Name: Albert GALLATIN
Given Name: Albert
Birth: 29 Jan 1761 in Geneva, Switzerland
Death: 12 Aug 1849 in Astoria, New York
Burial: 1849 Witter Family Vault, Trinity Churchyard, Lower Broadway, New Yard City
Albert Gallatin (Went by name of Albert but full name was Abraham Alphonse Albert Gallatin)
Change Date: 16 Jul 2011 at 15:10:01
Secretary of the Treasury. in Cabinets of Presidents Jefferson and Madison, minister to France and England
1. Before the Thirteen Colonies became the United States, a future American citizen was
born in Geneva, Switzerland. He was to play a vital part in establishing the financial
soundness of the new nation. Albert Gallatin came of an old and noble family. He
graduated with honors from the Geneva Academy, but in 1780 gave up fortune and social
position because of "a love for independence in the freest country of the universe." Offered
a commission as Lieutenant Colonel by the Landrave of Hesse, whose hated "Hessians"
were mercenaries with the British forces, he refused by saying he "would never serve a
tyrant." He escaped the resulting family indignation by secretly leaving home. With a friend,
he took passage for America.
His first business venture was launched in Boston. He later taught French at Harvard, but
soon went south. In October 1785, he took the Oath of Allegiance in Virginia. Settling
finally in Pennsylvania, he was a member of the State Legislature before being sent to the
United States Senate. His citizenship being in debate, he was rejected by that body, but
not before calling upon the Secretary of the Treasury for a statement of the debt as of
January 1, 1794, distinguishing the money received under each branch of the revenue, and
expended under each appropriation. When Gallatin was again returned, this time to the
House of Representatives, he immediately became a member of the new Standing
Committee on Finance, the forerunner of the Ways and Means Committee.
In July 1800, he prepared a report entitled, "Views of the Public Debt, Receipts and
Expenditure of the United States." This report, analyzing the fiscal operations of the
Government under the Constitution, is still regarded as a classic. In Congress, he struggled
successfully to keep down appropriations, particularly those for warlike purposes. The
opposition party attacked him personally, as well as politically, because of his foreign birth.
Thomas Jefferson believed the Sedition Bill was framed to drive Gallatin from office.
However, as soon as Jefferson was elected President, early in 1801, he tendered Gallatin
the post of Secretary of the Treasury.
Gallatin took his oath on a "platform" of debt reduction, the necessity for specific
appropriations, and strict and immediate accountability for disbursements. Eight years after
assuming office, his estimates on revenues and debt reduction had proven uncannily
accurate. He had succeeded in reducing the public debt by $14 million, and had built up a
surplus. At the same time, $15 million had gone for the purchase of the Louisiana Territory,
an acquisition which established the United States as a great continental power.
A meticulous bookkeeper and originator of many accounting practices still in use in the
Department, Gallatin also sponsored the establishment of marine hospitals, the forerunner
of our present Public Health Service. In 1807 he submitted to Congress an extensive
plan for internal improvements, particularly the construction of highways and canals.
His greatest contribution, however, was that for the first time Congress received a detailed
report of the country's fiscal situation. Earlier Secretaries had conscientiously reported
disbursements, but Gallatin gave a breakdown of receipts, a concise statement of the
public debt, and an estimate of expected revenue.
Gallatin served in the Treasury until 1814, and was offered the post again by President
Madison in 1816. He declined, though, because he thought its responsibilities demanded
"an active young man." He felt this even more strongly in 1843, when President Tyler
offered him the post, but must have recognized this as a striking tribute to his past
His public service was by no means over when he left the Treasury. The Treaty of Ghent,
ending the War of 1812, was considered largely Gallatin's personal triumph, for he was the
most effective of the American Commissioners. Thereafter, he negotiated a commercial
convention with England, by which discriminating duties were abolished. He served as
Minister both to France and to England, concluding his years in the field of diplomacy in
1817, when he returned to New York take up his residence.
He became the President of the National Bank of the City of New York, later known as
the Gallatin National Bank of the City of New York. He participated in the community's
cultural activities. He was a founder of New York University, and of the American
Ethnological Society, making valuable contributions on languages of the Indian tribes.
While serving as President of the New York Historical Society, he presided at an
anniversary celebration in 1844. At that celebration, John Quincy Adams, a long-time
political opponent, paid high tribute to Gallatin as a patriot and citizen.
Albert Gallatin died on Long Island on August 12, 1849, at the age of 88. Always an
enthusiast for American ideals on liberty, he was a firm believer in the essential soundness
of the Government and its finances. "If I have not wholly misunderstood America," he
wrote, "I am not wrong in the belief that its public funds are more secure than those of all
the European powers." For the greater part of his life, he devoted himself to making this
ideal an actuality, and carried out his vision with honor to himself and for the lasting benefit
of this country and fellow citizens.
Brought to you by the Office of Public Correspondence (OPC)
2. Database: Biographies of Notable Americans, 1904
The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume IV
GALLATIN, Albert, diplomatist, was born in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 29, 1761; son of Jean and Sophia Albertina Rolaz du Rosey de Gallatin, and grandson of Abraham and Susanne (Vaudinet) de Gallatin. When nine years old he was left an orphan and his education was directed by Mademoiselle Pictet, a relative of his father. He was graduated at the University of Geneva in 1779, declined a lieutenant-colonel in the [p.224] Hessian regiment serving in the British army, and in 1780 emigrated to America, landed at Cape Ann and travelled on horseback to Boston, Mass. He went to Maine as a trader, joined an expedition to repel a British invasion, and commanded a fort at Machias, besides furnishing funds to equip American troops. He then taught the French language in Boston and at Harvard college, 1782-83. He went to New York and Philadelphia after the war had closed, and was induced to invest his savings in wildlands in western Virginia. In order to make his investments profitable he located in Fayette county in 1784, where he was a county trader. He became largely interested in the purchase and sale of land claims, and made his winter headquarters at Richmond, where he was a representative for Fayette county in the ratification convention of September, 1787. His home becoming a part of Pennsylvania, he was a member of the state constitutional convention at Philadelphia in 1789, and in 1790-91 he represented Fayette county in the Pennsylvania legislature. He was elected U.S. senator in 1793, but after a service of two months, he was declared ineligible, not having taken the oath of allegiance to the United States until October, 1785. He was largely instrumental in securing a peaceful settlement of the insurrectionary movements in Western Pennsylvania in 1794. The same year he was elected a representative to the state legislature and also to the 4th U.S. congress. He became a leader of the opposition party, established the committee on ways and means, and favored internal improvements.
He was re-elected to the 5th and 6th congresses, serving, 1795-1801. Upon the accession of Thomas Jefferson to the presidency he was appointed secretary of the treasury and was reappointed by President Madison. He directed the financial policy of the government for twelve years, reducing the public debt from $86,712,632.25 in 1802 to $45,209,-737.90 in 1812. President Madison in 1811 offered him the portfolio of state which he declined, and in 1813 sent him with James A. Bayard of Delaware to St. Petersburg as envoy extraordinary to negotiate with Great Britain under the mediation of Russia, which mission, however, proved futile. He was continued as a commissioner, and in 1814 with Adams, Clay, Russell and Bayard signed the treaty of Ghent which has been stated by Mr. Gallatin's biographers to have been his special work, entitling him to a place among the great diplomatists of American history. In 1815 he was appointed by President Madison U.S. minister to France and he assumed the duties of the position in January, 1816, after having attended the commercial convention held in London in 1815. He assisted Minister Adams in the preparation of a commercial treaty with England, and Minister Eustis in negotiating a treaty with the, Netherlands in 1817 He returned to America in 1823, declined a seat in Monroe's cabinet as secretary of the navy the same year and the candidacy for Vice-President on the Jackson ticket of 1824. He was sent by President Adams to England in 1826 as envoy extraordinary, and while in London he obtained full indemnity from Great Britain for injuries sustained by American citizens by reason of the violation of the treaty of Ghent. On his return to the United States in 1828 he settled in New York city where he was president of the national bank of New York, controlled by John Jacob Astor, 1831-39. He was a founder of the University of the city of New York, a member of its council, 1830-31, and first president of its council in 1831. The same year he was a member of the free-trade convention held in Philadelphia and prepared the memorial submitted to congress. In 1839, on behalf of the United States, he prepared the argument submitted to the king of the; Netherlands, acting as umpire in the Maine, boundary question with Great Britain. In 1844 he presided in New York city at a meeting called to oppose the annexation of Texas, which he pronounced to be a direct and undisguised ursurpation of power and a violation of the constitution. He introduced Swiss artisans in the manufacture of glass in western Pennsylvania, the pioneer in that industry in the United States. He was the first president of the American ethnological society, established in 1842, and president of the New York historical society, 1843-49. He was married in November, 1793, to Hannah, daughter [p.225] of Com. James Nicholson, U.S.N., and Frances Witter, his wife. They had two sons, James and Albert Rolaz, and one daughter, Frances. He published: Considerations on the Currency and Banking System of the United States (1831); Right of the United States to the Northeastern Boundary (1840); Oregon Question (1846); Peace With Mexico (1847); War Expenses (1848); and his scientific bibliography includes: Synopsis of the Indian Tribes, etc., etc. (1836); and Notes on the Semi-Civilized Nations of Mexico, Yucatan, and Central America, with Conjectures on the Origin of Semi-civilization in America (1845). See: Writings of Albert Gallatin by Henry Adams (3 vols., 1879); Life of Albert Gallatin (ibid., 1879); and John Austin Stevens's biography in American Statesman Series (1883). He died in Astoria, N.Y., Aug. 12, 1849.
3. "Ancestry of Albert Gallatin and Hannah Nicholson with a list of their Descendants to the Second and Third Generation". [Compliled from "Life of Albert Gallatin" by Henry Adams (1879), "History of Nicholson Family" by Byam Kerby Stevens (1911) and other sources - Revised by William Plum Bacon. New York, Press of T.A. Wright, 1916
4. Numerous newspaper obituaries with biographical information
Father: Jean de Gal- GALLATIN
Mother: Sophia Albertina Rolaz du ROSEY
Hannah NICHOLSON b: 11 Sep 1766 in New York, New York
- James GALLATIN b: 18 Dec 1796 in New York, New York
- Albert Rolaz GALLATIN b: 8 Jan 1800 in Pennsylvania
- Catherine GALLATIN b: 22 Aug 1801
- Frances GALLATIN b: 3 Feb 1802/1803 in Washington, DC
- Sophia Albertine GALLATIN b: 17 Oct 1804
- Hannah Maria GALLATIN b: 29 Sep 1807