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How Albert Gallatin Saved the New Nation from Debt

The fight over how to pay for government has always been at the heart of American politics. Thomas Jefferson's champion in that fight was Albert Gallatin. And in the great struggle against Alexander Hamilton's financial policies, Gallatin won. Gregory May's new biography of Gallatin explains why he, more than Hamilton, was America's financial founder. Gallatin first came to national attention as a rebel spokesman in the Whiskey Rebellion. Despite Hamilton's attempts to destroy him, Gallatin soon became the leader of the Republican opposition in Congress. And once the Republicans elected Jefferson as president, Gallatin took charge of the Treasury-the largest and most powerful department of government. By the time Gallatin left office, he had abolished internal revenue taxes, slashed federal spending, and repaid half of the national debt. The Jefferson administration's enduring achievement was to constrain the federal government by restraining its fiscal power. That was Gallatin's work. His Treasury system lasted until the Civil War, and his culture of fiscal responsibility survived well into the twentieth century.

How Albert Gallatin Saved the New Nation from Debt