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should think proper; also, one set of avoirdupois weights, and one seal, with the initial of the connty inscribed thereon: all to be kept by the clerks of the courts of common pleas, or circuit courts, for the purposes of trying and sealing the measures and weights used in their counties.
The use, or keeping to buy or sell, of weights or measures not corresponding with these standards, after due notice, was prohibited under 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, agreeably to the weights and measures in common use when the contracts or obligations were made or entered into.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
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 the District which 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, tobacco, 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 be disposed of.
The weights and measures of the city have, accordingly, been regulated by various acts of the corporation, conformably to the standard used in the state of Maryland. The inspection laws, the assize of tobacco hogsheads and flour casks, the dimensions of bricks and of cord wood, 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 containing 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 stato tho 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: “to fix the standard of weights and measures."
It may admit of a doubt whether under this grant of power is included an authority so totally to subvert the whole system of weights and measures as it existed at the time of the adoption of the constitutution, as would be necessary for the introduction of a system similar to that of the French nation. To fix the standard, appears to be an operation entirely distinct from changing the denominations and proportions already existing, and established by the laws, or immemorial 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 carried into execution. Throughout Europe, in the 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 diversities of usage among the people. There is perhaps less of this diversity 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 recognized by the laws, and in the familiar use of the people. The avoirdupois 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 Winchester 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 standards 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, measures, moneys, and silver coins, founded upon the uniformity of proportion.
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 principles of the other.
4. To adhere, without any innovation whatever, to our existing weights 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 with more propriety be called, the ancient and the modern systems of metrology, it has been the endeavor of this report to show, that, while each of these systems embraces principles of the highest importance, neither of them includes all the elements resulting from the nature of the relations between man and things as created beings, and between man and man in society, mingling in the purposes to which weights and measures are applicable. The opinion has been expressed, that the uniformity of proportion in the ancient system, uniting weight and measure by the relative gravity, extension, and numbers, incident to dry and liquid substances, possessed advantages, of which the uniformity of identity in the modern 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 the modern system of France; that the French system, admirable as it is, looked, 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 standard from the circumference of the globe, nor the isochronous vibration 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, that gravity and extension will not walk together with the same staff; that neither the square, nor the cube, nor the circle, nor the sphere, nor the revolutions of the earth, nor the harmonies of the heavens, will, to gratify the pleasure, or to indulge the indolence of man, be restricted to computation 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 difficulty in enacting and promulgating the law ; but the difficulties of carrying it into execution are always great, and have often proved insuperable. Weights and measures may be ranked among the necessaries of life, to every individual of human society. They enter into the economical arrangements and daily concerns of every family, They are necessary to every occupation of human industry; to the distribution and security of every species of property ; to every transaction of trade and commerce ; to the labors of the husbandman; to the ingenuity of the artificer; to the studies of the 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 read and write. This know. ledge is rivetted in the memory by the habitual application of it to the employments of men throughout life. Every individual, or at least every family, has the weights 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 community. It enters every house, it cripples every hand. No legislator 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 know the exact proportion between the old and the new. A multiplication of standard copies to a great extent is indispensable ; and the distribution of them throughout the country, so that they may be within the means of acquisition to every citizen, is among the duties of the government undertaking so great a change. Tables of equalization must 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 beliered 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 strengthened by the consideration of the character of the executive power, corresponding with the legislative authority. The means of execution 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 organization, are reserved to the separate states. The jurisdictions to which resort inust be had for transgressions of this description of laws, are those of municipal police. In England they were originally of the resort of views of frankpledge in evory 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, officers who have the custody of the standards, and the authority to compare with them, from time to time, the weights and measures used by individuals, and
to prosecute for all offences by variations from the standards, and the courts before whom all such offences are triable, are institutions not only existing in almost every state in the Union, but essentially belonging to that portion of public authority suited to the state administration rather than to that of the Union. It is a general principle of our constitutions, that, with every delegation of legislative authority, a co-extensive power of execution has been granted. Affairs of municipal and domestic concern have, for obvious reasons, been reserved to the state authorities; and of this character are most of the regulations and penal sanctions for securing conformity to the standards of weights and measures. In fixing the standard, it is believed that Congress must rely almost entirely, if not altogether, upon state executive authorities, for carrying their law into execution. And, although this reliance may be safely indulged in relation to a law which should merely fix the uniformity of existing standards, its efficacy would be very questionable in the case of a law of great and universal innovation 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 enforcing its execution being in other hands, naturally disposed to sympathise with the offender, the whole system would fall into ruin, and afford a new demonstration 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 authority no less transcendent than the introduction of the French system. 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 money and commercial pounds, and of the wine and corn gallons, to the relative specific gravity of wine and wheat. But, as all these combinations 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 the Rumford gallon, of 266.25, was its corresponding corn and ale measure. A wine gallon of 219.5 cubic inches was made by assuming 252 gallons as the measure of the ton, or 32 cubic feet; and its corresponding 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 changes of the laws, 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