We care a lot about money, and not just whether or not we have any or how much. We also care about what our money looks like.
When Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced in June 2015 that our beloved Alexander Hamilton was going to be coming off the ten dollar bill, the public went bananas. The fact that Hamilton was going to be replaced by an as-yet-unnamed woman of historic importance was little consolation. Nor was Lew’s excuse that the $10 bill was due for an upgrade. We’re talking about Alexander Hamilton here.
Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of our country, and the creator of our system of national currency. Sure, he led a rocky life that had its share of scandal and intrigue, but he was a self-made man who strove to create a better nation. A true capitalist and a colorful American. Removing him from the face of American currency seemed blasphemous.
It seems now that better ideas have prevailed. Rather than replace Hamilton on the $10 bill, Treasury is going to replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty. And with Harriet Tubman. This is a change that comes with a little bit of karmic justice.
Jackson is one of the less favorable characters of American history, if truth be told. Sure, he has his defenders among the populists, but the guy was a major slave owner and he made persecuting Indians an art form. Which kind of runs afoul of what today’s populists would consider acceptable behavior, wouldn’t you say?
But don’t expect the ship of history to be righted just yet. Jackson will in fact remain on the $20, he’ll just be on the other side of it. And any change that comes won’t be until 2030 anyway.
As for the $10 bill, women will still get their due. A suffrage montage featuring Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and others will appear on the opposite side of the bill as Hamilton.
One final note: We may have Lin-Manuel Miranda to thank for saving Alexander Hamilton’s face. The creator of the Broadway smash “Hamilton” helped renew interest in the historic figure with his musical and also personally lobbied Lew to keep the Founder right where he is. I love it when art and history come together.