Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat

By Raymond Walters | Go to book overview
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12. First Days in the Treasury
1801=1805

To transport two infant children and a wife who was expecting another, a small corps of servants, and enough furniture to set up a permanent establishment two hundred miles over tortuous mountain roads was no easy task even in the middle of spring; Gallatin was immensely relieved when they reached Washington safely on May 13.1 Even then their worries and their wanderings were not over. For brief periods they put up at two houses not far from the President's mansion.2 By mid- August the heat and miasmic vapors of the city that, a short time before, had been a swamp made Hannah worry about the family's health. By diligent search her husband found a mansion in a healthier location on Capitol Hill, northeast of the Capitol on the road to Bladensburg. This made it necessary for him to ride twenty minutes to his office on Fifteenth Street, N.W. He discovered in time that the location had an additional advantage: its proximity to the Capitol made it a convenient gathering place for wifeless Congressmen.3

The day after reaching Washington, Gallatin took the oath of office as Secretary of the Treasury from William Cranch, assistant judge of the United States Circuit Court, the highest-ranking judge then present. The day after that, the National Intelligencer, the quasi-official Administration newspaper, printed the fact of his arrival and his assumption of his duties.4

He had expected the job to be demanding, and at the outset it lived up to his anticipations. Conscientiously he set out to master the routine dayto-day operations of the Treasury Department, and then to develop and put into effect a fiscal program that would embody his financial philosophy, all the while performing the hundreds of acts expected of him as Secretary of the Treasury. There was always a fearful number of letters to write. During the next two years, he found that all this demanded "close attention" at least eight hours of the day and frequently additional hours of the night. Often, to escape the interruptions to which he was subject in his office, he worked at home.5

-143-

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