Page images

THE FRENCH SYSTEM OF MEASURES, Was introduced during the revolution, and has for its standard the length of a quadrant of the earth's meridian. The unit of measures of length is the metre, which is the ten millionth part of the quadrant. This length, deduced from a trigonometrical measurement of the meridian from Dunkirk to Barcelona, is marked by two very fine parallel lines drawn on a bar of platinium, and preserved in the archives of the Academy of Sciences. From a comparison of the standards of this country with a copy of the metre, its length is found to be 39.37+ inches, to say nothing about the temperature. . The unit of the French superficial measure is the arc, a surface of ten metres each way, er 100 square metres.

The unit of measure of capacity is the litre, a vessel containing the cube of a tenth part of the metre. The unit of solid measure is the stere, or cube of the metre. All the divisions and multiples of the units are decimals; and the principle of nomenclature adopted was to prefix the Greek numerals to the decimals, inultiples, and the Roman numerals to the decimal subdivisions.

In the French system of weights, the unit is the gramme, which is the weight of the 100th part of a cubic metre of distilled water, at the temperature of melting ice. Thus the French discarded all other systems and sent forth the metre in 1795, calling it an universal, invarible measure, with boastings of their great achievements.

Now this great effort of the French sayans has been pretty severely criticised by the learned and scientific men of Europe and America. Besel, Puissant, Charlton and Sir John Herschal, have demonstrated that the measurement of that quadrant is 1.361 yards too short, or 4.083 feet less than it should be. To this testimony must be added that of Mr. Arey, astronomer having charge of Greenwich observatory, and M. Schubert, a Russian astronomer of great erinence, who has pointed out specifically the extent of that error, and given reasons why the metre should not be accepted as a standard.

Sir John Herschell, in his lecture on the metie and yard, says: “A more serious objection is to the choice made of the circumference of the meridional or generating ellipses of the terrestial speroid, in preference to its axes of revolution. This is a blemish on the very face of the system-a sin against geometrical simplicity. The Metre as represented by the meterial standard, is too short by sensible and measurable quantity.” That quantity makes the grand error, and the whole system being based on the standard, makes the whole a failure. Prof. Charles Davies, in his work on the Metric System, 1871, says: “ This is enough for our present purpose, to know that the science of the world

has not accepted the one-tenth million part of the quarter meridian as having a fixed value as represented by the metre, and that the ablest minds of England will not so accept it.”.

That the metre, as determined by the French measurement, is neither the true nor accepted standard, is a fact well known to men of science in America also. Prof. Joseph Henry, of the Smithsonian Institute, says: “It is nothing more in reality than an arbitrary length, not as convenient as the yard or foot, which are incorporated with the literature and science of the most civilized nations of the ancient and modern world." John Q. Adams, in his report to Congress on weights and measures on the metric system, says: “A system which excludes all geography, astronomy and navigation from its consideration must be essentially defective in principle and uniformity.” He says further: “In the meantime the whole French system must be considered as an experiment, upon trial even in France, and should it ultimately, prove by its fruit, worthy of adoption by other nations, it will at least be expected to postpone engrafting the scion until the character of the tree shall have been tested in its native soil by its fruits.*

Accordingly it has been found necessary to permit a modification of the system, so that in fact at present in France there are three different systems of measures. The ancient, the decimal and the binary system, or system usual. (See Brand's Ency. p. 731.) There have been several Imperial edicts to remedy the disordered plan, but their would be improvements have only made it more complicated than ever.

WEIGHTS, MEASURES AND COINS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, The constitution of the United States, Art. 1, Section 8, reads thus : Congress shall have power to coin money and regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coins, and fix the standards of weights and measures." This is all the power delegated to the United States on on this subject, all else is reserved by the people. Congress, as early as 1786, established the Federal money system, on the decimal scale, which practically reduced the whole to dollars and hundredths, or cents, at least for common computations. But in theory, the dollar being the unit, its sub-multiples are dimes, cents and mills, and its multiples are eagles and double eagles. The standard of gold and silver is 900 parts of pure métal to 100 of alloy in every 1,000 parts of coin, the alloy of silver shall be copper, and the alloy of gold coin to be coprer or copper and silver. But in no case shall the silver exceed it of the whole alloy. The gold dollar weighs 2544 grains; the quarter eagle 641 grains; the half eagle 129 grains, etc. The silver dollar or unit weighs 389 grains; the half dollar 197 grains, etc. The copper and * See Davies' Work, 1871, on the Metre; J.Q. Adams and J. Hershell's, all in one volume.


nickel half dime weighs 77.16 grains; the three cent piece 46.30 grains, According to a bill now before Congress, the silver dollar or unit weighs 384 grains; a half dollar weighs 194 grains, etc. Copper and nickel half dime weighs 77.16 grains; 3 cent piece, 46.309 grains; cent, 23.15 grains. These are copper and 4 zinc. (So much for the first clause of the section.)

The last clause of the 8th section of the constitution was complied with at an early date, when the standard yard was fixed by a brass rod, at the temperature of 62° Fahr.; Avoirdupois pound—7.000 Troy grains—27.7015 cubic inches of distilled water weighed in air, at the temperature of the maximum density. The gallon 8.338822 of distilled water (or 231 cubic inches); all of which were identical with the legal standards of Great Britain, prior to 1824, when that kingdom revised and improved its metrology, as will be seen by comparing it with our present plan. Our present system is acknowledged by all who have taken the trouble to examine it, to be ambiguous and complex, containing numerous measures and denominations that are not uniform but confounding to the scholar and perplexing to the teacher, as well as to the man of business.

Yet with all these improvements, with all the time and money lost, we see that the wheels of reform move slowly, although our early presidents, and others, viz.: Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Adams, repeatedly and emphatically commended the subject to the attention of authorities.

Secretary Chase, now Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, in 1861, speaks of the importance of an uniform system of nomenclature of measures, weights and coins, such as the wisest of our statesmen have regarded very desirable and by no means impossible. Prof. Bache says "that the labor which is expended in mastering the present complicated system is labor lost. Every purpose for which weights and measures are employed can be answered by a simple and concise arrangement worthy to be called system, and which will one day prevail.” Several States, New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut, by their legislatures, have also loudly called for a uniform decimal system of weights, measures and coins."

But with all this force brought to bear on our servants, the 39th Congress was beguiled to adopt a foreign absurdity and introduce it under a form of law, namely the French system, thus tolerating a permissive use of a standard and system of measures which has been rejected by the most learned and scientific men of the world.

If we settle dowr to a double set of standard of measures in this republic, then farewell to progress or improvement for ages to come, and we shall plod on in the old worn out path and try to master the myste

[ocr errors]

ries of compound arithmetic on which millions of money have been wasted in the education of the young. But our legislatures do not seem satisfied with putting an estopper on all advance and educational progress in these United States ; but having in 1866 plunged the car of improvement into the slough of despond where it has stuck till the present time, the men of this Congress seem disposed to load it down with foreign weights, the gramme, etc., on our coins, which if consummated, will forever doom its projectors with those of the 39th Congress, to perpetual shame. (See bill now before Congress on coins, etc.) The people, having ceased to depend on their political servants for the purpose of advancing the cause of education, will resume their reserved rights and act for themselves in the future.




Having visited the school, I give the readers of the JOURNaL the benefit of my observations. I begin at the primary department, anj my knock is answered by a black-eyed Miss, of some twenty-two

She glances suspiciously at her pocket as she admits me. I glance 100, and discover a half embroidered slipper and a letter, that refuse to be entirely hidden.

"Seventy little urchins, on the road to fame.” They are certainly famous for one thing now, and that is, making a most unearthly noise. I decline a proffered seat, and walk deliberately to the farther end of the room, in the rear of the pupils. Instantly seventy pairs of eyes are leveled at me, and as the result of this aim, a discharge of


wads fall over and around me. A primmer class is called. The children rush pell-mell to the platform, and instead cf reading from the charts that hang on the wall, they spell and pronounce each word with a shrill, nasal drawl. What the words are I cannot tell, from the din between me and the class. A little fellow at the foot of the class concludes to sit down and patiently await his turn. A neighbor blows in his ear; he resents it, and a miniature street fight occurs. The pugilists desist on being told that they will be sent up stairs. What“ reign of terror” exists there. I will be on my way to find out. The class took their seats and I take my departuie. I ask the teacher as I go out, about the unused charts. She answers, glancing lovingly at her pocket, that " it takes too much time.”

The Intermediate Department comes next on my list. I enter without knocking. The teacher points noiselessly to a seat. The pupils

forget to stare; they are more interested in their books than a visitor. There is a writing class in progress and the interest here is, I know, a sample of what will follow. The teacher looks tired and overworked. I ask her what she is reading? (For I know she is reading something;

straws tell which way the wind blows.") She answers, a book of travels, in connection with my geography class; it keeps up the interest you know to be able to tell them something outside the lesson.”

I wend my way to the Principal's room. He admits me with a tremendons bow, and affectionately pats his blonde mustache, as I ask to be shown to the recitation room, where the assistant is conducting a recitation in geography. She shakes out her brown curls, gives me her chair, fixes herself in a pretty position against the table, takes a book and asks one of the scholars to recite. She keeps her eyes so closely on the book, in order to see if the recitation is conducted properly, that she fails to notice that the remainder of the class are paying little or no attention. One writes on the blackboard at her right; another reads a novel; one pricks a neighbor and scratches the seat with a pen knife. Poor deluded little school-ma'm, if


had spent the time it took to do up your hair on cul papers in studying that geography lesson, it would have been much more profitable and interesting to the class, if not to yourself. I go into the main room where I find that

Lessons and tasks are all ended,

And the school for the day is dismissed," And the proprietor of the blond mustache is acting in the capacity of Catholic Priest; that is, he has adopted the self-reporting system, and the naughty ones are expected to stay after school and rehearse their misdeeds to the master. This is considered an even exchange. Consequently, “Do what you are a mind to if you only tell the teacher of it," seems to be the law of ihe school.

I leave the building thinking I should like to make a few changes. I would launch the Primary Teacher on an ocean of worsted, and let her embroider slippers for her absent lover until she had slipped entirely out of the ranks of teachers. I should transfer the Intermediate to a higher position and beiter pay, so she'd not be so overworked. (I find she supports a widowed mother.) I should give the pretty, assistant a pile of Journals to do up her hair on, and maybe some of the sense would penetrate her soft little head. I should insist upon the Principal using his books out of school hours; I should also give him some sharp hints and a razor; and his not profiting by them would be the cause of his incurring the lasting displeasure of AN OLD MAID.

« PreviousContinue »