cover image Gallatin: America's Swiss Founding Father

Gallatin: America's Swiss Founding Father

Nicholas Dungan, New York Univ., $27.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8147-2111-7

International affairs expert Dungan re-introduces America to a mostly forgotten figure in early American politics in this portrait of aristocratic Swiss émigré Albert Gallatin. From Gallatin's arrival in 1790 and his days as a woodcutter in Maine to his quick rise in politics, election to the House of Representatives in 1794, and negotiating the Treaty of Ghent, Dungan diligently enumerates the Genevan's contributions to American society. It will be eye-opening for students of American history to discover that in the early days of the United States, a Swiss nobleman acting as Thomas Jefferson's secretary of the treasury managed the budget to create sizable surplus. Also, this longtime believer in education's importance became New York University's first council president in 1830. Yet occasionally Dungan falters with reductive statements, as when he writes that "in every way, [Gallatin] was a product of his family, his city, and his time," and rather subjectively correlates federalism with elitism. Regardless, the book succeeds admirably in remembering a key figure in early American diplomacy, education, and financial regulation. The book is being co-published with Switzerland's Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. (Sept.)