Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 55

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 55


This is the grave of Albert Gallatin.


Born in Geneva in 1761, Albert Gallatin immigrated to the United States in the 1780s, moving to the frontier of western Pennsylvania. He soon became a local political leader, close to the Jeffersonians as the first political party system developed. He was elected to the Senate in 1793 but not allowed to serve because the Federalists claimed he had not lived in the United States long enough. Instead, he ran for Congress in 1794, where he took the lead in the House in opposing Alexander Hamilton’s financial policies that centered wealth in the pockets of his friends in the growing banking houses in the cities. Gallatin took the lead on creating the House Ways and Means Committee to increase Congressional control over the executive branch. His expertise in finance led to Thomas Jefferson picking him as Secretary of the Treasury in 1801, where he would serve until 1814, one of the longest serving Cabinet secretaries in U.S. History. He only left that position to take the lead in negotiating the treaty to end the War of 1812. He then stayed on in Paris, serving as Ambassador to France from 1816-23. He was nominated for Vice-President under William Crawford in 1824, but that collapsed when Crawford’s health went south. Instead, Gallatin went back to Europe, serving as Minister to Britain in 1826 and 1827. Upon returning to the U.S., he moved from his beloved western Pennsylvania to New York because his family hated the country life. He would go on to found New York University in 1831 and became president of the National Bank in New York from 1831-39. He also co-founded the American Ethnological Society in 1842, serving as its president until his death in 1849.

Evidently, Albert Gallatin has never been portrayed on the big screen, which is unfortunate.

Albert Gallatin in buried in Trinity Church Cemetery, Manhattan, New York.

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  • Murc

    88 years, guy really hung in there.

    • JohnT

      Made productive use of all that time, too.

      I wonder if there are any modern figures with such a vast breadth and quantity of achievement. I guess there were fewer people and more things to do back then. People like Thomas Jefferson also got through a vast range of achievements.

  • skate

    Dude also got a nice river named after him, which I was reminded of last night when “A River Runs Through It’ came on cable.

    • Brad Nailer

      I had never heard of him until I moved to Bozeman, Gallatin County, Mont.

      • skate

        I was probably in school there for several months before I learned out the origin of the county/river name. Likely that somebody was explaining how Three Forks got its name.

        Drove the Gallatin River canyon so many times going back and forth between home and school for holidays and breaks.

    • TheSophist

      A River Runs Through It is the story of my life. It’s about a minister’s son from Missoula who goes off to Princeton, and who has a younger brother named Paul who is a real pain in the ass. All of that is true of me!

  • JR in WV

    I once read some fiction in which America was a Libertarian paradise, which came about because of President Gallatin, who overcame the Jeffersonians and the Hamiltonians to found a minimalist government that mostly acted as a referee among free and sovereign citizens.

    It was interesting, but way out there fiction. Everyone carrying guns, in a polite society. Like that would happen…!

    • Dennis Orphen

      Was that book “The Probability Broach”?

      • E.Garth

        There were several sequels to “The Probability Broach”, one of them was titled “The Gallatin Divergence” in which our intrepid heroes (who are both Ute Indians, ‘twins’ from different timelines) go back in time to save Gallatin from the evil time-traveling Hamiltonians. It turns out that Gallatin is gay and is romantically involved with his loyal slave – so we know that these are ‘the good libertarians’! The author, L. Neil Smith, has written increasingly strange polemics (several of them set in Texas).

      • JR in WV

        Almost certainly, I’m bad with titles, but I think L Neil Smith was the author. Some of his fiction was really fun, and some was – odd.

        • Redwood Rhiadra

          Yes, it was the Probability Broach or one of its sequels, and yes, it was by Smith.

          The first books of his I read were his Lando Calrissian trilogy, which aren’t nearly as kooky.

    • Murc

      It was interesting, but way out there fiction. Everyone carrying guns, in a polite society.

      That wasn’t even the most way out there part of it. There were the uplifted apes and dolphins. There was the fact that science unfettered by government regulation had managed to cure most known diseases, including cancer, which means every can smoke wherever they want. (But the liberal scolds are still hell bent on making everyone stop smoking anyway, because our anti-smoking crusade wasn’t actually about public health, it is because we’re anti-pleasure scolds.)

      There was also the way his narrative would periodically stop and directly address the reader about politics. One line I remember in particular is when the protagonists are driving somewhere, and he takes the time to digress about how they’re driving along a private highway, and then he literally addresses the reader point-blank and goes “You all think that libertarians don’t want there to be speed limits. We do. We just don’t want them to be set by the government.”

      I remember being irked by the fact that… the protagonists are racing to stop a terrorist group that is setting off bombs all over the place. But they’re not doing it to, you know, stop the loss of life and destruction.

      They’re doing it because if they don’t, the government might step in and claim the necessary powers to do it for them. That’s what the focus is on. Heavily. The actual people being killed are treated as an afterthought, what’s most important is that the gub’mint not intervene.

    • Brett

      You beat me to it! I’m so glad I’m not the only person who knows about that.

      It also came in graphic novel form, which is on the internet free of charge if you want to take a look. I love how in literally the first scene, part of the Bad Government-Run Future shows a ton of people on bicycles.

  • You couldn’t have posted this three weeks ago, before I visited Trinity Church Cemetery?

  • rj

    Gallatin also played a big role in settling the Whiskey Rebellion, along with H.H. Brackenridge (who founded what became U of Pittsburgh). They managed to defuse the situation enough so that when Alexander Hamilton invaded western Pennsylvania the rebellion had petered out. I didn’t know he founded NYU. Altogether a remarkable American.

  • thebewilderness

    I am confused by your statement that he was elected to the Senate.

    • Weren’t Senators elected by the legislatures of their states’ republican governments?

      • Dennis Orphen

        Senators were (s)elected by locally sourced small batch artisanal micro-elections.

        • Mark Centz


    • (((Hogan)))

      There was an election, in which the eligible voters were members of the Pennsylvania legislature.

  • I’m suprised that no one’s mentioned the Gallatin Plan – a unified system of public works, to be financed and carried out by the Federal government, which of course freaked out the ur-Dixiecrat “Old Republicans.”

    • Davis X. Machina

      A large federal role in infrastructure has always been a hard sell, with proto-Confederates as with neo-Confederates.

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