Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Tench Coxe, [31 December 1790]

From Tench Coxe

[Philadelphia, December 31, 1790]

Dear sir

You will find enclosed a very rough copy1 of Leslies2 improvement of the proposition of Hatton3 and Whitehurst4—for an invariable Standard of length, capacity & weight.5 This is his original corrected &ca. by me of wch. Mr Jefferson has the fair copy.6 Genl. S.7 will be able to make it out.

The printed roll contains a plan of state finance proposed by Mr. R Morris, which having relation to the Bank I send for your perusal—also some other papers on that subject.

Yr. mo. respectful Servt.

T Coxe

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1D, with corrections in the handwriting of Tench Coxe, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

2Robert Leslie was a Philadelphia clockmaker.

3John Hatton was a London clockmaker.

4John Whitehurst (1713–1788) was a Derby clockmaker and member of the Royal Society. His interests, however, led him far afield into geology, mechanics, pneumatics, and hydraulics. In 1787 he published a pamphlet on standard measure, An attempt towards obtaining invariable measures of length, capacity and weight from the mensuration of time, independent of the mechanical operations requisite to ascertain the center of oscillation or the true length of the pendulums (London, 1787).

5Tench Coxe met Leslie early in 1790 and undertook to sponsor his invention. In March, 1790, Coxe asked James Madison to present Leslie’s observations on Whitehurst’s pamphlet to Jefferson. Coxe, impressing upon Madison at the inventor’s request the necessity of secrecy, noted:

“Tho the apparatus is extremely simple the Object has been industriously pursued for many years by the Philosophers & Mechanicians of Europe as Mr. Jefferson & you must well know. The Society of Arts, &ca in London have offered 100 Guineas for the discovery, which the inventor is determined not to apply for, but to devote it to the Service of his native Country. The simplicity of the Apparatus however will spread it in a year over the civilized part of the world.” (Coxe to Madison, March 21, 1790, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress.)

6Jefferson transmitted his report on weights, measures, and coins to Congress on July 4, 1790, but Congress postponed action for several years (see C. D. Hellman, “Jefferson’s Efforts towards the Decimalization of the United States Weights and Measures,” Isis, XVI [November, 1931], 266–313; see also Jefferson to H, June 12, 1790; H to Jefferson, June 16, 1790).

7Philip Schuyler, H’s father-in-law, took an active interest in standards of weights and measurements. Among the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, is an undated fragment in Schuyler’s writing of a discussion of a standard of measure.

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