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compare these different lengths with each other, an inconvenience must have arisen from having so many independent measures, and from their not being of a determinate magnitude. It was a great improvement, therefore, and one which probably took place at an early period, to consider some one of these measures as fixed and unalterable, and instead of measuring one thing with the breadth of the hand, and another with the length of the foot, and another with the two arms extended, to refer all these different independent lengths to the same assumed standard, and to regard them as exact parts or multiples of this standard. The measure, thus adopted, has been in some instances the cubit, or extent from the elbow to the end of the middle finger, in others the yard,* but most generally the foot. The measure known by this latter name has been different at different times, and in different places, and though it was originally borrowed from the length of the human foot, is now purely conventional, and does not admit of being restored in the event of its being lost.
By a natural standard we mean one that is constant, and capable of being determined with precision. Several of this description have been suggested, as the pendulum beating seconds, a certain part of the diameter or circumference of the earth, the space described by a falling body near the surface of the earth, &c. The pendulum has been often recommended, and would seem to be particularly adapted to this purpose, on account of the facility and exactness with which its length can be determined. But there are several circumstances, not
* "The yard, or girth,' is thought to be a measure of Saxon origin, derived, like those of the Hebrews and the Greeks, from the human body, but, as a natural standard, different from theirs, being taken not from the length or members, but from the circumference of the body. The yard of the Saxons evidently belongs to a primitive system of measures different from that of 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 yard being for all purposes of use, a measure corresponding with the ulna, or ell, of the Roman system, 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 Henry the First; and to have been found or made a multiple of the foot, thereby adapt. ing 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.' Report, &c. p. 21.
apparent at first view, which materially affect its claims to this distinction. It requires to be of different lengths in different latitudes, in order to vibrate seconds, and it is of great importance to its general adoption, that the standard should be equally suited to all places on the earth. Besides this, the pendulum involves the consideration of time, and the arbitrary division of the day into eighty-six thousand four hundred seconds, and if the loss of measures at any future time should be attended with the loss of the present manner of dividing the day, it would still be impossible to recover them.
After much inquiry and discussion, it has been thought by those best qualified to judge, that a certain portion of the meridian of the earth affords the best standard that nature offers us.
It can be determined with sufficient accuracy. It is common to all the inhabitants of the earth. By means of it, all our journeys and voyages are estimated in certain proportional parts of the whole circuit of the globe; and the territories and countries, which we have occasion to survey, are directly compared to the entire surface of the planet we inhabit. We might also mention, that by adopting the same decimal scale for the quadrant of a circle, absolute distances and degrees upon the earth's surface would be immediately known the one from the other.
Another object proposed by the advocates for reform is, that there should be only one weight, and one measure, under the same name. At present a pound, an ounce, a dram, mean each different things, according to the article to be weighed; and a gallon of wine is one quantity, and a gallon of beer is another, and a gallon of corn is another. It would seem that only one unit of weight is necessary for all articles that are to be weighed, and only one unit of capacity for all such as are estimated by bulk. It would, moreover, be a great convenience to have the several kinds of coin represent different established weights, so that weights and coins might be mutually standards and checks to each other.
But one of the principal inconveniences of the existing system of weights and measures arises from the arbitrary manner, in which the different denominations proceed. Thus, three barley corns make an inch, twelve inches a foot, three feet a yard, five and a half yards a pole, forty poles a furlong, and eight furlongs a mile. The denominations of weight and capacity are
equally anomalous and ill adapted to calculation. New Series, No. 9.
It is very evident, that if the several terms denoting weight, and also those which stand for the different measures of length, of surface, capacity, time, &c., were so contrived that each higher denomination should be just ten times the next lower, we might save ourselves all the trouble and perplexity of compound arithmetic. Mercantile questions of every description would be readily solved by the simple rules of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
It may be further added, that the advantages which would result to any one nation in particular, from such a reform, would be greatly increased, if several nations, connected by commerce and letters, could be persuaded to adopt the same system.
It would seem now an easy matter to devise a system embracing the foregoing advantages, and to give it the authority of a law. This has in fact been done, and one leading object of the report before us is, to furnish a statement of the proceedings in foreign countries relative to this subject.
The learned author first makes us acquainted with the English system in its origin, and the changes it has undergone. This it seems has descended to us from the remotest times. It has grown up with man and human society. It has accommodated itself in a greater or less degree to our wants, both physical and intellectual. It has advantages, derived from its long establishment, from the manner in which it has been formed, and from its being combined with so many of our arts and trades, that would be an overbalance to many theoretical excellencies. But it has also many acknowledged defects, some that are inherent in its original structure, and others that have been superadded to it, by the inconsistency of human laws. The changes, however, that have taken place in latter times seem to have been incidental, and not from designed innovation. The government appears to have interfered only to announce and fix the system that had been adopted to a greater or less extent by common consent, and had been in use time out of mind. Of this import is the statute of 1266, (51 Henry III,) which, after re-enacting certain ordinances of long standing relating to the assize of bread, ale, &c.
Declares, that, “by the consent of the whole realm of England, 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 wheat 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 ordinances of his progenitors, kings of England and it unfolds a system 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 ineasure 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 measure of wine at the same time a certain weight of wine, so that the article whether bought and sold by weight or 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 number of its kernels. Under this system, wheat was bought and sold by 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 the proportional value of money and of wheat, then the system of weights and measures, contained in this statute, is not only accounted for as originating in the nature of things, but it may be doubted whether any other system be reconcileable to nature.' p. 24.
But neither the present avoirdupois, nor troy weights, were
* Frequent use is made of the expressions uniformity of identity and uniformity of proportion, which are explained at the beginning of the Report.
• By an uniformity of identity,' says the author,' is meant a system founded on the principle of applying only one unit of weights to all weighable articles, and one unit of measures of capacity to all substances thus measured, 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 capacity; but in which all the weights and measures of capacity are in an uniform proportion with one another.' Report, p. 6.
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 the 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, when the troy pound was substituted in its stead. I'he tower or easterling pound weighed three quarters of an ounce troy less than the troy pound, and was consequently in the proportion to it of fifteen to sixteen. Its penny, or two hundred and fortieth part, weighed, therefore, twenty-two and a half 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, had been taken to form 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, produced 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.' pp. 25, 26.
•This system of weights and measures has been, by many of the modern English writers on the subject, supposed to have been established by the statute of 1266. But, upon the face of the statute itself, it is a mere exemplification of ancient ordinances. The coincidences in its composition with those of the ancient Romans, proved by the letter of the Silian law, and by the still existing congius of Vespasian ; with those of the Greeks, as described by Galen, and as shown by the proportions between their scale weight and their metrical weight; and with that of the Hebrews, as described in the prophecy of Ezekiel ; show that its origin is traceable to Egypt and 'Babylon, and there vanishes in the darkness of antiquity. As founded 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 things. p. 29.
The first inroad upon this system in England 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 which weighed thirty-two kernels of wheat from the middle of the ear. Edward the First, in the
1328, coined the same pound into two hundred and forty-three pennies of the same standard alloy. From the moment of that coinage,