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From The Gentlemans Magazine, (London) July 1745, letter signed, Hirossa Ap-Iccim
[To:] Mr Urban, [editor]
AMongst the ingenious dissertations of your learned correspondents on useful subjects (in my opinion) [is one] that in your Magazine for March last (p. 140) deserves special consideration, as it demonstrates one great incongruity in our computation of time. Whilst I was remarking the justness of T. W.s notions therein, one thought tumbled into my mind after another, till at length I digested my notions in the following form. If you imgaine, they will either give hints for a farther prosecution of the subject I touch upon, or incline the publick to attempt any regulation, I request you to insert them in your magazine, as soon as you have room thro want of better materials, whereby you will oblige one of your constant customers.
An essay on the British computation of time, coin, weights, and measures.
TIS self-evident that our divisions of quantities are irregular, troublesome in practice, and repugnant to the nature of things: but that they are reducible to a proper adjustment may appear (I presume) from what follows.
First, As to our computation of time.
Even the present commencement of our Æra is known to be erroneous, Christ being born 4 years before the date we refer to; for his nativity was in the 4710th year of the Julian period; whereas Dionysius Exiguus (who first brought this Æra into use so late as the 6th century) thro mistake placed it in the 4714th.
Then as to the commencement of our year, how absurd and unsuitable is it never to begin at the beginning; and tho we have two beginnings to the same thing, yet to have each of these shifting and varying? Certainly the sun (that grand regulator of time) ought to be regarded as the Index of our years; since they entirely depend on his annual revolutions.
Again, as to the length of our years, tis notorious, that neither the Julian or Gregorian keep equal pace with the sun; so that in the latter the months will revolve (tho more slowly than in the former) quite round the circle of the seasons.
Next as to our months: how confusedly is the year divided into 12 kalendar months, some consisting of 30, some of 31, and Feb. of 28, and sometimes 29 days!
Lastly as to our days: how preposterously do the days of the week vary in different months of the same year, and again in the same months of different years!
To remedy this, suppose a new account of time was established (in perpetual memory of his majesty K. George, denominated the Georgian account) in some such manner as follows, viz.
1st, Suppose the 4 defective years were added to our date, so that next year (for instance) was called 1750: since in reality tis not the 1746th, but the 1750th year from the birth of Christ, at which remarkable point of time the christian æra is intended to commence.
2dly, Would we set out with the Sun? Let us recede to the 11th of December, and make that the 1st day of our new year, when the sun begins his return from his winter solstice, at which tropical point Cæsar intended to fix the 1st of Jan.
3dly, Would we keep pace with the sun in the length of our years? Let every 4th year (except the 132d) consist of 366 days, as it does at present: But then forasmuch as the tropical year (according to Sir Issac Newton) consists of 365 D. 5 H. 48' 47" (not of 365 D. 6 H., the supposed length of the Julian year), therefore we annually over-run the sun 11' and 3" (or 44' 12" in every leap-year) which in 132 years amounts to a day, wanting but 18' 36". But this small deficiency will not make an alteration of a natural day in ten thousand years: Therefore suppose that every 132d (or 33d leap) year was to consist of but 365 days, like the common years: Then would the civil year keep pace with the solar, so as not to vary a whole Nucthemeron in the long period of 10,000 years! And when the difference amounts to a whole natural day, allowance may be made for it to endless generations, as long as time itself shall last, or the sun and earth endure in the positions and motions they have at present.
4thly, As to our months. Since the common year contains 365 days, or 52 weeks with an odd day, is it not naturally divisible into 13 months, each consisting of 28 days or 4 weeks? And might not the supernumerary day be properly (as it were) sequesterd by Christians out of the year, and appropriated (between the end of the old and beginning of the new year) to the celebration of the nativity of our blessed saviour? As to the names of the 13 months, the Quaker method of numbering them (fas est et ab haste doceri) I think would be most proper; not indeed out of any conscientious scruple about the present names; but only because numbering them thus would exhibit at once a clear idea of the part of the year in which we at any instant are, or wherein any occurrances happen, any transactions are registered, or any appointments are assigned. But if the present names must be retained, may not the 13th month be called Georgy, in honour of K. George, as well as July was denominated from Julius, and August from Augustus Cæsar?
5thly, As to the days of the week; they might either be called by their number, (after the same manner and for the same reasons as the months) or retain their present names, if the other preferable method be rejected: Then there would be this great advantage, that the days of every week would fall out perpetually on the same respective days of each month. The 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22d days of every month might be the stated christian Sabbaths or Sundays, and the other days of the week would regularly be fixt in every month in every year: and each of our 13 fixt holy-days might then be located to a certain day of every month, as set stages in our annual course of life.
And whereas our moveable feasts and festivals depend on Easter-day (which shifts irregularly for the compass of 35 days from March 22 to April 25) suppose Easter was fixt on the Sunday nearest to that day, on which the sun comes to the very same degree in the ecliptic, where it was on the day of the resurrection, which might easily be calculated. Then might all the other (now moveable) days, be fixt at their proper distances from Easter; except the academical and Westminster term days, assizes, etc. which (in my humble opinion for the benefit of all parties concerned) ought to be fixt to certain proper seasons at due stated distances.
As to the 366th day in every 4th year (except the 132d being rejected) might it not be intercalated between the new and the old year after Christmas day, and be set apart for solemn prayers for the prosperity of our king and countries, and be called the British Lustrum, Olympiad, or the national day?
Then were the Georgian account established by proper authority, our calculation of time would be correct, rational, and easy: For our christian date would commence exactly from the birth of Christ: Our year would commence and keep pace with the sun: Our months would be regularly divided into weeks; and our days commodiously fixt, and methodically appropriated, some for religion, and the rest for worldly benefits, and all this for periods of endless generation.
. . . .
Hirossa Ap-Iccim has now been identified as Rev. Hugh Jones (b. Hereford, England, 1671, d. Maryland, 1760). He was evidently the first to suggest that by the use of so-called blank days, or days not falling within the cycle of the week, the calendar could be shortened to 364 days, in order to begin the year perennially on the same weekday. Jones theorized that the earth would originally have had a circular orbit of exactly 364 days, but slipped into an elipitical and slightly longer orbit because of the great flood.
Hugh Jones Hall
College of William & Mary
From about 1717 to 1722 he served as professor of natural philosophy and mathematics at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA. Today a campus building there bears his name. He is most well known for his publication in 1724 (London) of The Present State of Virginia. Around 1725 Jones left Virginia for Maryland. In 1753, while rector of the Anglican Sassafras Parish, Cecil County, MD, he published The Pancronometer, or Univesal Georgian Calendar, using the initials H.J.
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