Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat

By Raymond Walters | Go to book overview

11. Frontier Businessman
1795=1801

In the first flush of his second marriage, Gallatin confided to Badollet that his bride was "what you call a city belle. She never in her life lived out of a city, and there she has . . . contracted habits not very well adapted to a country life, and specially to a Fayette County life."1Frontier living was very much to his own taste, and he had already committed himself to the country west of the Alleghenies--in the farm at Friendship Hill, and in his claims to extensive tracts of land in the Ohio River valley. After his marriage he not only held fast to these possessions but increased them. For this, ironically, Hannah's brother was partly responsible. How to reconcile his wife's urban tastes with his own emotional attachment to the land, and with their joint financial involvement in the West, perplexed Gallatin for thirty-five years.

In the first half-dozen years of marriage Albert and Hannah were able to keep the question from coming to a head. Service in Congress made it necessary for him to be in the East more than half of each year, and this made possible for her long sojourns with the Nicholsons on William Street. In some years she did not go west at all, and he made only brief visits during recesses to attend to political fences and look after his burgeoning business enterprises.

It was characteristic of Gallatin that his ambitious western undertaking, which engaged all his financial resources and much of his thought during the Congressional years, was instigated by loyalty to Swiss friends and to a beloved brother of his wife. It had begun late in 1794, when letters from Geneva told of the desire of many friends to escape the turmoil that the French Revolution had initiated.2The romantic spirit that had impelled Gallatin to cross the ocean was not dead. Once more he became the dreamer, sitting down in his Philadelphia boarding house to sketch out a grand project. It would be a settlement in which Genevan men of letters as well as artisans might find employment while holding fast to their native ways. A stock company owned by Americans as well as

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