In 2016, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Harriet Tubman would take the place of Andrew Jackson on the next edition of the twenty dollar bill as a part of a larger campaign to include more minorities and women on U.S. currency. The announcement sparked controversy, as announcements made by the government often do. Those who criticize Jackson’s removal from the bill characterize him as a war hero, man of the people, and a political pioneer. However, Jackson should not be on the twenty because of his incitement of The Trail of Tears, his disregard of the Supreme Court, and his opposition to the national bank.
Throughout the history of the twenty dollar bill, more than just Jackson’s face has been commemorated by the currency. The first face found on the bill was Alexander Hamilton. He was followed by George Washington. When the Federal Reserve issued their first twenty, Grover Cleveland took the place of our first president.
The Federal Reserve is also looking to change the backs of other bills. The new back of the ten dollar bill will feature an image of the 1913 march for women’s rights that ended at the Treasury Department. The back of the five dollar bill will be changed to honor the Civil Rights movement. The Department hopes to release these designs in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment. The bills will take several years to enter circulation; however, twenty dollar bills only last approximately four years in circulation, so by 2024, almost all the twenties in circulation will feature Harriet Tubman.
Harriet Tubman is known for leading dozens of escaped slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Tubman will be the first African-American commemorated on U.S. currency. Later in her life she worked as a Union Spy and an activist for women’s suffrage. In a viral online survey, participants voted for a choice of 15 women, including Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt. Tubman received the most votes. Originally the campaign called for Tubman to replace Hamilton on the ten, but after the hit musical “Hamilton,” many people started calling for Jackson’s removal for the twenty.
“John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” This was Jackson’s response when the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee was a sovereign nation and that Jackson did not have the right to drive them from their land. In saying this, Jackson showed complete disregard for the American Democratic system and the balance of powers. Jackson challenged the Supreme Court’s ability to enforce their decisions when he should have respected them.
Jackson was a strong opponent to the national bank. In 1832, he vetoed a bill calling for a renewal of the charter for the Second Bank; however, renewal was still possible in 1836. In his infamous “Bank War,” Jackson set out to reduce the bank’s economic power and prevent its future renewal. After going against the advice of congressional committees, several cabinet members, and replacing two secretaries of the treasury, Jackson announced that federal funds would be placed in state banks rather than the Bank of the United States. What is the point of memorializing someone on currency who was a huge opponent of the bank?
Some may argue that Andrew Jackson should not be replaced on the twenty dollar bill because his face on the bill is a part of history. However, faces are moved on and off bills frequently in the past. Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and Grover Cleveland were all memorialized on the twenty at one point. Replacing faces on currencies is not unnatural, or unhistorical, and it would not even be the first time in United States history that a new face has taken over the twenty.
Others may argue that Jackson earned his place on the twenty dollar bill because he was the first common man to be elected president and he was a war hero. While this is certainly an amazing political feat, what he did while in office far outweighs any of his previous actions. Jackson may have been the first “common man” president, but he was not a man of all the people. Jackson’s policies only reflected the needs and wants of the people like him.
Andrew Jackson deserves to be taken off the twenty dollar bill because of his mistreatment of the Native Americans, his disregard for the decisions of the Supreme Court, and his opposition to the national bank. Jackson should not be a role model, politically or otherwise to Americans. While Jackson represents the ugly side of American ideals, someone such as Tubman will represent the true American ideals such as freedom and justice. Andrew Jackson deserves to be taken off the twenty dollar bill, and I, for one, will not be sorry to see him go.
By: Lucas Gemmer