THE POLYNESIAN

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LUI S. AM) MONEYS IN (JkT.AT IIUIT

A1N AM) THE UMI ED STATES.

It may not be generally known, that a

body of learned men in Great Britain

have been engaged for some years in the

"Commission" of dividing a more simple

and convenient system of weights, meas

ures, and moneys; and as the question is

one of deep importance to our own coun

try, it may not be amiss to prepare our

readers with a few observations anticipa

tory to the forthcoming "Report."

In two countries like Great Britain and

the United States, which stand first in

point of commerce in the known wnrld it

can but be looked upon as a reproach that

twenty-seven years of peace should have)

been suffered to elapse without this great

desideratum having been accomplished,

except in some trivial particulars ; and

the more so, as France, had at the earlier

date of her Republic, proved to us its

practicability and advantages. The sub

ject, however, presents so many embar

rassments for ingenuity to exercise itself

upon, that it is difficult to bring a body of

mainematicians to the same conclusion, in

consequence of their not being able to

agree to start from the same point. Na

poleon, in the latter respect, was more fa

voiably circumstanced for he was not

only a clear-headed mathematician him

self, and therefore capable of judging of

the matter, but when he had come to a

conclusion, his power ' was sufficiently

strong to carry out his views without re

sistance, even if his name had not been

enough to rccomme'nd them as infallible.

In England and this country, on the con

trary, 110 government could pretend to the

despotic control, even if it possessed the

requisite attainments, necessary to origin

ate and enforce a change. It is a subject

alike out of the sphere of the legislatures

and executives, who are, therefore com

pelled to devolve its consideration upon

some other competent deliberate body,

and, as to each member of such a body,

his own ideas naturally appear the most

simple ami efficacious; years arc con

sumed in the work of mutual conversion,

before they can agree upon the basis

whereon their superstructure of practical

calculations is to be raised.

There are many who think that any al

teration of established weights, measures,

or coins, must be injurious, whatever may

be the abstract merit of the proposed in

novation ; and there are others who doubt

the practicability of introducing any chan

ges without a long period of confusion,

and the conquest of a large force of re

sistance. This may be true to a certain

extent ; but when shall we be better pre

pared for a change ? It can be nothing

more than a trivial sacrifice on 'the part

of some of the present generation for the

benefit of their successors. One thing,

however should be borne in mind, that is,

whatever system of weights and measures

Great Britain may choose to devise, it

will be highly important for us to adopt,

in consequence of the intimate connec

tion of the commerce of the two countries.

In this respect, it is desirable that the fun

damental bases of the weights, measures,

and coins of all the countries with which

wc have commercial intercourse, should

be the same ; but this could not be done

without producing, for a long period, con

fusion, injustice and error.

The great desideratum in establishing

a new system of weights measures, and

coins, is, that the auantitu and the money

should be subdivided in the same way,

and the best notation for the purpose is'

of course, that which is the r.nmhinn ho en

of arithmetic nearly all over the world,

namely, the decimal a scale which, as

it ascends from units to tens, hundreds,

and thousands, so also descends to tenth,

hundredth, thousandth- parts, &c. Such

a system, both as regards their weights

and measures, and their coins, has been

successfully carried into practice in France

and Netherlands, and as far as the coins

arc concerned, in the United States.

With such a general notation, ihc keep

ing of commercial accounts would re

quire nothing but the expeditious process

of common addition, subtraction, multipli

cation, and div ision. Suppose, for exam

ple, that the pound in weight, and the

pound, or dollar, in money, were bioth

subdivided into tenths, hundredths, and

thousandth parts, (call them if you please,

dimes, cents, and mills,) then five pounds,

six dimes, three cents, and four mills, in

weight, would be expressed by 5.G34 lbs.,

and the value in money at two pounds,

'six dimes, eight cents, four mills, or

2.681 per lb. avoirdupois would be ar

rived at by merely multiplying the two

expressions together, producing 15.122.

This example is an extreme one, and is

only given for illustration. Indeed, those

who are familiar with the facilities of de

cimal arithmetic, wc trust will not accuse

us of exaggeration in saying, that if the

weights, measures, and moneys of the

two countries, were brought under that

notation, any one moderately expert in

simple multiplication and division, might

acquire a proficiency in making up ac

counts, invoices, &c. in a few hours.

Under the present system, years are spent

in the earlier part of life in learning rules

" by heart," which are seldom long re

membered ; and acquiring a knowledge

of formula: which are still more seldom

understood, almost every one being com

pelled, in after years, to supply himself

with what his tutor failed to impress upon

his memory, by a sort of mental arithme

tic of his own. By substituting the de

cimal system, this would be entirely done

away with.' Instead of the tutor wanting

an " assistant," the pupil, as far as the

arithmetic of the shop and counting room

is concerned, would have but little need

of assistance ; and, as the- ground work

of commercial knowledge would thus re

quire less time and talent, those intend

ed for commercial occupations would be

able to devote more ability and greater

opportunities to the attainment of a high

er order of knowledge that would be use

ful to them in their pursuits, than under

the old regime can be expected from

them, until they have acquired it by a

long course ol actual experience.

Having thus described the advantages

of a purely decimal system, we would

name three great principles by which, it

is hoped, the " Commission " has been

guided. First, that the old integral bases

should bo preserved in every case where

there are not very strong reasons to the

contrary ; secondly, that whenever the

integral base is altered, it should be main

ly with a view of facility in converting

values and quantities from the old scales

into the new ; and thirdly, that the num

ber of scales used should be reduced, as

much as possible, without producing a

greater degree of inconvenience than their

suppression would remove.

The importance of preserving the old

integral bases will be obvious to any man

We learn that some such nomenclature

as thia will be proposed in the Report.

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mi uusmess irom me loriowing reasons.

Almost every commercial house has a

multitude of old accounts to which refer

ence is frequently necessary ; and as it

would be required to translate the partic

ulars ol them into the language of the new

2' yards, 2.G25 ; 2? yards, 2.75 ;

2J yards, 2.875, &c. For itinerary, ma

rine, and agrarian purposes, two yards

would constitute one fathom; 5J yards,

one rod; 22 yards, one chain of 100

links ; and 17G0 vards, one statute mile :

system, that language should be assimila-, the latter terms and quantities having

as mr us possiuie 10 me arithmetical long oeen used in ootn countries to de

language now in use. By preserving the fine distances on maps, charts, deeds,

sovereign or pound sterling of Great Brit- grants, and other important documents,

am, for instance, as the integral base for to which reference is often required, and

money in that country, no other labor consequently should be preserved. The

would be imposed on. the accountant than terms feet, inches, and lines should be

converting the fractional parts now in use abolished, their places being supplied by

to their equivalent decimal expression, an

operation with which any one may be

come familiar in a few hours' practice.

Then all the new coins of that country of

a denomination less than a sovereign

would be required to express the tenth,

hundredth, and thousandth parts of the

pound sterling ; and not only can any val

ue under the pound sterling be set forth

in those three parts alone, with greater

convenience and to a greater degree of

nicety than by the nine coins now in cir

culation for the purpose ; but the silver

coins as low as sixpence now current may

be expressed detcrminately in them, anil

would therefore cause little embarrass

ment should it be found impracticable to

withdraw them wholly at once. The

crown, for example, would be two dimes

and five cents, or 25-100 of a pound ;

the shilling, five cents or 5-100. of a

pound ; the sixpence, two cents and five

mills or 25-1000 of a pound . the penny,

four mills or 4-1000 of a pound ; anc the

farthing, one mill or one-thousandth of a

pound.

With regard to the legal coinage of our

own country, it probably could not be

improved, with the exception of a slight

alteration in the weight of our cents 1

j

but when we come to the obtrusive, in

congruous, and illegitimate eighth and

sixteenth dollar pieces of Spain, a sweep

ing change seems necessary. The change

could readily be effected by. reducing the

value of the 12 cent pieces to 10 cents,

and the 6 cent pieces to 5 cents, which

would soon drive them but of the coun

try, after the manner of the old pistareens

a few years since. No individual who

has long resided among us, can be ignor

ant of the inconvenience and perplexity

he has met with by the use of these coins.

and can be so prejudiced as not to be

willing to have them abolished. With

these alterations, only a slight change

would be required in our laws, such as

the reduction of postage from 18 cents

to 15 cents ; 12. cents to 10 cents ; 6

cents to 5 cents, etc., which has long been

called for, and a few others.

Presuming that the foregoing advanta

ges are sufficiently obvious to create a

change in moneys, we shall next endeav

or to show wherein the system of weights

and measures can be unproved, which

will be equally applicable to both coun

tries. L Measures of Length. The unit

of the measures of length, we conceive

should be the present yard of Great Brit

ain and the United States, from which all

other measures of extension, whether they

be lineal, superficial, or solid, should be

derived, computed, or ascertained. For

scientific, mechanical, mercantile, and re

tail pjurposes, it should be divided into

tenths, hundredths, and thousandths,

whicb can be made to express any other

fractional part of a yard that would be

likely to occur in business. For instance,

2 J yards would be written 2.125 ; 2

yards, 2.25 ; 2 yards, 2.375 ; 2 J yards,

the tenths, hundredths, and thousandths

of a yard. All old measures of feet and

inches can readily be reduced to yards

and the decimals of a yard, by. dividing

the feet by 2, and the inches by 36.

By the new system, the chief imple

ments to be used in' measuring would con

sist of a rule or line one yard in length,

graduated on one side into tenths, hun

dredths, and thousandths: and on the

other, into eighths, quarters, halves, &c;

or of shorter or longer rods or lines grad

uated into the subdivisions or multiples of

a yard ; and the Gunter's Chain 22 yards

or 100 links in length, which has" long

been used in both countries for agrarian

measures.

2. Measures of Surfaces. The unit

of the measures of surface, might consist

of the square yard, which could also be

divided into tenths, hundredths, and thou

sandths, and be made to express any oth

er fractional parts of a yard. 4810 square

yards would, as at present, constitute an

acre, which could likewise be divided in

to tenths, hundredths, thousandths, dec.

and be made to express any other frac

tional part of an acre. The terms rood

and rod, would very properly be discon

tinued, which could easily be reduced"

from the old system to the new, the for

mer being just 0.25 and the latter 0.00G25

of an acre.

. 3. Cubic or Solid Measure. The

unit of this measure might very conven

iently be made a cubic yard, which could

be divided into tenths, hundredths, thou

sandths, etc., for merchants and engi

neers, and into tenth-yard, hundredth

yard, -and thousandth-yard cubes for oth

er purposes.

Wood and timber could be bought or

sold by the cubic yard, which might like

wise be divided into tenths, hundredths,

thousandths, etc. Then the most con

venient lengths to cut market fuel would

be. 1, I J, and two yards. The term on,

as applied to rough and hewn timber, and

to shipping in a cubit sense, might be dis

continued, and cubic yards substituted in

their stead.

4. Liquid and Djiv Measures. The

unit of liquid and dry measure might very

properly consist of the old wine gallon,

which contains, at present, 231 cubic

inches. It could be divided into tenths,

hundredths, and thousands, etc., which

can readily be made to express any other

fractional part of a gallon that would oc

cur in practice. The bushel might con

tain 10 gallons, "strict measure," and

should not be used for any other purpos

es than measuring such materials as can

not be consistently bought or sold by

weight. It might also be divided into

tenths, hundredths, thousanndths, etc.,

which could be made to express eighths,

quarters, halves, etc. as exemplified in the

measures of length. The old denomina

tions, quarters, weighs, lasts, cooms, pecks,

pottles, etc, etc., might be discontinued.

The measures necessary to be used

would be the bushel ; 50-100 or J bush-