Tubman to replace Old Hickory; Hamilton to stay on sawbuck (Yay!)

Here’s some mighty fine news:

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will announce on Wednesday afternoon that Harriet Tubman, an African­American who ferried hundreds of slaves to freedom, will replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 note, according to a Treasury official, while newly popular Alexander Hamilton will remain on the face of the $10 bill….

And the best part to me — with all due respect to Ms. Tubman and the noble role she plays in our history — is that Alexander Hamilton will stay on the sawbuck. As I’ve said before, if anyone needed to go, it was Old Hickory.

I celebrated that part of the news on Twitter the other day:

But I neglected to mention it on the blog, so I’m glad to have this opportunity to make up for that.Tubman mug

Jackson is one of my less favorite major American historical figures, despite his triumph at New Orleans. I consider his defeat of John Quincy Adams — possibly the best-qualified president in our history — in their second contest to be one of our nation’s low points.

And I feel something of a personal connection to Ms. Tubman — when my wife and youngest daughter moved up to Pennsylvania for a year so my daughter could study ballet there, they lived in part of a house that had been part of the Underground Railroad. Or, at least, its cellar had been.

So I’m quite pleased…

36 thoughts on “Tubman to replace Old Hickory; Hamilton to stay on sawbuck (Yay!)

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Those who subscribe to the Cult of Old Hickory care little for what he actually stood for…

      The Times mentions Jackson owning slaves. Well, so did Washington and Jefferson. Let’s talk about something that sets him apart — say, the Trail of Tears

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Looks like Jackson will have to pack up all his stuff and leave the $20 bill for a new location on some other less desirable currency.

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Dang! I carefully fit that picture of Harriet Tubman in and make sure the text wraps around it fully and neatly, and Adsense jams in that ugly text ad near the end of my post, and screws up my whole design!

    That one position — the one that frequently separates the last line of a post from the rest of the post — is my bane. I wish I knew how to get rid of it…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Of course, y’all may not be seeing what I’m seeing…

      And sometimes, I don’t either! If I refresh, the damage is repaired. If I refresh again, it’s messed up again.


      1. Norm Ivey

        Yea, the last line of your post almost always appears below the ad when I’m on a desktop or laptop. When I’m at school, the ad is blocked, so it’s just an unobtrusive gray area. I don’t get an ad in that location when I’m on a tablet or my phone.

  2. Karen Pearson

    Of course, the choice of Ms. Tubman covers both African Americans and women, so they won’t have to strain themselves finding any other bill’s picture to change (at least until the latino and oriental folks get more traction.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Asian. We’re supposed to say “Asian” now.

      I don’t care about her demographics. As y’all know, Identity Politics leave me cold. I like that she’s a significant figure in our history, who played an important role at the center of our greatest national conflict….

      I mean, her role may not have been as pivotal as that of Benjamin Franklin (few in our history could claim that), the only other non-president on our money, but she’s right up there…

      1. Alexander Hamilton on the $10

        “I mean, her role may not have been as pivotal as that of Benjamin Franklin (few in our history could claim that), the only other non-president on our money, but she’s right up there…”

        Dude. I’m right here.

  3. Mark Stewart

    While they are at it, it would seem like a great time to promote Lincoln to the $50 bill and remove Grant. One Yankee victor for another; so those who might object to such a move would have no ground to stand upon. The days when being on the penny was the bomb, were a very long, long time ago; Lincoln deserves a lot better from us today.

    Hamilton deserves to be on the currency. He was American through and through. I’m fine with Harriet Tubman on the nation’s currency, but let’s not devolve into nutty PC-ness and demand representation for everyone under the rainbow.

    1. Brad Warthen

      But… How often do you have a 50 in your wallet? (Maybe a lot more than I, but in these days when I hardly ever touch cash at all, the larger denominations seem impractical, and unwise.) I like having Lncoln, our greatest president, on a more widely-circulated bill.

      1. Mark Stewart

        I do wish ATM’s could provide $50s. As in if possible based on the request, at least one bill of each. I hardly ever use cash now, and when I do, it is either under $20 – or even $5 – or over $50. $300 in twenties is a PITA to carry around. Maybe a mix of $10 and $50s would be better than the compromise $20s spewing out of the ATMs across the country?

        $100s still have that dirty money sheen to them, for some reason I usually feel embarrassed to use them – or be seen carrying them. I feel better getting them from a human teller when I need them – and always laugh that they still get handed over in an envelope whereas other bills do not. I think the banks still see them as shady money, too.

        1. Norm Ivey

          There’s one in NE Columbia that does dispense $50s–took me by surprise. I think it’s the stand-alone in front of the Pontiac shopping center.

    2. Brad Warthen

      All of that said, I’d pick the C-note before the fifty. That’s a major international bill. For instance, when I went to Thailand, I carried my cash (for exchanging for baht) in hundreds, because Thais see it as the most legit of all denominations…

      1. Dave Crockett

        I heard there was discussion of withdrawing the $100 bill because it apparently is the denomination of choice for drug dealers…

        1. Mark Stewart

          It’s also the bill most counterfeited, which is why it is amusing to find people in other countries hording them as if they are gold. In some places they will only count as “real” the near perfect (unfolded) bills and reject accepting any with creases, smudges, writing or tears – though some they hold may be counterfeit; pristine fakes.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Just to fulminate a bit more about the election of 1828….

    I saw it as the moment we left the genius of the Revolutionary generation behind, and descended to coarser material for our leadership.

    It was sort of a foretaste of 2016, although I don’t think even Jackson dumbed our politics down as much as Trump has.

    But John Quincy Adams was far more than the scion of a president like Jeb Bush. As a teen, he had been at his father’s right hand at the founding of the nation, serving as his secretary during crucial foreign postings at the moment that the United States was staking out its place among the nations of the world.

    John Quincy may not have a record as president that comes anywhere near the greats, such as Lincoln and FDR — his record is burnished more by his service in Congress — but I stand by my assertion that he may have been our most QUALIFIED president…

    1. Brad Warthen

      I guess, after 188 years, I should get over it, huh? After all, we’ve got a sufficiently horrible political situation NOW without worrying over something so dead and gone.

      So I’ll just take satisfaction in the fact that soon, Jackson will no longer blemish our currency…

  5. Michael Bramson

    And nary a Hamilton (the musical) quote in your entire post. For shame. For shame. [“For the revolution!”]

    Ahem. Sorry about that. I do wonder if there’s any chance of getting a little more of this kind of variety on other bills. England does a nice job of incorporating writers, scientists, and other non-politicians on their currency. I’d love to see that. Mark Twain on the $50 note? Of course the more useful change would be blind accessibility for our paper currency, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

  6. Phillip

    Just for the record, Jackson actually beat John Quincy Adams not only in their second contest but in their first as well four years earlier, in 1824, outpolling him by over 10% in the popular vote and also being the leader in Electoral College votes, though not a majority. the election thus thrown to the House. Perhaps if a third-party conservative runs for President this time around, we might see that scenario again.

    In any case, JQ Adams “won” the Presidency in 1824 having garnered just over 30% of the popular vote.

    Having said all that, I agree with you on the merits of Adams vs. Jackson. I have often thought of a speech JQA made to Congress while he was Secretary of State, vowing that America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy…She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own….She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom…..The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force….” Smart guy indeed, that John Quincy.

    “Involve herself beyond the power of extrication”…hmmm…how those words resonate today, nearly two hundred years later.

    1. Brad Warthen

      And those were very appropriate things to say, more than a century before 1945. No one looked to the fledgling United States as the guarantor of collective security…

  7. Jim Cross

    Um, Jackson is not being removed from the $20 bill. He is being removed from the *front* of the $20 bill. He will appear on the back along with the White House. The back of the $10 bill will commemorate the historic 1913 march for suffrage that ended on the steps of the Treasury Department and honor the leaders of the suffrage movement—Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul. And the back of the $5 will commemorate important events at the Lincoln Memorial and will include Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. See https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0436.aspx

  8. Bill

    I’m a progressive-minded fella, but I don’t care for this shift and the kind of politicization of the currency it involves. In my view these bills should only bear images of presidents. So, yeah, Hamilton and Franklin should never have been included. Replace Franklin with either Adams or Wilson. Put Jefferson on the ten (we never needed a two-dollar bill anyway). And progressive that I am, I would replace Jackson with F.D.R.

    1. Doug Ross

      It’s about time we gave some more recent presidents their due, isn’t it? Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington each get a coin and a bill. Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Eisenhower have coins.

      I’m somewhat surprised there hasn’t been a greater call for a Reagan coin or bill. He’d be a reasonable replacement for Grant on the $50.

      1. JesseS

        Republicans pushed hard for Regan back in the 2000s, mostly to snub Democrats and get their heathen, communist idol off of the dime.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        I have to say I would resist that. Naming National Airport after him seems enough.

        The more recent, the more controversial. Kennedy only made it because of sympathy after his assassination.

        And when’s the last time someone gave you a Kennedy half dollar in change?

    2. JesseS

      Wilson has way too much baggage. As far as the $2 bill goes, I’m told gentleman’s clubs use them quite a bit.

  9. Bart

    Why not George Washington Carver? As a young boy, I read everything I could about him and when one stops to consider the impact he had and is still having, he is as deserving as anyone who was not a president. He didn’t march, sue, or demonstrate, he studied, worked hard, used his great intelligence to make our lives better by his research and the products we still use based on his scientific research.

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