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troy weight the original, and deducing therefrom the avoirdupois
. The determination of his troy pound is made by ascribing a complex number of grains, with several places of decimals, to the cubic inch of water. The temperature, too, which the British law, in conformity with his views, prescribes, is purely arbitrary, while the New-York revisers adopt a physical state of water, independent of all thermometric indications, and a simple number of the decimal scale, which has besides the advantage of being the cube of a decimal division of the foot. Both plans alter the usual magnitude of the avoirdupois pound; but the change by the method proposed by the revisers is the least, amounting to no more than three-tenths of an ounce in one hundred pounds-a quantity absolutely insensible in all the operations of trade. Thus, then, the law proposed in the state of New-York has the advantages of prescribing an easy, accurate, and philosophical method of deducing the standard of weight from that of length, while it sacrifices no established custom or habit, to render the determination thus perfect in theory and easy in practice.
Their measures of capacity are derived from those of weight, by adopting the simple principle, that the gallon, filled with distilled water, at its maximum density, shall weigh ten standard pounds. This mode of determining the gallon and its derivatives, has this additional advantage, that it can be used in ordinary practice; for soft spring, or well-water, newly drawn, differs so little from the proper state of purity and density, that it may be employed in the adjustment of measures for common use, without the risk of sensible error; and in order to render this determination still more easy, it is not the absolute weight, or weight in vacuo, of the gallon, that is prescribed in the law, but that under the mean pressure of the atmosphere.
All other measures of capacity, whether for solids or fluids, are directed to be derived from the gallon, by binary subdivision or multiplication. And as, while the gallon will be used as the unit of liquid measure, its third binary multiple, or the bushel, will probably remain that of dry measure, the weight of its contents of distilled water is also prescribed, and fixed at eighty pounds. The same binary scale of subdivision is prescribed for the pound, and permitted for the yard, in strict conformity with the practice which has nature itself for its author. The decimal division will, as a matter of course, be used in philosophical investigations; but these are beyond the reach of legislation; and to attempt to make the subdivisions, in common use, adapt themselves to what is most convenient in experimental science, we might have ventured to say, carries absurdity upon its face, were it not that this attempt was actually made by the French government. As might have been expected, however, it resulted in complete failure.
On the other hand, as universal experience has sanctioned the use of a decimal ascending scale for all multiples of the units, whether of length, weight, or capacity, the law very properly directs that no other mode of determining denominations higher than the unit, shall be used, in any case, other than the determination of the bushel from the gallon.
We have thus presented our readers with a succinct outline of the simple and practical system of weights and measures, which has become law, and will speedily go into effect in the state of New-York. It has the double advantage of resting for its basis and elements, upon the strictest investigations of the most improved science, while it is expressly adapted to the customs, habits, and views, that have by long use become a part of the nature of the people. It is indeed to be regretted, that it had not emanated from national authority, instead of being the result of imperative necessity in an individual state. The present chief magistrate called the attention of the Congress of the United States to this important subject, in his earliest coinmunication. But although a bill, to authorize the performance of preliminary experiments, by which the measure of the pendulum by Sabine in Columbia College might be repeated, and the length of that of the capitol ascertained, has been twice brought forward, it has been as often left in the mass of unfinished business, It does not tell well of our national councils, that a measure of acknowledged utility, and to which no objection was urged in its discussion, should have been lost sight of, in the fierce struggle for party pre-eminence.
The same necessity that has urged the legislature of the state of New-York, to the adoption of this system, exists in all the others; and we should hope to see steps taken to obviate it, either by instructions to their representatives to bring the subject before Congress, or by direct legislation. In either event we may confidently anticipate that the system whose detail we have given, will be found worthy of general adoption. We would leave out of view the fact, although by no means unimportant, that it will shortly have come into use in the city of New York, (intimately connected in trade with every part of the Union, and whose practice must therefore affect the most distant districts,) and confine ourselves to the intrinsic merits of the system itself.
The impossibility of changing the habits of a people, has been demonstrated by the example of France; hence, nothing remains but to verify our customary measures, discard those which are superfluous, and prescribe the simplest praetical means of preserving their identity. All this has been successfully performed by the revisers of the laws of the state of New-York. The pendulum of a particular place is acknowledged to be a measure existing in nature, determinate and easily determinable; this length is adopted as the basis of the system, and stripped of the theoretic and erroneous additions which encumber and disfigure the recent British statute. The yard in ordinary use is defined by its ratio to this pendulum. The unit of weight is derived from that of length, by the most simple and easy method, and in like manrer, stripped of all arbitrary corrections; thus also is the unit of measures of capacity derived from that of weight. The troy pound is discarded altogether, and thus, a much greater degree of simplicity is attained; the existing difference between dry and liquid measures of capacity, is reconciled; and the double system of the last, by which differing dimensions go by the same names, united into one. That the plan has received the sanction of the legislature of the state of New York, a body, composed for the most part, of sound practical men, is no small evidence of its adaptation to the wants of our country; and its scientific basis has received the approbation of men the best qualified to appreciate it, both in this country and Europe. Should it be found, on examination, worthy of acceptance by the nation, but little will be required to adapt it to general use. A measure of the pendulum at the seat of government will be the only indispensable preliminary. This may even serve for the purposes of all the individual states, although it would, no doubt, be better for their respective use, that each should possess a measure of the pendulum, performed within their own boundaries, in terms of which a strictly identical determination of the yard might be expressed in their several local statutes. No other expense would be incurred, save in the renewal of the standards, and these we have evidence, in the report of Mr. Adams, are in such a state as to require it in almost every section of the Union.
The immediate convenience of commercial men, the security of real estate, the integrity and just construction of contracts, are the more direct and prominent objects to be attained by the adoption of a general system. But as secondary, although by no means to be neglected in that estimate of things which looks to reputation as equally important with profit, we may justly urge the value of the experiments, necessary for the complete accomplishment of this end, when considered in a scientific light. In this respect, they have been thought so important by the governments of Europe, that large expense has been incurred in their prosecution, even where they had not, as in the present case, any prospect of direct practical application. Nay, with so much interest is this inquiry, on the part of the United States, looked upon in Europe, that we have good authority for saying, that it is more than probable that one of its leading governments would gladly, on the least hint that such a measure would be acceptable, send out one of its most distinguished philosophers to aid in the experiments.
As experiments connected with the subject of weights and measures can only be prosecuted under the auspices of governments, they may, particularly in those which are representative, be considered as furnishing a fair test of the intelligence and scientific progress of a nation. In the present state of the world, to have added nothing to the general stock of knowledge in this direction, may, and will, by those willing to detract from our national character, be alleged as a reproach; and it is one that cannot be repelled by argument, but must be avoided by action. In literature, we have several great names, to hold up as an evidence that we have not degenerated from the European character; in almost all branches of physical and natural science, we are contributing our fair proportion to the common mass of learning; nay, even in that science which is deservedly held to rank as first, the application of mechanics to the system of the universe, we are not wanting. In this direction, then, where the calculations, the investigations, and the experimental facts of the most elevated science, are made subservient to the general wants and uses of every class of society, we are behind the progress of foreign countries; but we are authorized to conclude, that it is not for want of the necessary learning and skill, but solely because no occasion has yet been presented for its exercise. The state of New-York has, in this respect, set an example well worthy of imitation, and we cannot but express the hope, that it will speedily be followed.
Art. X.-Letters from Europe, comprising the Journal of a
Tour through Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Switzerland, in the years 1825, 1826, and 1827. By N. H. CARTER. 2 vols. 8vo. New-York: 1827.
ELEVEN hundred pages, large octavo, and of small type! and we have actually perused them all! This is no mean exploit for Reviewers, who are generally accused, and too often with some justness, of deciding upon that which they have not examined at all, or which they have but partially and hastily read. It appears, by Mr. Carter's preface, that “the substance of a large proportion” of these letters had already been published. Many of them, in fact, were circulated widely in the newspapers, though they proved new to us in the book; for we presumed, when we saw them on their first appearance, that they would ultimately be thus embodied, and we therefore resolved to wait for the full enjoyment of them in the most convenient form. VOL. II.-NO. 4,
The materials were collected during a tour of nearly two years, of the dates mentioned in the title-page: the author made memoranda, at once, of all that he saw and heard, which he digested in his correspondence; and he deems it not a little remarkable, that, in travelling a distance of fifteen or twenty thousand miles, in all possible modes, by land and water, not a line of the original notes, nor of the letters transmitted across the Atlantic, was lost or obliterated.
He is candid enough to suggest, that it would be next to a miracle, if such a mass of matter, gathered from “ten thousand different sources,” did not contain “many blunders.”
We are as frankly apprized, moreover, in the preface, that “the man of science will in vain look in this work for philosophical disquisitions; the scholar, for the stores of erudition ; the connoisseur, for critical dissertations on the works of art; the statesman, for any new views of political institutions; or the moralist, for an analysis of national character, and of the elements of society.” It seems hard, even for any common reader, to undertake two such octavos, upon such countries as Great Britain, France, and Italy, without the hope of finding some positive and original instruction, as to their political and moral institutions and peculiarities, their science and literature, their illustrious men, their possessions and advances in the fine and mechanical arts, and their statistics in general. We are by no means ready to acquiesce in Mr. Carter's apologetical notion, that, “in the multitude of emigrants from Great Britain, France, and Italy, to our own shores, the moral distinctions and national character of those countries, may be studied to as much advantage at home, as in London, Paris, or Rome;" and that, in relation to science, literature and politics, “ the books, reviews, and newspapers, received daily from abroad, furnish more authentic information, than can be gleaned in the cursory observations of a traveller.” All this is absolute paradox, in our humble opinion. The same degree of intelligence and attention, applied in the midst or centre of the European objects to be studied, must necessarily produce more accurate and extensive knowledge, than can be obtained from the mere samples of some of the classes of society, or the imperfect, prejudiced, or loose representations, which are furnished in the emigrants and the journals. What these, and the preexisting books of travels, might, with most plausibility, be held to render superfluous, is precisely “the graphic sketches of things,” and the personal anecdotes, to which our author, in his preface, announces it to have been his intention to confinc his pen. So copious and minute are the itineraries for the countries which he traversed, and so numerous the journals of tours, in which every thing that can be seen or experienced in them is described or related, that it is extremely difficult to