Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828)
Oil on canvas, c. 1803
A Swiss-born immigrant who never lost his French accent, Albert Gallatin had all the ambition, talent, and success that could have made him president. Arriving in America in 1780, Gallatin quickly became active in politics. Thomas Jefferson named him secretary of the treasury in 1801. There, Gallatin oversaw the nation’s finances for twelve years, the longest tenure ever.
In 1813 Gallatin requested an appointment to proposed peace talks that would be mediated by Alexander I of Russia. When the British rejected the Russian offer, Gallatin became part of the delegation at Ghent. He played the calm broker not only with the British, but also between his fellow delegates, Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams.
After a time as minister to France, Gallatin returned to America and was a founder of New York University. A statue honoring his influence can be seen in front of the Treasury Building on Pennsylvania Avenue.