Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Vicomte de Noailles, 5 May 1800

To Vicomte de Noailles1

N. Y. May 5th. 1800

Dr. Sir

I observe that the French Regulations as well as those of several other countries adopt a fixed measure for the pace (pas) without regard to the velocity, which in the French code is two feet French.2 As the measures differ in different European establishments, I have been causing experiments to be made in order to discover if practicable, a standard in nature relatively to the medium sise of a man.

In the course of these experiments it appears that tho’ two feet is about the natural length of the cadenced step, say 75 in a minute, of a body of men, yet they naturally increase the length of the step with its velocity. This has led me to some new reflections on the point and as I respect European precedents in a Science which has been so much Studied and practiced, I am desirous of knowing what reasoning has led to the adopting of a determinate length for all the direct steps without regard to the velocity, that is to say the same for the quick and quickest.

Nobody can better enlighten me on this subject than yourself, and I rely on your friendly disposition. I therefore do not hesitate to request that you will, as soon as may be, let me hear from you on the point—and as particularly as may be convenient.

Yrs. with

Genl. De Noailles

Copy, in the handwriting of Ethan Brown, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1After fighting with the French forces in the United States during the American Revolution, Louis Marie, vicomte de Noailles, returned to France. As a member of the Estates-General in 1789, he proposed the abolition of the feudal system. In 1791 he was chairman of the committee in the National Assembly which drafted the training manuals for the National Guard. He broke with the revolutionary forces and left France for England in 1792. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1793, where he remained until 1800. While in the United States he became a partner in the banking firm of William Bingham and Company. Along with Robert Morris and John Nicholson, he was a founder of the Asylum Company, which established a colony for French émigrés on the Susquehanna River between the present towns of Wyalusing and Towanda. Noailles married his cousin, Louise de Noailles, who was Lafayette’s sister-in-law.

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