Alexander J. Dallas (statesman)
|United States Secretary of War|
March 2, 1815 – August 1, 1815
|Preceded by||James Monroe|
|Succeeded by||William H. Crawford|
|6th United States Secretary of the Treasury|
October 6, 1814 – October 21, 1816
|Preceded by||George W. Campbell|
|Succeeded by||William H. Crawford|
|1st Reporter of Decisions of the United States Supreme Court|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||William Cranch|
Alexander James Dallas|
June 21, 1759
January 16, 1817 (aged 57)|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Dallas was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to Dr. Robert Charles Dallas and Sarah Elizabeth (Cormack) Hewitt. When he was five his family moved to Edinburgh and then to London. There he studied under James Elphinston, a Scottish educator and linguist. He planned to study law, but was unable to afford it. He married Arabella Maria Smith (1761–1837) of Pennsylvania, the daughter of Maj. George Smith of the British Army and Arabella Barlow (in turn the daughter of the Rev. William Barlow and Arabella Trevanion, the daughter of Sir Nicholas Trevanion), in 1780 and the next year they moved to Jamaica. There he was admitted to the bar through his father's connections. Maria's health suffered in Jamaica and they moved to Philadelphia in 1783. He was admitted to the bar in 1785. His law practice was slow and on the side he edited the Pennsylvania Herald from 1787 to 1788 and the Columbian Magazine from 1787 to 1789.
U.S. Supreme Court Reporter
When the United States Supreme Court came to Philadelphia in 1791, he would become their first reporter of decisions starting with West v. Barnes (1791). Because the post of reporter was an unofficial one, Dallas did his work from his own funds. The volumes, of which he produced only four, were faulted for being incomplete, inaccurate, and extremely tardy. For example, the landmark ruling in Chisholm v. Georgia (1793) which prompted the Eleventh Amendment, was not reported by Dallas until five years later, well after the Amendment had been ratified. When he abandoned reporting of decisions when the Court moved to the new capital, Washington, D.C., he declared "I have found such miserable encouragement for my reports that I have determined to call them all in, and devote them to the rats in the State-House." He was a founder of the Democratic-Republican Societies in 1793.
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Governor Thomas Mifflin named Dallas Secretary of the Commonwealth, a post he held from 1791 to 1801. Because Mifflin was an alcoholic, Dallas functioned as de facto governor for much of the late 1790s. Dallas helped found the Democratic-Republican party in Pennsylvania and advocated a strict construction of the new Constitution.
U.S. Attorney and Secretary of Treasury
In 1801, he was named United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and served in that capacity until 1814. His friend Albert Gallatin was Treasury Secretary when the War of 1812 began and Dallas helped Gallatin obtain funds to fight Britain. The war nearly bankrupted the federal government by the time Dallas replaced Gallatin as Treasury Secretary. Dallas reorganized the Treasury Department, brought the government budget back into surplus, championed the creation of the Second Bank of the United States, and put the nation back on the specie system based on gold and silver.
Acting Secretary of War and Acting Secretary of State
Dallas County, Alabama and Dallas Township, Pennsylvania are named for him. Six U.S. Coast Guard Cutters have been named DALLAS, the most recent was USCGC DALLAS (WHEC-716). Fort Dallas in Florida and the U.S. Navy ship USS Dallas (DD-199) were named after his son, Alexander J. Dallas, who died during his Navy service.
His daughter, Sophia Burrell Dallas, married on April 4, 1805 Richard Bache, Jr., the son of Richard Bache, Sr. and Sarah Franklin Bache. His father was a marine insurance underwriter and importer in Philadelphia who served as United States Postmaster General from 1776 to 1782. His mother, known as Sally, was the only daughter of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and his common-law wife, Deborah Read.
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- Raymond Walters, Jr. Alexander James Dallas Lawyer, Politician, Financier, 1759–1817 (1943).
- Raymond Walters Jr, "The origins of the Second Bank of the United States." Journal of Political Economy 53.2 (1945): 115–131. online
|Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Alexander J. Dallas (statesman).|
- Biography and portrait at the University of Pennsylvania
- Alexander J. Dallas at Find a Grave
- Alexander J. Dallas (1815–1815): Secretary of War
| United States Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions
George W. Campbell
| U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: James Madison
William H. Crawford