Massachusetts Historical Society


Revolutionary Colonialism and the French Atlantic: Albert Gallatin in Maine and the Western Country, 1780-1786


Author: Sean P. Harvey, Seton Hall University
Comment: Bethel Saler, Haverford College

This is a hybrid event. The in-person reception will begin at 4:30 pm.

This paper examines the attempts of Albert Gallatin, a young immigrant from Geneva, to make a fortune in North America through connections to the French Atlantic. Drawn to Machias, Maine, by a Genevan family, Gallatin initially attempted to trade with settlers and Wabanakis hoping for a French return to the Dawnland. Later he partnered with a French immigrant in a large-scale land speculation and settlement scheme on the Ohio River in western Virginia, hoping to entice refugees from France’s suppression of a 1782 revolution in Geneva, and to capitalize on the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Examination of these schemes highlights early efforts to link the United States and the French Atlantic, how Gallatin expected colonialism to generate wealth, and the Indigenous power that ultimately foiled each enterprise. Bringing these strands together, provides a fuller picture of experiences that molded Gallatin’s political economy before his rise as a Republican legislator, Treasury secretary, and diplomat.

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