Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat

By Raymond Walters | Go to book overview
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5. Benedict and Senator

When Gallatin arrived at Major Boyd's Philadelphia boarding house for the Assembly session early in December, 1792, he found a letter from Catherine Pictet that bore disturbing news: his grandfather and an aunt had died, his grandmother had lapsed into senility.1

His first reaction was to return to Geneva the next summer. Although he would be able to do very little to help his grandmother, at least he might obtain the small inheritance he expected from his grandfather's estate. He was little tempted to tarry there long. The wave of the French Revolution had washed over Geneva, leaving the city-state with a more democratic government; but he feared that lingering prejudice against him as member of an old aristocratic family would make a public career there quite out of the question.

The temptation to visit Europe was snuffed out by his election to the United States Senate in February. Despite lingering doubts about his eligibility for the seat, he felt honor-bound to his supporters to remain and make a fight for it.2

Then an event in the spring of 1793 tied Gallatin irrevocably to the United States in both heart and mind. On the adjournment of the Assembly in April, duties on a legislative committee charged with investigating the accounts of the state comptroller general compelled him to remain in Philadelphia. The long days and nights of close application wearied him so visibly that Secretary and Mrs. A. J. Dallas took pity on the lonely widower and invited him to join them on a pleasure trip to Albany, New York.

They left Philadelphia by stage wagon in June, pausing in New Jersey to view that vista of natural beauty, the falls of the Passaic River. While at New York they were entertained in the home of James Nicholson, a local political leader, and Mrs. Dallas invited Hannah Nicholson, his second daughter, with several other young ladies, to share in the boat ride up the Hudson River to Albany and the falls of the Mohawk. As the trip progressed, the susceptible Gallatin found his springtime fancy


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