Gallatin, MO, takes its name from one of the early financial giants in American history. Born on Jan. 29, 1761 at Geneva, Switzerland, his full name was Abraham Alphonse Albert Gallatini.
Gallatin graduated from the University at Geneva at age 18 in 1779. In 1780 he arrived in Boston from the City State of Geneva to offer his services to General Washington and the cause of human liberty.
Gallatin served as commander of Fort Machias in what is now the state of Maine. In 1782 he became a French teacher at Harvard. Using his earnings from his teaching position, Gallatin purchased roughly 400 acres of land in 1874 and settled in Monongahela of Fayelle County, PA, in 1786. This purchase he ultimately called Friendship Hill. Gallatin was naturalized in Virginia in 1785, but never resided on that property.
In 1786 Gallatin entered politics as an Anti-Federalist. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention in 1789 and drafted that constitution. He served for two years in the Penn State Legislature. While there he promoted improvements in state finances — so well formed that the state did not levy a direct tax for 40 years. A year shy of being eligible, Gallatin was sent to the U.S. Senate by Pennsylvania — a technicality due to his date of naturalization that was successfully challenged by the Federalist majority. Back in Fayette County, he found himself embroiled in the Whiskey Rebellion as a voice of reason. While this might have ended his political career, it did not, and he was chosen to represent the 12th District of Pennsylvania for the 4th-6th sessions of the U.S. Congress.
In 1793 Gallatin married. He served in Congress until 1801. That year President Jefferson made him the second Secretary of the Treasury.
When Albert Gallatin took his oath of office as Secretary of the Treasury in May, 1801, the national debt was over $82 million and annual total receipts were about $10.6 million. It is easy to see that the national debt then was far worse than we face today (1989) — nearly eight times annual revenue as compared to our present debt of three times our annual revenue.
It was Gallatin’s opinion that much of this debt arose because the Washington/Hamilton Federalists insisted in assuming the total war debt of the states at full face value, rather than at the market value of the outstanding obligations. He also said that $11 million had been wasted by assuming debts between the states since this resulted in a windfall to debt speculators and state treasuries.
When Gallatin first entered the federal service in 1795 as a congressman from Pennsylvania, the federal debt was pegged at $78.7 million. It was his contention that the debt would have held firm had not the Washington and Adams administration paid nearly $10 million in tribute and ransom to four Mediterranean pirate states. He encouraged the Jefferson Administration to stop paying the pirates and had the U.S. Navy hunt them down. Even allowing for the Louisiana and Florida purchases, which amounted to $15 million, President Thomas Jefferson and his Secretary of the Treasury reduced the federal debt by nearly half by 1810. Gallatin’s treasury system proved practical and successful and was essentially unchanged for nearly 100 years. On Oct. 1, 1894, the system was changed (and the author of that change was Alexander Monroe Dockery of Gallatin, MO).
Secretary Gallatin promoted economy in government expenses and made the country prosperous until the War of 1812. The Treaty of Ghent, ending that war, is considered largely Gallatin’s personal triumph. For seven years Gallatin served as U.S. Minister to France and later as Minister to the Court of St. James’, both post previously held by Col. Monroe. Gallatin made diplomatic missions to the Netherlands and Great Britain.
In 1824 Gallatin declined the nomination for vice president and also declined to office of Secretary of State under President Madison. President Monroe offered him the office of Secretary of the Navy, and Presidents Jackson and Tyler offered him the office of Secretary of the Treasury. These offers were also declined in favor of younger men.
Gallatin did work on the recovery efforts needed after the Economic Panic of 1837. Gallatin wrote much about finance and currency. He was a language student much interested in the Indian languages and civilizations. He founded the American Ethnological Society and was president of the New York Historical Society when he died on Aug. 12, 1849, at Astoria, NY, on Long Island.
Thus, Albert Gallatin, a congressman from Pennsylvania, is the only man ever to serve in the treasury post under two presidents (Thomas Jefferson and James Madison). His statue stands today before the entrance of the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. His farm at Friendship Hill, PA, became a national park with local officials from Gallatin, MO, participating in the opening ceremonies held there in 1992.
The county seat of Daviess County, first settled in 1837, chose to honor Albert Gallatin when it incorporated as a town in 1858. Gallatin, MO, developed into an important trade center after 1871 when the first of two railroads pushed through the area. Gallatin commanded statewide attention as members of the Mormon church organized stakes nearby. Differences eventually erupted into the “Mormon War” which unfolded near here. Gallatin was first thrust into the national spotlight as law and order began to prevail over the Wild West. The trial of outlaw Frank James was held here in 1883.
Agriculture drives this community’s engine. Pride in traditional Midwestern values has helped Gallatin produce a governor of Missouri, a U.S. Secretary of Commerce and federal judge, a pioneering female scientist, a best-selling novelist, a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy among others. And yet, none outshine the accomplishments of this town’s namesake.
In 1967 a postage stamp honoring Albert Gallatin was issued and the “first day of issue” ceremony was held here. Guests included Felix Schnaeder, the Swiss Ambassador to the U.S., True Davis, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, the Assistant Postmaster General, and a host of federal and state officials. The stamp has since been discontinued and is greatly prized by collectors.
Condensed from several sources, including research by David Stark of Gallatin, published in the Gallatin North Missourian Dec. 29, 1982; since with revisions