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then secretary of state. That document, however, does not appear to have called forth any action on the part of the first congress, just then commencing the career of government. In the house of representatives of the congress of 1818–19, a committee was appointed to inquire into the expediency of fixing a standard of weights and measures. Mr. LowNDEs, of South Carolina, as chairman of that committee, prepared and submitted to the house a very full and lucid report on the subject, in which he recommends the adoption of Mr. Jefferson’s plan, “to render uniform and stable the weights and measures which we already possess.” Mr. Lowndes, after stating that nearly all the weights and measures in use in this country had been derived from England, and that very few legislative provisions on the subject had been made in any of our states, remarks that—“although, in some of the United States, there are no laws for the regulation of weights and measures, and very defective laws in the others, yet there is more uniformity in the composition, both of weights and measures, in the United States, than there is in England now.” He recommended that a standard should be prepared, conforming to the weights and measures then in general use in the country; that it should be carefully preserved at the seat of government; and that correct models from the said standard should be made for distribution among the states. For the purpose of carrying out this plan, the appointment of commissioners was recommended. Mr. Lowndes's report, like the preceding one of Mr. Jefferson, appears to have been ineffectual in moving congress to any action on the subject. - On the third day of March, 1817, the Senate of the United States passed a resolution, referring it to the secretary of state to prepare and report to the Senate “a statement relative to the regulations and standards for weights and measures in the several states, and relative to proceedings in foreign countries for establishing uniformity in weights and measures, together with such propositions relative thereto, as maybe proper to be adopted in the United States.” Our venerated fellow-citizen, whose departure from amongst us we have recently been called upon to lament, and the sol
emn obsequies for whom we have but just now closed, JoHN QUINCY ADAMs, was secretary of state at the time of the adoption of that resolution. He took the subject into consideration. His report was not submitted to the Senate until February 22d, 1821,–nearly four years after the passage of the resolve to which it was an answer. That report is too well known to need any call for attention to it, on the part of this committee. It is one of the most clear, complete, and elaborate public documents ever prepared by any statesman. It is a monument of the profound learning, deep research, and indefatigable industry of its author. It is a perfect history of the entire transactions in relation to weights and measures, from the earliest recorded ages of human society, down to the day of its date. Mr. Adams's report seems to have moved the national government to action. The next year after it was submitted, it was referred, in the house of representatives of congress, to a committee, of which Mr. Lowndes was chairman. The committee reported in favor of causing uniform standards to be made, deduced from the weights and measures, then in common use in England and this country, for distribution among the states and territories, for the purpose of verifying the weights and measures used therein. The committee recommended that congress, after providing the standards of weights and measures, and furnishing models of them to every state, should leave it to the laws of the several states to enforce their use by persons who are not in the service of the United States—thus clearly evincing the opinion that the duty of fixing a permanent legal standard should be left to each state for itself. This report was accepted—and, soon after, Mr. F. R. Hassler, a gentleman of high scientific attainments, and eminently fitted for the duty, was appointed to take charge of the preparation of the standard weights and measures, as a model for those to be used in all the transactions of the government, and for distribution to the states, for their adoption, if they should see fit. This was a work of great care and labor, and requiring a long time. It is believed that Mr. Hassler commenced the business in 1822 or 1823, and the models for the several states were not completed until the year 1845; embracing, in their
preparation and completion, a period of over twenty years. The work is said to have been performed with great skill and ability; and its beauty, and perfect accuracy, may be attested by any member of the house, who will take the trouble to examine the models which are now the property of this Commonwealth, and which are deposited for safe-keeping in a conservatory in the treasurer’s office. The first systematic attempt to establish, by legislation, a uniform standard of weights and measures, to be used throughout this Commonwealth, was made in the year 1799. At that time, and for a long time before, those known as the Winchester weights and measures, (as Mr. Adams says, from their having been adopted at the time Winchester was the capital of the kingdom,) were the legal standard in England. In 1730, the colonial government of Massachusetts had imported, from England, a new set of brass and copper avoirdupois weights and of measures. They came from the English Exchequer, with certificates of their being of the approved Winchester standard, according to the legal standard in the exchequer. By an act of the legislature of this Commonwealth, passed in 1799, those weights and measures, supposed then to be the most accurate and uniform that could be obtained, were established as the legal standards of the Commonwealth, and by which all weights and measures were to be tried, approved, and sealed. This standard, thus established, continued to be the legal standard until the last session of the legislature, (1847.) when an act was passed, adopting, as a standard, those recently received from the government of the United States. It will thus be seen that, from 1730, the time when the Winchester weights and measures were imported from England, until 1846, when the new ones were received from Washington, embracing a period of 116 years, those imported weights and measures, probably never very perfect, were the legal standard, to govern all the business transactions of the people of the colony and state of Massachusetts. By the act of 1799, it was provided, that the treasurer of each county should keep, at the expense of the county, a complete set of said weights and measures, to be tried, approved,
and sealed, at least once in ten years, by the state standards in . the office of the treasurer of the Commonwealth. The treasurer of each town was required, at the expense of the town, to keep, as town standards, a complete set of said weights and measures, with certain exceptions—those kept by the towns to conform to the state standards, though not required to be made of the same materials. The town weights and measures were to be tested, at least once in ten years, either by the state or county standards. The act also provides for the election of sealers of weights and measures in the several towns, and for the due sealing of all weights and measures, throughout the Commonwealth; and it establishes penalties for neglect of any of the duties which it enjoins. By the act of '99, the net weight of one hundred pounds avoirdupois, was established as the criterion for all sales by the hundred weight. From the passage of the act of '99, until 1835, there appears to have been no legislative action in Massachusetts, in relation to the standard of weights and measures. In the extra session which was holden, in 1835, for the revision of the statutes of the Commonwealth, a resolve was passed, authorizing the lieutenant-governor, then acting as governor, to appoint two commissioners, to act with the treasurer of the Commonwealth, to cause the standard weights and measures of the Commonwealth to be carefully examined, any inaccuracies to be corrected, and the places of such as were found irreparably imperfect, to be supplied with new and accurate substitutes. The commissioners were directed to procure certain new weights and measures of the Winchester standard, and they were instructed to give the preference to such weights and measures, used by the government of the United States, as they should find to be accurate. They were directed to cause such weights and measures as they might agree upon, to be properly stamped and marked, and enclosed in boxes and cases, and deposited in the office of the treasurer of the Commonwealth. Under this last resolve, Daniel Treadwell and Henry G. Rice were appointed as commissioners, and associated with Hezekiah Barnard, the then treasurer of the Commonwealth.
These commissioners appear to have been embarrassed in the performance of the duty assigned them, owing to the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, of procuring any perfectly accurate and approved standards. They did not submit their final report until January, 1837. They then reported the weights and measures, which had been theretofore used as standards in this state, to be in a deplorable condition—disagreeing with each other—some of them having been broken and carelessly repaired—objectionable in form, and imperfect in workmanship— injured by corrosion, and by long and careless use—and all of them entirely unfit to be used any longer as standards. The commissioners came at once to the opinion that no attempt ought to be made to repair the defects, and correct the inaccuracies, of the then existing standards.
It was found by the commissioners that the weights and measures which were in a course of preparation, by the government of the United States, through the agency of Mr. Hassler, were likely to be the most uniform and accurate that could be obtained. Application was made to the secretary of the treasury, for the delivery of a set, for the use of our state; and a resolve was passed through Congress, at the instance of the Massachusetts delegation, directing the delivery of models of the weights and measures to each of the states. This order, however, could then be but partially complied with, as it was conceived to be the duty of the treasury department, to supply the standards to the custom-houses, the mint, and the various public functionaries of the general government, before the states were provided for. Some few of the model weights were obtained by our state commissioners, and placed in the state treasury, and some temporary repairs were made upon the old weights and measures; and having done thus much, the commissioners recommended to the legislature to abide the time when a complete and uniform set should be furnished to the state by the government of the United States.
The commissioners state, in their report, that they considered it of the highest importance “that provision should be made for supplying the several counties and towns with new and accurate standards, with directions for their use, and the mode in which they should be preserved.” "