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Memorial To Wells

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The following is the memorial of the University Senate, upon the late Prof. Wells: The pages of our journal record the fact, that during the past few years the University Senate has been sorely afflictec!. Death has overtaken many of our most valuable counsellors, many of the oldest and most widely known of our number, and in the midst of our bereavement over the recent death of Professor Winchell, we are burdened . with a new sorrow. On the fourth day of March, 1891, at the city of Detroit, William Palmer Wells, Kent Professor of Law, in the Law Department of the University of Michigan, died while in the active performance of his professional duties before the Wayne Circuit Court. He had just finished a short argument upon a question o minor importance, and appeared to be in perfect health, free from any physical or mental depression. Death came without giving any warning whatsoever. The people of the State of Michigan have met-with a great loss. Professor Wells was in the truest sense of the term, a public man. His time was freely given to the consideration of questions of national importance, and he was always ready and well equipped. In the many serious controversies that have arisen during the past thirty years over legal, educational and political subjects, so comprehensive was his knowledge that he was seldom excluded from the forum of discussion for want of technical learning. He was a wise counsellor, and his views were eagerly sought for. He frequently expressed them from the rostrum, and here he had but few equals. The force of his logic, the elegance of his diction, and the dignity and earnestness with which he discussed an issue, always commanded the admiration and respect of his adversarles. He gave much time to the study of problems in social and political economies. He was a vice-p resident of the American Free Trade League, and an honorary member of the Cobden club of England. His opinions upon these questions were expressed on many public occasions, but it would be idle to attempt to ate his addresses. Those, however, which have attracted the most attention, are: "The Relations of Educated Men to American Politics," delivered to the Associated Alumni of the University of Vermont: "The Legislative Power in a Free Commonwealth," delivered at the legislative reunión in Lansing, in 1886; and "The DarthmouthCollege Case and Private Corporations," delivered the same year before the American Bar Association. In politics Professor Wells took an active part, but of political warfare that did not involve the discussion of principies he knew nothing a strong party man, but not a politician in the popular sense. The people of the state mourn the loss of one who gave much of his best thought to the solution of vita public questions, without expecting or receiving any reward from the emoluments of office. He will bemissed in the councils of the state But few men at the bar of the state have had a larger professiona acquaintance than Professor Wells For the period of thirty-five years he was actively engaged in the practice of law in the state and federal courts. ie met in the trial of causes many ractitioners of national reputation, and argued important constitutional [uestions before some of the ablest urists of our country. He stood in he front rank of his profession, and glorified it by his high Standard of )rofessional honor and legal attainment. He did not practice law as a means to the acquirement of wealth. Too often, perhaps, for his own good he forgot the honorarium. To ïim the law was a sublime science, and the practice of the law a noble rofession, which brought its reward n something other than financial reults. Some of his most valuable work was without compensation. He was one of the members of the American Bar Association, and for everal years a member of its Sureme Conncil. He has contributed much to the advancement of law as a science and a profession. In 1874 Mr. Wells was appointed Cent Professor of Law in lhe versity of Michigan, which position ie filleduntil December, 1885, when lis legal practice demanded his resgnation. In June, 1887, he was again called to the Kent Professor hip, a position which he continued o occupy until his death. At the outset of his work in the Jniversity, Professor Wells clearly ndicated that his early training had )een in the hands of masters. His tudent life was spent under the severe curriculum of the New England colleges of forty yearsago. In 1851 ie received the degree [oí bachelor of arts from the University of Vermont, and in 1854 the degree of master of arts from the same instiction and the degree of bachelor of aws from Harvard University. Among his instructors at the Harvard Law School were such men as bel Parker, known to this day as he chief justice of New Hampshire, and Theophilus Parsons, still the eading authority on contracts in our courts. It is easy to see the influence of hese great minds upon the life of Professor Wells. The method of nstruction known as the lecture system, which they had adopted ia he Harvard Law School, and which was introduced in that institution by "oseph Story and Simon Greenleaf, was followed by Professor Wells and lis associates in the Law Department of our University.' It is with a feeling of profound sorrow that that we note the withdrawal from active service of the last member of distinguished law faculty, which may be said to have been influentical in establishing our present system of instruction. As a law lecturer Professor Wells was a marked man among us, peculiarly qualified tor the position which he filled. His vast experience in litigation, his profound know:edge of technical law, his clearness of thought, and force of expression, rendered his lectures of great value to the students. Thousands oi young men in this country mourn with us to-day, over the loss sustained by the Law Department o] the University. Above the average lawyer, Professor Wells was distinguished for his broad and liberal culture. During the year 1887, while engaged in the active practice of technical law, he delivered lectures upon constitutional history and constitutional law in the Literary Department of the University. The fac that he did this work so well onli indicates the compass of his mind Not many active practitioners woulc feel themselves equipped for sucl an undertaking. In his person, Professor Wells wa a dignified and genial gentleman His manners were almost faultless He was unobtrusive, but cordial, anc being somewhat retired in his habit sought but little recreation in society His liesure hourswere spent in study With the students he was patien and painstaking, and always in full sympathy with their work. As a member of the faculty, he was a kind and considérate counsellor, uninfluenced by any pet theories or peculiar notions. We could always count upon his doing the right thing. During the present year Professor Wells has been in the regular performance of his duties in the University, and by previous arrangement was to have lectured to the law students last Friday, the day on which the law faculty and some three hundred students of the department attended his funeral at St. Paul's church in the city of Detroit. The University Senate, appreciating his most excellent qualities of mind and heart, sympathize with the members of his family in this hour of deep sorrow.