The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I.8.5: "The Congress shall have Power To … fix the Standard of Weights and Measures." Congress has the authority and responsibility to fix the standard of weights and measures and make them uniform throughout our nation in order to promote healthy commerce in our nation.
Our Founders wanted to avoid the systematic frauds found under the Articles of Confederation and decided that a national standard for weights and measures was necessary. They gave the responsibility to establish national standards to Congress and made it permanent by writing it in the Constitution.
"In 1838 the Congress officially adopted the English system of weights and measures to which Americans had already become accustomed.
"This provided a standard for the pound, ounce, mile, foot, yard, gallon, and quart. The standard of liquid measurement was the wine gallon of 231 cubic inches. The Congress adopted the old English or Winchester `bushel' as the measurement for dry products such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. A bushel was fixed at eight gallons or four pecks and represents 2150.42 cubic inches. This particular measurement was used in England from the earliest Anglo-Saxon times.
"The Congress also fixed the size of barrels for apples and similar dry products and established the size or capacity of baskets to be used for fruits and vegetables" (W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, 426-427).
According to Skousen, the metric system of measurement was set up by the French after the French Revolution. This system was accepted throughout Europe, but the Founders rejected the metric system and adopted the English system.
The English system continues to be our standard of weights and measures, but the metric system is also familiar to most Americans today as it is used mostly in scientific and technical matters.
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