John Quincy Adams: Weights and Measures

Presidential History Blog

The Constitution of the United States mandated that Congress develop a standardized system of weights and measures – back in 1787.

Early Attempts at Uniformity

No one argued with the importance of uniformity of measuring things – from the purity of metals to the exact amount of ounces in a pound of butter. Everyone agreed that consistency was the key to sound trade between the new states. A pound of sugar in New Hampshire should be the same weight as a pound of sugar in Georgia.

President George Washington put the project in motion. Sort of.

Early in his first term, President George Washington reaffirmed the constitutional mandate and urged Congress to act accordingly. The problem was that since each State had its own close-but-no-cigar system of measurement, no Congressman wished to upset the local status quo for a common system. Ergo, nothing was being done. 

Washington assigned the…

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