the day notified for sealing as aforesaid, the 
sealers of weights and measures, in such case, may demand and take 
eight cents for each article sealed ; which town seals shall be pro- 
vided by the selectmen of their respective towns, at the expense and 
charge of the same. 

Sec. 4. Jind it is herehij further enacted^ That if the treasurers of 
the respective counties, or the selectmen or sealers of weights and 
measures of any town in this state, shall neglect or refuse to pro- 
cure any weights, measures, scales, or beams, or shall neglect or re- 
fuse to seal any weight or measure, or to give notice as above di- 
rected, they shall severally forfeit, and pay for every month's neglect 
or refusal the sum of three dollars and fifty cents ; one moiety to the 
prosecutor, and the other moiety for the use of the poor of the town 
in which such delinquent lives, to be recovered by action of debt, be- 
fore any court proper to try the same. 

Sec. 5. Jnditis hereby further enacted. That if any person, or per- 
sons, within this state, shall, twenty days after notice given by the 
sealers of weights and measures as aforesaid, sell or vend any wares, 
merchandise, or other commodities whatever, by any other beams, 
weights, and measures, but such as shall be tried, proved, and sealed, 
as this act requires, the person, so offending, shall forfeit, for each 
offence, a sum not exceeding seven dollars ; one moiety thereof to the 
prosecutor, the other moiety for the use of the poor of the town, to 
be recovered in manner as is hereinbefore provided. 

Sec. 6. Jind it is hereby further enacted. That all beams, weights, 
and measures, kept for standards in the several towns, shall be tried 
and proved every ten years by the county standard. And the state 
standard shall be stamped with the letters S. S., the sevei-al county 
standards shall be stamped with the letters C. S., and the several 
town standards with the letters P. D. 

E 3— a. 

Governor of Massachusetts to the Secretary of State. 

Med FORD, October 24th f 1817. 
Sir : I have the honor to transmit to you, enclosed herewith, an 
abstract of the laws of the commonwealth of Massachusetts for regu- 
iating weights and measures. 

With great respect, 

I have the honor to be, sir. 

Your most obedient servant, 
-> J. BROOKS. 

Hon. John Quincy Adams, 

Secretary of State, 


E 3— ft. 

Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 

Secretarifs Department , Sept, 5th, 1817". 

To his Excellency Governor Brooks. 

Sir : In obedience to instructions from your excellency to furnish 
an abstract of the laws now in force in this commonwealth respecting 
weights and measures, for the purpose of complying with a request 
of the acting Secretary of State of the United States, made to your 
excellency by a note of the 29th of July last, in pursuance of a reso- 
lution of Congress of March 3d, 1817, I have now the honor to sub- 
mit the following statement on that subject. 

In February, 1800, an act passed the legislature of this common- 
wealth, entitled '» An act for the due regulation of weights and mea- 
sures," by which it was required that the brass and copper weiglita 
and measures formerly sent out from England with a certificate from 
the exchequer, to be approved Winchester measures, according to the 
standard in the said exchequer, and adopted and used, and allowed 
in this commonwealth, should be and remain the public allowed 
standards through the same, by which all weights and measures 
should be tried, proved, and sealed- 

By said act it was made the duty of the treasurer of the common- 
wealth to have and keep, as public standaids, to be used only as 
such, the beams, weights, and measures following, to wit ; one bushel, 
one half bushel, one peck, one half peck, one ale quart, one wine 
gallon, one wine half gallon, one wine quart, one wine pint, one wine 
half pint, and one wine gill ; the said measures to be of copper or 
pewter, conformable as to contents to said Winchester measures, and 
as to breadth, tliat is to say, the diameter of the bushel not less than 
eighteen inches and a half, containing thirty-two Winchester quarts ; 
of the half bushel, not less than thirteen inches and three quarters, 
consisting of sixteen Winchester quarts ; of the peck, not less than 
ten inches and three quarters, containing eight Winchester quarts; 
and of the half peck, not less than nine inches, containing four Win- 
chester quarts ; the admeasurement to be made in each instance with- 
in side the measure. Also, one ell, one yard, one set of brass weights 
to four pounds, computed at sixteen ounces to the pound, with fit 
scales and steel-beam. Also, a good beam and scales, and a nest of 
troy weights, from one hundred and twenty-eight ounces down to 
the least denomination, with the weight of each weight, and the 
length of each measure, marked or stamped thereon, respectively, and 
sealed with a seal, to be procured and kept by tlie said treasui-er of 
the commonwealth. And, also, one fifty -six pound weiglit,one twe.;ty- 
eight pound weight, one fourteen pound weight, and one seven pound 
weight, made of iron. 


By the same act the county treasurers were also required to keep 
a complete set of beams, and of brass, copper, pewter, and iion 
weights, and of the aforesaid measures, (the busliel measure except- 
ed) tried, proved, and sealed, by the said state standards, and mark- 
ed or stamped as aforesaid, the measures to be conformable, as to 
breadth and contents, to the state standards, to be kept for the 
sole use of the respective counties, and to be used only as standards, 
and every ten years to be tried and proved by the treasurer and 
standards of the common wealtli ; and, for neglect of duty in this be- 
half, the county treasurers are made liable to a line of two hundred 

The treasurers of towns were also required by the same law to 
procure and keep for town standards a complete set of beams, weights, 
and copj)er or pewter measures, under a penalty of one hundred dol- 
lars, to be conformable to said state standards, (excepting as to a 
bushel measure, and with liberty also to have a wooden, instead of 
copper, iron, or pewter half bushel, peck, and half peck.) The town 
treasurers also to be excused from 'procuring a nest of troy weights, 
othei' tlian from the lowest denominations to the size of eight ounces ; 
the same to be tried, proved, aiid sealed, either by the treasurer of 
the commonwealth, or of the county within which the town lies, and 
to be proved and sealed every ten years. Said town treasurer also 
to procure and keep a town seal for the purpose of sealing weights, 
&c. And the selectmen of every town are dii-ected by the same law, 
annually, to aj)point a suitable person as sealer of weights and mea- 
sures, with power to remove and appoint others. The person ap- 
pointed to be sealer of weights and measures to be under oath ; the 
selectmen are liable to a fine often dollars for neglect of duty in this 
case, and the sealer of weights and measures to a fine of one hundred 
dollars for neglect of duty. The sealer to receive the town seals and 
standards for the purpose of proving, marking, and sealing weights 
and measures. 

The sealer of weights and measures is also required by said law to 
give public notice of his ajjpointment, and of the time when, and place 
where, he will try, prove, and seal the measures and weights. And 
lie is authorized to go to the houses, stores, or shops, of such as do 
not come to him to have tlieir measures and weights proved, he. 
And those who refuse to have beams, weights, and measures so tried, 
proved, and sealed, to forfeit ten dollars for every offence. Those 
who offer to sell, or do sell, without such proved and sealed weights 
and measures, to forfeit one dollar for every offence. 

Fees to be paid state or county treasurer for sealing any weight, 
measure, scale, or beam, the first time three cents, and two cents for 
every after sealing of the same. The sealer of w eights and measures 
for trying and proving town standards, and sealing them, to receive 
three cents, if they are found not conformable to the standard, and 
one cent and five mills for each beam, weight, and measure, if con- 
formable thereto. 


In 1804, March, an act passed the legislature, in addition to the 
act above referred to, and abridged, requiring the treasurer of the 
commonwealth to add to the troy weights, (by the first act oidered 
to be kept by liim for public use,) as follows, viz : To the weight of 
one hundred' and twenty-eight ounces, the further weight of twenty- 
seven grains ; to the weight of sixty-four ounces, the further weight 
of fifteen grains ; to the weight of thirty-two ounces, tlie furtlier 
weight of six grains ; to the weight of sixteen ounces, the further 
weight of seven grains ; to the weight of eight ounces, the further 
weight of four and a half grains ; to the weight of tour ounces, the 
further weight of two and a half grains ; to the weight of two oun- 
ces, the further weight of two and a half grains ; to the weight of one 
ounce, the further weight of two grains ; to the weight of half an 
ounce, the further weight of one quarter of a grain ; or to procure 
new weights of the same denomination, and conformable to the state 
standards, with the additions aforesaid, respectively ; and the same 
to be the standards of troy weight for the commonwealth. 

By this last named act, the directors of all banks in the state arc 
required annually to have all the weights used in their respective 
banks, compared, proved, and sealed, by the treasurer of tlie com- 
monwealth, or by some person specially appointed by him for the 
purpose ; and the weights of banks are not, therefore, required to be 
sealed by town treasurers or sealers. And no tender of gold by any 
bank is to be legal, unless weighed with weights thus compared, 
proved, and sealed. 

The county treasurers are required by this law to have their stand- 
ards of troy weights compared, proved, and sealed, by the treasurer 
of the commonwealth, once in ten years, at the expense of the county. 
And the treasurers of towns, at the expense of the towns, to have the 
town standards of troy weight compared, proved, and sealed, every 
ten years, by the treasurer of the commonwealth, or the treasurer of 
the county. 

The above is the substance of the laws of this state now in force 
through the whole commonwealth on the subject of weights and mea- 
sures. In June, 1817, a law passed regulating weights and mea- 
sures in the town of Boston. The provisions of this law vary but 
little from the former law above abridged, which is obligatory througli 
the state. It provides that the sealer of weights and measures for the 
town of Boston shall have a house or oftice, to which all persons in 
Boston, using scale-beams, steelyards, weights, or measures, for the 
purpose of buying or selling any article, shall be obliged, after due 
notice in the public papers, to send annually their scale-beams, steel- 
yards, weights, and measures, to be tried, proved, and sealed, as re- 
quired by the act first above referred to. The sealer in Boston, by 
this act, is authorized and required to go to the houses or shops of 
those who do not send their weights, scales, &c. to him, to try, prove, 
and seal the same ; and is to have double fees in such case. For re- 
ftming to have scales, weights, kc. proved and sealed, and for using 


weights, scales, &c. which are not conformable to the state standards, 
a fine of ten dollais is provided for each offence. And for altering 
any scale or weight, &c. a penalty of fifty dollars for each offence. 


Secretary of Commonwealth of Massachusetts^ 



Governor of Rhode Island to the Secretary of State. 

The State of Rhode Island, 

Providence, September 5, 1817". 

Sir: Agreeably to your request of the 29th of July last, relative 
to the regulations and standards for weights and measures here, I have 
to observe there is not any statute of this state regulating weights 
and measures, though the general assembly have passed some acts 
regulating the assize of casks, for cider and stone lime, but have 
never declared the cubical contents of a gallon or bushel. 

The weights and measures now in use are sealed by the standard 
weights and measures procured from England many years since, and 
are said to be in conformity with those called the Lower Standards, 
However, they are the same as those used in the states of Connecti- 
cut and Massachusetts, which are generally known to be the same 
as the Winchester measure. 

I have not been able to find, in the course of my researches, any 
thing written on the subject of weights and measures by any author- 
ity of this state, but I find it the immemorial custom of merchants to 
buy and sell sugar, rice, hay, iron, hemp, cordage, copperas, and dye- 
woods, by gross hundreds, that is, 112 pounds for the hundred. 

Respectfully, sir. 

Your obedient servant, 


N. B. Land and distances are measured here by the English rod. 

Hon, Richard Rush, 

dieting Secretary of State. 


E 5 — a. 

State of Connecticut, 

Litc/ijield, August 5, 1817. 

Sir : I have received your letter of the 29th of July, and have di- 
rected the Secretary of State to transmit, to your department, exem- 
plifications of the acts of this state, establishing the staiKlards of 
weights and measures. 

I have the honor to be, 

With perfect respect, sir, 

Your most obedient servant, 

The Hon. Richard Rush, 
Acting Secretary of State, Washington. 

E 5—b. 

State of Connecticut, 

Secretary's Office^ August 12, 1817. 

Sir: In compliance with the request of his excellency the Gover- 
nor of this state, I enclose, herewitJi, for your use, exemplifications 
of all the statutes of this state now in force relating to weights and 

"With great respect, 

I have the honor to be, 

Your obedient servant, 

The Hon. Richard Rush, 
Acting Secretary of State, Washington. 

E 5— c. 

State of Connecticut* 

At a general assembly of the state of Connecticut, in America, 
holden at New Haven, in said state, on the second Thursday of Oc- 
tober, being the ninth day of said month, and continued 5y adjourn- 
ments from day to day, until the first day of November, in the year 
of our Lord one thousand eight hundred. 

An Act "prescribing and regulating Weights and Measures. 

Sec. 1. Beit enacted by the Governor and Council, and House of Re- 
presentatives, in General Court assembled. That the brass measui-es, 
the property of this state, kept at tlie ti-easury, that is to say .• a half 


bushel measure containing one thousand and ninety-nine cubic inches^ 
very near, a peck measure, and a half peck measure, when reduced 
to a just proportion, be the standard of the corn measures in this 
state, which are called by those names respectively ; that the brass 
vessels ordered to be provided by this assembly, one of the capacity 
of two hundred and twenty-four cubic inches, and the other of the 
capacity of two hundred and eighty-two cubic inches, shall be, when 
procured, the first of them the standard of a wine gallon, and the 
other the standard of ale or beer gallon in this state ; that the iron 
or brass rod, or plate, ordered by this assembly to be provided, of 
mie yard in length, to be divided into three equal parts for feet in 
length, and one of those parts to be subdivided into twelve equal 
])ai'ts for inches, shall be the standard of those measures, respectively ; 
and that the brass weights, the property of this state, kept at the 
treasury, of one, two, four, seven, fourteen, twenty-eight, and fifty- 
six pounds, shall be the standard of avoirdupois weight in this state. 
Sec. 2. Beit further enacted , That the treasurer of this state, for 
the time being, shall have the custody and safe-keeping of all the 
aforesaid weights and measures ; and it shall be his duty, personally, 
or by some meet person or persons by him appointed, to try all such 
weights and measures as shall, pursuant to the provisions of this act, 
be presented to him to be tried by the proper standard, and to seal 
fiuch as are found true with the capital letters S. C 

Sec. 3. Be it further enacted. That the treasurer of each county 
shall, on or before the first day of January next, provide, and con- 
stantly keep and preserve in good order, weights and measures cor- 
respondent to all the aforesaid standards, and of like materials, and 
^hall, within the time aforesaid, cause them to be tried and sealed 
by tho«e standards ; and, in default thereof, shall, on conviction, be- 
fore the county court of the same county, pay a fine of seventeen dol- 
lars to the treasury of such county, to be recovered at the suit of the 
state's attorney for such county ; and the county treasurer, for the 
time being, after such conviction, shall incur a like penalty every 
term of three months he shall neglect his duty herein prescribed, t© 
be recovered as aforesaid, for the use aforesaid : Mways provided. 
That the state standards aforesaid may be used and improved, as 
heretofore, as standards for weights and measures for the county of 

Sec, 4. Be it further enacted, That the treasurer of each county, 
for the time being, shall have the custody and safe-keeping of the 
weights and measures belonging to the county, and it shall be his du- 
ty, cither personally, or by some meet person or persons by him de- 
puted, to try all such weights and measures as shall, pursuant to the 
provisions of this act, be presented to him to be tried by the county 
standard, and to seal such as are found true with the capital letter 
C, and that which begins the name of the county. 

Sec. 5. Be it further enacted. That the selectmen of each town, 
sli.all, on or before the first day of March next, at the cost and charge 
of tire town, provide weights and measures of the various kinds af(U'C- 


said, of good and sufticient materials, vvhicli, for tlio standards of 
liquid measure, shall be copper, brass, or ])evvter, as standards 
for such town, and cause the same to be tried and sealed by the county 
standards; also, tlie followinj? vessels for corn measure, of the forms 
and dimensions herein described, to wit : a two quart measui-e, the 
bottom of which on the inside is four inches wide on two opposite 
sides, and four inches and a half on the two other sides, and its height 
from thence seven inches and sixty-three hnndredths of an incli ; a 
quart measure, the capacity of which is thi'ec inches square fi'om 
bottom to top throughout, and its height seven inches and sixty-three 
hundi'edths of an inch ; and a pint measure, the capacity of which 
from bottom to top is three inches square througliout, and its height 
three inches and eighty-two hundredths of an inch, and, in default 
thereof, such selectmen shall, on conviction before an assistant or 
justice of tlie peace, forfeit and pay a fine of seven dollars ; tlie one 
half to him or them who shall prosecute to effect, and the other half 
to the town treasury. And all informing ofticers are required to in- 
quire after, and due presentment make of, all breaches of this act, 
and, after such conviction, the selectmen, for the time being, shall in- 
cur a like penalty for every term of two months they shall neglect 
their duty hei'ein prescribed, or shall, at any future time, fail to pre- 
serve such weights and measures, true and in good order for the use 
ef the town: to be recovered as aforesaid for the use aforesaid. 

Sec. 6. Beitfurth&renactedf That the sealers of weights and mea- 
sures in each town shall have the custody and safe-keeping of the 
weights and measures belonging to the town, respectively, and it shall 
be their duty, once in every year, to try the several weights, steel- 
yards, and measures, that are used and improved by any person, or 
persons, in such town, by the town standards ; to deface and destroy 
all such as cannot be brought equal with the standard, and to seal 
with the capital letter initial in the name of the town all such as are 
found or made true ,• and such sealer shall, sometime in the month of 
April yearly, give notice in writing to the inhabitants of the town, 
posted on the sign post and other public places irj the town, to bring 
their steelyards, weights, and measures, at time and place ther-ein 
fixed, to be tried and sealed. And if any person, or persons, shall, 
after the first day of May next, for the purpose of buying or selling, 
use any weight or measure until the same shall have been scaled in 
the manner aforesaid, each person, so offending, shall, for every such 
<>ffence, forfeit the sum of two dollars, one half for the benefit of the 
town in which such offence shall be committed, and the other half for 
the benefit of the sealer of weights and measures for said town, 
whose duty it shall be to prosecute the same to effect. 

Sec. 7. Be it further enacted^ That every sealer who shall neglect 
his duty required in this act, shall forfeit the sura of five dollars for 
every such neglect, to the town treasuj'y. 

Sec. 8. Beit further enacted, That the statute entitled "An act 
for due regulation of weights and measures," be, and the same is 
hereby, repealed. 


E 5— d. 

State or Connecticut. 

U a general assembly of the state of Connecticut, in America, 
lioi'.lcn at New Haven, in said state, on the second Thursday of Oc- 

t 'ler, being day of said month, and continued by adjournments 

froHi day to day, until the in the year of our Lord one 

thousand eight hundred and one. 

An act in alteration of the statute^ entitled " An act prescribing and regu- 
lating weights and measures.*' 

Sec 1. Beit enacted by the Governor and Council and House of Re- 
presentatives, in General Court assembled^ That the treasurer of this 
state do, without delay, provide a vessel of brass, the capacity of 
which shall be five inches square from bottom to top throughout, and 
nine inches and twenty-four hundredths of an inch in height, contain- 
ing two bundled and thirty-one cubic inches, and the same, when pro- 
vided, shall be the standard of a wine gallon in this state; any thing 
in said act to the contrary notwithstanding. 

Sec. 2. Be it further enacted^ That the provisions of said act shall 
relate to the said standard in all respects as they related to that in 
place of which it is substituted : and the treasurer of each county, by 
the first day of January next, and the selectmen of each town, by the 
first day of March next, shall, respectively, on penalty as by said 
act is in each case provided, to be recovered and applied as therein 
directed, provide, and cause to be tried and sealed by the proper 
standard, and constantly kept in good order, a vessel or measure of 
the same capacity as and for a standard of a wine gallon, for such 
counties and towns respectively. 

At a general assembly of the state of Connecticut, holden at Hart- 
ford, in said state, on the second Thursday of May, in the year of our 
Lord one thousand eight hundred and ten. 

An act regulating the measure of charcoal. 

Be it enacted by the Governor and Council^ and House of Representa- 
tives, in General Court assembled. That the standard measure of 
charcoal shall be the half bushel measure prescribed by the act, en- 
titled " An act prescribing and regulating weights and measures," 
and that in measuring charcoal such measure shall be well heaped. 

General Assembly, May session, 1810. 

Speaker of the House of Representatives, 

Attest — Thomas Day, Secretary. 

APrENDIX. 189 

E 6 — a. 

The Governor of Mw Fork to the Secretary of State. 

Albany, 4th September^ 1817. 
Sir : In compliance with the request contained in your leltcr of 
the 29th of July, I now transmit a copy of the law of this state ie!a- 
tive to weights and measures, marked number 6. I'he papers i. tm- 
bered 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, exhibit our regulations on this subject, at dif- 
ferent periods. 

1 have the honor to be, very respectfully, 
Your most obedient servant, 

The Hon. R. Rush. 

E. 6. b. 

An act to ascertain the assiz^e of casks ^ weights, measures^ and bricks, 
within this colony. Passed June 19, 1703. 

Whereas nothing is more agreeable to common justice and equity, 
nor for the good and benefit of any people or government, who live in 
community and friendship together, than that they have one equal 
and just weight and balance, one true and perfect standard and as- 
size of measure among them ; for want whereof experience shews 
that many irauds and deceits happen, which usually fall heavy upon 
the meanest and most indigent sort of people, who are least able to 
bear the same, and may be accounted little better than oppression. 
For remedy of which evil. 

Be it enacted, and it is htrehj enacted, by his excellency the Governor, 
by and with the consent of her majesty's council and representatives of 
this colony, S^c. That, from and after the first day of August next, no 
cooper, or other person or persons whatsoever, within this city or 
colony, shall make any dry cask or vessel but of gO(»d and well sea- 
soned timber, and of the respective dimensions following, viz. : Every 
hogshead to be forty inches long, thirty-three inches in the bulge, 
and twenty-seven inches in the head. Every tierce to be thirty -six 
inches long, twenty-seven inches in the bulge, and twenty-three 
inches in the head. Every barrel to be thirty inches long, twenty- 
six inches in the bulge, and twenty-two inches in the head. Every 
half barrel to be twenty five inches long, twenty inches in the bulge, 
and sixteen inches in the head. Every quarter barrel to be twenty 
inches long, sixteen inches in the bulge, and thiiteen inches in the 
head. All tight barrels to contain thirty-one gallons and a half of 


wine measui'e each, and not to exceed or be half a gallon over or un- 
der the same, and all other casks to contain in proportion to a barrel, 
"upon penalty of five shillings for every offence committed to the con- 
trary hereof, to be paid by the maker or user of such casks or vessels, 
in whose hands the said offence shall first happen to be known or dis- 

And to the preventing other frauds and deceits that nrny be in 
casks made as aforesaid. 

Be it further enacted^ &c. That, from and after the said first day of 
August, all and every the cask and casks, which shall be employed 
or used for the stowing or packing of flour or biscuit, within this city 
or province, for transportation thereof, or otherwise, in any way, of 
merchandise, before any of the said goods or commodities shall be 
put or packed therein, shall be truly weighed, and tlie just weight 
and tare thereof be set with a marking iron upon the head of each 
cask so employed as aforesaid, together with tlie name of each re- 
spective person using or employing the same, upon the penalty of 
nine pence, to be paid for every neglect herein, by the person or per- 
sons, respectively, on whose account any of the goods or commodities 
aforesaid shall, to the contrary hereof, be stowed or packed as afore- 

And he it further enacted, &c. That, from and after the first day of 
August aforesaid, there shall be one just beam or balance, one cettain 
weight and measure, and one yard, that is to say, avoirdupois and 
troy weights, bushels, half bushels, pecks, and half pecks, according 
to the standard of her majesty's exchequer, in her realm of England, 
throughout all this colony, as well in places privileged as without, any 
usage or custom to the contrary notw ithstanding ; and that every mea- 
sure of corn shall be striked without heap. And whosoever sell, buy, 
or keep any other beam, weight, measure, or yard, than as aforesaid, 
whereby any corn, grain, or other thing, is bought or sold, from 
and after the time limited as aforesaid, shall forfeit for every such 
offence 20s. 

And for the better observance and putting in execution of this act, 
fit persons be appointed in all counties and cities within this colony, 
for the sealing and marking all beams, w eights, measures, and yards, 
to be used within the respective-counties and cities aforesaid, with the 
letter A, according to the standard of her majesty's exchequer in 
England, that the same may be known throughout this colony ; and 
that his excellency the governor aforesaid be desired to nominate and 
appoint such fit persons in all proper places within this colony afore- 
said, the which respective persons, when nominated and appointed, 
shall take for their pains in sealing and marking all such beams, 
weights, measures, and yards, as shall from time to time for that 
purpose be brought in to them, the rate of nine pence, except weights 
and small liquid measures, which shall pay only one penny each, and 
no more, on penalty of five shillings for the least exaction therein, 
saving always, nevertheless, unto the cities of New York, Albany, 
and borough of Westchester, and the mayors thereof, for the time be- 


fhg, all such rights, privileges, and usages, as they respectively can 
justly claim, as clerks of the market within the said cities and bo- 
rough, or otherwise howsoever, any thing herein contained to the 
contrary hereof in any wise notwithstanding. 

Jind be it further enacted, &c. That, from and after the first day of 
August, no person or persons, he he master or servant, shall make, or 
suft'er to be made, in any place or places within this colony, any 
bricks, or kiln of bricks, but such as shall be wqU and thoroughly 
burnt, and of the size and dimensions following, that is to say : every 
brick to be and contain nine inches in length, four inches and one 
quarter of an inch in breadth, and two inches and one half inch in 
thickness thereof, all well struck off in good and workman-like order 
and manner, and made of right and well tempered mould, or clay, on 
penalty of six shillings for every neglect herein, to be paid by the 
master or owner of the said brick, or kiln, in whose hands or where- 
soever the neglect or offence aforesaid shall be discovered or found 
out, except well bricks. 

And it is hereby also further enacted, &c. That, from and after the 
time limited as aforesaid, no other casks, beams, weights, measures, 
yards, or bricks, shall be used within this colony than such as afore- 
said, except well bricks and such other bricks as are already made or 
to be made before the commencement of this act, on the penalty of 
twenty shillings, to be paid by the person using the same, or any of 

Provided always. That all and every the penalties and forfeitures 
in and by this act set and appointed as aforesaid, shall be one half to 
the use of the poor of the parish, town, or place, where the default or 
offence happens to be; the other moiety thereof to the use of the per- 
son or persons who shall inform and sue for the same forfeitures in 
any of her majesty's courts of record within this colony, or else to be 
recovered to the uses aforesaid, upon conviction of the offender by 
the oath of one sufficient witness before any justice of the peace, 
mayor, or other head officer of the city, county town, or place, re- 
spectively, where the offence against, or breach of this act, shall be 
committed, (who, by virtue of this act, shall have power to adminis- 
ter an oath on that behalf,) by way of distress and sale of the offend- 
er's goods and chattels ; the overplus, if any be, after charges of the 
distress deducted, to be returned to the owner thereof, and where no 
distress can be had, that it shall and may be lawful to and for any 
justice of the peace, mayor, or head officer aforesaid, to commit the, 
said offender or offenders to prison, there to remain without bail or 
mainprize until he or they shall pay the penalties and forfeitures 
aforesaid for which they shall be so committed, to the uses aforesaid. 
Provided, also, That no prosecutions shall be for any of the forfeitures 
aforesaid but within three months after the respective facts are com- 
mitted ; ^ny tlung herein to the contrary hereof notwithstanding. 


E 6 — c. 

An act to ascertain weights and measures within this state. Passed 1 0th 

April, 1784. 

Whereas it is agreeable to equity, and beneficial to commerce, that 
a people vvlio live in the same community shall have one equal and 
just weiglit and balance, according to a true and pei-fect standard and 
assize of snoasures, to be established by law, without which necessary 
provision iVauds and deceits may be practised with impunity : 

1. Beit therefore enacted by the people of the state ofJYew Fork, re- 
presented in Senate and Asemhly , and it is hereby enacted hy the authority 
oj the same, I'ltat, from and after the first day of June next, there 
shall be out- just beam, one certain weight and measure ; that is to 
say, avoirdupois and troy weights, bushels, half bushels, pecks, and 
half pecks, according to the standard in use in this state, on the day 
of the declaration of the independence thereof: and that the stand- 
ard weights and measures in tlie custody of William Hardenbrook, 
who, before and at the time of the said declaration, was the public 
sealer and marker of all beams, and weights, and measures, within 
the city and county of New York, which standard is according to the 
standard of the court of exchequer in that part of Great Britain called 
England, shall foiever hereafter be deposited with, kept, and pre- 
served by, the clerk of the peace, or common clerk of the city and 
county of New York, fin- the time being, and shall be and hereby are 
declared and established to be and remain the standard, for ascer- 
taining all beams, weights, and measures, throughout the state, any 
usage or custom to the contrary thereof notwithstanding ; and the 
said clerk of the peace, or common clerk, now, and for the time being, 
shall take an oath, to be administered to him in open court before the 
mayor, recorder, and aldermen, of the said city, well and faithfully 
to preserve the said weights, seals, and measures, and to suffer no 
other person to make use of the same, except a sworn public sealer and 
marker of weights and measures : Provided always, That the said 
William Hardenbrook shall deliver the said beam, weights, and 
measures, to the clerk of the peace, or common clerk, of the said city 
and county, in the presence of the mayor, recorder, and one or more 
of the aldermen of the said city, and shall declare, on his solemn oath, 
that the said beam, weights, or measures, are the same which he re- 
ceived from the court of exchequer aforesaid, according to the best of 
his knowledge and belief. 

2. Provided always, and be it further enacted. That if any of the 
said standard beams, weights, and measures, shall be broken, im- 
paired, or missing, that it shall and may be lawful to and for the 
mayor and aldermen of the city of New York, in common council 
convened, to cause to be delivered to the said clerk of the peace, or 
common clerk, for the time being, any standarded beam, weights, and 
measures, respectively, to supply such deficierjcy, taking care liiat 
the same is according to the standard established in the late colony. 


HOW state, of New Yoi-k, iinmcUiately preceding tLe declaration of 
independence of this state. 

S. Jml be it J'nrlhcr enacted by the authority aforesaid. That, for 
the better observance and execution of this act, it shall and may be 
lawful to and for his excellency the governor of this state foy the time 
being, by and with the advice and consent of the council of a))point- 
nicnt, to apjjoint fit persons in all convenient and proper places 
within this state, tor sealing and marking all beams, weights, and 
measures : that the persons so to be appointed shall impress, with 
the letter A, all beams, weights, and measures, to be sealed and 
marked by each of them, respectively, and shall respectively take and 
subscribe an oath before one of the judges of the court of common 
pleas of the county in which he, or they, shall reside, for the faithful 
execution of the trust to be committed to them by virtue of this act; 
and the judge before whom such oath shall be taken, shall cause a 
certificate thereof to be filed with the clerk of the county wherein sucU 
judge shall reside : and every such sworn public sealer and marker of 
weights, seals, and measures, shall be entitled to receive for his pains 
in scaling and marking all such beams and measures as shall, from 
time to time, for that purpose be brought to him, the rate. of nine 
pence, and foi* every weight, and every small liquid measure, cue 
penny, and no more : saving always, nevertheless, unto the cities of 
New York and Albany, and borough of West Chester, and the mayors 
thereof for the time being, all such rights, privileges, and usages, as 
they respectively can justly claim, as clerks of the markets within tiie 
said cities and boroughs, or otherwise howsoever; any thing herein 
contained to the.contrary hereof notwithstanding. 

E 6—d. 

Extract from an act supplementary to the act, entitled '^ An act to pre- 
vent the expoj'tation of unmerchantable flour, and the false taring of 
bread and flDurcasks.*' Passed 7th March, 1788, 

*' 7. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, Tliat the 
standard weight of wheat brought to the city of New York for sale, 
shall be sixty pounds nett to the bushel ; and in all cases of sales of 
wheat in the said city by the bushel, if the same shall exceed the stand- 
ard weight, the buyer shall pay a proportionably greater price ; and 
if the same shall be less than the said standard the buyer shall pay a 
proportionably less price : Provided, That this regulation shall not 
extend to any special contracts respecting the sales of wheat, what- 
ever may be the weight thereof.*' 


E 6— c. 

An ad io amend an acf, cnfitled *' An ad to ascertain weigJits and med' 
sures within this state." Passed February 2, 1804. 

Be it enaded by the Peojde of the state ofMw Fork represented in Se- 
nate and Asscmblif, Titat the secretary of this state for the time be- 
ing shall, ex-oflicio, be the state sealei* of weights aivJ measures ; and 
that there shall be one assistant state sealer, to he appointed from 
time to time, as occasion may require, by the person administering 
the government of this state, by and with the advice and consent of 
the council of appointment, in the county of Oneida ; and that thei-e 
sball be one sealer of weights and measures in each county, the 
western distiict of this state, to be appointed by the board of super- 
Tisors that shall tiiink proper to appoint one at their annual meeting 
in October, and one town sealer of weights and measures in each 
town that shall think proper to elect one, to be elected as other town 
officers are directed to be elected. 

And he it farther enaded. That the several state standard weights 
and measures sliall be made of iron, brass, or copper, as the secretary 
shall direct ; and the sevci*al county standard weights and measures 
shall be of such materials as the several boards of supervisors shall 
direct; and the several town standard weights and measures shall 
i)e of such materials as the supervisor of each town shall direct. 

And be it further enaded, That it shall be the duty of the said secre- 
tary, within nine months after the passing of this act, at the cost of 
this state, to procure two sets of standard weights and measures, of 
the same weight and capacity as is mentioned in the act hereby 
amended, ^vith such beams as he shall think necessary, one set to be 
kept by himself as a principal state standard, and the other three sets 
to be delivered to the said assistant state sealers. 

And be iffuvther enaded. That the said county sealers of weights 
and measures shall, at the cost of t!ie respective counties for which 
they aie elected, within six months after being notified] of their seve- 
ral appointments by the clerks of the several hoards of supervisors, 
whoseduty it shall be to give such notice, to procurea complete set of 
standard weights and measures, for the use of each respective county ; 
and that the several town sealers of weights and measures, at the cost 
of the respective towns, shall, within six months after their rcsjjective 
appointments, procure a set of standard weiglits and measures for 
the use of the town or towns for which they sliall be respectively ap- 

And be it further enaded, That the letters NY shall be impressed 
on all tiie state standard weights, measur-es, and beams, and on the 
several county standard weights, njeasuies, and lieams, with such 
other device in addition as the said sc retai-y shall direct lor each 
county, which device shall he recorded in the recoj-ds of this state, 
and a copy thereof doliveird hy the secretary to the assistant state 
sealer; and the several town standard weights, measures, and beams, 


shall be impressed by the county sealer in which sucb town shall be 
situate, with such other device in addition to the county device, as the 
board of supervisors shall direct for the several towns, in their seve- 
ral counties : which several town devices shall be recorded by the 
clerks of the several boards of supervisors, in a book suitable for 
that purpose, and a copy of such record delivered by said clerk to the 
county sealer : Frovidedtucverthelcss^ That if any town shall nej^lect 
to appoint a town sealer of weights and measures, then it shall be 
lawful for the county sealer to seal all the weights, nieasures, and 
beams, belonging to theiidiabitants of such town so neglecting. 

Jiid be itfurthcr enacted. That it shall be the duty of the assistant 
state sealers to have their standard weights and measures compaied 
with the principal state standard once in fourteen years ; and that 
the several county sealers shall have their standard weights and 
measures compared with one of the state standards once in seven 
years, and oftener if necessary ; and the several town sealei's shall 
have their town standai-ds compared with the county standard onC€ 
in three years ; that befoi-e eitlier of the sealers of weights and mea- 
su' es who shall be appointed by virtue of this act shall enter on the 
duties of his niiice, he shall take and subscribe an oath or affirmation 
before one of tlic judges of the suj)reme court, court of common pleas, 
or Justice of the peace, of the county wherein such sealer is resident, 
well and truly, according to the best of his skill and ability, to per- 
form the duties by tliis act enjoined, and cause a certificate thereof to 
be filed in the secretary's oflice, or the office of county or town clerk, 
as the case may be. 

And be it further enacted. That each of the sealers of weights and 
measures within this state shall be entitled to receive for his service 
for sealing and mai'king beams or measures, which shall, from time 
to time, be brought to iiim for that purpose, twelve and a half cents, 
and for every weight, and every small liquid measure, two cents over 
and above his cost of making them right, if they are not so when 
brought to him for that purpose. 

And be it further enacted, Tliat so much of the act hereby amend- 
ed as respects the appointment of sealers of weights, measures, fees, 
a^d*levice, shall be, and hereby is repealed, so far as respects the 
said western district. 

E 6-/. 

An act relative to a standard of long measure, and for other purposes. 
Fussed JIarch 24, 1809. 

"Whereas the corporation of the city of New York did, in the year 
one thousand eight hundred and three, procure a brass yard measure, 
engraved and sealed at the exchequer in Great Britain, and have pre- 
sented the same to this state, which has been deposited, together with 
the documents authenticating it, in the secretary's office — Therefore, 


Be it it enacted by the people of the state of JVew Vork^ represented 
hi Senate and Jlssemblij, That the said brass measure is, and sliall 
1)6, the standard yard measure of this state. 

And he it further enacted^ That as soon as may be, after the passing 
of this act, it shall and may be lawful, and it is hereby made the duty 
of the secretary of this state, to cause the said standard measure to be 
engraved with the words State of JS^ew York thereon; and that he 
cause to be made and procured two brass yard measures for the city 
and county of New York, engi'aved with the words City and coun- 
ty of J^etv York; one for the assistant state sealer in the village 
of tJtica, engraved with the words. State of JS*ew York; and one 
for each of the respective counties of this state, engraved with 
the name of the proper county, similar to the aforesaid standard, and 
that he cause the measure, so procured and marked for each county, 
delivered to the clerk thereof, who shall keep the same for the use of 
the county, as the standard yard measure of this state for such coun- 
ty, and compare therewith all yard measures or rods, which may be 
presented to him for that purpose. 

Jind he it further enacted. That the assistant state sealer, and clerk 
of each county, shall be paid twelve and a half cents for comparing 
each yard-stick or rod that shall be presented to him for that pur- 
pose, over and above the expense of making such stick or rod ex- 
actly compare and agree with the said standard measure of the coun- 
ty, when so presented. 

Jind he it further enacted, That no surveyor, for any survey made 
for one year from the passing of this act, shall give evidence as a sur- 
veyor in any court, or elsewhere in this state, in any cause wherein 
lands is in dispute, respecting the survey or measurement thereof, 
unless such surveyor shall make oath, if required, that the chain or 
measure used by him, when surveying or measuring such land, was 
conformable to the standard measure of this state. 

Jind be it further enacted. That the treasurer, on the warrant of the 
comptroller, shall pay to the secretary the expenses incurred by vir- 
tue of this act. 

Jind be it further enacted. That the act, entitled " An act to direct 
the secretary to procure a state standard of long measure, and for 
other purposes,'* passed the 11th day of April, 1808, be, and the salhe 
is hereby, repealed. 

And be it further enacted. That it shall and may be lawful for the 
inhabitants of any town in this state, for their convenience, and by a 
vote at their annual town meeting, to direct the clerk of such town to 
procure, and deposit in his office, a standard brass yard, to be sealed 
by the person authorized to seal and compare such yard, and to he 
considered as the true yard for all the purposes aforesaid. 



Jin act to regulate weights and measures. Passed March 19, 1813. 

1. Be it enacted hj the People of the state of JVew Fork, represented 
in Senate and Assembly. That there shall be one just beam, one certain 
weight aiul measure, for distance and capacity, that is to say : avoir- 
dupois and ti-oy weights, bushels, half bushels, pecks, half pecks, and 
quaits, and gallons, half gallons, quarts, pints, and gills, and one 
certain rod for long measure, according to the standard in use in this 
state, on the day of the declaration of the independence thereof: and 
that the standard of weights and measures, now in the oiHce of , the 
secretary of this state, which is according to the standard of the 
court of exchequer in that part of Great Britain called England, 
shall be, and is hereby declared to be and remain, the standard for 
ascertaining all beams, weights, and measures, throughout this state, 
until the Congress of the United States shall establish the standard 
of weights and measures for the United States. 

2. And be it furtlier enacted, That the secretary of this state fop 
the time being shall, ex officio, be the state sealer of weights and 
measures : and tliat there shall be three assistant state sealers, to be 
appointed from time to time as occasion may require, by the person 
administering the government of this state, by and with the advice 
and consent of the council of appointment, to continue in office dur- 
ing the pleasure of the said council ; one of w hich assistants shall re- 
side in the city of New York, one in the city of Albany, and one in 
the county of Oneida: and that there shall be one county sealer of 
"weights and measures, in each county in this state, to be appointed 
by the board of supervisors of the respective counties, at their annual 
meeting in October, to continue in office during pleasure; and one 
town sealer of weights and measures in each town in this state, to be 
elected at the annual town meetings, who shall continue in office for 
one year, and until another shall be chosen in his stead. 

3. And belt further enacted. That it shall be the duty of the secre- 
tary of this state, within nine months after the passing of this act, in 
addition to the weights and measures already provided by law, and 
now remaining with the said secretary, and the assistant state sealer 
in the county of Oneida, to procure, at the expense of this state, so 
many w^eights, measures, and beams, as shall make out four complete 
standards of weights and measures, both of liquid and dry measures, 
and avoirdupois and troy weights, with proper beams, and standards, 
brass rods of long measure ; one complete set to be retained in his of- 
fice, as a principal state standard, and one other set of the said stand- 
ards to be delivered to each of the assistant state sealers, taking their 
receipts respectively therefor; and the comptroller is hereby direct- 
ed to audit the account of the secretary for his expenses in procuring 
the said additional standards of weights, measures, and beams, and 


draw his warrant for the anioiint on the treasurer, who is hereby di- 
rected to pay the same out of any moneys in the treasui-y not other- 
wise appropriated. 

4. Jnd he it farther enacted, Tliat tlie several state standards of 
weights, beams, and measures, sliall be made of iron, brass, or cop- 
per, as the secretary shall direct; and the several county standard 
weights and measures shall be made of such materials as the several 
boards of supervisors shall direct: and the several town standard 
Aveigbts and measures shall be made of sucli materials as the super- 
visors of each town Rhall diiect. 

5. Jiid be it further tnacfedf That the said county sealers of weights 
and measures, shall, at tiie expense of tiie respective comities for 
which they are elected, within six months after being notified of their 
respective appointments by th-e cleriss of the several boards of super- 
visors, whose duty it shall be to give such notice, and alter receiving 
from their respective county tieasurers, by order of the said board, 
so much money as may be necessary for the purpose, jirocure a com- 
plete set of the said standard weights asul measures for the use of 
their respective counties : and every sucli county sealer shall forth- 
with, after having procui-ed such standard, deliver to the clerk of the 
board of supervisors a statement, in writing, of the ex])ense thereof, 
and that such standard is in bis possession, and that the several town 
scalers of weights and measures shall, at t!ie expense of the respec- 
tive towns, within six months after their appointments, and after 
having received sufficient money for the purpose, procure a complete 
set of the said standard weights and measures for tlie use of the re- 
spective towns : and, having procured the same, shall deliver to the 
clerk of the town, to be filed in his olhce, such statement, in writing* 
as is before specified. 

G. ^nd be it further enacted , That the letters N. Y. shall be impress- 
ed on all the state standard weights, measures, and beams, and ou 
the several county standard weights, measures, and beams, such 
other device in addition as the said secretary shall <lirect for each 
county : which device shall be recorded in the secretary's office, and a 
copy thereof delivered by the secretary to each of the assistant state 
sealers, and the several town standard weights, measures, and beams, 
shall be impressed by the county sealer in which such town shall be 
situate, with such other device, in addition to the state and county 
device, as the board of supervisors shall direct for the several towns 
in their respective counties : which several town devices shall be re- 
corded by the clerks of the several boards of supervisors, in a book 
to be kept for that purpose: and that such clerk shall deliver a copy 
of such record to aycvy county sealer. 

7. And be it further enacted. That it shall be the duty of the assis- 
tant state sealers to compare their standard weights and measures 
with the principal state standard once in fourteen years : and that 
the several county sealers shall compare their standard weights and 
measures with one of the state standards once, at least, in seven years : 
and the several town sealers shall compare their town standards with 


the oounty standard onro. at least, in tli^ee years: that, befoi-e cither 
of the sealers of wei^lits iind ineasiiirs, who shall be apj)oiiitcd by 
virtue of this act, shall enter on the <l<»lifsof his otUce, be shall take 
and snbsrrit)e an oaf.ii or alTlnnation befoic one of tlie justices of the 
siilMTme court, or one of the Juda^esof the court of common pleas, or 
justice of the peace of the county wiierein such sealer is resident, 
well and truly, according to the best of his skill and ability, to per- 
form the duties enjoined on him by this act: and that every assistant 
state sealer sliail cause a certificate of the oath, by him taken, to be 
filed in the secretary's oifice : and every county sealer and town seal- 
er sliall, in like manner, cause such certificate as aforesaid to befiled 
in the clei'k's office of theiv respective counties. 

8. Jml he it farther enacted, That each of the sealers of weit^hts 
and measures, within this state, shall be entitled to receive for his 
sei\ ices, in sealina; and marking measures and beams which shall, 
fi'oni time to. time, be brought to Iiini for that purpose, twelve and an 
half cents, an<i for every weight, and every small liquid measure, 
three cents, over and above a reasonable compensation for making 
ihem conform to the standard est.iblished by this act. 

9. Jnd be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the clerks 
of the several counties to deliver to the respective county sealers of 
weights and measures heretofore appointed, or hereaftei- to be ap- 
])ointed, the standard brass yard measure which shall have been re- 
ceived by such clerks from the secrciai'y of this state for the use of 
the said counties. 

10. Jlndheitjurihcr enacted, That no surveyor shall give evidence 
in any cause pending in any of the courts of this state, or before ar- 
bitrators, respecting the suivey or mea;>urement of lajids, unless 
such surveyor sliall make oath, if i'e(piiiei% that the chain or mea- 
sure used by him in surveying or measui-ing such lands was confor- 
mable to the standard measure of tliis state. 

11. And be it further enacted, That, whenever either of the assis- 
tant state sealers of weights and measui'es sha]} resign or remove 
from the cities of New York or Albany, or the county of Oneida, or 
whenever any of the county or tow n sealers shall resign or remove 
from the counties or- towns in which they were respectively appoint- 
ed, it shall, in that case, be the duty of the person, so resigning or 
removing, to deliver to his successor in oiiice all the stamlard beams, 
weights, and n^.eaHiires, in his possession; and, in case oi' the death 
of any sciierof wtiglits and measures, it shall, in like manner, bo 
the duty of his executors or administi-ators to deliver to the Sijccessor, 
to be appointed, ail the said standard beams, weights, and mcusures, 
in the possession of thtir testator or intestate, attlie time of his death ; 
and, in case of negli^ct or refusal to deliver sucli atandaid entire and 
complete, tlie successoi* in office may maintain an a'^tion on the case 
against the |)erson so removing or resigning, or against such execu- 
tors or ad.ininisti ators, and recover double the value of such stand- 
ard, or such p;iiis tiiereof as'have not been delivered to the said suc- 
cessor in odice, with costs of suit ; and, in every such action, if 


judgment shall be rendered for the plaintiff, he shall recover double 
costs ; one moiety of which may be retained by the person so recov- 
ering, and the other moiety almll be by him applied to the purchase 
of such standard beams, weights, and measures, as may not be de- 
livered over as aforesaid. 

12. Jl7i(l be it further enacted, Tliat if any person or pei-sons shall, 
after one year from the passing of this act, use any weights, mea- 
suj-es, or beams, in weighing or measuring, which shall not be con- 
formable to the standard of this state, whereby any purchaser of any 
commodity, or article of trade or traffic, shall be injured or defraud- 
ed, it shall be lawful for the person so injured or defrauded to main- 
tain an action on the case against the offender in any court having 
cognizance thereof; and if judgment shall be rendered for the plain- 
tiff, he shall recover treble damages against the defendant, with costs 
of suit. 

E 7. 

Elizabeth Town", 

September 20, 18 IT. 

Sir ; I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 
tiie 29th of July last, accompanying a copy of a resolution of the 
Senate relative to weights and measures. There is not in the state 
of New Jersey any legislative act establishing or regulating weights 
or measures, nor can I Jearn that the subject has, at any time, en- 
ga^-ed the attention of the state legislature ; but, by custom, the En- 
glish standard of weights and measures has been adopted, and is in 
usethrou«-hout this state, and I know of no information that I can 
furnish for enabling the Department of State to fulfil the views of 

the Senate. 

1 have the honor to be, 

With very great respect, 

Your most obedient servant, 

The Hon. Richard Rush, 
Acting Secretary of State. 

E 8 — a, 


Harrisburg, August Z6thf 1817. 
Sir : Your letter to the governoi', accompanied by a copy of a re- 
solution of the Senate of the United States, relative to weights an«l 


nicasures, lias been duly received some time since. In this office 
there arc no materials calculated to alVord any information on that 
im]K)i'tant subject. There does HWi appear to have been any legisla- 
tive act relative to it since A. D. 1700, which directs the standards 
to be regulated ** according to tlie king's standards for the exche- 
quer," (sec Smith's edition of the laws, page 19.) I addressed a note 
to Mr. Meer, keeper of weiglits and measures in the city : 1 here- 
with enclose his answer, together with a report of a committee of Se- 
nate in 1814, and Dr. Bollman's letter ; none of which, probably, will 
suggest any new ideas to you on the subject. 

Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant, 

N. B. BOII.EAU, Secretary, 
RicHAKD Rush, Esq. 

Acting Secretary of State. 

E 8—b. 

Philadelphia, Jlugust 20, 1817. 

Sir: Your letter of the 16th inst. requests me to give information 
respecting weights and measures, for the consideration of the Senate 
of the United States — a task I cheerfully undertake, as far as I am ac- 
quainted with the business, because they are m an incorrect and de- 
ranged condition throughout the Union, in consequence of the regula- 
tors not having a fixed and correct standard, to which they can re- 
sort to keep those they use in order. The variant and irregular 
weights and measures of the different states and towns proves a se^ 
rious evil, both to the wholesale and retail dealer, and often produces 
difficulties in the trade between the several states, which calls for 
immediate redress. It being the peculiar province of the legislature 
of the United States to fix the standard of weights and measures, I 
am happy to find that the Senate have taken the subject under their 
serious consideration. 

The standards in my keeping were, I believe, brought here by Wil- 
liam Penn, more than one hundred years ago, and have been in use 
ever since; of course they cannot be very correct. 

I would therefore propose that one simple standard weight be adopt- 
ed and used for all purposes, and that its scantlings and parts be de- 
dimally divided, so as to suit the money of the United States, and that 
the unit be the English avoirdupois pound. 

That, for measures of capacity, tlie wine gallon be the unit, and be 
used for all purposes where measures of capacity are necessary ; and 
that for the measure of extension the English foot be adopted as the 
unit, and be decimally divideiL 

I believe that the British standard weights are made of agate, so 

that they may not be corioded by oxidating princijWes of the air, as 

most metals are. But 1 believe that pjatina would be fitter for the 

purpose, being easily formed, and less liable tlian any other metal to 

9J] ' ' . 


be oxidated. I consider a cylindric form most suitable, both for 
Aveights and measures of capacity. No doubt the legislature will see 
the propriety of furnishing the capital or principal town of every state 
with a complete set of standards, so that the regulators may have 
the necessary standards made of coarser metal for their immediate 
use, as well as a resort to the means of keeping them in order. 

In a trading community it is equally necessary to have correct 
scale beams as to have just weights. Frauds are daily occurring in 
consequence of not having a law for the inspection and regulation of 
them, similar to that for the regulation of weights. No person should 
be permitted to sell beams before they have been inspected and sealed 
by the proper officer. 

I wish to refer you to Dr. Bollman's paper on the subject, in ap- 
pendix to the journals of the Senate of March 18, 1814, No. 3 ; like- 
wise to the report of March 3d, 1808, journals of the Senate; in 
which will be found valuable information. 

I am, sir, with great respect, yours, &c. 

l*f. B. BoiiEAU, Esq. 

P. S. I wish to refer you, likewise, to a small treatise on moneys* 
coins, weights, and measures, projwsed for the United States of Ame- 
rica ; wrote by Thomas Jefferson ; printed by Daniel Humphries in 
1789, Philadelphia. 

I enclose Mr. Dorsey's report, as above noticed. 

E9— tt. 

Office of the Secretary of Static, 

Dover, Delaware, 7 th 4/Vou. 1818. 

Sir : By direction of the Governor, I have the honor to reply to 
your letter requesting *' such information of the acts of the state of 
Delaware, in relation to weights and measures, as he might tliink 
proper to communicate." 

There is in our statute books but one act in relation to weights and 
measures — that is to be found in the first volume of our laws, page 57. 
By this act it is directed that standards of brass for weights and 
measures, according to tlie queen's standards for the exchequer, shall 
be obtained in each county witliin two years after the making of the 
law, and that these standards shsi,ll remain with such officer in each 
county as shall be, from tiuie to time, appointed by the county court 


in each county ; and tliat all \vciglits and measures shall be made just, 
and marked by the keeper of these standards, &c. &,c. 

This law is not t/ort; observed in any part of the state, and I am 
unable to say whether it ever went into operation in the counties of 
Kent and Sussex ; tlie probability is, that it never did, as no evidence 
can now be had that it ever was carried into effect in either of these 
counties. In the county of New Castle the act was carried into exe- 
cution : the standard weiglits and measures which it prescribed were 
obtained for that county, and ])ersons were appointed at different 
times to be keepers of those standards: but, for a great many years, 
the law has ceased to be observed in that county ; nor is it known 
whether the standards that were procured for that county are now in 

The Philadelphia weights and measures are generally used, I believe, 
in this state, but whether they are conformable to the standards de- 
signated by the act of assembly aforesaid, or not, I cannot say. 

No decision of any of our courts, sanctioning any particular 
weights or measures, has, to my knowledge, ever been made. 

I herewith transmit you a communication wliicli 1 lately received 
from James Booth, Esq. the chief justice of our courts of common 
pleas and quarter sessions, a gentleman whose age, experience, and 
different public stations, have afforded many opportunities for ob- 
taining information as to the subject of weights and measures as used 
and regulated in this state. 

I have the honor to be, sir, 
With great respect, 
* Your most obedient servant, 


The Hon. John Q. Adams,. 

Washington City, 

E 9—b. 

An Act for regulating Weights and Measures' 

Sec, 1 . Be it enacted htj the Honorable John Evans, Esq. tvith her 
*Mnjesty*s royal approbation, Lieutenant Governor of the counties of 
J^ew Castle, Kent^ and Stissex, upon Delaware, and Province of Penn- 
sylvania, by and with the advice and consent of the freemen of the said 
counties, in General Assembly met, and by the authority of the same. 
That in each county of this her majesty's government tlicre shall be 
had and obtained, within two years after the making of this law, at 
the charge of each county, to be paid out of the county levies, stand- 
ards of brass for weights and measures, acccording to the queen's 
standards for the exchequer; which standards shall remain with such 
officer in the counties aforesaid as shall be, from time to time, ap- 
pointed by the county court, in each respective county of this go- 
vernment : and every weight, according to its stan«hird, and every 


measure, as bushel, half bushel, pecks, gallons, pottles, quarts, anil 
pints, sliall be made just weights and measures, and marked by him 
that shall keep the standards ; and that no person, witliin this govern- 
ment, shall presume to buy or sell by any weights or measures not 
sealed or marked in form aforesaid, and made just according to the 
standards aforesaid by the officer in whose possession the standards 
remain, on penalty of forfeiting five shillings to the prosecutor, being 
convicted by one justice of the peace of the unjustness of his weights 
and measures ; and that, once a year, at least, the said officer, with 
the grand jury, or the major part of them, and for want of a grand 
jury, with such as shall be appointed and allowed by the respective 
county courts aforesaid, for assistants, shall try the weights and mea- 
sures in the counties aforesaid ; and those weights and measures which 
are defective shall be seized by the said officer and assistants ; which 
said officer for his fees, for his marking each bushel, half bushel, and 
peck, just measure, and marking the same that is large enough, when 
brought to his hands, shall have ten pence, and for every less mea- 
sure, three pence ; for every yard, three pence j for every hundred and 
lialf hundred weight, being made just and marked, three pence ; for 
every less weight, one penny ; and if the weights and measures be 
made just, before they be brought to him, then to have but half the 
fees aforesaid for marking the same. Ami if the said officer shall re- 
fuse to do any thing that is enjoined by this law, for the fees appoint- 
ed, and be duly convicted thereof, shall forfeit five pounds, to the use 
of the governor for the time being. That a true measure or standard 
be taken from the brass half bushel in the town of Philadelphia, and 
bushel and a peck proportionable ; and all less measures- and weights 
coming from England, being duly sealed in London, or other mea- 
sures agreeable therewith, shall be accounted and allowed to be good 
by the aforesaid officers, until the said standards shall be had and ob- 

Sec. 52. <£nd be it further oiacted by the authority aforesaid. That 
no person shall sell beer or ale by retail, but by beer measure, ac- 
cording to the standard of England. 

E 9— -c. 

Mr. James Booth to H. M. Mdgely. 

New Castie, Ocfohcr 24, 1818. 

Sir: The letter, on the subject of weights and measures, which 
you were pleased to address to me, should have been earlier answer- 
ed had not my engagements demanded my presence and attention 
to objects out of town. 

The act of assembly passed in the reign of queen Anne, (vol. 1, 57,) 
to which you refer, was, I believe, carried into execution in the county 
of New Castle. The standard weights and mcjisures w iiich it pre- 


scribed, were obtained for this county; and I am enabled to state, 
fioni recollection, that persons were appointed, at two different times, 
to be keepers of those standards; other appointments weie probably 
made, of which 1 have no recollection, and which cannot now be as- 
certained from the public records, many of which were lost during 
the revolutionary war. On inspecting those remaining in the office 
of the clerk of the peace, I found one appointment of keeper of tlie 
standards made in the year 1760. These keepers, with a part of the 
grand jury, traversed the county to examine and to rectify the weights 
and measures used hy seller's and buyers; but this was not done once a 
year, agreeably to the act. I think I can recollect tiiis duty to have 
been performed but twice in different years; and it is so long since, 
that I cannot pretend to point out the year when it was last perform- 
ed; nor can I tell whether these standards are still in existence; or if 
they are, in whose possession they remain. I am also unable to state, 
whether the act of assembly went into operation, or not, in the coun- 
ties of Kent and Sussex, or in either of them. 

Whether the Philadelphia weights and measures differ from the 
exclicquer standards, I cannot tell; but, I believe, the Philadelphia 
measures of capacity, particularly, are generally used in this state. 
I think it is so in the county of New Castle; and I remember that, in 
a controversy in Sussex about corn, it appeared from the testimony, 
that the Philadelphia sealed bushel was deemed by the parties to be 
the proper measure to ascertain the quantity. But I know of no de- 
cision of any of our courts, sanctioning any particular weights or 

I regret that I can give you no definite information on all the sub- 
jects of your inquiry, nor do I know any source from which it can 
be drawn. 

With every sentiment of regard, 

I, am sir, &c. 

H. M. RiDGELT, Esq. 

E 10 — a. 


Coundl Chamber f JlnnapoliS) August 9, 1817. 

Sir : In the absence of his excellency the goveinor from the 

state of Maryland, I do myself the lionor to acknowledge the receipt 

of your letter of the 29th ultimo, at this department, and to inform 

you that the English standai-d of weights and measures has been 


adopted by this state. His excellency, however, will do liimself the 
honor, immediately on his return, of replying to your letter. 
I have the honor to be. 
With high respect. 

Your most obedient servant, 


The honorable Richard Rush, 

Acting Secretary of State.. 

Clerk of the CoiindL: 

E 10 — h. 

CouNcii Chamber, Axnapolis,. 

December 1, 1819. 
Sir: In reply to your letter of the 1st of November, enclosing a 
copy of a resolution of the Senate of the United States, passed the 3d 
of March, 1817, on the subject of weights and measures, I have the 
honor to inform you that the only legal regulation upon those sub- 
jects in the state of Maryland is comprised in several acts of Assem- 
bly, of which copies are herewith transmitted to you. It may be 
proper to add that, by the act incorporating the city of Baltimore, 
passed at November session, 1796, chapter 68, the powers before 
vested by law in the standard keeper of Baltimore county, were trans- 
ferred, within the limits of their jurisdiction, to that corporation, 
whose proceedings, from its being the only large commercial town 
we have, in effect now regulate the weights and measures throughout 
tlie whole state. It is believed that the English standard of measures 
has not, in practice, been strictly adhered to ; as it is recollected tliat 
some years ago the half bushel which was used for measuring grain 
at Elkton, was larger than the one in use at Baltimore ,• and that the 
same measure in Baltimore was somewhat larger than the old stand- 
ard kept in the different counties. It is believed, also, that a similar 
difference, in a small degree, exists between the fifty-six and other 
weights, regulated in Baltimore, and those adjusted by the standard 
keepers in the counties. The result has been that the Baltimore 
standard, both of weights and measures, now governs all the deal- 
ings and business of the state. 

I am, sir, with much respect. 

Your obedient servant, 

Hon. John Quincy Adams, 

Secretanj of State. 


E 10 — c. 

dn act relating to the standard of E7iglish weights and measures. Pass- 
ed Jpril, 1715. 

Whereas the standards of English weights and measures are very 
iniicli impaired in several of the counties of this province, and in some 
wholly lost, or unfit for use : 

JBe it enacted by the hinges most excellent majesty, by and with the 
advice and consent of his majesty^s governor, council, and assembly, of 
this province, and by the authority of tJic same. That the justices oi'the 
several county courts shall, hy all convenient speed, at the charge of 
their respective counties, cause the standards they already have to 
he'made complete, and purchase new standards where they have none ; 
and, for the better preservation of them for the future, that they take 
good and sufficient security, in his majesty's name, to the use of the 
county where taken, from the persons that shall be entrusted by them 
to keep each standard, in the penal sum of fifty pounds sterling *• for 
the safe-keeping of such standard, and for the due execution of the 
offices of standard-keeper, and for the delivering the same up in the 
like good order they receive the same, when they shall be legally dis- 
charged from such trust," under the penalty of five hundred pounds 
of tobacco for each justice of that county court that shall omit to do 
what is required of them by this act, the one half to his majesty, his 
heirs and successors, for the support of government, the other half to 
the informer, or to him or them that shall sue for the same, t» be re- 
covered in the provincial court of this province, against such justices, 
jointly or severally, by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information, 
wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law to be allowed. 

3. Jnd be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, by and with the advice 
and consent aforesaid, That all persons, wliether inhabitants or fo- 
reigners, shall repair and bring their steelyards with which they 
weigh and receive their tobacco, to the standard, yearly and every 
year, to be tried, stamped, and numbered, for which they are to 
pay the person keeping the standard one shilling for every time 
such steelyards shall be tried and stamped as aforesaid ; and every 
person or persons shall have their bushel, half bushel, peck, gallon, 
pottle, quart, and pint, if they make use of the same, or any of them, 
in buying or selling, duly tried and stamped at the standard afore- 
said, except such of the measures aforesaid as come out of England, 
and are there stamped ; for which trying and stamping they shall 
pay six pence a piece. 

4. And whosoever shall presume to sell by any dry measures, with- 
out first having the said measures tried and stamped at the standard, 
shall forfeit the sum of five hundred pounds of tobacco. 

5. And whosoever, likewise, shall presume to weigh and receive 
tobacco by steelyards which have not within one yeaa past from such 
weighing and receiving, been tried and stamped at the standard. 


shall forfeit one thousand pounds of tobacco> the one half of which 
aforementioned forfeitures to be paid to his majesty, his heirs and 
successors, towards the defraying the charge of the county where the 
offender shall dwell or reside, and the other half to the informer or 
informers, to be recovered in any county court of this province, by 
bill, plaint, or information, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager 
of law to be allowed. 

6. And, if any person or persons shall refuse to pay any tobacco 
by such steelyards, tried and stamped as aforesaid, and shall thereby 
compel the owner to have them tried over again within the year, if the 
steelyards are true, such person, so refusing or compelling as afore- 
said, shall pay for the new stamping, but if not, the owners of the 
steelyards to pay for the same. 

E 10 — d. 

*9 supplementary act to the act, entitled ** an act relating to the standard 
of Mnglish weights and measures" Passed 20th December , 1765. 

"Whereas, by the act entitled an act relating to the standard of En- 
glish weights and measures, no penalty is imposed upon persons buy- 
ing by any dry measure or measures, without first having the said mea- 
sure or measures tried and stamped at the standard, as there is upon 
the seller: And whereas it is represented to this General Assembly that 
many buyers of grain, flaxseed, and other commodities, when tlie 
people have carried them a great distance to market, refuse to buy 
them unless by measure or measures of their own, whicJi have been 
found, upon trial, to be larger than the standard aforesaid : 

2. Be it therefore enacted Jjy the right honorable the lord propnetarijf 
by and with the advice and consent of his lordship^s governor, and the 
upper and lower houses of assembly, and the authority of the same. 
That, if any person or persons shall hereafter buy, by any dry mea- 
sure or measures, being his, her, or tlieir property, or found or pro- 
vided by him, her, or them, contrary to the true intent and meaning 
of the above recited act, he, she, or they, shall forfeit and pay the 
sum of five pounds current money for every offence, one half thereof 
to the informer, or inni, her, or them, that shall sue for tlie same, 
and the other half to be paid into the hands of the treasurer of the 
respective shore where such forfeiture shall happen, and applied as 
the General Assembly for the time being shall direct and appoint, to 
be recovered in any court of record within this province, by action 
on the case, action of debt, bill of indictment or information, wherein 
no essoin, protection, or wager of law, or more than one imparlance, 
shall be allowed. 

3. Provided always, That such action shall be commenced within 
one year from the time of the said offence being committed, and not 



E 11 — a. 

The Governor of Virginia to the Secretary of State. 

Richmond, Virginia, Coiincil Chamber, Aug. 15, 1818. 
Sir : In compliance with the request contained in your letter of 
the 5th instant, 1 have the honor herewith of transmitting^ yon the 
only laws on the statute book of this state on the subject of weights 
and measures. 

I presume this is all the information which you need, or would 
vrish to have communicated. 

I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, 
Your obedient servant, 

The Hon. John Quinct Adams, 
Secretary of State. 

E 11 — h. 

An act for more effectually obliging persons to buy and sell by weights anil 
measures according to the English standard. Passed August, 1734. 

1. Forasmuch as the buying and selling by false weights and 
measures is of late much practised in this colony, to the great in- 
jury of the people : 

2. Be it enacted by the lieutenant governor, council, and burgesses, of 
this present assembly, and by the authority of the same, That fi-om 
henceforth there shall be but ojie weight, one measure, one yard, and 
one ell, according to the standard of the exdiequer in England : and 
whosoever shall sell or lay by, or keep, any other weight, measure, 
yard, or ell, whereby any corn, grain, salt, or other thing, is bought 
or sold, after the tenth day of June, one thousand seven hun- 
dred and thirty-six, shall forfeit, for every offence, twenty shillings, 
being thereof lawfully convicted by the oath of one sufficient witness 
before any justice of the peace of the county where the offence shall 
be committed ; to be levied, by distress and sale of the goods of the 
offender, for the use of the poor of the parish ; rendering the over- 
plus to the party so offending : and in default of such distress, such 
justice of the peace shall commit the said party to the common gaol 
or prison, there to remain without bail or mainprize until he shall 
pay such forfeitures as aforesaid. 

3. And to the end, all people may be more easily provided with 
such weights and measures, Be it further enacted. That the justices of 
the peace of every county, w here they have not already provided the 



same, shall, within eighteen months after the end of this session of 
assembly, provide, at tiie charge of their respective counties, brass 
weights, of half hundreds, quarters, half quarters, seven pounds, four 
pounds, two pounds, and one pound weight, according to the said 
standard: and measures of bushel, lialf bushel, peck, and half peck, 
dry measure, according to that standard : and gallon, pottle, quart, 
and pint, of wine measure, according to the said standard ; with 
pi'opei- scales for the weights, upon pain of forfeiting, by every jus- 
tice sworn into the commission of the peace, five shillings for every 
month such weights and measures shall be wanting, to be recover- 
ed, by action of debt, or information in any court of record in this 
colony ; one half whereof shall go to the king, his heirs, and suc- 
cessors, for supporting the contingent charges of this government, 
and the other moiety to the informer. 

4. And the said weights and measures, so to be provided, shall be 
kept, from time to time, by such person as shall be appointed by the 
county courts respectively, to which all persons may resort for try- 
ing their weights and measures ; and when they are tried, and found 
to agree w ith the standard, the same shall be sealed by the person 
keeping such standard, with a seal, to be likewise provided by the 
justices aforesaid. And that the fees to the persons entrusted with 
the keeping such standard weights and measures, be, for the trying 
every s/i/^i/an/ and certificate thereof, one shilling; for the trying 
any weights or measures and sealing the same, four pence for every 
such weight or measure sealed, to be paid by the person for whom 
the service shall be done ; any former law, custom, or usage, to the 
contrary hereof, in any wise, notwithstanding. 

5. Provided always, That this act, or any thing herein contained, 
shall not be construed to prohibit any person or persons whatsoever 
from buying and selling by steelyards, which shall be tried by and 
agree with the standard aforesaid, where the buyer and seller, payer 
and receiver, shall both consent thereto : any thing in this act con- 
tained to the contrary hereof notwithstanding. 

A copy. 



E 11 — C. 

An act concerning weights and measures. Passed Q6th December , 1792. 

1. Whereas the general assembly of Virginia, at their session in 
the year 1734, did pass an act, entitled " An act for more effectually 
obliging persons to buy and sell by weights and measures according 
to tlie English standard :" 

2. Be it therefore enacted by the general assembly^ That the said 
act shall continue and remain in force until the Congress of the 
United States shall have made provision on that subject. 


3. Provided always^ Tliat all fines, forfeitures, and penalties, in 
the said ac mentioned, shall be and enure one moiety to the com- 
monwealth, and the other to the use of the informer. 

4. This act shall commence, and be in force, after the passing 

A copy. 



E 12— a. 


Governor Miller tp Mr. Rush, acting Secretary of State, 

Executive Office, N. C. 

Raleigh, Jiugust 19, 1817. 
Sir : In compliance with the request contained in your letter of 
the 29th July, I enclose you a certified copy of an act of the general 
assembly of this state regulating weights and measures. 
With much respect. 

Your obedient servant, 

Richard Rush, Esq. 
Acting Secretary of State, 

E 12— Z>. 

Jill act for regulating weights and measiwes. 

1. Whereas many notorious frauds and deceits are daily committed 
by false weights and measures : for prevention whereof, 

£. JVepray that it may be enacted, and be it enacted by his excelUncii 
Gabriel Johnson, Esq. Governor, by and with the advice and consent 
of his majesty^ s Council and General Assembly of this province, and it 
is hereby enacted by the authority of the same. That no inhabitant or 
trader shall buy or sell, or otherwise make use of in trading, any 
other weights or measures than are made and used according to the 
standard in his majesty's exchequer, and the statutes of England in 
that case provided. 

3. And, for the discovery of abuses, be it further enacted by the autho- 
rity aforesaid, That the justices of each and every county within this 


government shall, within two years next after the ratification of this 
act, at the charge of each county, respectively, provide sealed weights 
of half hundred, quarters of hundreds, seven pounds, four pounds, 
two pounds, one pound, and half pound ; and measures of elJ and 
yard, of hrass or copper, and measures of half hushel, peck, and gal- 
lon of dry measure ; and a gallon, pottle, quart, and pint, of wine 
measure ; for the payment of which charge the said justices are here- 
hy em[)Owered to levy a tax on their respective counties, to he kept 
by such person, and in such place, as the justices of each respective 
county sliall appoint, such person first giving sufficient security to 
the said justices in the sum of fifty pounds proclamation money ; and 
tlie said justices shall also find and provide for the said person, a 
stamp for brass, tin, iron, lead, or pewter weights or measures, and 
also a brand for wooden measures, of the letters N C, upon pain of 
forfeiting and paying the sum of ten pounds proclamation money, to 
be recovered from the said justices by action of debt, bill, plaint, or 
information, in the general court of tliis province, and applied to the 
use of our sovereign lord the king, for and towards the support of this 
government and the contingent charges thereof. 

4. And be it farther enacted hij the authoritij aforesaid. That any 
person whatever using weights and measures, shall bring all tl»€ir 
measures and weights to the keeper of the standard of the county 
where such person shall reside or trade, to be there tried by the 
standard and sealed or stamped : and if any person, or persons, shall 
buy, sell, or barter, by any weight or measure whicli shall not be 
tried by the standard, and sealed or stamped as aforesaid, he, she, 
or they, so offending, shall, for every such offence, forfeit and pay 
the sum often pounds proclamation money, one half to the use of the 
county where such offence shall be committed, and the other half to 
the use of the party wlio shall sue for the same, to be recovered in any 
court of record in this government, wherein no essoign, protection, 
privilege, injunction, or wager of law, shall be allowed. 

5. And whereas steelyards by use are subject to alterations : 

Be it further enacted by the authoritij aforesaid. That all and every 
person, who shall use, buy, or sell, by steelyards, shall, once every 
vear, try the same with the standard, and take a certificate from the 
keeper of the standard for the county w herein such person shall re- 
side, upon pain of twenty shillings proclamation money, to be reco- 
vered and applied as aforesaid. 

6. Repealed, vol. 2, 48. 

7. Jlnd be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the 
standard keeper of each and every county shall, at the next court to 
be held for the county in which he shall reside, take the following 
oath, viz : " You shall swear tliatyou will not stamp, steal, or give 
" any certificate for any steelyards, weights, or measures, but sucii 
*' as shall, as near as possible, agree with the standard in your keep- 
»' ing, and that you will, in all i-espects, truly and faithfully dis- 
*< cJiarge and execute the power and ti-ust by this act reposed in you, 
** to the best of your ability and capacity. So help you God." 


8. And he it further enacted by the antlwrity nforesaidf That the 
standard keeper of each and every county in this government, is 
hereby empowered and required, with tire assistance of a constable 
(who is liereby commanded upon notice to attend him, upon informa- 
tion made to him of any person, or persons, keeping, or having in 
his or their iiouse, or custody, any steelyards, weights, or measures, 
which shall have been altered, lessened, or shortened, since they were 
tried and scaled by the standard, or shall be suspected of buying, sell- 
ing, or bartering, by such false weights and measures) to search the 
houses or other sus])ccted places of such offender, for any such w eights 
or measures so falsified ; and if, upon search, any such false weights 
or measures shall be found, he shall charge a constable with the 
ownei" of them, or the person using them, who shall forthwith con- 
vey him, her, or them, before any justice of the peace, who is hereby 
directed to bind him, her, or them, over to the next court to be held 
for the county where the offence shall be committed ; and the said 
offence shall be laid before the grand jury by the king's attorney 
general, or his deputy, and for w ant of them, by any person the 
county court shall think fit to appoint, and shall be cognizable by the 
said grand jury eitlier by indictment or presentment ; and if upon 
trial by a petit jury such offender or offenders shall be found guilty, 
the county court shall fine each and every person, so convicted, in a 
sum not exceeding twenty-five pounds proclamation money, one-third 
part thereof to the informer, one-third part to the standard keeper, 
and one-third part thereof to be paid to the justices of the county, to 
be applied to the use of the county where the offence shall be commit- 
ted ,• and shall commit the offender to jail until the same shall be paid : 
and further, if it appear to the county court, by the verdict of the petit 
jury, that the offender altered, lessened, or shortened, his or her steel- 
yards, weights, or measures, or caused the same to be done, or used 
such steelyards, weights, or measures, knowingly, after they were so 
altered, lessened, or shortened, with an intent to defraud any per- 
son, in such case, the court shall, besides and notwitlistanding the 
said fine, sentence such offender to stand publicly during the sitting 
of the court two hours in the pillory, with his offence written over 
his or her head ; any law, custom, or usage, to the contrary notwith- 

9. And belt further enacted by the authority aforesaid. That the na- 
val oflicer of each and every port within this government shall affix 
up, in a public part of his office, and there constantly keep affixed, an 
advertisement of this act, that traders coming into this government 
may have notice thereof, upon pain of forfeiting five shillings procla- 
mation money, for every twenty-four hours the same shall be neglected, 
to be recovered by a warrant from any justice of the peace of the 
county where tiie offence shall be committed, by any person who 
shall sue for the same, and applied, one-half to the informer, and the 
other half to the use of the said county. 

10. And he it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, Tlmt the 
juiitices of every county, respectively, shall have ^)owcr to take and 


receive into their custody all such weights and measures as have been 
already provided by their respective county or parish, and shall also 
demand and receive from all and every person, or persons, whatso- 
ever, all such sums of money as have been already raised to pur- 
chase such weights and measures, and dispose of and apply the same 
according to the directions of this act. 

11. And be it further enacted by the autho7'ity aforesaid. That all and 
every other act, and acts, and every clause and article thereof, here- 
tofore made, so fai' as relate to weights and measures, or any other 
matter or thing within the purview of this act, is, and are hereby, 
repealed and made void, to all intents and purposes, as if the same 
had never been made. 

A true copy. 
Given 18th August, 1817. 

WM. HILL, Secretary. 

E i3— a. 

T}ie Governor of South Carolina to the Secretary of State. 

Executive Office, South Carolina, 

10th September, 18 IS. 

Sir: Yours of the 5th ultimo, covering a resolution of the Senate 
of the United States, requesting information upon the laws of this 
state regulating weights and measures within the same, has been 
received. I had the honor of receiving a former like communication 
from you, and directed the secretary of this state to give you every 
information upon the subject. This, I presume, has never reached 
you. I now enclose you copies of two sections of acts, whicli, I 
believe, are every thing contained in our statute book relating to 
weights and measures. 

I have the honor to be. 

With great respect, &,c. 

Honorable Secretary of State 
for the United States, 


E 18--^. 

*Slct of Assembly, passed 12th ^pnl, 17G8. 

" Sec. 5. The public treasurer shall, immediately after the passing 
of this act, ])rocurc, or cause to be made, of brass or other proper 
metal, one weij^ht of fifty pounds, one of twenty-five pounds, one of 
fourteen pounds, two of six pounds, two of four pounds, two of two 
pounds, and two of one pound, avoirdupois weight, according to the 
standard of London ; and, also, of cedar wood, neatly siiaped and 
handled with iron, one bushel, one half bushel, one peck, one half peck 
tiieasures, according to the standard of London; which weights shall 
each, respectively, be stamped or marked in figures denominating the 
weigbt thereof, and shall be kept by the said public treasurer : and 
the said weights and measures shall be deemed and takoi to be the 
standard weights and measures by which all the weights and mea- 
sures in this province shall be regulated." 

^d passed \7tli March, 1785. 

<* Sec. 63. The several justices of the county courts in this state, 
as soon as the same shall take place in the respective counties, shall 
have full power and authority to regulate weights and measures with- 
in each of their respective jurisdictions, and shall enforce tbe observ- 
ance thereof in such manner and form, and under such penalties, as 
are already prescribed by law for regulating weights and measures." 

E 14 — a. 


The Governor of Georgia to the Secretary of State. 

Executive Department, Georgia, 

Milledgeville, 5 th December, 1819. 

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy of an act of the general as- 
sembly of this state, and an extract from an ordinance passed by the 
corporation of the city of Augusta, showing tbe regulation and standard 
for weights and measures in this state. Some delay in obtaiiiing from 
Augusta the extract, together with a multiplicity of business occa- 
sioned by the legislature now in session, has prevented mc from com- 
plying with your request at an earlier period. 


The documents mentioned in your letter of the 4th ultimo have 
been duly received at this department. 
I have the honor to be, 

Very respectfully, 

Your most obedient servant, 


Honorable Johjv Quincy Adams, 

Secretary of State. 

E 14— i&. 

j3« Act to regulate weights and measures in this state. 

Sec. 1. Beit enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
the state of Geoi'giay in general assembly met, and by the authority of 
the same. That tlie standard of weights and measures established by 
the corporations of the cities of Savannah and Augusta, and now in 
use within the said cities, shall be, and the same are hereby declared 
to be, the fixed standard of weights and measures within this state; 
and all persons buying or selling shall buy and sell by that standard, 
imtil the Congress of the United States shall have made provision on 
that subject. 

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That 
it shall be the duty of tlie justices of the iiiferior courts, or a majority 
of them, in their respective counties, by their clerk, or some other 
person especially authorized by them for that purpose, to obtain from 
the said corporations, or one of them, to be paid out of the county 
funds, the standard of weights and measures as fixed by them, within 
six montlis from the passing of this act ; and that the said justices, or 
a majority of them, sliall, so soon as they obtain the standard of such 
weights and measures, give thirty days' notice thereof at the court- 
house and three other public places in the county ; and if any person 
or persons whosoever shall sell, or attempt to sell, any article or 
thing by any other or less weight or measure than that so established, 
he, she, or they, so offending, shall forfeit and pay three times the 
value of the article so sold, or attempted to be sold, to be recovered 
before any justice of the ]ieace, if it should not amount to more than 
thirty dollars, and if above that sum before any judge of the superior 
court, or the justices of the inferior court, by action of debt; one half 
■whereof shall be for the use of the informer or person bringing the 
action, and the other for the use of the county in which such act or 
offence may happen. 

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That 
it shall be the duty of the justices of the inferior court, or a majority 
of Uiem, of the respective counties of this state, to procure a mark- 
ing instrument, seal, or stamp, for the purpose of marking, sealing, 


or stamping, all weights and measures within their several counties, 
which marking instrument, seal, or stamp, shall remain in the clerk's 
office of the inferior court, hy him to be affixed to any weight or 
measure which he may find to correspond with or not less than the 
standards established by said corporations of Savannah and x\ugusta. 
Sec. 4. And be it further enacted^ That tlie said clerks of the in- 
ferior courts shall receive six and one-fourth cents for every weight 
and measure by them so marked, sealed, or stamped, to be paid by 
the person obtaining the same. 

Speaker of the House ej Representatives, 

President of the Senate. 
Assented to, December 10, 1803. 

JOHN MILLED GF» Governor, 

I^ 14 — c. 

"w3;id be it furth--'' ordained, That all weights for weighing any 
articles of proj'^ce or merchandise shall be of the avoirdupois stand- 
ard weight • and all measures for liquor, whether of wine or ardent 
spirits, o^ the wine measure standard ; and all measures for grain, 
salt, o^ other articles usually sold by the bushel, of the dry or Win- 
chewier measure standard : and all weights and measures used within 
this city shall be in conformity to the said public standard. It shall 
not be lawful lor any person or persons to make use of any other 
than brass or iron weights, regulated as aforesaid, or weights of any 
other description than those of fifty, twenty-five, fourteen, seven, 
four, two, one, half, quarter pound, two ounce, one ounce, and down 

I certify the above to be true extracts from the original ordinance 
of the city council of Augusta. 

Clerk^s Office, 30th J^'ovember, 1819. 


E 15 — a. 

The Governor of Kentucky to the Secretary of State, 

Frankfort, JVovemberQS, 1817. 

Sir : In compliance with your request, and the resolution of Con- 
gress on the subject of weights and measures, 1 have the honor to 
transmit to you a copy of the law of this state on that subject, 


It may not be improper to remark, that weights and measures, 
agreeably to said law, have been procured as a general standard for 
this state. 

I have the honor to be, 

Your most ob't and humble servant, 


The HoT». Secretary of State, 

Washington Citij. 

E 15— )&. 

An Act concerning JVeigJiU and Measures, approved December 11, 1798. 

Whereas the Congress of the\Jnited States are empowered, by the 
federal constitution, to fix the stanac^-t! of weights and measures, and 
they have not hitherto passed any law for the aforesaid purpose : 
whereby an act passed by the general asso^^biy of Virginia, in the 
year 1734, entitled ** A" act for more eftt^tually obliging per- 
sons to buy and sell by weights and measures act^rdingto the En- 
glish standard," still remains in force in this commonwealth : 

Sec. 1. Therefore, be it enacted by the General AssembLt)_ That the 
governor be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to procure 
one set of tlie weights and measures in the said act specified, with 
proper scales for tlie weights, together with measures of the length 
of one foot and of one yard ; and the bushel, dry measure, shall con- 
tain two thousand one hundred and fifty and two-thirds solid inches ; 
and the gallon of wine measure shall contain two hundred and thirty- 
one inches ; and the said weights, measures, and scales, shall be de- 
posited in the custody of the secretary of state, to serve as a general 
standard for weights and measures within this commonwealth. 

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted. That, when the aforesaid weights, 
measures, and scales, shall be procured as aforesaid, the governor 
shall cause to be made for each county, w ithin this state, one set of 
weights and measures, and the last mentioned weights and measures 
shall be compared by the secretary of state witli the aforesaid general 
standard, and, if found to agree therewith, shall be forthwith trans- 
mitted by him, together with scales proper for the weights to be pro- 
cured as aforesaid, to the clerks of tiie several county courts in this 

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted. That the said weights, measures, 
and scales, shall be kept by such person, in each county, as the court 
of the said county shall appoint ; and, immediately after such ap- 
pointment, the clerk shall make known the same by advertisement, 
to be fixed up at the door of the court house. And all persons, desir- 
ous of trying their weights and measures, may resort to the afore- 
said county standards for that purpose ; and the person appointed to 
keep the said standards shall, if he find them true, seal th«m with a 


■>eal, to be provided by the county conpt, at the expense of the coun- 
ty : and the persons appointed in the sc\ eral counties to keep the 
said courity standards shall be entitled, for tryinj^ every steelyard, 
and certificate thereof, to twenty-five cents ; for ti*ying any weights 
or measures, and sealing the same, twelve and one half cents, for 
each weight or measure sealed, to be paid by the person for whom 
such .service shall be done. 

Sec. 4. Jnd be it it further enacted, That, thi-ee months after the 
appointment of a person to keep the said county standards shall have 
been made known as aforesaid, every person who shall knowingly buy, 
or who shall sell, any commodity whatever by weight or measure that 
shall not correspond with the said county standards, or shall keep 
any such for the purpose of buying or selling with them, shall, for 
every such offence, forfeit and pay four dollars, to go towards lessen- 
ing the county levy, and to be recovered before any justice of the 
peace for the county in which such offence shall be committed. 

Sec. 5. And he it further enacted. That the auditor of public ac- 
counts shall issue his warrant, or warrants, on the treasurer, to such 
amount as the governor shall certify to be due, and to such peison 
or pei*sons as the same shall be owing, for furnishing and transport 
ing the aforesaid weights, measures, and scales. 

This act shall be in force from and after the passage thereof. 

E 16. 


The Governor of Tennessee to the Secretary of State. 

MvRTREBSBOB,o* f JVovember 24, 1819. 

Sir : Your communication, relative to a standard of weights and 
measures, has been received, and as no fixed standard exists as to 
weights, I laid your request before the legislature, who are now in 
session — indeed I pursued the same course two years past, when a 
similar request was made by Mr. Rush, and am sorry to say the sub- 
ject was not attended to, which, I trust, will not be the case in the 
present instance. At all events, I will do myself the honor to advise 
you of the result. 

I am, with great respect. 

Your obedient servant, 


John Quincy Adams, Esq. 

Secretary of State of the United States. 


E 17— a. 

Governor Worthington to Mr. Rxish, acting f^ecretdry of State. 

Chilli€Othe, ISth .Sugust, 1817. 
Sir : In compliance with the request made in your letter of the 
29th ult. I have directed the secretary of state of Ohio to forward a 
certified copy of any law of the state for the regulation of weights 
and measures. 

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, 


Richard Rush, 

Acting 'Secretary of State of the United States, 

E 17—6. 

Columbus, (Ohio,) 13th Septemberf 1817". 
Sir : Pursuant to a request of the governor of our state, I have the 
honor to transmit an extract fi'om an act of this state, relating to 
measures. I concluded it was not necessary to transcribe the whole 
art, as the remainder thereof only relates to the appointment of a per- 
son to keep said standard, and to try and prove others thereby. As 
to weights, we have no legislative provision on the subject, which is 
much to be regretted. 

I have the honor to be, with great respect, 

Your most obedient, humble servant, 


The Hon. Secretary of State, 

for the United States. 

E 17— f. 

Extract front an act of the General Jlssembly of the state of Ohio, enti- 
tled " An act for regulating measures,''* passed the 22d day of Janu- 
ary, 1811, and now in force. 

*' Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the state of Ohio, 
That the county commissio)iers of each county in this state are here- 
by required and directed to cause to be made for each county one half 
bushel measure, which shall contain one thousand seventy five and 
two tenths solid inches, which shall be kept in the county seat, and 
shall be called the standard." 


K 18— a. 

JVnv Orleans f >^eptemher 15th, 1817. 

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter 
of the 29th of July last, togetlier with the i-esolve of the Senate of the 
United States, and to enclose you herein the true copy of an act pass- 
ed in 1815, hy which you will perceive that the legislature of this 
state have deemed most proper to adopt the same standards for 
weights and measures as estahlishcd in the United States, and used 
by their revenue officeis. 

With sentiments of very great respect, 
I remain, sir, &c. 

Governor of the state oj Louisiana. 
The Hon. Richard Rush. 

E 18— ^>. 

An act to establish an uniform standard of weights and measures with- 
in this state. 

Whereas it is essential to the commerce of the state of Louisiana, 
that an uniform standard of weights and measures be estahlished by 
law ; therefore. 

Sec. 1. Beit enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
the state of Louisiana in general assembly convened. That the go- 
vernor, at the expense of the state, shall procure one complete set of 
co])per weights, to correspond with weights of their like denomina- 
tion, used by the revenue officers of the United States in their offices, 
together with scales for said weights, and a stamp or seal, with such 
device as the governor may choose ; as also one complete set of mea- 
sures, calculated for di-y, liquid, and long measure, of the same capa- 
city and length as those of their like denomination used by revenue 
officers as aforesaid ; which set of weights and measures, together 
with the scales and stamp, to be deposited in the custody of the se- 
cretary «»f state, to serve as a general standard of weights and mea- 
sures within this state. 

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the administration and dis- 
tribution of weights and measures within the limits of the city of 
New Orleans, shall be confided to an inspector of weiglits and mea- 
sures, to be nominated by the governor, with the advice and consent 
of the senate; and it shall be the duty of the said inspector to sec that 
no other weights but those established by this act be made use of 
within the limits of the said city, and in case of negligence, or br( ach 
on the part of the said inspector, he shall be condemned to pay a fine 


not exceeding two hundred dollars, nor less than one hundred ; the 
mayor a! <i city council of New Orleans shall be aut!<oriz;'«i to pass 
any regulations, or such oidinances relative to the police of the said 
"weights and measures, and to insure, within the limits of tlie said 
city, the execution of the present act; provided, however, that said 
ordinances or regulations do not contravene the provisions of this 
act, and that, should the office of insj)ector become vacant during the 
recess of the legislature, it shall be the duty of the governor to fill 
such vacancy. 

Sec. 3. Jlnd be it further enacted, That every parish judge shall 
procure, at the expense of his parish, a set of weights and measures, 
ajul a stamp, conformable to those mentioned in the first section of 
this act, the same to be stamped, on their request, by the secretary of 
state, or his deputy ; — the inspector of the city of Orleans shall pro- 
cure the above set at tiie expense of the corporation of the said city. 

Sec. 4. Jlnd be it further tnaded. That the aforesaid weights, mea- 
sures, and stamp, shall be deposited by the judge in the oilice of the 
clerk of the said parish on his accountable receipt, and it shal! be 
the duty of the said clerk and inspector, when thereto required by 
any person, to stamp all measures whatsoevei', if they find them true; 
and they shall be entitled to ask and demand for such service the fol- 
lowing fees, and rio more, \ iz: For every steelyard, with cei'tificate 
thereof, twenty-five cents ; for every measure tlsat they shall try or 
stamp, six cents and a quarter, to be paid by the owners of the 
"Weights and measures by them stamped, over and above the price of 
the labor, and materials tiiey may employ on such measures as re- 
quire to be regulated by the standard ; provided always, that the 
stamp shall be impressed and payment required for doing the same, 
only on such as have not yet been stamped, or such as having been 
once stamped, are found so defective as to require to be again regu- 
lated with the standai'd. Be it understood, however, that during 
the first year ensuing the day when this act shall begin to be in force, 
the said inspector shall oiily be entitled to half the fees established by 
the present section, and in case of resignation, removal, or death of 
the inspector, or clerks, the said weights, measures, steelyards, and 
stamps, shall be delivered to the person or persons named in their 

Sec. 5. Andbe it further enacted, That if any cU-rk, inspector, or 
any person legally authorized to stamp weights and measures, shall 
knowingly and wilfully stamj) weights and measures which do not 
correspond with the standaid aforesaid, tliey shall, on conviction, be 
condemned to pay a fine of one hundred dollars for each offence, to 
be recovered on motion by the attorney general, or district attorney, 
before any court of competent jurisdiction, to the benefit of the pa- 
rish in which the said offender may reside ; and any person thus 
convicted shall besides he removed from office : the court, during 
the prosecution against the said clerks, shall be authorized to appoint 
a clerk pro tem. 

Sec. 6. ,dnd be it further enacted. That one year after the governor 
shall have deposited such weights, measures, and steelyards, with the 


secretary of state, as required by this act, no person shall buy or sell 
any rommotiity whatsoever by \veigl>tsor measures, which do not ex- 
actly correspond with the aforesaid standard, or are not stamped ; 
nor shall they keej) any sucii wei^^hts or measures for the purpose of 
buying or selling thereby, under penalty of a fine of fifty dollars for 
each offence, besides the forfeitui'cs of the weights, measures, and 
steelyards, found to be false, and of a fine of ten dollars, when the 
measures, weights, and steelyards, shall be found just, though 
not stamped ; said fines to be recovered before any tribunal of 
competent jurisdiction, one half to the benefit of the informer, and 
the other half to the parish in which the said offender may reside. 
All weights and measures seized shall be forfeited for the benefit of 
the stamper, who shall have discovered the fraud, and he shall not 
return them into circulation until he has made them conformable to 
the standard. 

Sec. 7. Jlnd be it further enacted, That whoever shall make, or 
cause to be made use of, or utter false stanjps or scales, shall, on con- 
viction before the district court where this offence is committed, be 
subject to all the pains and penalties of forgery under the law of this 

Sec 8. And be it further enacted. That it is forbidden to any per- 
son to sell, or cause to be sold, measures and weights, unless they 
have been tried and stamped by pei'sons appointed for that purpose, 
agreeably to the present act, under the penalties imposed by the sixth 
section of this act, against all persons who shall have used false 

Sec. 9. Andbe it further enacted, That the persons to be appointed 
agreeably to the present act to try and stamp the weights, measures, 
&c. shall not commit their functions to a substitute, without being lia- 
ble to all fines prescribed by this act. 

Sec. 10. Andbe it farther enacted. That any provision in this act 
contained to the contrary notwithstanding, there shall be in this state 
a dry measure to be known under the name of barrel, which shall con- 
tain three and a quarter bushels, conformable to the American stand- 
ard, and shall be divided in half and a quarter barrel. 

Sec. 11. Jind be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the 
governor, so soon as he shall have procured tiie weights and measures 
agreeably to this act, to make it known throughout the state by pro- 

Speaker of the House of Representative^. 


President of the Senate. 
ApproTed, Dec. 21st, 1814 : 


Governor of the state of Lmdsianai 

A ,true copy from the original in my office. 

H^.VLV'&F.W, Secretary qf State, 


E 18 — c. 


statement of M. Bouchon, respecting weights and measures in Louisiana 
hcjore its cession to the United States. 

1st. The measures in use in Louisiana, before its cession to the 
United States, were tlie following : 

Measures of Length. 

The king's foot, consisting of 12 inches, the inch of 12 lines j 

The fathoiii (toise) of 6 king's feet; 

The perch of 3 fathoms, or 18 feet; 

The linear arpent of ' perches, or 30 fathoms ; 

The league of 84 arpens ; 

The ell of Paris of 3 feet, 7 inches, lOf lines. 

Superjidal Measures. 

The square foot of 144 square inches ; 
The square fatiiom of 36 square feet ; 
The square perch of 9 square fathoms ; 
The square arpent of 100 square perches; 
The square league of 7,056 square arpens. 


The scruple of 24 grains ; 
The gros of 3 scruples ; 
The ounce of 8 gros ; 
The mark of 8 ounces ; 
The pound of 16 ounces; 
The quintal of 100 pounds. 

Measures of Capacity for Liquids. 

The pint of Paris of 46.95 cubic inches : 
The velte of 8 pints ; 
The muid of 288 pints. 

Measures for Grain > 

T^he litron of Paris of 40.986 cubic inches j 
The bushel (boisseau) of 16 litrons; 
The septier of 12 bushels ; 
The muid of 12 septiers. 

Measures for Fire Wood. 

The cord of 4 feet height, 8 feet length, and the billets of wood 4 
feet long. 



£d. These measures are all of French origin. The lineal arpent, 
the loa2;iie of 84 arjjons, and the square arpent, are the particular 
measures of Louisiana. This is certain. 

3(1. 'I'lie measures (»f length, of superficies, and of firewood, are 
still in general use in the state of Louisiana. They begin to mea- 
sure firewood by (lie American foot, because it is to the advantage 
of the seller. For the same reason, the use of the pound has been 
so easily adopted. I know of no other measure of capacity, except 
the American gallon. Several persons who speculate in town lots 
buy by the French foot and sometimes sell by the Anierican foot. 
They sometimes yet use the French ell, but its use in commerce is 
insensibly losing ground. 

4th. The suiveyor's chain of 22 yards contains 10 fathoms, 1 foot, 
10.89C) inches; 100 French fathoms contain 9.6916515 chains; the 
lineal arpent extends 63.9654 yards; the league of Louisiana, 
244.2296 American chains; an acre is equal to 1.1829 superficial 
arpents of Louisiana; a square mile is equal to 756.1424 square 
arpcns. One may calculate in general that the French foot is to the 
American as 16 is to 15. A square arpent ia equal to 4,091.5724 
square yards. 

5th. It does not appear tbat the Spanisli weights and measures 
have ever been used. 

6th. The new superficial measures are very seldom used : the 
French and Spanish population will find it difficult to make use of 
them, as well as of the lineal measures. 

7th. Neither Mr. Pilie, city surveyor, nor myself, know of any 
police law relative to weights or measures; and, although 1 have 
had an opportunity of reading a great deal, I have never fallen in 
with one of that nature. We know not of any French or Spanish 
standard in this country. The French and Spanish records of sur- 
veys (proces verbaux) are reported entirely according to the mea- 
sures of Paris. 

8th. The ancient inhabitants are well enough satisfied with the 
American weights, but all, and especially those in the country, find 
it very difficult to accustom themselves to the measures of length, 
and the superficial measures; and I think they will be long in doing 
so. This depends upon long contracted habits, and they cannot change 
these habits all at once. One must have gained great facility in cal- 
culation to be able to comprehend new superficial measures, at all 
times more difficult than measures of length or weights, especially 
when he sees no advantage to bedei-ived from them. 

The reports which I have presented of the ancient and new mea- 
sures will be sufficient data for an accomptant to find out those others 
which I have not time to point out. Mr, Pilie and myself are very 
much pressed by business at present, and we beg Mr. Johnson to ex- 
cuse us for not liaving done more, and in shorter time. 

I beg him to be assured of the perfect consideration with which I 
am, &c. 

SurceyoT General of the state of Louisiana, 
.JVew Orleans, 9th October^ 1820. 


E 19 — fl. 

The Governor of Indiana to the Secretary of State. 

CoRYDON, 'September 9, 1817. 

Sir : I have, herewith, the honor of suhmitting a report from the 
secretary of state for Indiana, relative to the regulation and stand- 
ards for weights and measures in this state, in conformity to a reso- 
lution of the Senate of the United States of the 3d of March last. 

Absence from the seat of government of our state prevented an 
earlier compliance with your request. 

I have the honor to be, 

With great respect, 

Your obedient servant, 

The Hon. the Secb;etary of State. 

E 19 — h. 

Secretary of State's Office, 


The Secretary of State, to whom was referred the resolution of 
the Senate of the United States of March 3d, 1817, requiring a state- 
ment relative to the regulations and standards for weights and mea- 
sures in the several states, &c. lias the honor to submit tlie following 
report, containing the regulations and standards for weights and mea- 
sures as used, and now in force, in the state of Indiana. 

One measure of one foot, or twelve inches English measure, so 
called; also, one measure of three feet, or thirty-six inches, Eng- 
lish measure as aforesaid ; also, one half bushel measure, for dry 
measure, which shall contain one thousand seventy-five and one-fifth 
solid inches; also, one gallon measure, which shall contain twohuii 
dred and thirty-one solid inches; which measures are to be of wood, 
or any metal the court may think proper ; also, one set of weights, 
commonly called avoirdupois weight. 

R. A. NEW, Secretary 
His Excellency the Governor 

(f the state of Indiana, 


E 20— a. 

The Governor of Mississippi to the Secretanj of State. 

Natchez, September 17, 1818. 

Sir : I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 8th ultimo; 
By an act of the le.i^islature of the Mississippi territory, passed the 
4th February, 1807, the treasurer thereof was directed to procure 
one set of weights and measures according to the standard of London, 
which was to serve as a general standard for the territory. He was 
also directed to procure a set for each county ; the latter provision 
was never carried into effect. The legislature, therefore, by an act 
of the 23d December, 1815, authorized the treasurer to procure six 
sets of the same standard, and directed tliera to be deposited at cer- 
tain public places, under the care of an ofticer, whose duties are pre- 
scribed by the act ; this law was duly executed, and the weights and 
measures, which were procured, are now the standard by which 
weiglits and measures are regulated throughout the state. 1 enclose 
to you copies of the acts herein alluded to. 

1 |jave the honor to be, 

With great respect. 

Your obedient servant, 

To the Hon. Jo^hn Q. Adams^ 

E 20—/;. 

Jin Mt relative to Weights and Measures, passed 4th February , 1 807. 

Sec. 1. The treasurer of the territory he, and he is hereby, autho- 
rized and required to j)rocure, as soon as may be, at the public cxi)ense, 
one set of weights and measures, viz : one weight of fifty pounds, one 
of twenty -five, one of fourteen, two of six, two of four, two of two, 
and two of one pound avoirdupois weight, according to the standard 
of the United States, if one be established ', but if there he none such, 
according to the standard of London ; with proper scales for weights, 
together with measuresof one of the length of one foot, and one of one 
yard, cloth measure; and the measures of one half bushel, one peck, 
and one half i)eck, dry measure ; also, the measures of one gallon, one 
of half a gallon, one of one quart, one of one pint, one of half a pint, 
and one of one gill, wine measure, according to the above named stand- 
ards; and the said weights, measures, and scale, shall be deposited 
with the said treasurer, to serve as a general standard for weights anti 
measures within this territory, until otherwise directed by Congress. 

Sec. 2. When the aforesaid weights, measures, and scales, shall be 
provided as aforesaid^ the treasurer shall cause to he made or pro- 


cured for eagh county within this territory, at the public expense, one 
set of weights, scales, and measures; and the last mentioned weights 
and measures sliall be compared by the said treasurer with the afore- 
said general standard, and, when found to agree therewith, sliall be 
forthwith transmitted by him to the clerks of the several county courts 
in this territory. 

Sec. 3. The said weights, measures, and scales, shall be kept by 
such person in each county as the county court shall direct, who shall 
take the following oath, viz: •* I, A B, do solemnly swear, (or afiirm, 
as the case may be,) that I will, in all things, act with justice and 
faithfulness in my ajjpointment as keeper of the standard of weights 

and measures, for the county of , according to law, to the best 

of my skill and Judgment. So help me God." And, immediately af- 
ter such appointment, the clerks of the several county courts shall 
make known the same by advertisement, to be fixed at the door of the 
court house ; and, also, by inserting the same in one of the public ga- 
zettes of this territory. And all persons, desirous of trying their 
weights and measures, may resort to the aforesaid county standard 
for that purpose ; and, if they are found true, the person appointed to 
keep the said standard shall seal them with a seal, to be j)rovided by 
the county court, at the expense of the county; and the persons ap- 
pointed in the several counties, to keej) the said county standard, 
shall be entitled to receive, for trying every steelyard, and giving cer- 
tificate therefor, and for trying any other weights and measures, and 
sealing the same, fifty cents each, to be paid by the person for whom 
such service is rendered or done. 

Sec. 4. Three months after the appointment of a person to keep 
tlie said county standard shall have been nrnde as aforesaid, every 
person, or persons, who shall sell any commodity whatever by weight 
or measure that shall not correspond with the said county standard, 
or shall keep any such for the purpose of buying or selling with, shall, 
for every such offence, forfeit and pay the sum often dollars; re- 
coverable, before a justice of the peace, by any person who will sue 
for the same, and applied to his own use. 

Sec. 5. The territorial treasurer shall transmit to the clerks of 
the respective counties the weights, scales, and measures, as directed 
by the second section of this act, within twelve months from and after 
the passing hereof. 

E 20— e. 

*9rt Jld passed December 23, 1815. 

Sec. 1. The treasurer of the territory be, and he is hereby, autho- 
rized and required to procure, as soon as may be, at the public ex- 
pense, six sets of weights and measures as described in the act, en- 
titled " An act establishing weights and measures in the Mississippi 
territory," passed February 4, 1807. 


Sec. 2. When the sets of weights, ineasurcs, and seals, sliall have 
been procured hv the treasurer its authorized hy tiiis act, one set sluiH 
be conveyed, at the ])ublicexj)ense, to Huiitsville, in Madison county ; 
one other set to some phice on or near I'earl river; one other set to 
the town of St. Stephens : one other set to the town of Mobile ; one 
other set to the town of Woodville ; and tlie sixth set to tlie town of 
Port Gibson, and be placed in tlie hands of soinu j)erson to be ap- 
pointed by the ,a;overnor j and the sets of wei^lits and measures here- 
tofore j)rocured shall be forthwith delivered to some person residinj^ 
in the city of Natchez, to be appointed in the nnumer ahovedestribed. 
And the keepers of weij^iits and measui-es, hereby authorized to be 
appointi-d, shall, previously to entering upon the discharge of their du- 
ties, take the oath or aliirmation jnescribed in thethiid section of the 
act above recited; and tlie said keepers shall, immediately after their 
appointment, make known the same by advertisement, to be fixed at 
the door of the court house of the counties in which they reside ; and, 
also, by inserting the same in the nearest newspaper publislied in this 
territory. And, immediately after the appointment of the said keep- 
ers, all persons residingin any part of this territory, and desirous to 
try their weights and measures, may resort to any of the aforesaid 
standards for that purpose ; and, if they are found true, the keeper of 
any of the said standards shall seal them with a seal, to be procured 
hy the said treasurer at the expense of the territory ; and the persons 
appointed keepers, as aforesaid, shall be entitled to receive the fees 
prescribed by the third section of the act above recited, for the servi- 
ces therein specified. 

Sec. 3. Three months after public notice of the appointment of a 
person to keep the said standard in the city of Natchez, every person 
j'esiding in any of the counties lying uj)on the Mississippi river, and 
that, three months after public notice of the appointment of the other 
keepers of weights and measures hereby authorized to be made, every 
person residingin this territory, who shall sell any commodity what- 
ever by weight or measure, that shall not correspond with the stand- 
ard hereby established, shall, for every such offence, forfeit and pay 
the sum of fifty dollars, recoverable before any justice of the quorum, 
or of the peace; to be paid to the county treasurer for county pur- 

Sec. 4. The sum of four hundred dollars, in addition to the eight 
hundred dollars heretofore appropriated for the purpose of procuring 
weights and measures, be, and the same is hereby, appropriated for 
th« purposes specified. 


E 21. 

.^u ad regulating weights and measures. 

Sec. 1 . Ik it enacted by the People of the state of Illinois, represented 
in the General Assembly, Tliat it shall be tiie duty of the county com- 
ii)issioners in each and evciy county within this state, as soon a 
practicable after they are qualified to office, to procure, at the expense 
of their respective counties, one measure of one foot, or twelve inches, 
English measure so called; also, one measure of three feet, ortiiirty- 
six inches, Englisli measure as aforesaid ; also, one gallon liquid or 
wine measure, which shall contain two hundred and thirty-one cubic 
inches ; one measure that shall contain one-fourth part, one measure 
that shall contain one-eighth j)art, one measure that shall contain 
one-sixteenth part, of the aforesaid liquid gallon, denominated quart, 
pint, and gill, each of which shall be made of some proper and dura- 
ble metal ; also, one half bushel measure for dry measure, which 
shall contain eighteen quarts, one pint, and one gill, of the above 
liquid or wi!ie measure, the solid contents of which is equal to one 
thousand and seventy-five cubic inches, and fifty-nine hundredths of 
a cubic inch ; likewise, one measure that shall contain one-fourth part 
of the afoi-esaid half bushel, or one gallon dry measure, which said 
half bushel and its fourth shall be made of copper or brass; also, a 
set of weights of one pound, one-half pound, one-fourth pound, o)ie^ 
eighth pound, and one-sixteenth pound, made of brass or iron ; 
the integer of which shall be denominated one pound avoirdupois, and 
shall be equal in weight to seven thousand and twenty grains troy 
or gold weight ; which measures and weights shall be kept by the 
clerk of the county commissioners for the purpose of trying and scal- 
ing the measures and weights used in their counties, for which purpose 
the said several clerks shall be provided with a suitable seal, or seals, 
with the name, or initials, of their respective counties inscribed thereon. 

Sec. 2. Be it further enacted, That as soon as the county commis- 
sioners shall have furnished the measures and weights as aforesaid, 
they shall cause notice thereof to be given at the conrt house door, 
one month in succession immediately thereafter ; and any person 
thereafter who shall knowingly buy, or sell, any commodity what- 
soever, by measures or weights in their possession which shall not 
correspond with the county measures and weights, shall, for every 
such offence, being legally convicted thereof, forfeit and pay the sum 
of twenty dollars, for the use of the county where such offence shall 
have been committed, and costs of suit, to be recovered before any 
justice of the peace of said county. Every person desirous of having 
their measures and weights tried by the county standard shall apply to 
the cleik of the county commissioners, and if he find it correspond with 
the county standaid, shall seal the same with the seal provided for 
that purpose ; and said clerk Is allowed to demand and receive such 
fees as now are, or hereafter may be, allowed by law. 

This act to be in force from and after its passage. 


E 22. 


Extract from a law of the territory of Missouri, concerning weights and 


" Sec. 1. The hcveral courts of common pleas [circuit courts] 
within this territory, shall provide for their respective counties, and 
at the expense of their said counties, one measure, of one foot, or 
twelve inches, English measure, so called : also, one measure of three 
feet, or thirty-six inches, English measure, as aforesaid, to he deno- 
minated one yard ; also, one half bushel measure, which shall contain 
one thousand seventy live and one fifth solid inches, to be denominated 
dry measure: also, one gallon measure, which shall contain two hun- 
dred and thirty-one solid inches; one half gallon measure, which 
shall contain one hundred and fifteen and one half solid inches ; and 
one quart njeasure, which shall contain fifty-seven and three fourths 
solid inches ; which measures are to be of wood, or any metal the 
court sluill think proper: also, one set of weights, commonly called 
a\ oirdupois weights ; and one seal, with the initial of the county in- 
scribed thereon ; which measures, weights, and seal, shall be kept by 
tiie clerk of the court of common pleas [circuit court] in each county, 
for the purposes of trying and sealing the measures and weights used 
in their counties." L. M. T. July scss. 1815. 


Vxnis, 16th July, 1S17. 

Sir : I had the honor to receive your letter dated London, the 5th 
of May last, together with the resolution of the Senate of the 3d of 
March, 1817, on the subject of weights and measures. 

I accordingly enclose, in relation to those of France, Tarbe^s Ma- 
nuel, vvhicli is considered as the best elementary practical work on 
tiie subject ; the Annuaire of the Board of Longitude, for the present 
year, in which you will find a very concise exposition of the princi- 
ples of the system ,• the third volume of Delambre's Base ilu Systeme 
met ri que decimal, which explains them at large ; the Connoissance des 
Terns, for the year 1816, in which are found, pages 314 to 332, and 
particularly page 330, some subsequent observations on the pendu- 
lum ; and some sheets of a journal now printing, which contains an 
additional note of De Prony, on the ratio of tiie metre to the English 

I have not sent tlie two first volumes of Delambre's work, which 
contain the details of the measurement of the meridian, from Dunkirk 
to Barcelona, as all the results are found in the third volume. The 


fourth volume, edited by Biot and Arrago, wliich, besides othei- mat- 
tei", will g-ive the measurement of the meridian from Barcelona to 
Formentera, its northern extension, to Greenvvicb, and through a 
part of Great Britain, and Biot's observations of the pendulum at se- 
veral places, is not yet printed. 

You requested that I might add such observations as might occur 
to me. The following are made, less on account of their intrinsic. 
value, than because they may assist in/explaining some points of the 
works enclosed. 

The legal metre, or unit of the French linear measures, is presumed 
lobe ^^^^ly^^^ of the quarter of the meridian, from the equator to 
the pole, and has been deduced from the actual measurement of the 
arch from Formentera to Dunkirk, compared in order to calculate 
the flattening of the earth with the former measurement in Peru. 
This standard metre, such as it is definitively adopted by law, is equal 
to 443 ^VA I'S'ies (or 12th parts of an inch) of the ohl French mea- 
sures. Doubts have however arisen whether it is truly the j^^^'^^^_ 
of the quarter of the meridian. Delambre, in his third volume, deduc- 
ing the T^^oVo^o f'*o"i the measurement of the arch from Barcelona to 
Dunkirk alone, had made it equal to 443f^oVo ''gnes. The calcula- 
tions of the flattening of the earth, as deduced solely from theory, 
would give a result nearer to the legal metre. The measurement 
made in England of an arch of the meridian, would seem to affect 
those conclusions. But it must be observed that an error of two se- 
conds in the latitude observed, would, in the long arch measured 
from Formentera to Dunkirk, produce a difference in the length of 
the metre, equal to the difference between Delambre's calculation and 
the legal metre ; that the same error would, in the much shorter 
arch measured in England, produce a much greater difference; and 
that the most candid astronomers acknowledge that, with the instru- 
ments now in use, such an error (of two seconds of latitude) is possi- 
ble. Althougli, therefore, it seems probable that the legal metre is a 
little too shoi't, and it seems to be regretted that it was hot made 
equal to 443fV lig'ics, it is, upon the whole, nearly as exact as was 
practicable in the present state of science. But, should more exteji- 
sivc measurements of the meiidian, greater improvements in the in- 
struments, and a more precise knowledge of all the elements which 
affect the observations, lead to a still moie correct calculation of the 
true length of the quarter of the meridian, the standard, or legal 
French metre, would i-emain as it now is, the unit or basis of the sys- 
tem of French measures, and the only difference would be, that, in- 
stead of being, as now presumed, toooV^ctoj it might be found to be 
To oVroo) 01* some other not far distant traction of the quarter of the 
meridian. And this difference would be less than the errors which 
will always take place in the confection, not of a standard metre exe- 
cuted with every possible care, but of the measures used for common 

For the purpose of ascertaining the ratio of the length of the metre 
to that of the pendulum, observations have been made with great 


care in several places ; but those at Paris by Borda and Cassini, 
inserted in Delanibre's third volume, are tlic only ones (witli the 
exception of those mentioned in the Connoissance dts Tems^ page 314 
to 3''22) which are given in detail by the B^-cnch writers. Those of 
Biot and others will appear in Dclambre's fourth volume : but their 
general result is given in the Connoissance <ies Terns, and it thereby 
appears that the length of the pendulum making 100,000 oscillations 
in 24 hours (in vacuo and at the freezing point of water) and refer- 
red to the level of the sea, is at Paris, in latitude 48° 50' 14", equal 
to tVoVVo of the metre j at Bordeaux, in latitude 44° 50' 25 ", equal 
to y^Y_6_i_. ; and at Formentera, in latitude 33° 39' 56 ", equal to 
ToVWo* The final calculation of Borda for Paris, of the second pen- 
dulum (which makes 86,400 oscillations in 24 hours) is y^oWo of 
the metre, and 440^*^Yo lig'^^s old French measure. 

From the metre are immediately deduced, by a descending and 
ascending decimal ratio, all the French measures, linear, superficial, 
and of capacity, such as they are found every where, and which re- 
quire no observation. 

The unit of weight, which is in fact the kilogramme or 1000 
grammes, has been determined by ascertaining the weight in vacuo 
of the toVtt P^'^t '>f ^ cubic metre of distilled water at its maximum 
of density, w hich is 4° of the centigrade thermometer above the freez- 
ing point, corresponding to 39.6 of Fahrenheit. The experiments, 
which in every system of measures which may be adopted, are ex- 
tremely important, were made with gi-eat care and skill by Lefevre 
Gineau ; the substance is found in Dclambre's third volume, but the 
detailed account appears to have been unfortunately lost. The old 
French pound, poids de marc, is t^VoV •^f the kilogramme. 

From the kilogramme or gramme has been deduced, by a decimal 
ratio, the whole system of French weights, including also that of 
moneys, in the manner stated in all tlie elementai-y works. 

Th& ratio of the English foot to the old and new French measures, 
may have been lately ascertained in England, where a correct stand- 
ard metre of platina has been sent. By de Prony's experiments the 
metre is equal to 39.3827 English inches, and the old French foot to 
12.1232 English inches. 

It is probable that the second pendulum will, at Washington, be 
found nearly equal to -j^^\ of a metre, and to 39.107 English inches. 

The great advantages of the French system seems to consist, 1st. 
In having an unit from which derives the whole by a decimal ratio ; 
2dly. In having ascertained the ratio of that unit to constant quanti- 
ties, (the quarter of the meridian, and the length of the pendulum) so 
as to be able to perpetuate, and, in case of accident, to make new 
standard measures, perfectly similar to those now established by 
law : 3dly. In the great correctness of the expei'iments by which 
this ratio has been ascertained, and in tlie similar care bestowed on 
the confection of the standard measures and weights. 

These advantages are, in a great degree, independent of the substi- 
tution of new to ancient measures^ w hich has in practice met with 


such difficulties. Provided the ratio of tlie old French foot to the na- 
tural and constant measures of the earth and of the pendulum, had 
been ascertained, that foot might have been preserved, introducing 
only its decimal subdivision. 

I will, for the present, only add, that as one of the first steps, if any 
plan is adopted on that subject in the United States, must be to ascer- 
tain the ratio of our foot to natural measures, it will be important to 
obtain the observations (not yet printed) of Biot, which, together with 
those of Borda, give all the information necessary for correct expe- 
riments of the length of the pendulum. As we will not probably very 
soon measure with sufficient correctness a considerable arch of the 
meridian, tiie best mode to obtain at once the ratio of our foot, both 
to the quarter of the meridian and to the French measure, will be to 
cause a metre of platina to be made here by Fortin. I could, I think, 
prevail on Mr. Arrago, or some other member of the board of longi- 
tude, to superintend the execution. Two have been completed for 
the Royal Society of London, and one is now on hand for the king of 
Prussia. The price will be about one hundred guineas. The brass 
metre made by ordej' of Mr. Hassler, and which belongs to the Unit- 
ed States, was executed by young Le Noir, and is not sufficiently 
correct for the purpose. 

I am, &c. 



Jlr. Russell to the Secretary of State. 

Stockholm, 3lstJuly, 1818. 

Sir : The duplicate of your letter (No. 3.) of the 25th of May last, 
reached me on the 15th inst. but the original is not yet received. I have 
now the honor, in compliance with your request therein expressed, to 
communicate such information as I have been able to collect, " rela- 
tive to the proceedings of this country for establishing uniformity in 
weights and measures," and which was required by the resolution of 
the Senate, to which you refisr. 

Not being made acquainted with the object of the Senate in fram- 
ing that resolution, either b^ the resolution itself or by your letter, I 
have felt some uncertainty with regard to the precise import of the 
term " uniformity," as therein used. It may relate to the proceed- 
ings of any foreign country to establish, within itself, one sole stand- 
ard for weights and measures resjjcctively ; or it may relate to the 
proceedings of severai foroigt countri.'s to establish such a standard 
in common, or to the regulations of each particular country, for pi*c 


serving the constancy of its weights and measures, hy an exact con- 
formity to one or more standards, respectively, which may there ex- 
ist, and thus, in regard to those respective standards, establishing 
unifomiitif throughout such country. 

Were I to confine myself to cither of these constructions, singly, I 
might err in my selection, and furnish information altogether inap- 
plicable to the real object of the resolution. I have believed it 
safer, therefore, to communicate all the information which I have col- 
lected on the subject, considered in the three points of view above 
suggested. I shall even present some details, which, although obvi- 
ously not called for by the resolution of the Senate, may be useful on 
some other occasion. 


Throughout Sweden there is but one measure, which was last esta- 
blished by the royal ordinance of King Frederick, in 1739. This 
measure appears, like many others now in use in Europe, to have 
been originally taken from the human foot and thumb. The Swed- 
ish foot is divided into twelve work inches (werktums) or decimally 
into ten inches. The work inches are used in building, handifraft, 
and commerce, and the decimal inches for geometrical mensuration. 

Long measure. 

To the foot thus divided into inches are all the Swedish measures 
of length, superficies, or capacity referrible : 

2 Swedish feet = 1 Swedish (aln) ell ; 3 ells = 1 fathom (famm) ; 5 
ells = 1 perch (stang) ; 36,000 Swedish feet = 18,000 Swedish ells 
= 1 Swedish mile. 

Land measure, 

56,000 Swedish square feet= 14,000 ells = 1 Swedish (tunnland) 
acre of land ; 1 tunnland = 2 spannlands = 4 half spannlands = 32 
kapplands =56 kannlands. 

Dry measure. 

1 Swedish cubic foot= 1,000 Swedish decimal cubic inches = 10 
Swedish (kannor) cans ; 5,600 decimal cubic inches = 1 tunna (ton) 
= 2 span = 8 quarts (fjerdinger) = 32 kappar = 56 cans (kannor) ; 
7 cans = 4 kappe. 

Liquid measure. 

48 cans (kannor) = 1 ton (tunna) = 2 half tons = 4 quarters 
(fjerdingar) = 8 eighths (attingar) ; 1 can (kann) = 2 stoopes (stop- 
par) = 4 half stoopes = 8 quarts (quarter) =» 32 gills ^^ort or jung- 


The can (kann) remains invariably the same in all measures, whe- 
ther dry or liquid, in which it is used. 

The measures qf Sweden compared with those of France and England. 

According to the official comparison made by the French philoso- 
pliers Prony, Legend re, and Pictet, between the French standard 
metre and an English measure, made expressly by Troughton for 
tfiat object, both these measures being at the temperature of freezing, 
the French metre is equal to 39.3827 English inches. 

See Annals of Chemistry, for June, 1817, pa. 166. (Annales de 
Chimie et Physique.) Thus : 

1 French metre = 39.2827 English inches (log. 5953056) 

= 36.9413 oldFrench inches (log. 5675125) 
= 40.4 175128 Swedish work inches (log. 6065695.) 
= 33.6812606 Swedish dec. inches (log. 5273883.) 
1,000 English feet = 1026.275 f" the proportion be- "J 

Swedish feet j tween the deci f(log. 0112639) 

974.397 English feet = 1,000^ mal inches is the t 

Swedish feet. C. same. J (log. 9887361) 

1,000 English duodecimal inches = 1026.275 Swedish work inches. 
1,000 do. do. do. = 855.229 Swedish decimal inches 

(log. 9320827.) 
1169.276 English duodecimal inches = 1,000 Swedish decimal inches 

(log. 0679173.) 
1,000 English sq. feet = 1053.24 Swedish sq. feet (log. 0225278.) 
949.945 do. do. = J, 000 do. do. (log. 9774722.) 

1,000 English duodecimal sq. inches = 731.417 Swedish decimal 

sq. inches (log. 8641654.) 
1367.21 English duodecimal sq. inches = 1,000 Swedish decimal sq. 
inches (log. 1358346.) 
1 Swedish acre (tunnland)= 56,000 Swedish sq. feet = 53,169 
English sq. feet (log. 7256602.) 
1,000 English cubic inches =625.53 Swedish cubic decimal inches 
(log. 7962481.) 
i Swedish can (kann) =100 Swedish cubic decimal inches 

= 159.864 English cubic inches (log. 2037519.) 
1 Swedish meal ton (maltunna) =5,600 Swedish decimal cubic 
inches = 8952.41 English cubic inches ; 
Tliis is divided into 8 fjerdingar, each 700 Swedish decimal cubic 

inches = 1 119.048 English cubic inches. 
In commerce there is also a corn ton (sparnmaltunna) = 6,300 Swe- 
dish decimal cubic inches = 10,071 English cubic inches ; 
TVhich is in fact the same measure of exactly 5,600 Sw^ed. cub. dec. in. 
But in the sale of all kinds of grain isY _,q„ 
added thereto 1 fjerding or eighth part,/ 


ArPENDlX. 237 

It was formerly the prartic«' in the sale of e^rain to £51 vc heaped 
measure ; but as this practice, loi* want of [uecision, occasioned con- 
tinual disputes, it was at length abolished by law, and the addition of 
one-ei.a;htli pai't ordained in its stead ; that is, 9 t(Mis make 8 of corn, 
and the measure now is not to be heayed or shaken. 


Mintvigt, (mint weight.) 

The Swedish mint weight, or that with which gold and silver are 
weighed at the i^iint and at the bank, when these metals are left for 
coining, is divided into the mark, lod, qvintin, and ass : and in respect 
to tUcJineness of silver, into the mark, lod, and^Tan (grain) ; and in 
respect to the fineness of gold, into the mark, karat, (carat) and ^ra«, 

1 Mark, mint weight, ^= 16 lod =64 qvintin =4,384 (troyske) 
Dutch ass. 

Medicenalsvigt, C apothecary weight.) 

1 pound (libra) medicenalsvigt, is divided into 12 ounces, 1 ounce 
into 8 drams, 1 dram into 3 scruples, 1 scruple into 60 grains. 

Thus, 1 libi-a = 12 ounces = 96 drams = 288 scruples = 5,760 
grains = 7,416 (troyske) Dutch ass. 

Vidualievigf, (provision weight.) 

The Swedish victualievigt is divided into sheppund, (shippounds) 
centner {\nin(\v€:(\s,)lispund, And marks, ovskulpund. Thus, 1 shippound 
= 4 centner = 5 Lispounds = 400 marks, or skulponnds. The skul- 
pound is divided into lod and ass, and 1 skulpoimd = 32 lod = 8,488 

N. B. The centner is generally omitted in accounts, and one ship- 
pound divided at once into 20 lispounds. 

Metalsvigt, Stapelstadsvigt, or Eccportaiionsvigf. 

The weight which is called by these three names is divided, like the 
victualievigt, into shippounds, centner, lispounds, skulpounds, lod, 
and ass, of the same relative value. The skulpound is also divided 
into fourth, eighth, and sixteenth parts. 

Uppstadsvigt, Bergsvigt, and Tackjernsvigt. 

These are three distinct weights, but are divided and subdivided 
in the same manner as the provision weight and the exportation 


Application of th*: sacral weights. 

The use of the mint weight is already explained. The inedicenals- 
vigt is, as the term imports, for weighing drugs and medicines. 
Tiie vidualievigt is that which is most generally and frequently 
used in Sweden. With it are weighed all kinds of provisions, and all 
merchandise which is sold within the country, or exported ahr'oad by 
weight, excepting those articles only which specially appertain to the 
other sorts of weights herein mentioned. Tlie metalsvight, stapel- 
stadsvigt, or exportationsvigt, is applied exclusively to weighing 
iron, steel, copper, and other gross metals, for exportation abroad. 

Bergsvigtf also called Bergshamwervigt, (that is weight, or mine 
hamniei"w eight,) is the weight used at the forges, for iron intend- 
ed for home consumption, and to be sent into the interior, or to the 
uppstads, which are towns or cities whence no exportation abroad is 
allowed, there being at those places no custom houses for this purpose. 
But iron sent to the stapelstads, or cities whence exportation abroad 
is permitted,and at which there are custom houses for this purpose, 
isv^reighcd at the forges, hj the metalls-stapelstads, ov exportationsvigt. 

Uppstads weight is that used at these places, or any where in tlve 
interior where iron is sold for home consttmption. 

Tachjernsvigt (pig iron weight) is exclusively used throughout Swe- 
den for weighing pig ii-on to the workmen, who are to forge it into 
bar iron for account of the proprietoi*. 

Comparative view. 

The Swedish ducat ought to consist of gold of the fineness of 23 
carats and 5 grains, and to weigh gross 72^ Dutch ass, or 62| du- 
cats make one mark, mint weight, = 4384 Dutch ass (nearly.) One 
mark of gold of the fineness of 24 carats, gives SQjf^ ducats. The 
addition is according to the alloy. The remedium fmintagej which 
is allowed for ducats, is one grain in the fineness, and one ass in the 
w^eight, each piece. 

The Dutch ducat contains gold of the fineness of 23 carats and 8 
grains, with a remedium of one grain per piece, of 72^ Dutch ass. At 
least 72 pieces, new ducats, ought to weigh 5088 ass, or 159 angels. 

Swedish silver coin, whole rix dollars, two thirds rix dollars, and 
one third rix dollars, consists of silver of the fineness of 14 lod one 
grain, with a remedium of one grain ; one dollar of which ought to 
weigh gross 608f Dutch ass, or 36 rix dollars »ught to weigh 5 marks 
mint weight : 

1 whole dollar, of fine silver 534| ass. 

I mark, mint weight of fine silver, gives 8,VoV%\)1r "^ dollars. 
1 sixth part of a rix dollar, or 8 styck, (shillings) half the fine- 
ness of silver, 1 1 lod 1 grain. 
1 twelfth part of a rix dollar, or 4 styck do. 8 lod 2 grains. 
1 twenty fourth do. 2 styck do. 6 lod 2 grains. 

All with a remedium of one grain. All, both the whole dollar and 
the parts of the dollar, have each its full value in silver, and the cop- 
per alloy is thereto superadded. 


Wrought silver oiiglit to have the fineness of 1 3 lod and four grains, 
with a remediiim of 2^ grains. If the fineness be not tiiirteen lod, the 
vessel shall not on that account be broken up, but subjected to a dou- 
ble ((Mitrol duty, which makes it cost more than if th-e silver was of 
the requisite fineness. 

All wrought silver is sold according to the lod victualievigt ; and 
all wrought gold according to its weight in ducats. 

The fineness of crown gold, so called, (kronguld) for different ves- 
sels, or other articles, is 18 carats. In victuajievigt, as above, one 
skul[)ound= 8488 Dutch ass. The skulpound victualievigt is divided 
also into lod and quintin : thus, 1 skulpound = 32 lod, and 1 lod = 4 
quintin = 276^ ass. One ounce, or 8 drams, medecinalsvigtf are 
equal to 9 quintin, victualievigt, or 1 libra = 7416 Dutch ass. Me- 
taUsvigt is | of victualievigt. Thus, 16 skulpounds, victualievigt = 
SOskulpoundsmetallsvigt; and one skulpound nietallsvigt= 7078^*^- 
Dutch ass. 

Uppstads weight has a sbippound = 421 skulpounds, metal Isvigt, or 
20 Uppstadsvigt, = 21 ^V metalls or stapelstadsvigt. JSerg-s^ammers- 
vigt has a sbippound, = 442 skulpounds, metallsvigt, or 20 bergs- 
hammersvigt, = 22 -j-V metalls, or stapelstadsvigt. 

The reason for this difference in the two last mentioned instances, is, 
that the iron being valued at the uppstads, and at tlie stapelstads, re- 
spectively, at the same price per sliippound as at the forges, this facti- 
tious increase of weight has been devised to cover tlie expense of trans- 
portation to the respective places of delivery. Tackjernvigt has a ship- 
pound = 26 lispounds, or 520 skulpounds, bergshammersvigt, or 20 
tackjernvigt,=26 bergshammersvigt,which means simply this, that the 
forgeman, for every 26 pounds of pig iron which he receives, must deli- 
ver to the proprietor 20 pounds of bar iron. From the data here furnish- 
ed, all the weights of Sweden may be reduced to the victualievigt, or to 
the (troyske) Dutch ass. I will here observe that the word <' troyske," 
which is used in the Swedish publications on weights and measures, 
applied to the ass, cannot be satisfactorily translated into other Ian- 
guages, as its derivative meaning is lost. Several learned men, 
however, have told me that they conjecture that it came from Holland. 
I have therefore translated it " Dutch." 

To compare our weights with those of Sweden, the following data 
are believed to be sufficient. 

1 skulpound, Swedish victualievigt, = 8848 Dutch ass. 

1 pound English troy weight = 7766 do. 

1 pound English avoirdupois weight = 9489 do. 

1000 pounds English troy weight = 877.7124775 skulpounds, 
Swedish victualievigt, = 1000 pounds English avoirdupois weight, = 
1066.794476 skulpounds, Swedish victualievigt, = 1333.49355 Swe- 
dish skulpounds, metalls, staplestads, or export! ngvigt. 

With regard to uniformity, in the^rsf sense above suggested, you 
will perceive that it exists in Sweden, in respect to measures, so fur as 


the different uses of those measures will easily admit, as they are all 
reducible to the Swedish foot, lineal, square, or cubic, divided into 10 
or 12 parts or inches. In respect to Swedish weights^ sucli unifor- 
mity does not exist. The mint, apothecary, and provision weights, 
rest on foundations entirely distinct from each other, and the princi- 
pal unit of each is divided into parts, with denominations and quan- 
tities peculiar to themselves. Although metalls, uppstads, bergs, and 
tackjerns weights, have indirectly a certain relatiotj to provision 
weight, and the principal unit of each is divided into parts of the 
same names, and relative quantities, yet their diversity is sufficiently 
obvious from their different uses, and ilie different standards to which 
they must necessarily be made to conform. With regard to unifor- 
mity, in the second sense above suggested, there have been no proceed- 
ings whatever in this country for the purpose of establishing it : in- 
deed the policy, as well as the hal)its. of the people appear to be op- 
posed to its adoption. The only time when this question has been 
agitated here, was upon the receipt of the circular which the French 
government, soon after the introduction of the new weights and mea- 
s'lres in France, addressed to the governments of other countries, 
recommending an universal conformity to the new standard. But 
there never, for a moment, existed heie a disposition to accede to that 
proposition. All the convenience and facilities afforded by the plan 
proposed could not prevail against the pi-ejudices opposed to it. The 
people consider tlieir ancient customs as a constituent part of their 
rights, and would defend their old weiglits and measures as attributes 
of their liberty and independence. 

The bankers object to the decimal system, because it does not readi- 
ly adujit of thirds, in which they pretend to have a great interest. 
And the politicians affect to believe that a diversity in weights and 
measures is necessary for the preservation of a diveisity in govern- 
ments, and that the adoption of general uniformity would facilitate 
univeisal conquest. I will not detain you with a comment on these 

With regard to uniformity in the third sense above suggested, 
which consists in preserving the constancy of weights aud measures, 
by an exact conformity to one or more standards, respectively, I 
shall now present to you the regulations of Sweden. 

Standard weights and measures are required by law to be kept at 
Stockholm, in the college of commerce and the mines, in the office of 
the receiver of the revenue, in the land surveyoi-'s office, and in the 
City Hall. Standard weights and measures, adjusted by those of 
Stockholm, are also kept in the offices of the receiver of the revenue, 
and of the land surveyor in all the other towns or cities, and at all 
tiie parish churches in the country. The standard measures, the ell 
and the foot, are made of brass or steel. The standard weights are 
made of bronze. It is the duty of the land surveyors, in the interior, 
to take care that the weights and measuies, in their respective dis- 
tricts, conform to the standards, and they are allowed a compensa- 
tion for so doing. 


The laml surveyor at Stockholm is authorized and required to in- 
spect the conduct of the land surveyors in the interior, and to sec 
that they do their duty herein. 

The measure t'oi- all kiuds of grain, and for flour, salt, beef, and 
fish, must he made square^ to jjromote the facility of ascertaining 
their justness, by the foot measure. But roimU measures are allowed 
for measuring salt, grain, and other dry merchandise, on board of ves- 
sels when imjwrted from foreign countries. This round measure must 
be assayed once in every two months during the season of naviga- 
tion, and while it is used a square measure ought to be at hand, witli 
which to compare it. For measuring sea-coal, charcoal, chalk, and* 
lime, the round measure is generally allowed. The seller is permit- 
ted to measure his own goods, but lie must tiien pay the ordinary fee 
to the public measurer. Square measures are assayed by the foot 
inile, and round measures, if tight, by water, if not tight, by wheai 
or flaxseed. All measures for use ought to be made of seasoned wood, 
and their capacity stamped on the inside. To distinguish between 
the several sorts of weights, the victualievigt ought to be made round, 
•and the metallsvigt hexagonal, and these weights, when used in the 
stapelstads, arc to be marked with a round stamp, and, when used in 
tlie interior, witii a square stamp. The bergshammersvigt, ought to 
be made triangular. 

Steelyards were prohibited in 1638 and 1665, and were again prohi- 
bited by the ordinance of 1739, excepting for ore, and pig iron, by pro- 
prietors, for their ow n satisfaction ; and also in such places where no 
regular weights are to be had. The ordinance of 1739, also excepts 
for the buying and selling of fish, and for domestic use, also for coun- 
try people who bring their produce to market ; in this case, however, 
the steelyards must be regularly adjusted, and not of a greater power 
than two lispounds, victualievigt. The large weights for use arc 
made of iron or bronze, and adjusted with solder or lead, on which 
the stamp is impressed. The small weights are made of bronze; in- 
deed, an ordinance of Gustavus the Third required all weights to be 
made of bronze, but this ordinance has had hitherto but a partial ex- 
ecution. Every person who uses weights or measures not conform- 
able to the standards established by law is liable to a penalty. 

I have now furnished all the information of any interest, which I 
have been able to collect here, relative to weights and measures, and 
I trust it will be found at least sufficient to satisfy the resolution of 
the Senate, so far as that resolution has any relation to Sweden. 
I have the honor to be, with very great respect, 

Your faithful and obedient servant, 


To tlic Hon. John Quincy Adams. 






1. "VTeights and measures used in the several custom houses of 

the United States. 

2. Table of ditto. 

3. Note on the weights and measures used in the District of Co- 


1. Table of the several English statute measures of capacity at 

different periods, compared with existing standards. 

2, Notes on ditto. 

Note on the proportional value of the pound sterling and the 

1. Mr. F. R. Hassler to the Secretary of State, Oct. 16, 1819. 

2. Mr. Hassler's comparison of French and English standard 

measures of length. 
Weights and measures of the several states, viz : 
1. New Hampshire, a. Governor Plumer to the Secretary of 

State, Nov. 21, 1818, 
&. Law of May 13, 1718. 

c. do. 6 Geo. III. 

d. do. Dec. 15, 1797. 

e. Governor Plumer to the Secretary of 
State, Jan. 4, 1819. 

a. Governor Galusha to the Secretary of 

State, Jan. 20, 1818. 
6. Law. 
a. Governor Brooks to the Secretary of 

State, Oct. 24,1817. 
h. Secretary Bradford to Gov. Brooks, 

Sept. 5, 1817. 
Governor Knight to the Secretary of 

State, Sept. 5, 1817. 

a. Governor Wolcott to the Secretary of 
State, Aug. 5, 1817. 

b. Secretary Day to the Secretary of 
State, Aug. 12, 1817. 

c. Law of October session, 1800. 

d. do. do. 1801. 

e. do,, May session, 1810^ 

B. 2. Veripont. 

£. S. Massachusetts. 

E. 4. Rhode Island. 

E. 5. Connecticut. 



E. 6. New York. 

^. 7. New Jersey. 
E. 8. Pennsylvania. 

E. 9. Delaware. 
E. 10. Maryland. 

E. 11. Virginia. 

E. 12. North Carolina. 

E. 13. South Carolina. 

E. 14. Georgia. 

E. 15. Kentucky. 

E. 16. Tennessee. 
E. 17. Ohio. 






Governor Clinton to the Secretary of 
State, Sept. 4, 1817. 

Law of June 19, 1703. 
do. April 10, 1784. 
do. March 7, 1788. (Ext.) 
do. Feb. £, 1804. 
do. March 24, 1809. 
do. March 19, 1813. 

Governor Williamson to the Secretary 
of State, Sept. 20, 1817. 

Secretary Boileau to the Secretary of 
State, Aug. 26, 1817. 

Mr. J. Meer to Mr. Boileau, Aug. 20, 

Secretary Ridgely to the Secretary of 
State, Nov. 7, 1818. 

Law of 1704. 

Mr. I. Booth to Mr. Ridgely, Oct. 24, 

Mr. Pinkney to the Secretary of State, 
Aug. 9, 1817. 

Governor Goldsborough to the Secre- 
tary of State, Dec. 1. 1819. 

Law of April, 1715. 
do. Dec. 20, 1765. 

Governor Preston to the Secretary of 
State, Aug. 15, 1818. 

Law of August, 1734. 
do. Dec. 26, 1792. 

Governor Miller to the Secretary of 
State, Aug. 19, 1817. 


Governor Pickens to the Secretary of 
State, Sept. 10, 1818. 

Law of April 12, 1768. 
do, March 17, 1785. 

Governor Clark to the Secretary of 
State, Dec. 5, 1819. 

Law of Dec. 10, 1803. 

Ordinance of the city council of Au- 
gusta. (Ext.) 

Lieutenant Governor Slaughter to the 
Secretary of State, Nov. 26, 1817, 

Law of Dec. 11, 1798. 

Governor McMinn to the Secretary of 
State, Nov. 24, 1819. 

Governor Worthington to the Secreta- 
ry of State, Aug. 18,1817, 



E. 17. Ohio. 

B. 18. Louisiaritt. 

E. 19. Indiana. 

E. 20. Mississippi. 





Secretary McLean to the Secretary of 

State, Sept. 13, 1817. 
Law of Jan. 22, 1811. (Ext.) 
Governor Villere to the Secretary of 

State, Sept. 15,1817. 
Law of Dec. 21, 1814. 
M. Bouchon's statement of weights and 

Measures in Louisiana before its 

cession. (Translation.) 
Governor Jennings to the Secretary of 

State, Sept. 9, 1817. 
b. Secretary New's report. 

a. Governor Holmes to the Secretary of 

State, Sept. 17, 1818. 

b. Law of Feb. 4, 1807. 

c. do. Dec. 23, 1815. 
do. March 22, 1819. 
do. July, 1813. 


F. Mr. A. Gallatin to the Secretary of State, July 16, 1817, on the 

weights and measures of France. 

G. Mr. Jonathan Russell to the Secretary of State, July 31, 1818, 
on the weights and measures of Sweden. 

SPECIAL CULL, u . j^easures 


3 2=,^a 0007^ =i-?i