The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXIV. Economists

§ 17. David A. Wells

David A. Wells (1828–98) was a chemist who had sprung into prominence by a pamphlet Our Burden and Our Strength (1864), which contributed not a little to increase the confidence of the North in ultimate victory. He now addressed himself to fiscal problems and became the special commissioner on internal revenue. Having been converted from protectionism to free trade, he issued in rapid succession a number of important books. Among these we may mention, in addition to his official reports, The Relation of the Government to the Telegraph (1873), Robinson Crusoe’s Money (1876), Practical Economics (1885), Recent Economic Changes (1890), and The Theory and Practice of Taxation (1900). Wells had a remarkable faculty for marshalling economic facts and exerted a great influence on public opinion and legislation. But he was far stronger in explaining facts than in elucidating economic principles, and his extreme advocacy of individualism and free trade, together with a lack of acquaintance with the history of economic literature, conspired to limit his influence within narrow circles. Much the same may be said of Edward Atkinson (1827–1905), whose chief contributions were a Report on the Cotton Manufacture (1863), Revenue Reform (1871), The Distribution of Products (1885), The Margin of Profits (1887), and The Industrial Progress of the Nation (1890), together with innumerable pamphlets. Belonging to the same group was Horace White, who specialized on the currency problem in The Silver Question (1876) and Money and Banking (1895), as well as J. Schoenhof, who wrote The Destructive Influence of the Tariff (1883), A History of Money and Prices (1885), and The Economy of High Wages (1893). Somewhat more academic were Professor W. G. Sumner (1840–1910), with his Lectures on the History of Protection (1877), A History of American Currency (1878), Problems in Political Economy (1885), and What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883), and Professor C. F. Dunbar (1830–1900) with his Chapters on the Theory and History of Banking (1891) and Economic Essays (1904). A more original mind was the astronomer Simon Newcomb (1835–1919), who after devoting some attention to financial policy made his chief contribution in Principles of Political Economy (1886). Worthy of mention as writers on money are S. Dana Horton, Silver and Gold (1876), The Monetary Situation (1878), The Silver Pound (1887); John J. Knox, United States Notes (1884); A. Del Mar, A History of the Precious Metals (1880) and Money and Civilization (1886); and C. A. Conant, A History of Modern Banks of Issue (1886) and The Principles of Money and Banking (1905).