Gallatin: America’s Swiss Founding Father


Presses universitaires de New York University

Albert Gallatin was a significant political figure in the early republic, most prominently as Jefferson’s and Madison’s treasury secretary, and his name graces a river, a national forest, towns, and counties but not any recent general-interest biography: extant titles are decades or, in the case of one by Henry Adams, more than a century old. Ably filling the gap, Dungan opens with Gallatin’s Swiss genealogy and the excellent education he received. However, Gallatin’s native Geneva was not to be the scope for his talents. In 1780, at the age of 19, he decamped for the new U.S. Settling in Pennsylvania, Gallatin speculated in land and was elected to the state and national legislatures, where he acquired a reputation as the Jeffersonian Republicans’ public-finance expert. To illustrate Gallatin’s head for numbers, Dungan describes his administration of problems such as paying for the Louisiana Purchase or the War of 1812; then Dungan segues to Gallatin’s ensuing assignments as diplomatic troubleshooter and ambassador to France. Displaying Gallatin in his public and private dimensions, Dungan ably reacquaints history readers with the official who carried out Jefferson’s policies.

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