Thomas Jefferson Papers

VI. James Madison’s Queries Concerning the Report, [ca. 20 May 1790]

VI. James Madison’s Queries Concerning the Report

[ca. 20 May 1790]

Quer. if a fixed1 temperature might not be got by referring to a thermometer, the freezing point being the natural standard.

Quer. as to the inaccuracy of English calculations of London Pendulum?

Quer. if a mode of distributing actual standards thro’ the states should not be suggested at the close of the report.

Quer. would not uniform cylinders be as easily measured and judged of, as squares.

Quer. if the Quarter and Chauldron should not be measures.

p. 14/15 Quer. as to the inference from the coinciding circumstances relative to the Avoird. and Troy. Specific weight of wheat and Rain water to[o] accurate and philosoph[ical] for antient times, and allso a cubic foot.

√pa. 3 bottom. quer. if lower extremity not a better expression and if defined at both extremities—quer. as the measurement must be not from the upper extremity but the center of suspension.

Is the difficulty of obtaining a rod perfectly uniform in size &c. not worth noting as an uncertainty, tho’ too inconsiderable to form an objection?

p.13. Would not the pottle be better defined by diminishing its depth. 15 I. exceeds a convenient proportion to 3 I. square.2

√p. 23. Easy of comparison.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 233: 41978–9); in Madison’s hand except for the two check marks and another notation in TJ’s hand (see note 2 below); undated but written ca. 20 May 1790; the page numerals refer to those on MS as printed in preceding document, proving that TJ submitted the second state of the report to Madison; see below.

Two interpretations of Madison’s note easy of comparison are possible. The first is that this was the way TJ wrote the phrase in the penultimate paragraph of the preceding document and that Madison wished him to change this to read “of easy comparison.” TJ did in fact make such a change. But it is improbable that Madison, whose queries concerned substantive matters, would have noted such a triviality. The other interpretation is that the note was merely set down as the reminder of a more important change to be discussed by the two men. In Dft and MS of the preceding document TJ first placed the comparison of the existing and proposed units of length, surface, weight, and capacity under their respective categories. Before the Tr or fair copy of that MS was drawn off, TJ had not only accepted Madison’s criticism of the dimension of the Pottle and made note of it on his MS, but had also gathered all of the comparisons together as an appendix. If, as the Editors believe, it is correct to assume that Madison thought the existing and proposed units would be more easy of comparison if brought together, then the MS of Document v ended on p. 23 and the next page was blank. If so, then it was after Madison returned that MS with his queries that TJ went through it, deleted the various tables of comparisons under their separate heads, and brought them all together on the final page in accordance with that suggestion. See Document v, note 54.

1This word interlined in substitution for “unvarying,” deleted.

1Following this comment, TJ wrote: “4½x 5 x 6 = 135” he then inserted these figures in margin of Dft and MS of Document v.

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