Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat

By Raymond Walters | Go to book overview

2. The Romantic Years
1780=1790

It was a disagreeable transatlantic crossing. Captain Loring, "a bestial and superstitious rascal," provided his passengers and crew meals of rotten meat and bilge water. The first mate lifted six guineas from Gallatin's and Serre's pockets when they were not looking, stole some of their linen, and held them up for a whopping additional charge for carrying their tea. There were occasional alarms about British privateers in pursuit of the American Katty, but otherwise only monotony--no storms, few sicknesses, a placid midsummer passage.

After forty-nine days, the Katty touched the American shore at Cape Ann in Massachusetts, on July 15, 1780. The impatient immigrants disembarked at once.1 The next day, at Gloucester, Albert and Henri hired horses to ride the forty miles to Boston, instinctively seeking refuge with someone who could speak their own language. They found him in the person of a Frenchman named Tahon, who kept an inn "At the Sign of the Confederation." To make matters even more agreeable, they became acquainted under Tahon's roof with a married couple named Delesdernier, who had begun life as farmers near Geneva.2

In the next two months they tried to sell their tea and to size. up the possibilities of making a place for themselves in Boston. It was all very discouraging. Their tiny English vocabulary made trading difficult; so did the unstable economy of a country deep in the sixth year of an exhausting civil war. The Bostonians were dismally puritanical. They "have neither refinement nor repute nor learning," Gallatin complained; "they are concerned about nothing more than their probity, and none are worse in this respect than the French who are established here. . . . Boston is highly boring. There are no public amusements and many superstitions of the sort that prevent one from singing, playing the violin, playing cards, bowling, etc., on Sunday." In a word, Boston was too much like Geneva.3

It was Delesdernier who suggested a way to escape. He had a son with the American military forces at Fort Gates near Machias, 250 miles

-11-

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