1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Welles, Gideon
|←Well||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 28
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WELLES, GIDEON (1802-1878), American political leader, was born at Glastonbury, Connecticut, on the 1st of July 1802. He studied for a time at Norwich University, Vermont, but did not graduate. From 1826 to 1837 he edited the Hartford Times, making it the official organ of the Jacksonian Democracy in southern New England. He served in the state House of Representatives in 1827, 1829-30, 1832 and 1834-35, was state comptroller in 1835 and 1842-43, was postmaster at Hartford in 1835-42, and was chief of the bureau of provisions and clothing in the Navy Department at Washington in 1846-1849. Leaving the Democratic party on the Kansas-Nebraska issue, he assisted in the formation of the Republican party in Connecticut, and was its candidate for governor in 1856; he was a delegate to the Republican national conventions of 1856 and 1860. On the inauguration of President Lincoln in 1861 he was appointed secretary of the navy, a position which he held until the close of President Andrew Johnson's administration in 1869. Although deficient in technical training, he handled with great skill the difficult problems which were presented by the Civil War. The number of naval ships was increased between 1861 and 1865 from 90 to 670, the officers from 1300 to 6700, the seamen from 7500 to 51,500, and the annual expenditure from $12,000,000 to $123,000,000; important changes were made in the art of naval construction, and the blockade of the Confederate ports was effectively maintained. Welles supported President Johnson in his quarrel with Congress, took part in the Liberal Republican movement of 1872, and returning to the Democratic party, warmly advocated the election of Samuel J. Tilden in 1876. He died at Hartford, Connecticut, on the 11th of February 1878.
In 1874 Welles published Lincoln and Seward, in which he refutes the charge that Seward dominated the Administration during the Civil War. His Diary, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly (1909-1911), is extremely valuable for the study of the Civil War and Reconstruction. See also Albert Welles, History of the Welles Family (New York, 1876).