Thomas Jefferson Papers

Albert Gallatin to Thomas Jefferson, 11 November 1809

From Albert Gallatin

Washington Nover 11th 1809

Dear Sir

I perused your affectionate letter of the 11th ulto with lively sensations of pleasure excited by that additional evidence1 of your continued kindness and partiality. To have acquired and preserved your friendship and confidence is more than sufficient to console me for some late personal mortifications; tho’ I will not affect to conceal that these coming from an unexpected quarter, and being, as I thought, unmerited, wounded my feelings more deeply than I had at first been aware of.2 Yet I can assure you that3 I will not listen to those feelings in forming a final determination on the subject on which I conversed with you at Monticello. The gratitude and duty I owe to the Country which has received me and honoured me beyond my deserts, the deep interest I feel in its future4 welfare & prosperity, the confidence placed by Mr Madison in me, my personal and sincere attachment for him, the desire of honorably acquiring some share of reputation, every public and private motive would induce me not to abandon my post, if I am permitted to retain it, and if my remaining in office can be of public utility. But in both respects, I have strong apprehensions to which I alluded in our conversation. It has seemed to me, from various circumstances,5 that those who sought they had injured6 were disposed to destroy, and that they were sufficiently skilful & formidable to effect their object.7 As I may not, however, perhaps8 see their actions with an unprejudiced eye, nothing but irresistible evidence both of the intention & success will make me yield to that consideration. But if that ground which you have so forcibly presented to my view9 is deserted; if those principles which we have uniformly asserted,10 & which were successfully11 supported during your administration are no longer adhered to, you will12 agree with me that to13 continue in the Treasury would be neither useful to the public or honorable to myself.

The reduction of the public debt was certainly the principal object in bringing me into office; and our success in that respect has been due both to the joint & continued efforts14 of the several branches of Government and to the prosperous situation of the country. I am sensible that the work cannot progress under adverse circumstances. If the United States shall be15 forced into a state of actual war, all the resources of the country must be called forth to make it efficient, and new loans will undoubtedly be wanted. But whilst peace is preserved, the revenue will at all events be sufficient to pay the interest & to defray necessary expences. I do not ask that in the present situation of our foreign relations, the debt be reduced, but only that it shall not be encreased so long as we are not at war. I do not pretend16 to step out of my own sphere and to controul the internal management of other departments. But it seems to me that, as Secretary of the Treasury, I may ask that, whilst peace continues,17 the aggregate of the expences of those departments be kept within bounds such as will preserve the equilibrium between the national revenue and expenditure without recurrence to loans. I cannot, my dear Sir, consent to act the part of a mere financier, to become18 a contriver of taxes, a dealer of loans, a seeker of resources for the purpose of supporting useless baubles, of encreasing the number of19 idle & dissipated members of the community, of fattening contractors, pursers and agents, and of introducing, in all its ramifications, that system of patronage, corruption & rotenness which you so justly execrate.

I thought I owed it to candour & friendship to communicate, as I did to Mr Madison & to yourself, my fears of a tendency in that direction, arising from the quarter & causes which I pointed out, and the effect such a result must have on my conduct. I earnestly wish that my apprehensions may have been groundless: and it is a question which facts and particularly the approaching session of Congress will decide. No efforts shall be wanted on my part in support of our old principles. But whatever the result may be, I never can forget either your20 eminent services to the United States, nor how much21 I owe you for having22 permitted me to take a subordinate share in your labours.

With sincere respect and attachment Your obedt Servt

Albert Gallatin

Moussier’s letter is returned with an answer endorsed. Fitz’s communication enclosed in your’s of 7th instt just received will be duly attended to.

RC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Nov. 1809 and so recorded in SJL. Dft (NHi: Gallatin Papers); dated 8 Nov. 1809; lacking postscript; with numerous emendations. Enclosure: J. B. Moussier to TJ, 14 Sept. 1809.

TJ’s letter of 7th instt was actually dated 4 Nov. 1809.

1Preceding seven words interlined in Dft.

2In Dft Gallatin here canceled “Had I listened only to those feelings I would have resigned & probably taken this winter a seat in Congress, which, as a personal object, would have been much more pleasing than my present situation, & also better calculated to regain the ground which to my surprize I found I had lost at least in one of the branches of the Legislature. After mature consideration I relinquished the idea at least for that time, in a great degree on account of my personal attachment to Mr Madison which is of old standing, I am sure reciprocal, and strengthened from greater intimacy; and also because I mistrusted my own judgment and doubted whether I was not more useful where I was than I could be as a member of Congress. All this passed in my mind before the last session; and the communication which I made to you at Monticello arose from subsequent circumstances.”

3In Dft Gallatin here canceled “that circumstance alone would not induce me to carry into effect the intention, although I neither have listened nor will.”

4Word interlined in Dft in place of “permanent.”

5Preceding three words interlined in Dft.

6Thus in RC and Dft: the intent was probably “who sought to injure me.”

7In Dft Gallatin here canceled “Perhaps my mind is prepossessed, and I <see common occurrences with> will not yiel.”

8Word interlined in Dft.

9Reworked in Dft from “It is therefore solely on that ground which you have so forcibly presented to my view that I wish to place.”

10Preceding five words interlined in Dft in place of “heretofore avowed & supported by.”

11Word interlined in Dft.

12Dft: “must.”

13In Dft Gallatin first wrote “<I cannot> my vow to” and then canceled “my vow.”

14Reworked in Dft from “due to the joint efforts.”

15In Dft Gallatin here canceled “draw.”

16Word interlined in Dft in place of “mean.”

17Reworked in Dft from “But I cannot consent to be Secretary of the Treasury unless.”

18Reworked in Dft from “be.”

19Preceding four words interlined in Dft in place of “feeding the.”

20Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “ what I owe to you, that you enabled me to lend my feeble aid in the.”

21Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “what.”

22Remainder of sentence substituted in Dft for “enabled me to lend my feeble aid to your labours.”

Index Entries

  • debt, public; reduction of search
  • Fitz, Gideon; and A. Gallatin search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and case of J. B. Moussier search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and J. Madison search
  • Gallatin, Albert; considers resigning search
  • Gallatin, Albert; letters from search
  • Gallatin, Albert; visits Monticello search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; friendship with A. Gallatin search
  • Madison, James; and A. Gallatin search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Gallatin, Hannah and Albert search
  • Moussier, J. B.; art collection of search