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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/857

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SKETCH OF DAVID AMES WELLS.

1865 and the year 1870, namely: the redrafting of the whole system of internal-revenue laws, the reduction and final abolition of the cotton tax, and the taxes on manufactures and crude petroleum; the creation of supervisory districts and the appointment of supervisors; the origination and the use of stamps for the collection of taxes on tobacco, fermented liquors, and distilled spirits, and the creation of the Bureau of Statistics. To the head of this Bureau Mr. Wells called, from the office of the Springfield "Republican," its assistant editor General F. A. Walker; and under his management the Bureau was first efficiently organized.

In one of his earliest official reports, Mr. Wells took earnest ground against the attempt to collect a tax of two dollars per gallon, or 1,000 per cent on the first cost, on distilled spirits, and maintained that fifty cents per gallon was the rate of tax certain to be the most productive of revenue, and little oppressive to manufacturing industries. This report, made in 1866, although attracting much attention, by reason of its detailed narration of the singular experiences of the Government in attempting to enforce so high a tax, found little favor in respect to its recommendation for tax abatement. But, in the winter of 1867-'68 Congress, becoming alarmed at the increasing frauds, and steadily diminishing receipts of revenue, acceded to Mr. Wells's recommendation and fixed the tax at fifty cents per proof gallon. The result was one of the most remarkable in all economic or fiscal experiences, for the total collections rose at once from $18,665,000 during the last year of the $2 tax in 1867-'68, to $45,071,000 in the first year of the 50-cent tax, 1868-'69, and to $55,606,000 in the succeeding year, 1869-70; a gain to the Government in two years of over sixty millions of dollars in revenue, with great diminution of fraud and great relief to the industries of the country.

Up to the year 1867, Mr. Wells, who was born and reared a member of one of the largest manufacturing and Whig families of New England, was an extreme advocate and believer in the economic theory of protection. In 1867, Congress having instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to present at its next session a draft of a new tariff looking to reductions of war-rates, and the business of preparing the same having been turned over to the office of the Special Commissioner, Mr. Wells, with a view of qualifying himself for the work, visited Europe under a Government commission, and investigated, under almost unprecedented advantages, nearly every form of industry, competitive with the United States, in Great Britain and on the Continent. The results of this visit and investigation enlightened him in respect to two salient and fundamental points: First, that no country, with the exception of the United States, which had adopted in a greater or less degree the policy of protection through duties or restrictions on imports, had ever regarded the taxation of the importation of crude, or partially manufactured articles to