Albert Gallatin: Jeffersonian Financier and Diplomat

By Raymond Walters | Go to book overview

19. Overwhelmed by the War Hawks
1810=1812

It was not to be so. Even before the nation could fully appreciate the effects of the prosperity of 1810 Samuel Smith and the Invisibles were girding themselves for the next attack on Gallatin's projects. This would center around the Bank of the United States, whose twenty-year charter was to expire on March 4, 1811. We have already seen how useful the Bank had been to Gallatin in the day-to-day operations of the Treasury and in a loan to tide it over the crisis of the past few years; and that he had urged that the government encourage it despite the doctrinaire opposition of Thomas Jefferson.

The management of the Bank naturally desired renewal of the charter well in advance of the expiration date so that it might plan for the future, and as early as November, 1807, an officer had asked Gallatin the best time and manner for seeking a renewal from Congress. Secretary Gallatin feared that the question might become "blended with or affected by . . . extraneous political considerations," and advised delay.1 The following spring, through his old friend A. J. Dallas, he advised the president of the Bank, David Lenox, to memorialize Congress late in the session so that the matter could be discussed but not decided upon before adjournment. He felt confident that cool consideration would bring renewal in due course.2 The Bank accordingly submitted its petition in April, 1808.3

No issue was made of the Bank in the election that year, and Gallatin waited discreetly until the last day of Jefferson's Administration before bringing up the renewal again. On March 3, 1809, presumably with President Madison's permission, he addressed to Congress a paper extolling the usefulness of the Bank of the United States to the Treasury in the past and presenting suggestions for modification in a renewed charter. He asked that the capital be increased from $10,000,000 to $30,000,000, and that a number of new features be adopted to overcome

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