Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Cooper to Thomas Jefferson, 1 September 1820

From Thomas Cooper

1 Sep. 1820.

Dear sir

I wrote hastily yesterday for fear of losing the post. But as I believe I am in time to day, I write to say that I think there is nothing to be apprehended at Columbia in point of health. There is no swamp, no stagnant water near it; the mist of the River grounds, has never been known to cross the main street; and during the three last years, it has not only been healthy, but singularly so. This year has furnished no exception to its general character so far as I know. We have yellow fever in and near Water Street in this City, and about a case a day on the average, since the bulletins of the board of Health have appeared. It may spread, but no alarm prevails as yet, among men of usual information.

I send you to day, my article on Weights & Measures in the new edition of Willichs domestic Encyclopædia, which will out in about a month. Knowing the interest you have taken in this question, I thought it would amuse you.

Accept my respectful good wishes.

Thomas Cooper

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 6 Sept. 1820 from Philadelphia and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Benjamin L. Lear, 25 Sept. 1821, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esq Montecello”; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 1 Sept.

Cooper published his piece on weights & measures in Anthony F. M. Willich, The Domestic Encyclopedia: or A Dictionary of Facts and Useful Knowledge. chiefly applicable to Rural and Domestic Economy (2d American ed., Philadelphia, 1821; ed. Cooper), 3:458–71. In this article Cooper engaged directly with TJ’s 1790 Report on Weights and Measures (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , 16:602–75): “Mr. Jefferson, then secretary of state for the United States … seems not to have been fully aware of what the French philosophers were at that time about to execute, and he therefore objects to a degree of the meridian as a standard, owing to the uncertainty in the measurement of it. That objection I apprehend, since the experiments of Mechain and Delambre in France and Major Mudge in England; and particularly considering the wonderful accuracy of the verification of a base on Hounslow Heath by Messrs. Williams, Dalby, and Mudge some years before is now without weight. Mr. Jefferson next proceeds to the objects to which a second pendulum is liable, but upon the whole prefers it. His computation is formed on the calculation of Sir Isaac Newton, that a second pendulum in the lat. of London is 39.1682 inches, but Mr. Graham by more accurate experiments, made it 39.128. Taking the pendulum as the standard, Mr. Jefferson proposes it shall be divided into a certain number of equal parts, and applies them to the several denominations already in use of length, capacity, and weight. Should this plan not be approved, he proposes another, further removed from the present denomination, and in itself more complete. I refer for this to his very able memoir upon the subject” (p. 465; footnotes omitted; two commas editorially altered to decimal points). In the second instance here, “objects” is an obsolete variant of “objections” or “hindrances” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

Index Entries

  • books; encyclopedias search
  • Columbia, S.C.; board of health at search
  • Columbia, S.C.; healthiness of search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); and A. F. M. Willich’sDomestic Encyclopedia search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); and healthiness of Columbia, S.C. search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); and weights and measures search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); letters from search
  • Cooper, Thomas (1759–1839); on yellow fever search
  • Dalby, Isaac; and weights and measures search
  • Delambre, Jean Baptiste Joseph; and weights and measures search
  • Domestic encyclopædia (A. F. M. Willich) search
  • Graham, George search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Report on Weights and Measures search
  • Méchain, Pierre François André; and weights and measures search
  • Mudge, William; and weights and measures search
  • Newton, Sir Isaac; and weights and measures search
  • pendulum; as basis for system of weights and measures search
  • weights, measures, and coinage; T. Cooper on search
  • weights, measures, and coinage; TJ’s report on search
  • Williams, Edward (of England); and weights and measures search
  • Willich, Anthony F. M.; Domestic encyclopædia search
  • yellow fever; in Columbia, S.C. search