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Jun 21 2015

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Dump Jackson Not Hamilton

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Time to Cash Out of the $20...

Time to Cash Out of the $20…

Just as the College Board has released new guidelines for Advanced Placement (AP) American history courses – which are largely devoid of American history – we get a real-world example of the kinds of decisions that will inform a context-free country.

Last week, with great fanfare, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that Alexander Hamilton will be removed from the 10 dollar bill, and, with input from the public, a woman will adorn a new ten spot in 2020 – the centennial of women’s suffrage in America.

A worse choice for change is hard to imagine.

More than any other Founder, Hamilton’s life and accomplishments speak to both contemporary and historical themes of our collective national character.

Hamilton was born out-of-wedlock when such births were considered scandal, and raised by a single mother, growing up in the West Indies. Orphaned at 13, Hamilton was recognized early on for his industriousness and intelligence, and a series of wealthy patrons in the Islands saw to it that he was able to emigrate to the Colonies where he eventually enrolled at Kings College in NY (now Columbia).

Smart kid, son of a single mother, leaves the islands, and with the help of benefactors, attends Columbia? Sound familiar, progressives?

When the American Revolution broke out, Hamilton joined the cause, later becoming the indispensable aide to George Washington. The paper record of Washington’s correspondence reflects Hamilton’s style and polish, which is as the Founding Father wanted it.  Hamilton was courageous and  personally led one of the final assaults in the victory at Yorktown, which effectively ended the war.

After the Revolution, Hamilton practiced law and founded the Bank of New York,  an institution which remains with us today.

Recognizing that the Articles of Confederation that governed the new nation were too weak, Hamilton was among those who plotted for meeting in Philadelphia to scrap the Articles and write a new Constitution. Once the US Constitution was signed, Hamilton was a tireless advocate of the document, writing 51 of the 85 installments of the Federalist papers, which even today remain the single greatest resource for understanding the issues and context of the constitutional discussions.

The four liberal Justices on the Supreme Court (and POTUS) could make good use of their summer-time reading by picking up a copy.

Hamilton joined President Washington’s Cabinet as Treasury Secretary.  At core, Hamilton was an American nationalist, who believed in a strong, united nation, poised for economic strength, wealth creation and greatness. To bind the states to the new union, he created a then-controversial plan where the US government assumed the debt of each of the states, and then raised taxes to pay for it. With a rationalized national structure, predictability and confidence that debts would be paid, the US economy boomed in the last decade of the 18th century, and set the a firm foundation for future growth.

Simply stated, Hamilton is a Horatio Alger story before Alger; a boy who came to America poor and without connections, and achieved wealth, fame and accomplishment through his own intelligence and risk-taking, despite prevailing social stigma. He was a visionary who put in place the financial foundation that, in the 100 years after his death in 1804, grew 13 agrarian states into a country with a GDP larger than that of Great Britain – the pre-eminent power of the day, and the precursor to what became the American Century.

This is the man the Obama administration wants to banish?

Any basic knowledge of American history would offer up Andrew Jackson as the obvious candidate for replacement.

Yes, yes, a British soldier attacked him with a sword as a child, and he bore the scars of that moment for life. And he was the general in charge at the victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans, ostensibly in the War of 1812 (though the peace treaty had already been signed ending the war before the battle was fought – details).  And yes, he was a key figure in founding Tennessee, serving in the House and Senate from the state, before becoming president.

But it is the other aspects of Jackson’s background and record that make him a better candidate to be retired from America’s currency.

Jackson was an enthusiastic slave owner as the issue of slavery was becoming a national, moral dividing line.  It is true that Washington, who adorns our $1 note, was a slave owner as well, but he was of a different, earlier generation than Jackson. And Washington’s slaves were ultimately freed after his death. Jackson, who died 16 years before the outbreak of the Civil War did not free his slaves.

 In addition, as president, Jackson presided over what has become the modern “spoils system” where connected political allies/contributors get key jobs in government. Worse, he signed and enforced the infamous Indian Removal Act, which resulted in the devastating “Trail of Tears” for Native Americans.

Honestly,  this the guy we want to honor on our currency?

Over Hamilton?

It’s open and shut, if you actually know our history.

And what woman should we honor on the new $20?

Harriet Tubman of course.

A former slave and staunch abolitionist, Tubman was critical to the “Underground Railroad,”  which helped escaped slaves to travel to the north and freedom.  After the start of the Civil War, Tubman served as Union scout and spy, and was the first woman to lead an armed assault on Confederate positions.  After the war, Tubman became a leading and tireless advocate for women’s suffrage in America.

A gun-toting visionary (and Republican) who risked everything for her ideals, which were not contemporarily popular, and who left our nation far better off for her efforts. Tubman did not live to see the 19th Amendment pass in 1920. But her efforts made it possible.

A former slave helped free a race and enfranchise a gender.

That’s America.

Added bonus, it just makes better sense to change the $20 bill to honor an event that happened in 1920.

So, will Treasury listen and re-think its flawed rationale and historically content-free understanding of American history? Or will the desire to keep the first Democrat to win the presidency on our currency win out?

That’s right, Jackson was a slave-owning, Indian-tribe destroying, crony capitalist Democrat. He’s also the only Democrat on mass use US currency.

Think about it.

Then, spread the word.

 

 

 

 

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