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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,
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. To the President of the Senate
of the United States.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE, to whom, by a resolution of the Senate
of the 3d of March, 1817, it was referred to prepare and report to the Senate, “a statement relative to the regulations and stand66 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 6 relative thereto, as may be proper to be adopted in the United
“ States,” respectfully submits to the Senate the following REPORT:
The resolution of the Senate embraces three distinct objects of attention, which it is proposed to consider in the following order: 1. The proceedings in foreign countries for establishing uniformi
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 uniformity, as applied to weights and measures, is susceptible of various constructions and modifications, some of which would restrict, while others would enlarge, the objects in contemplation 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. 3. 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
called. 7. 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
By an uniformity of identity, 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 a uniform proportion with one another.
Our present existing weights and measures are, or originally were, founded upon the uniformity of proportion. The new French metrology 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 comparison of quantities, and proportions of things.
In the order of human existence upon earth, the objects which sucçessively present themselves, are man-natural, domestic, civil society, government, 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 existence 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 be food, raiment, shelter. To provide for the wants of food and raiment, the first occupation of his life would be the chase of those 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 his 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 society, and their perinanent 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 the associated parties, and their progeny, may abide. To the construction 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 the dwelling could scarcely fail to suggest the use of a measure of itinerary distance.
Measures of length, therefore, are the wants of individual man, independent of, and preceding, the existence of society. Measures of surface, of distance, and of capacity, arise immediately from domestic society. They are wants proceeding rather from social, than from individual, existence. With regard to the first, tinear measure, nature in creating the want, and in furnishing to man, within himself,