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In the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, during the Babylonian captivity that vision which, under the resurrection of dead bones, shadowed forth the restoration and union of the houses of Ephraim and of Judali, with the reproaches of former violence and spoil, injustice and exactions, are mingled the exhortations of future righteousness, particularly with reference to weights and measures : and there is a special command that the measures of capacity, liquid and dry, should be the same.
“ Thus saith the Lord God; let it suffice you, O princes of Israel, 6 remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take 6 away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord God. Ye
shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath. The “ cphah and the bath shall be one measure, that the bath may cons tain the tenth part of an homer, and the ephah the tenth part of an “ homer; the measure thereof shall be after the homer. And the shekel “ sball be twenty gerahs : twenty shekels, five and twenty shekels, “ fifteen shekels, shall be your maneh. 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 uniformity of proportion. The homer was a dry, and the cor a liquid, measure 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 epbah, 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, 13.]
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 customs, opinions, and 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 propora tional uniformity, which combines gravity and extension for the inensuration of Auids. Speaking of wisdom, it says, [ch. xxviii, v. 15, 17] “ It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for tho “ price thereof. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it, and the “ exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold.” And, afterwards, in the same chapter, that “ God maketh the weight for the or winds, and and weigheth the waters by measure.”
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 thousand paces, are our standard measures of length at this day.
The foot has over the cubit the advantage of being a common aliquot part both of the pace and the fathom. It is also definite at both extremities, and affords the natural means of reducing the two standard 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 whatever uniformity ever existed in the system was an uniformity of proportion, and not of identity, is certain. They bad 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 substances, 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 mina, 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 méasures of capacity, they were originally assumed from cockle and other shells of fish. But as these give no scales of proportion for subdivisions, when reduced to a system, their capacity was determined by the two modifications of matter, extension and weight. Like the Hebrews, they had measures for liquid and dry substances which were the same; but with different multiples and subdivisions. Their measures of wine and oil were determined by the weight of their contents; their measures of water and of grain, by vessels of capacity cubed from measures of length.
The weights and measures of the Romans were all derived from those of the Greeks. The identity of one of their standard units of weight, with money and coin, was the same. Aes, 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 brass in the balance. The general term soon came to be applied to a definite weight: and when afterwards silver came to be coined, the sestertius, 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 brass 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 weight of bodies; the metrical pound, the contents 6 or quantity of space which they fill.”
Their measures of capacity for wet or dry substances were in like manner, in part, the same, but with different multiples and subdivisions. 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 congius, or unit of liquid measure, was any vessel containing ten metrical pounds weight of wine. The Silian law, enacted nearly three centuries before the Christian era, expressly declares that the quadrantal contains eighty pounds of wine, the congius ten pounds; that the sextarius contains the sixth part of a congius, and is a measure both for liquid and dry substances; that forty-eight sextarii make a quadrantal of wine, and sixteen libræ a modius. The moncy pound, or pondo, and the metrical pound, or 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 Measures, p. 23.] There is a standard congius of the age of Vespasian still extant at Rome; and the inscription upon it marks, that it contains 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 successful cultivation of the arts and sciences, are scarcely less distinguished 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 inhabitants of these United States are chiefly descended; and from one of them we have all our existing weights and measures. Bnth of them, for a series of ages, have been engaged in the pursuit of an uniforin system of weights and measures. To this the wishes of their philanthropists, the hopes of their patriots, the researches of their philosophers, 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 astonishment to find that they are both yet entangled in the pursuit at this hour, and that it may be doubted whether all their latest and greatest exertions have 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; and it has since been noticed, that the power of the legislator is restricted to the inbabitants 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 imposed 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, unless the system proves to be the same, the result as respects all their relations with each other must be, not uniformity, but new and increased 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 animated the 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 straight 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 uniformity of things would not be dearly purchased by the loss of millions 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 uniformity in weights and measures will be fulfilled by confining this part of the inquiry to the proceedings of the two nations above mentioned. It appears that a reformation of the weights and measures of Spain is among the objects now under the consideration of the Cortes of that kingdom : and, as weights and measures are the necessary and universal instruments of commerce, no change can be effected in the system of any one nation without sensibly affecting, though
in very different degrees, all those with whom they entertain any relations 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 much interest in the organization of a new system, or attempted a reform for the avowed purpose of uniformity. The proceedings in those two countries have been numerous, elaborate, persevering, and, in France especially, 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 country is in the habitual use of different weights and measures; which diversity is infinitely multiplied, by the fact, that, in cach country, although the quantities of the weights and measures are thus different, their denominations 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, particularly with regard to the coins.
In England, from the earliest records of parliamentary history, the statute books are filled with 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 yard, or girth, 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 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 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 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