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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Who Was Gallatin?

From Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail:

Three small rivers, the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin join near Three Forks, Montana to form the mighty Missouri River. We all know about Jefferson and Madison, but who was Gallatin?

Albert Gallatin, a native of Switzerland, settled in Pennsylvania and was elected to the state’s legislature. Later, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives where he served on the new Standing Committee of Finance. President Jefferson offered him the post of Secretary of the Treasury in 1801 and he remained at the post until 1814 – the longest term of any Treasury Secretary.

As Secretary, he followed a Hamiltonian course, establishing the independence of the Secretary of the Treasury and institutionalizing the Department structures. Gallatin considerably reduced the federal debt by setting aside revenue for that purpose, and he revived internal taxes to pay for the War of 1812, but they were not sufficient. Having failed to convince Congress to re-charter the First Bank of the United States in 1811, and foreseeing financial disaster, he resigned in 1814. That year Gallatin went to Russia to represent the United States in the peace conference with England and France settling hostilities. The outcome of the conference was the Treaty of Ghent signed in 1814.

Why did Captains Lewis and Clark name one for the three rivers after Gallatin? Probably a bit of Expedition politics – they knew who needed to approve all the expenses of their journey!

This bronze statue of Gallatin stands at Friendship Hill, his restored country estate near Farmington, Pennsylvania, an NPS National Historical

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