Now from Gregory May

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

"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 BIOGRAPHYProfessor Emeritus of Economics, New York University; and chairman, Museum of American Finance

"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

" Founding era history remains incomplete without him. But until Gregory May’s expansive new life of Albert 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

"Jefferson’s Treasure will be recognized as an important contribution to our understanding of the American founding." -- Peter Onuf, University of Virginia; coauthor (with Annette Gordon-Reed) of  MOST BLESSED OF THE PATRIARCHS: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination

"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


George Washington had Alexander Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson had Albert Gallatin. In the fight to set fiscal policy for the new American nation, Gallatin won.

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 financial system.

Gallatin first came to national attention as a rebel spokesman in the tax uprising later called the Whiskey Rebellion. Despite anti-immigrant bias and Hamilton’s attempts to destroy him, he became the Congressional leader of the Republican opposition during John Adams’s administration. After 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 undone Hamilton’s system and set the country’s finances on a bold new republican course.

The Jefferson administration’s enduring achievement was to contain the federal government by restraining its fiscal power. That was Gallatin’s work. He abolished internal revenue taxes in peacetime, slashed federal spending, and repaid half of the national debt. Heavy spending during the War of 1812 severely tested Gallatin’s ambitious system, but his reforms survived. They set the pattern for federal finance until the Civil War and created a culture of fiscal responsibility that survived well into the twentieth century.

In this long overdue biography, internationally-known tax expert Gregory May takes a penetrating look at Albert Gallatin’s rise to power, his tumultuous years at the Treasury, and his enduring influence on American fiscal policy. By probing deeply into the evidence, the book exposes the visceral motives behind the Republican financial reforms. The book also shows why Gallatin more than Hamilton was the nation’s financial founder. Not until the federal government adopted centralized banking and deficit spending as matters of policy a century later did Hamilton’s system take hold. That Hamilton is now better remembered than Gallatin is a testament to how much the American nation has changed.

Gregory May is an internationally-known tax expert who practiced law in Washington, DC and New York. He began his career as a Supreme Court law clerk, and he has written extensively about taxes and tax policy. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and Harvard Law School. Read more about Gregory >