Due to the unexpected and runaway popularity of Broadway musical Hamilton, it appears that Alexander Hamilton may stay put on the front of the $10. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is expected to announce this week that the original plan for a woman to replace his visage have been changed. According to a senior government source who spoke with CNN, Hamilton will stay up front while a mural-style depiction of the women’s suffrage movement will be be featured on the back.
This is sure to incite a lot of rightful backlash from women, who represent 50% of the country’s population but comprise 0% of the faces of its currency (notwithstanding the failed Susan B. Anthony silver dollars). “Relegating women to the back of the bill is akin to sending them to the back of the bus,” said the advocacy group Women on 20s. “The Rosa Parks analogies are inevitable.”
They’re absolutely right in that regard; women such as Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony played crucial roles in American history and deserve to be recognized alongside Washington, Lincoln and the rest. But they never should have been replacing Hamilton—they should be replacing Andrew Jackson. And now that Hamilton is staying on the $10, hopefully the Treasury will bow to the pressure and move forward its projected 2030 redesign for the $20.
Keeping Hamilton on the $10 makes a whole lot of sense. As anyone who’s studied U.S. history or seen Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical knows, Alexander Hamilton was the first and most important champion of a national bank. Thanks to America’s fierce libertarian streak, it took until 1913 for the Federal Reserve to become a permanent institution, but since then, it’s been an important measure of control of the American economy—not to mention that it literally controls how much American cash is out in the world. If anyone belongs on U.S. currency, it’s Hamilton.
Andrew Jackson, on the other hand … he’s been a candidate for replacement on the $20 for a fair few years, and for good reason. The following are two of the major causes he pursued as the seventh President of the United States:
- A nearly decade-long war against the Second Bank of the United States and its chairman, the unfortunately-named Nicholas Biddle. Jackson, perhaps the most dominant president in our country’s history (he once shot a guy’s balls off, he defied the Supreme Court, he sent back a British general’s severed head packaged in brine after the Battle of New Orleans), won that fight. It’s the ultimate irony that he’s now on the face of money that’s distributed by the very institution he hated so much, a terrible mutual fit.
- Moving Native Americans en masse from their homes in the southeastern United States to the decidedly remote, infertile Indian Territory that would later become Oklahoma. Thousands of these people died along the way, indirectly rendering Jackson a mass murderer.
In fact, with his populist support, crass manner, and authoritarian bent, Jackson was essentially the early 1800s version of Donald Trump. He’s a very important figure in U.S. history—believe it or not, the modern Democratic Party originated with him, albeit with totally different ideology—but he did far too many bad things to warrant being the face of the $20. “Women on 20s” is so named because Jackson was the group’s initial target for replacement by a woman; the movement only shifted to the $10 because of the Treasury’s schedule. Now, maybe, we can all have our cake and eat it too: Hamilton stays where he belongs, and Jackson is replaced by someone like Harriet Tubman (who has received the lion’s share of the support for a woman on currency).
While we’re at it, what the hell is Ulysses S. Grant doing on the $50? He was a great general, to be sure, but as president he was more or less ineffective, his administration was racked by corruption, and he and his party eventually allowed Reconstruction to fail in the South, ensuring the rise of Jim Crow.
Here’s what we would do: Hamilton on the $10 (with suffragettes like Anthony and Stanton on the back), Tubman on the $20, Eleanor Roosevelt on the $50. Or, if time is of the utmost importance and the $20 really can’t be changed until 2030, put Tubman on the $10 and then shift Hamilton over to the $20. Either way is fine with us. Make it happen, Treasury Department.