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Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) Report... on... establishing a uniformity in... weights and measures

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03756 Author/Creator: Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) Place Written: New York Type: Pamphlet Date: 1790 Pagination: 21 p. 21 x 34.3 cm

Full title: "Report of the Secretary of State, on the subject of establishing a uniformity in the weights, measures, and coins of the United States." Printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine. Jefferson's report on standardizing weights, measures and coins. This report is a primary document in the establishment of the federal government and in the implementation of Jefferson's ideas concerning science and government. Politically the report would bind the nation together as a unit with similar measures, and inventions would be encouraged by uniformity in standards. Jefferson also felt strongly that a decimal-based system would make transactions easier for less educated persons, and thus be more democratic. As the editors of the Jefferson Papers put it, "Jefferson's report on weights and measures is an almost perfect embodiment of his dual allegiance to Newtonian physics and to Lockean concepts of government." (For an earlier version of these ideas, see Jefferson's Notes on the Establishment of a Money Unit, incorporated as an appendix with the privately printed first edition of Notes on the State of Virginia. ) While Jefferson's full recommendations were never implemented, much of his report was adopted, and his ideas on decimal measures form the basis for American standards of currency and other basic measures. The first three impressions were printed in a folio format, the different issues stemming from corrections made while in press. The final version was the set by Childs & Swaine in this octavo, forty-nine-page format, and it is this version that Jefferson chose to retain in his own library. References: Evans 22994; Rink's Technical Americana, 874; Sowerby, Jefferson's Library 3760; Jefferson Papers 16: 602-75.

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