Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/137

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the present number, which opens the forty-eighth volume of the magazine, of the long-promised and anticipated series of articles by Hon. David A. Wells, on the most important subject of taxation.

For the execution of the task which Mr. Wells has assigned to himself, it is acknowledged that he has enjoyed extraordinary advantages; as Chairman of the United States Revenue Commission, 1865-'66 (an instrumentality devised by President Lincoln in anticipation of the close of the war); United States Special Commissioner of Revenue, 1866-'70 (an office specially created by Congress); chairman of a commission for the revision of the tax laws of the State of New York (specially created by its Legislature, 1870-'72, with a view of obtaining Mr. Wells's services'); and subsequent membership of important railroad receiverships; of the Arbitration Board of the associated railways of the United States, 1879-'81, and of the Board of Direction of some of the largest manufacturing and insurance companies in the country. The assertion is therefore warranted that to probably no one person, in either the United States or Europe, has greater opportunities been afforded for study of taxation from the basis of practical experience and administration; and while the prediction may not be warranted, that Mr. Wells's conclusions will be accepted finally as solving the vexed and intricate problems involved in the subject, it is certain that the results of his investigations will prove most valuable and intensely interesting contributions to general economic science, and greatly assist in formulating better systems and rules for taxation, especially in the United States, than are now generally accepted.

The editor also feels warranted in saying that the course pursued by Mr. Wells which made his book on Economic Changes one of the most popular and instructive of recent economical publications, will also characterize the new field of inquiry on which he now enters—namely, to marshal in a clear manner and proper order all the facts that seem capable of explaining the situation of vexed and disputed questions, and of thus indicating where and how the truth should be sought for, with the greatest chances of finding it.

Scientific Literature.

How many evil doers have escaped the just penalties for their acts and what great sums of money have been lost or expended in litigation for lack of an unfailing means of proving personal identity! If the police know that A. B. committed a certain crime and catch a man who they believe is A. B., but who stoutly denies it, they must establish his identity beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. The testimony of acquaintances and even the photographs in the Rogues' Gallery frequently fail to give certainty on this point. There is, however, a set of marks which, in the words of Pudd'nhead Wilson, "every one carries with him from the cradle to the grave" that seem to afford an infallible test. These are the patterns formed by the little ridges on the tips of the fingers. Mr. Francis