- Alexander J. Dallas (statesman)
Infobox US Cabinet official
name=Alexander James Dallas
title=United States Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions
United States Secretary of the Treasury
October 6, 1814
October 21, 1816
George W. Campbell
William H. Crawford
death_date=death date and age|1817|1|16|1759|6|21
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
spouse=Arabella Maria Dallas
Dallas was born in
Kingston, Jamaica, to Dr. Robert Charles Dallas (1710 – 1769) and Sarah Elizabeth (Cormack) Hewitt. When he was five his family moved to Edinburgh(his father was a Scotsman) and then to London. There he studied under James Elphinston. He planned to study law, but was unable to afford it. He married Arabella Maria Smith 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. Dallas was admitted to the Pennsylvaniabar 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.
United States Supreme Courtcame to Philadelphia in 1791, he would become their first reporter of decisions. 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 Societiesin 1793.
Thomas Mifflinnamed 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 Republicanparty in Pennsylvaniaand advocated a strict construction of the new Constitution.
In 1801, he was named
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvaniaand served until 1814. When his friend Albert Gallatinwas treasury secretary when the War of 1812began, he helped Gallatin obtain funds to fight Britain. The war nearly bankrupted the country 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. From March 14, 1815to December 1815 he was acting Secretary of War and for a time that year was acting Secretary of State as well. He returned to Philadelphia, but lived only a year.
He was a member of the
American Philosophical Societyfrom 1791 and a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania.
His other son
George Mifflin Dallaswas Vice President under James K. Polkand one possible namesake for Dallas, Texas; his father and brother are other possible namesakes of the Texascity.
* [http://www.archives.upenn.edu/histy/features/1700s/people/dallas_alex.html Biography and portrait at the University of Pennsylvania]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6661789 Alexander J. Dallas] at
Find A Grave
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