Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat

By Raymond Walters | Go to book overview
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27. Citizen and Scholar

When Gallatin and Adams said goodbye on New Year's Day, 1830, they were not withdrawing into the shadows to pass their twilight years in repose like their old colleagues, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. Adams soon began a splendid service in Congress that lasted up to the moment of his death. Gallatin's record was remarkable in its own way. During the eighteen years of his "retirement," he made contributions to the civic life of New York, to scholarly and scientific research, to business development and economic thought, and to political activity which would have been notable for a young man. For a man in the seventies and eighties, these contributions were close to heroic.

One reason for Gallatin's extraordinary activity was his determination that his family should not suffer the financial travails that had befallen those of Jefferson, Madison, and Lafayette. Finally and regretfully he cut himself off from western Pennsylvania and its residue of youthful dreams of fortune from land speculation and entrepreneurship. "I should have been contented to live and die amongst the Monongahela hills," he confessed to John Badollet; but "the necessity of bringing up a family" imposed the decision upon him.1

Selling his western properties turned out to be a task. By the efforts of James and Albert Rolaz, as well as his brother-in-law James Nicholson, all the New Geneva lots, the gristmill, and the ferry were disposed of by 1830; the house at Friendship Hill, by 1832; and most of the land in Ohio about the same time--all at a great sacrifice.2

Meanwhile, Gallatin found it difficult to obtain a house in New York that satisfied himself and his family. He moved several times. Finally, in 1837, using some of the money Hannah had inherited from her grandfather's estate, he purchased the commodious and comfortable residence at 57 Bleecker Street on the very edge of town. This was to be his home until his death. The children, as well as James's wife and son Albert, continued for a time to share the parental roof.3

Frances was the first to leave. On April 6, 1830, the lovely Frances, at


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