JEFFERSON’S TREASURE: How Albert Gallatin Saved the New Nation from Debt by Gregory May


JEFFERSON’S TREASURE: How Albert Gallatin Saved the New Nation from Debt by Gregory May

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George Washington had Alexander Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson had Albert Gallatin. From internationally known tax expert and former Supreme Court law clerk Gregory May comes this long overdue biography of the remarkable immigrant who launched the fiscal policies that shaped the early Republic and the future of American politics. Not Alexander Hamilton—Albert Gallatin. To this day, the fight over fiscal policy lies at the center of American politics. Jefferson’s champion in that fight was Albert Gallatin—a Swiss immigrant who served as Treasury Secretary for twelve years because he was the only man in Jefferson’s party who understood finance well enough to reform Alexander Hamilton’s system. A look at Gallatin’s work—repealing internal taxes, restraining government spending, and repaying public debt—puts our current federal fiscal problems in perspective. The Jefferson Administration’s enduring achievement was to contain the federal government by restraining its fiscal power. This was Gallatin’s work. It set the pattern for federal finance until the Civil War, and it created a culture of fiscal responsibility that survived well into the twentieth century.  Learn more at

Praise for Jefferson’s Treasure

“From the 1790s through the 1840s Albert Gallatin, an immigrant from Europe who became a congressman, Treasury Secretary, and diplomat, was a leading player in American affairs. Gregory May’s deeply researched and engagingly written book is much more than a biography. Via the long life of Gallatin, May gives us an insightful account of the major political, economic, and financial problems the young United States faced from the Washington administration through the Mexican War. Greg May’s JEFFERSON’S TREASURE is a tour de force!” — Richard Sylla, author of ALEXANDER HAMILTON: THE ILLUSTRATED BIOGRAPHY; Professor Emeritus of Economics, New York University; and chairman, Museum of American Finance

“A real Treasure,” wrote James Madison to his friend Jefferson early in his acquaintance with the proud Genevan, then an even-tempered congressman, who would go on to manage the national economy during their two presidencies. As treasury secretary, Albert Gallatin pointed the modest young republic to a debt-free condition, and founding era history remains incomplete without him. His admiring biographer Henry Adams knew that in 1879. But until Gregory May’s expansive new life of Gallatin, no scholar had ever fully plumbed the depths of his mind and fleshed out his personality, nor conveyed his politics in such lively prose. At last, he emerges from the shadow of presidents.”  –– Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg, coauthors of MADISON AND JEFFERSON

“Gregory May’s masterful new biography restores Albert Gallatin to his rightful place in the history of the new republic. Gallatin was the indefatigable and indispensable Republican, the Treasury Secretary who made Hamiltonian finance serve Jeffersonian ends.  May achieves the rare balance between sympathetic engagement and critical detachment that can make good biography into illuminating history.  Jefferson’s Treasure will be recognized as an important contribution to our understanding of the American founding.” –– Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia; coauthor (with Annette Gordon-Reed) of “MOST BLESSED OF THE PATRIARCHS: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination

Jefferson’s Treasure provides a masterful portrait of one of America’s least likely founding players, Swiss-born Albert Gallatin, America’s longest-serving Treasury Secretary who balanced the Jeffersonian crusade for debt reduction and small budgets with the needs of the emerging American nation.  Gregory May’s compelling account employs Gallatin’s financial wizardry, statesmanship, and deep humanity as a powerful lens for viewing the nation’s formative decades.” ––  David O. Stewart, author of MADISON’S GIFT: Five Partnerships that Built America, and SUMMER OF 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution

“With careful research, keen insights, and clear writing, Gregory May recovers the extraordinary life of Albert Gallatin, a resourceful immigrant, canny politician, and financial wizard of the early republic.  A worthy rival to Alexander Hamilton, Gallatin is now overdue for his own Broadway musical.” — Alan Taylor, author of AMERICAN REVOLUTIONS: A Continental History, 1750-1804