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trated in the authoritative voice of some august International assembly. If this were the only object, which could properly be brought before a Congress of nations, or which would be worthy of their attention, it is so transcendently great in itself and in its connections, that it would alone fully justify the formation of such an assembly.
These are some of the topics, which might be expected to come before the august body, which is proposed to be formed. There are a few others, which seem to require a more particular notice. We shall not, however, undertake to present a complete enumeration ; but one thing may be regarded as certain, that, if they should assemble in the true spirit of their vocation, if they should have a heart as feelingly alive to the interests and claims of mankind, as they would undoubtedly have a head clear and able in the perception of them, there can be no doubt they would find enough to do.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES.
Among the subjects, which the advice and decisions of the proposed Congress might be expected to reach with some favorable results, may be included that of Weights and Measures. This is a subject, which is so closely connected with the progress and happiness of the human race, and is at the same time so little understood, that we shall bestow a little more time upon it, than was allotted to the slightly noticed topics of the preceding chapter. -It is really appalling to notice the diversity which exists throughout the world, in the measures of weight and quantity. The system of England is different from that of France; and that of France is different from the system of Holland ; and almost every country, however allied it may be by commerce to other countries, has its own system, its own practices. And it is sometimes difficult with all the pains that can be taken to estimate, as compared with each other, the weights and measures of different countries. We do not presume to assert, that any thing could be effectually done by a Congress towards securing a general uniformity in this thing, but they would certainly be in a situation, to estimate the practicability of such a movement, to make propositions in relation to it, and give advice. Favour
ably situated to collect information as to the standards of weight and measure in use in various countries, and to ascertain their relation to each other, they would of course be in a situation to form an estimate of their comparative merits. And from learning the results of practical legislation, in particular countries, they would fully understand not only the greatness of the evils to be corrected, but the obstacles, which stand in the way of such correction. And such information would be found the more important, because hasty innovations in this matter, necessarily extending to the transactions of every family in the community, would be likely to be attended with the very greatest inconveniences.
Different countries have at different times, consulted and legislated on this subject. For more than seventy years, it has received, at short intervals, the attention of the English Parliament, with the design of instituting a permanent system for themselves and their dependencies, founded on scientific principles, and with the laudable hope, undoubtedly, of its being ultimately adopted by other nations ; but after all the inquiries and experiments, which they have been able to make, they have not felt at liberty to venture on any decisive acts. So late as May 1821, the Report of a select Committee, appointed to consider several Reports, which had previously been laid before the House of Commons, discountenanced a departure from the standards already established in Great Britain for the purpose of conforming them to those of other nations; and merely advised bringing in a Bill, the principal object of which was to secure an uniformity in the standards of length, capacity, and weight in Scotland, England and Ireland, and in the colonies and dependencies of the empire, among all of which the greatest diversity had previously prevailed.
During the past fifty years the Congress of the United
States has had, at various times, the same subject under consideration ; but satisfied as they were of the inconveniences of existing systems and of the desirableness of uniformity among all commercial nations, they have taken no measures ; and as their commercial connections are chiefly with Great Britain and her dependencies, they will undoubtedly choose to wait for her movements. The wisdom of this policy is perhaps unquestionable. The United States received the standards of their weights and measures from England; the standards at the English exchequer are the same now as at the first settlement of this country ; and it is worthy of notice, that in the Report to the House of Commons just now referred to, the Committee recommend the sending of copies of the standards in the exchequer to the United States, in the confident hope of their being adopted here, and thus securing the great object of uniformity, as far as these two commercial communities are concerned. A learned Report, made a few years since to the Congress of the United States, came to the conclusion, that any change in our system would be inexpedient at the present time, and among other prominent reasons, for the following ; “ That no change whatever of the system could be adopted, without losing the greatest of all the elements of uniformity, that referring to persons using the same system. This uniformity we now possess in common with the whole British nation; the nation, with which, of all the nations of the earth we have the most of that intercourse which requires the constant use of weights and measures."* Great Britain, therefore, and the United States may be considered as going together on this subject, or rather as remaining where they are, until further inquiries shall have satisfied them, what new measures can be taken with safety.
* Report upon Weights and Measures by John Q. Adams, in obedience to a Resolution of the Senate of the 3d of March, 1817.
The kingdom of France had suffered from a want of uniformity in weights and measures within her own limits ; and on the first of August 1793, the National Convention, animated with the hopes of correcting the evils and inconveniences of the previous state of things, resolved to adopt an uniform system; and in conformity to this resolution, a new system was established by law in 1795. Although prepared for the immediate use of France, its authors evidently took into view the wants of other nations, and desired and anticipated its universal adoption. The Committee of public instruction spoke of it as being placed on a basis immutable as nature herself, as a plan ardently desired by the enlightened friends of humanity, and as worthy of being offered to all other nations, as well as France. The French system was founded on the principle, that all weights and measures should be reduced to one uniform standard of linear measure; and that this standard should be an aliquot part of the circumference of the globe. The unit of linear measure, to which as a standard they proposed to refer all others, is the ten millionth part of the quadrant of the meridian, extending from the equator to the pole. This is called the metre, being about 39 1-3 English inches. A cube, whose side is one tenth of a metre, forms the unit of measures of capacity ; it is equal to about 2 1-8 English pints, and is called the litre. With such beginnings a plan was ultimately matured, and verified by scientific observations, which, in the theory at least, seemed to have a decided advantage over all others, especially as it was expressed by a simple and significant nomenclature.
But the French system, though generally understood to possess in many respects decided advantages, has not come into use beyond the limits of France, except perhaps to a very small extent ; and the civilized world still