Financier; born in Geneva, Switzerland
, Jan. 29, 1761; was a graduate of the University of Geneva
Both of his parents were of distinguished families, and died while he was an infant.
Feeling great sympathy for the Americans
struggling for liberty, he came to Massachusetts
in 1780, entered the military service, and for a few months commanded the post at Passamaquoddy.
At the close of the war he taught French in Harvard University.
Having received his patrimonial estate in 1784, he invested it in land in western Virginia
; and in 1786 he settled on land on the banks of the Monongahela
, in Fayette county, Pa.
, which he had purchased, and became naturalized.
Having served in the Pennsylvania
State convention and in the legislature (1789 and 1790-92), he was chosen United States Senator
in 1793, but was declared ineligible on the ground that he had not been a citizen of the United States
the required nine years. He was instrumental in bringing about a peaceful termination of the “Whiskey insurrection,” and was elected a member of the House of Representatives in 1795.
An active member of the Republican
, or Democratic, party, he even went so far, in a speech in Congress (1796), as to charge Washington
with having pusillanimously surrendered the honor of their country.
This, from the lips of a young foreigner, exasperated the Federalists.
He was a leader of the Democrats in the House
, and directed his attention particularly to financial matters.
remained in Congress until 1801,
when President Jefferson
appointed him Secretary of the Treasury
, which office he held until 1813, and obtained the credit of being one of the best financiers of the age.
The opponents of Jefferson
's administration complained vehemently, in 1808, that the country was threatened with direct taxation at a time when the sources of its wealth, by the orders and decrees of Great Britain
, were drying up. Gallatin
replied to these complaints by reproducing a flattering but delusive suggestion contained in his annual report the preceding year.
He suggested that, as the United States
were not likely to be involved in frequent wars, a revenue derived solely from duties on imports, even though liable to diminution during war, would yet amply suffice to pay off, during long intervals of peace, the expenses of such wars as might be undertaken.
Should the United States
become involved in war with both France
and Great Britain
, no internal taxes would be necessary to carry it on, nor any other financial expedient, beyond borrowing money and doubling the duties on imports.
The scheme, afterwards tried, bore bitter fruit.
's influence was felt in other departments of the government and in the politics of the country.
Opposed to going to war with Great Britain
in 1812, he exerted all his influence to avert it. In March, 1813, he was appointed one of the envoys to Russia
to negotiate for the mediation of the Czar between the United States
and Great Britain
He sailed for St. Petersburg
, but the Senate, in special session, refused to ratify his appointment because he was Secretary of the Treasury
The attempt at mediation was unsuccessful.
When, in January, 1814, Great Britain
proposed a direct negotiation for peace, Gallatin
, who was still abroad, was appointed one of the United States
commissioners to negotiate.
He resigned his Secretaryship.
In 1815 he was appointed minister to France
, where he remained until 1823.
He refused a seat in the cabinet of Monroe
on his return, and declined to be a candidate for Vice-President
, to which the dominant Democratic party nominated him. President Adams
appointed him minister to Great Britain
, where he negotiated several important commercial conventions.
Returning to the United States
in 1827, he took up his residence in the city of New York
There he was engaged in public services, in various ways, until 1839, when he withdrew from public duties and directed the remainder of his life to literary pursuits, especially in the field of history and ethnology.
He was the chief founder (1842) and first president of the American Ethnological Society, and was president of the New York Historical Society from 1843 until his death, in Astoria, N. Y.
, Aug. 12, 1849.
Although strictly in private life, Mr. Gallatin
took special interest in the progress of the country, and wrote much on the subject.
As early as 1823 he wrote an essay on the ethnological and philosophical characteristics of the North American Indians
, at the request of Humboldt