Okay, I’ve written about this before, how we should finally honor a great American woman on our money (the equivalent to the American values Hall of Fame). And it’s sure time to reevaluate Andrew Jackson and take him the fuck off the $20. So that seemed to be a confluence of goodness. But NO! The president stays in the picture, lose the guy who got killed in the duel.
While it’s a good announcement, so far, that they are going to put a woman on the $10 by 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of suffrage (although we don’t know who gets the honor yet), the rest of it is a disappointment.
Hamilton was the incredibly prescient designer of our modern economy, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers. He was an aide to George W. during the war and was named the first Treasury secretary.
Jackson was a racist, homicidal hot head who became the leader of the first legitimate American cult of personality where a president guided the country in the direction he wanted by force of his own personality and popularity, without compromise, and that direction would be reviled today as horrifically ignorant and unproductive for the country.
Ironically, Jackson didn’t believe in paper money. Think about how shortsighted that was.
In essence the guy who foresaw central banking and an economy based on manufacturing loses to the guy who denied central banking even when doing so caused financial depressions, slaughtered Native Americans in every unjust way imaginable (the “Trail of Tears” that was him), owned slaves, hunted runaway slaves and fought for the expansion of slavery. If people today really understood who that white haired guy on the $20 was they’d be outraged.
This piece in Time tries to explain why Jackson is more deserving than Hamilton, despite being a genocidal maniac. I think his history is incomplete and his determination that Hamilton was an economic elitist and Jackson a true democrat is facile at best. Jackson did not found the Democratic Party, nor can he be given credit for the expansion of white male suffrage that took place largely before he took office. His attachment to democracy was very much dependent on whether people were voting for him or not. His attachment to free speech was tenuous at best as he allowed his Postmaster General to adopt the first gag rule that cut off all abolitionist materials from being delivered in the South. Imagine if today the President and Postmaster General conspired to keep all gun control literature from being delivered by the mails.
This writer for the Washington Post Wonkblog agrees with me.
We’ve had a lot of panics, depressions and recessions since Jackson’s terrible economic policies. No one has quite solved the boom and bust cycle. Yet government and economists know more than Jackson did 175 years ago. Maybe it’s time to let “Old Hickory,” as he was known, retire from the field and give the $20 bill a makeover.
Nobody is perfect, none of our Founding Fathers would stack up perfectly when the veil of their lionization is lifted. But Jackson was a scoundrel by anybody’s measure.
As passionate as I am about this Alexandra Petri is even angrier than I am. I’ll let her have the last “word”?
If someone has to go, far better Old Hickory than Alex. To take Hamilton off the currency while leaving Jackson is actively make America a worse place. It is picking your awful DMV photo as your headshot. It is tearing up your hardwood floors and putting down moldy carpet. Words fail me here so I am going to smash at the keyboard now zszgwnwriqetiet4hineqthinqvghinqgvhint4hnpq4etvnpq4tn4tht4vin4tqint4inh4