Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat

By Raymond Walters | Go to book overview
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4. Spokesman of Frontier Democracy

Gallatin's Fayette County neighbors liked what they heard about his performance at the Pennsylvania constitutional convention.1 They liked it so much that in October, 1790, when they elected representatives to the lower house of the legislature under the new state constitution, approximately two-thirds of the votes cast were for him. What they heard after that pleased them so much that in 1791 and again in 1792 they reelected him without opposition. His vote in the latter year was 796.2

Gallatin was thus repeatedly returned to the Assembly because he proved himself to be both an uncommonly skillful practical politician and a statesmanlike exponent of the democratic beliefs cherished on the Pennsylvania frontier. The sessions of the legislature kept him at Philadelphia each year from early December through April, and in some years also from late August into October; but he was at home on Georges Creek during the recesses.

Wherever he was, he lived and breathed politics. On Georges Creek-- especially during the weeks before election day--he haunted crossroad taverns and neighbors' farmhouses. Occasionally he journeyed to Uniontown to pick up his mail at the post office, to distribute party handbills, to put in a good word for the ticket, and of course to remind any constituents around the courthouse that he was a candidate. He was likely to pass election day in the tavern of Nicholas Riffle, the polling place of his own Springhill Township, greeting his neighbors as they came to cast their ballots. He delighted in predicting the results before election day, and totaling them as the returns came in. On the backs of letters and on small slips of paper he jotted down, in a tiny, wretched hand, figures based upon his observations in his own district and culled from his correspondence.3

While at the capital, Gallatin performed errands for his constituents. Some of these entailed conferences with the state land officers, for


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