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Thomas Jefferson on the metric system

Can you multiply and divide easily by 10?
The divisions into dimes, cents and mills is now so well understood that it would be easy of introduction into the kindred branches of weights and measures … I find every one comprehends a distance readily, when stated to him in miles and cents; so he would in feet and cents, pounds and cents, &c.

Autobiography, 1821, 2104

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
As early as 1784, Jefferson was recommending a decimal based system for both money and measurements. (Wikipedia says the metric system was introduced in France in 1799.)
In President Washington’s first term, 1789-1793, he asked his cabinet members for their thoughts on the subject. Treasury Secretary Hamilton recommended maintaining the English system of coinage and measurement. State Secretary Jefferson proposed a decimal system for each. The President compromised, taking Hamilton’s position on measurement (inches, feet, yards, etc.) and Jefferson’s for money (dollars, dimes, cents).
When this was written, the money system had been in effect for 30 years and was well accepted. Jefferson proposed expanding the decimal system to weights and measures.

Learn more about Jefferson’s visionary proposals. Invite him to speak!
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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