Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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COLWELL, Stephen, author, born in Brooke county, Virginia, 25 March, 1800; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 15 January, 1872. He was graduated in 1819 at Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, studied law, and was admitted to the bar of Virginia in 1821. Removing to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he practiced law for ten years, when he became an iron merchant in Philadelphia. He devoted much of his time to the study of political economy, and soon began to write for the press.
He acquired large wealth, which he devoted to charitable purposes, to the endowment of professorships, to the encouragement of scientific investigation, and to the collection of a large and valuable library, including a very complete selection of works on his favorite topics of political and social science. During the civil war Mr. Colwell was among the foremost supporters of the National government in its struggle against secession. He lent his name and his money to the cause, and strengthened the hands of the administration by every means in his power. He was one of the founders of the Union league of Philadelphia, and an associate member of the United States sanitary commission. After the war he was appointed a commissioner to examine the whole internal revenue system of the United States, with a view to suggesting such modifications as would distribute and lighten the necessary burdens of taxation--a problem of peculiar importance at that crisis of the nation's history. To this work he devoted much time and study, and his advice had due weight in determining the financial policy of the government. He bequeathed his library to the University of Pennsylvania with an endowment for a professorship of social science. His first published work, under the signature of "Mr. Penn," was entitled "Letter to Members of the Legislature of Pennsylvania on the Removal of Deposits from the Bank of the United States by Order of the President" (1834). Still concealing his identity under the name of "Jonathan born Wise," he published "The Relative Position in our Industry of Foreign Commerce, Domestic Production, and Internal Trade" (Philadelphia, 1850). He was the author of "New Themes for the Protestant Clergy" (1851); "Politics for American Christians " (1852); "Hints to Laymen," and "Charity and the Clergy" (1853); "Position of Christianity in the United States, in its Relation with our Political System and Religious Instruction in the Public Schools" (1855); "The South; a Letter from a Friend in the North with Reference to the Effects of Disunion upon Slavery" (1856). The same year he edited, with notes, "List's Treatise on National Economy." His last and most important work is "The Ways and Means of Commercial Payment" (1858). Besides these publications in book-form, he was the author of a noteworthy article in the "Merchant's Magazine," entitled "Money of Account" (1852), and another essay on the same subject in the " Banker's Magazine" (1855).
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