Monday, April 25, 2016
Harriet Tubman hasn't generated this much attention since the antebellum days, when she successfully ran an "underground railroad" with such a fierce resolve that it led to a $40,000 bounty being placed on her head.
Putting her face on the $20 bill has everyone commenting pro and con with some offering alternative denominations. It's not like Andrew Jackson is being removed. He will still be on the reverse side of the bill, so it is really much ado about nothing, as you can always stack your bills Jackson side up if Tubman is too much for you to take.
Andrew Jackson has not always been on the bill. It used to be Grover Cleveland before the Treasury Dept. decided to change faces in 1928 for no disclosed reason. Some surmised it was the centennial of his first presidential inauguration. There had been renewed interest in Jackson, a fiery Democrat who promoted state rights and pushed to have the national bank closed in favor of state banks. There were those who thought this was a vendetta on his part, as it was the lack of bank credit that cost him his earlier business venture. He didn't like speculation in currency and in general supported "hard money." A popular position at his time, and one that found renewed interest with the rampant speculation taking place in the 1920s, which led to the stock market collapse in 1929.
I suppose what took people most by surprise was Tubman getting the $20 bill when it was thought she would be the new face of the $10 bill. Maybe the new Broadway musical called long deserved attention to Hamilton, or as the Obama administration said, a letter from a 9-year-old girl inspired the decision. Women on 20s hadn't been satisfied with the choice of the $10 bill, considering it a compromise as the $20 bill gets much more circulation. Besides, Jackson is much less popular a figure, given his views on slavery and his notorious Indian wars.
This led Donald Trump and others to opin that this is just another sad case of political correctness. He suggested a new $2 bill instead, seemingly unaware there is already one in circulation with Thomas Jefferson gracing the front. It's kind of like the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin that gets very little circulation.
I think conservatives are more upset that Reagan isn't being honored on a bill, as there has been a movement for decades to put their beloved Republican hero on the ten-dollar bill, and many thought that would be the case when Bush was President, but the pro-Hamilton backers won the battle against the Gipper note. So, it is not so much change they are against but who is chosen for these bills.
There is a sad irony in having a two-faced bill, given what these two persons stood for. I think it would have been better to have Tubman's pistol on the reverse side, as she always carried it by her side, and it would make gun rights' activists even happier. If not, then a more energetic version of Tubman on the front to counter "Old Hickory" on the back.