Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat

By Raymond Walters | Go to book overview

25. An American Interlude
1823=1826

The homecoming proved to be far less pleasant than the Gallatins anticipated. New York City greeted them on June 23, 1823, with a heat wave so debilitating that Gallatin had to take it easy for a month in the relative salubrity of "Mama" Nicholson's house on Tenth Street at the corner of Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village.1 There, surrounded by a large and devoted family, he pondered the dismal news that awaited him.

The word received at Paris about the glassworks proved to be true. The enterprise he had counted upon to provide him with a small but steady income had failed utterly. The Bank of Columbia and several other banks in which he held stock were in deep waters; there would be little or no return from them. He had directed Albert Rolaz to arrange for an addition to the house at Friendship Hill to make it a suitable residence for retirement; the costs far exceeded his expectations. And of course he had dipped deep into his reserves to meet the expenses of diplomatic life at Paris. Reluctantly he concluded that he could not afford to return to France. Hannah and Frances and James might groan, but they would have to put up with the rusticity of Fayette County.2

He broke the news of his decision to Secretary Adams during a five-day visit he and James made to Washington in July.3 Later, after buying a "handsome carriage," they started out for New Geneva. He found the journey over the Alleghenies exhausting and the situation at the end of it distressing. The mills, the farm buildings, and the fields were, James wrote, in "a most deplorable state"; the grounds at Friendship Hill, "overgrown with elders, iron weeds, stinking weeds, laurel, several varieties of briers, impenetrable thickets of brush, vines, and underwood, amongst which are discovered vestiges of old asparagus and new artichoke beds, and now and then a spontaneous apple or peach tree"; the new construction, the handiwork of an Irishman, was in "an Hyberno-teutonic style, so that the outside . . . with its port-hole-looking windows, has the appearance of Irish barracks, whilst the inside ornaments are similar to those of a Dutch tavern." Albert Rolaz, "well and happy as the day is long,"

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