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There has probably been no time since the establishment of the mint of the United States, nor since the first establishment of the dollar as the unit of account in the moneys of the United States, when this has been the intrinsic value of the pound sterling, whether computed 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 eight, (as dollars were 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 inference is conclusive that they contained of pure silver 387 grains, and the proclamation accordingly prohibited 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 proclamation. 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 Spanish 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 was the par of exchange, computed in the silver coins of the two countries, for even then if the computation had been made between their gold coins, the result would have been different.
Thus, while 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 3634 grains of pure silver, and the dollar of the United States contains 3714 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 the Bank of England, and in English bank paper at its current value in 1815.
1. Gold. One pound troy weight of standard gold in England contains 5,280 grains of pure gold. It is coined into £46 14s. 6d. or 11,214 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 dollar, or 247,5 grains to an eagle.
Then 24.75 : 1 :: 113.0014 : 4.56572 dollars, cents, &c. to 1.
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 pence.
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 43. 7.1858. 792 : 5328 :: 240 : 1,614.545 grains pure silver in a pound. 371.25 : 1,614,545 :: 1 : 4.348943. Pound sterling in silver $4 34.8943. Medium par dollar, 4s. 5.8757 pence. stg. in gold $4 56.5720 — in silver 4 34.8943 + "
* 10.8388 = $4 45.7331 med. par € stg.
Value of the pound sterling and dollar in gold and silver coins, in gold
bullion, and in English bank paper.
Value of United States dollar in English silver coin Pence stg. at 66 shillings per lb. troy weight
55.1858 In English gold coin at £5 178. 108d. per oz.
52.5656 In English bank notes in 1815, ·
- - 72. In gold bullion at £4 1s. per ounce,
54.675 English pound sterling, in silver coin, worth in the D. Cents. United States, silver dollars, ..
4 34.8943 Gold coin at €3 178. 101d. per oz. in United States gold, 4 56.5720 In English bank notes, 1815,
3 33.3333 In gold bullion at 4 1$. per ounce,
4 38.9574 In ditto at 4,
Mr. Hassler to the Secretary of State,
NEWARK, N. J. 16th October, 1819. Most HONORED SIR: When I had the honor to see you relative to my appointment for the boundary line, the 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 lately 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 subjects to inspire confidence in the results.
You will observe that these are not so full and extensive as I intended 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 that I could be able to do, I will do it with pleasure.
You may probably conclude with me from the comparisons of Captain 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 ratio of the standard, may introduce some uncertainty by the less accurately known expansion of platinum. I have, besides, repeatedly, and, also, in these comparisons, had some reasons to suspect that copies are most generally shorter than the original in standards cut to a determined length.
I have the honor to be,
F. R. HASSLER. The honorable John QUINCY Adams,
Secretary of State to the United States,
Comparisons of French and English standard length measures made
in March, 1817, by F. 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 comparison.
The English standard is a brass scale of undetermined length, divided 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 distances 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 tength, either a toise, or a meter. The accounts of their comparison, ratio, and the determination of the Jatter from nature, is contained in detail in the Base du Systeme Metrique.
Whoever has attempted to copy an absolute length, or to multiply it with accuracy, to form a long standard 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 works 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 was, 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 measure 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 besides 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 before 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 origin, which is the first thing to be related minutely :
1st. An iron metre standarded at Paris in 1799, by the committee of weights and measures, composed of members of the institute and foreign deputies, ad hoc,its breadth is 1."1 Engl. its thickness =
0"37, like all metres then made, to which it is exactly similar, it bears the stamp of the committee, namely, a section of the elliptic earth, of which one quadrant is clear, with the number 10,000,000 inside of the arc, the other three quadrants being shaded.
My friend, Mr. J. G. Tralles, now member of the academy of Berlin, was at that time deputy of the Helvetic republic for this purpose, and, as appears by the account of the proceedings, the foreign member who attended the construction and comparison of the length measures. 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 the notice, “ Toise de France étalonée le 16me8bre, 1768, “ a la temperature de 16° du thermometre de Mr, la Réaumur.” On the back edge of the toise a line is drawn in the middle over the whole length, and, from a perpendicular crossing this line near one extremity, a point is laid off near the other extremity; along this line is engraved “ La double longueur du pendule sous lequateur," a point being also in the middle, at the simple length of the pendulum.
Having been in Paris in 1796, the heirs of Mr. Dionis du Séjour, 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 hands.
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 equator, marked on this toise, probably to this very purpose, in 'which Mr. Dionis du Séjour must, by his situation at the academy, have taken particular interest. The work denotes its intention to a valuable purpose.
3d. Two copies of the toises of Mr. Lalande, which have been compared in England with Mr. Bird's scale of equal parts in 1768, after 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, which 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 they are framed, and from which they can easily be changed: our's were marked upon tbe iron itself, so as we found them, in the time, on the toises of Mr. Lalande.