Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/855

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SKETCH OF DAVID AMES WELLS.

fully operated was built at his expense and worked under his direction in the office of the "Republican." Having, however, a taste for scientific pursuits, and being now in the possession of some means through the sale of his interest in the above invention, he quitted the pursuit of journalism, and in 1849 entered the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University, becoming also at the same time a special pupil of Professor Agassiz, who had then recently arrived in this country. Graduating in the first class that completed a course of study in the Scientific School in 1851-'52, he immediately received the appointment of assistant professor in this institution and also that of lecturer on physics and chemistry in Groton Academy, Massachusetts. During his residence in Cambridge, Mr. Wells, in association with George Bliss (late United States District Attorney for New York), commenced in 1849 the publication of an annual report on the progress of science and the useful arts, which, under the name of the "Annual of Scientific Discovery," was continued for many years.

Between 1857 and 1863, Mr. Wells was engaged in the preparation of a series of scientific school-books, which at one time attained a very extensive circulation, two of the series having been translated by missionaries into the Chinese language, while a third—an elementary treatise on chemistry—was adopted as a text-book at West Point.

Mr. Wells, however, first came prominently into public life in 1864, while residing in Troy, New York, through the publication in that year of an essay on the resources and debt-paying ability of the United States, bearing the title of "Our Burden and Strength." This essay was first read at a literary and social club in Troy, then published privately, then reprinted and circulated by the Loyal Publication Society of New York, and, receiving at the same time the approval of the Federal Government, it became one of the most noted publications of the war period. It was reprinted in England and translated into French and German, and had a circulation which is believed to have been in excess of two hundred thousand copies. Coming at a period when the nation was beginning to be alarmed at the prospective magnitude of the public debt, and apprehensive of an impending crushing burden of taxation, its publication and circulation proved a most effective agency for restoring public confidence and maintaining the credit of the Federal Government.

The perusal of this pamphlet made a great impression upon President Lincoln, and in January, 1865, he sent for Mr. Wells to come to Washington and confer with him and Mr. Fessenden, then Secretary of the Treasury, on the best methods of dealing, after the termination of the war, then evidently at hand, with the enormous debt and burden of taxation that the war had entailed upon the nation. The result of this conference was the passage by Congress of a bill, in March, 1865, creating a commission of three persons for the purpose of inquiring