Obrazy na stronie

other': these fluctuations merely indicate the momentary balance of payments. Besides, as the standard coin of a country cannot be: preserved in uniform purity, so the actual par of exchange can never be stated with absolute precision; and though, in that with France, one of the component parts of the calculation, the proportion of the weights, is now rectified and admitted, an assay of the coins in circulation is found to give a par of 25.26.

It is, however, material that the true proportions between foreign standards should be accurately established, although those intricacies and discrepancies, which strike the mind in taking an extensive view of the subject, are not found in practice to be attended with insurmountable perplexity or inconvenience. · Commercial society is divided into classes and branches of trade. The sphere of action of each individual in his calling is limited, and the varieties of weights and measures necessary for him to know are soon seized, and prices and bargains come to be regulated and established by long usage accordingly.' In countries which are subdivided into small and distinct states, as Germany and Italy, each possessing different systems of metrology, monies, and duties, the several traders between the different districts in their particular branches, apprehend the relations of prices with extraordinary readiness, and with sufficient accuracy for the usual transactions of business. A certain multiple or division of the price of one place is known to give the relative price of another, and a result is thus promptly found without a lengthened calculation of differences of duties, charges, monies, and weights or measures; while occasional varia, tions of exchange are regulated by a per centage added or deducted. An individual trader has accordingly, within the range of his own practice, very few difficulties of this nature to master. . : In this country, it would certainly be desirable to make some approaches towards uniformity, if not to be effected in provincial practice, at least in the large inarkets of the United Kingdom, At present, wheat is sold in London by the quarter, in Scotland by the boll, in Ireland by the barrel, in one place by weight, in another by measure, and every different species of grain probably in a different way. The word, acre, seems to mean different spaces of ground throughout the country. In Scotland, amidst laws from the earliest period continually enacting and regula. ting with a view to uniformity, every district appears to differ from its neighbour. In Ireland, no attempt has been made to enumerate the diversities of weights and measures. In England, it would be much beyond our limits to endeavour to particularize them.

Attempts have been made in parliament to introduce the decimal system of subdivision in weights, measures, and monies. This would be a great convenience in the calculation of large accounts,

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where extreme nicety is not necessary. In commodities of bulk, and moderate value, no prejudice could be discovered. The division of the hundred weight into cents, would be much more commodious in practice than, as now used, into quarters and pounds. In retail trade, we entirely agree in the opinion of the commissioners in their first Report.

* The power of expressing a third, a fourth, and a sixth of a foot in inches, without a fraction, is a peculiar advantage in the duodecimal scale: and for the operations of weighing and of measuring capacities, the continual division by two renders it practicable to make up any given quantity, with the smallest possible number of standard weights or measures, and is far preferable, in this respect, to any decimal scale.”

The Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed to consider the several Reports likewise concur with the com-, missioners as to the inexpediency of changing any standard, either of length, superficies, capacity, or of weight, the accuracy of which is already acknowledged; and that: * There is no practical advantage, in having a quantity commensurable to any original quantity, existing, or which may be imagined to exist, in nature, except as affording some little encouragement to its common adoption by neighbouring nations. But it is scarcely possible that the departure from a standard, once universally established in a great country, should not produce much more labour and inconvenience in its internal relations, than it could ever be expected to save in the operations of foreign commerce and correspondence, which always are, and always must be conducted by persons, to whom the difficulty of calculation is comparatively inconsiderable.'.

The Committee, having pointed out the contents of the most approved standards, proceed to recommend

That leave be given to bring in a Bill for declaring these standards of length, of capacity, and of weight, to be the imperial standards for Great Britain and Ireland, and for its colonies and dependencies; and they recommend that several copies of the standards be made with the utmost possible accuracy for the use of the Exchequer, for the three capitals, for the principal foreign possessions, for the government of France, in return for the cominunication of their standards; and especially for the United States of America, where Your Committee have reason to believe they will be adopted, and thus tend in no sınall degree to facilitate the commercial intercourse.'

• Your Committee, having directed their attention to the best and most practicable method of bringing the imperial measures into general use, beg leave further to recommend a legislative enactment, by which it shall be declared that all bargains and sales, where nothing appears to the contrary, shall be deemed and taken to be made in conformity with these measures of length, superficies, capacity, and weight; but that, for a time to be limited, it shall be competent for all persons to deal by any other measures, established either by local custom, or


founded on special agreement, that they may select; provided always that the ratio or proportion of such local measures to those established by law, may be a matter of common notoriety; and that in the case of a special agreement, the ratio in proportion be therein expressed.'

During the last meeting of Parliament, nothing further was done on this subject. It remains to be seen whether, in the present session, this additional attempt at provincial uniformity will be made. The want of success attending projects for this reform presents a singular instance of the impracticability of schemes, apparently the most reasonable and generally desirable, when devised merely by philosophers in the closet, or persons little used to the dealings and habits of mankind. We are among those who fervently wish success to plans for reducing the perplexity and diversity of weights and measures, and we hold among not the least useful members of the community, those members of the legislature, and other scientific and public-spirited individuals, who direct their time and talent towards the accomplishment of this object : and we have deemed it useful to draw some attention to the difficulties which have, on former occasions, stood in the way of similar endeavours, rather with a view of promoting the eventual execution, than of preventing any practicable attempt at so desirable a consummation. It is with this subject as with laws and manners-constant attempts at improvement appear necessary even to prevent deterioration. Experience shows that few matters have a greater tendency to grow worse, or more obstinately resist correction, than common usages in weights and measures.

Art. X.-Memoirs of the celebrated Persons composing the Kit

Cat Club, with a prefatory Account of the Origin of the Associution; illustrated with 48 Portraits, from the original

Paintings by Sir G. Kneller. London. 1821. pp. 261. THIS is a splendid and a costly volume, and if it should fall

1 into the hands of a reader who never before happened to hear of such men as the Duke of Marlborough, Lord Somers, Sir Ro. bert Walpole, and Mr. Addison, he may find it very entertaining; but we do not hesitate to say, that any one, however slightly acquainted with the political or literary history of the country, must pronounce it one of the most blundering pieces of patch-work that the scissars of a hackney editor ever produced. We do not speak heedlessly—we are aware of the force of the terms we use, and we pledge ourselves that our readers shall, by the evidence we are prepared to adduce, be brought to the same opinion. ¿ We hardly know by what denomination to designate the anonymous personage who has produced this astonishing work--we have called him an editor ; but that is scarcely correct, because, though E E 3


he does nothing but republish what others have written, he publishes it as his own, and affects the tone and rank of an author; yet an author we can hardly admit him to be, whose sole merit is the cutting out passages from Noble, Walpole, Nichols, and the biographical dictionaries, and who contributes nothing of his own, but the coarse threads which stitch the patches together. The term compiler seems to suit hiin more nearly, yet even that is not quite accurate: for a compiler confesses what he is, and copies his original; while this person aims at a degree of originality, and obtains it-by inserting, wherever he can, blunders and falsehoods, more absurd than we recollect in any siinilar work. We must therefore beg permission to use the terms author, editor, or compiler, indifferently and inaccurately, · Before we begin a more minute examination, our readers may, perhaps, not dislike to hear what our author says of the general history of that celebrated association called the Kit-Cat Club.' It was here that his labours might have had some novelty, and even some colour of historical utility'; the portraits of the individual members are well known, have been often copied, and some of the most important have been recently exhibited; the biography too of the great majority of the members has been written over and over again, and is to be found in every common biographical work. The most obvious novelty then, that the author could hope to produce, was a general history of the club, and some explanation of the grounds of that forcible eulogy of Horace Walpole, (which is made the motto of the title-page,) that the Kit-Cat Club, though generally mentioned as a set of wits, were, in fact, the PATRIOTS that SAVED BRITAIN. He seems indeed to have just sense enough to be aware of this; and the following is what he says on this curious and interesting subject,—and it is all that he says.

• The celebrated association entitled the Kit-CAT CLUB was instituted about the year 1700, and consisted of the principal noblemen and gentleinen who opposed the arbitrary measures of James II., and conduced to bring about the Revolution. Their ostensible object would seem to have been the encouragement of literature and the fine arts; but the end they labored most assiduously to accomplish was the promotion of loyalty, and allegiance to the protestant succession in the House of Hanover: indeed they carried their zeal, in the cause they advocated, to such extraordinary lengths, that the most beneficial effects resulted from their exertions. Horace Walpole, who had the best information on all political subjects, speaks of them as the “patriots that saved Britain.”'- Int. p. iii.

Here the author dates the establishment of the club about 1700; but in the life of Lord Halifax, (p. 111.) he becomes more precise, and fires it positively in the year 1703! We therefore may take the liberty of informing him, that in the year 1703, the arbitrary measures of King James' could hardly have needed the union of a patriot club, to bring about the revolution, inasmuch as the revolution had been accomplished about fourteen years before, and poor King James had been two years dead, and had already had two successors, one generally known as King William the Third, and the other called Queen Anne. And we may venture to add, that, during those reigns, the patriots could not very well have inculcated loyalty and allegiance to the House of Hanover, who did not come to the throne till 1714. In return for this information, so liberally afforded by us, we beg the author to acquaint us what were the extraordinary beneficial effects which resulted from their exertions' as a club : for really, except a few verses on their drinking-glasses we know of nothing produced by this celebrated society. · The truth, however, is that the Kit-Cat Club was established neither in 1700 nor 1703. It was of a much older standing, and was undoubtedly, about the time of the revolution, a convivial assembly of some young patriots, poets, and men of wit, -Montague, Dorset, Prior, Garth ;--and the success of the whig politics gave consistency, while the rise of the individual members gave lustre, to the club. Mr. Chalmers, in the notes to his edition of the Spectator, furnishes us with the following succinct and probable account of this institution: It was originally (he-says) formed in Shire-lane, about the time of the trial of the Bishops, for a little free evening conversation; but in Queen Anne's reign, comprehended above forty noblemen and gentlemen of the first rank and quality, merit and fortune, firm friends to the Hanoverian succes. sion.?(vol. i. p. 53.) But though it was a club of wits, professing whig politics, it probably was not until Queen Anne's time that it became so decidedly a political club. Addison, in the paper commented upon by Chalmers, says, 'our modern celebrated clubs are founded upon eating and drinking, which are points wherein most men agree, and in which the learned and the illiterate, the dull and airy, the philosopher and buffoon, can all of them bear a part. The Kit-Cat itself is said to have taken its origin from a mutton pie.' (Spect. No. ix.) Thus, Addison, we see, in 1710, speaks of the origin of the club as convivial and remote; and Ward, in his . History of Clubs,' (a work which our author quotes and pillages, but which he can hardly have read,) gives, in 1709, the whole history of the club as an assemblage of young wits, formed about 1688; for he states that one of its first productions was ihe Town and Country Mouse by Prior and Montague, which was published at that time. But our author has not only not read what he quotes, but what he has written ; for although he so dogmatically places the establishment of the club in 1703, he-subse


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