Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Albert Gallatin (1809–1814): Secretary of the Treasury

Albert Gallatin was born in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 29, 1761, and graduated from the University of Geneva. He came to the United States in 1780 and worked initially as a French tutor at Harvard University. After moving to southern Pennsylvania (then part of Virginia) and establishing the town of New Geneva, he gained his first political experience as a delegate to the Pennsylvania state constitutional convention (1789).

Gallatin soon took on legislative duties as a Pennsylvania state representative (1790-1792) and quickly proceeded to Washington, D.C., serving as a senator from 1793 to 1794. While serving for the next seven years as a U.S. representative (1795-1801), Gallatin gained further notoriety through his exceptional work as a member of the Standing Committee on Finance.

His skill in that field most likely earned him his next job, as Gallatin began the first of his thirteen years as secretary of the Treasury in the presidential administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He worked hard to secure the nation's finances and pay down its debt. In 1813, President Madison sent Gallatin to Britain on a diplomatic mission. During his absence, Secretary of the Navy William Jones served as interim secretary of the Treasury. After resigning from Madison's cabinet in 1814, Gallatin undertook two separate diplomatic charges for the United States, serving first as U.S. minister to France (1815-1823), and then as U.S. minister to Great Britain (1826-1827).

Upon returning to the United States in 1827, Gallatin served as president of the National Bank of New York, later the Gallatin National Bank of the City of New York, until 1849. During that time, he also helped found New York University and the American Ethnological Society. Albert Gallatin died in Queens, New York, on August 12, 1849.