Thursday, April 21, 2016

Good Riddance, Old Hickory

The most cantankerous, bitter and racist man to ever grace American currency is going away (sort of).  The Treasury announced yesterday that President Andrew Jackson will be replaced on the front of the $20 bill in 2020 by abolitionist Harriet Tubman.  That means that Alexander Hamilton--who developed the financial and economic system that made the US the most powerful country in the history of mankind will keep his place on the $10 bill. 

The Jackson and Tubman switch is ripe with ironies.  For starters, Jackson was an ardent supporter of slavery in the Southern States--backing a ban on any abolitionist bills from even being introduced in Congress during his term and fighting efforts to ban slavery in Washington, DC.  To have him replaced by an escaped slave who herself helped hundreds of others to escape must have him spinning in his grave.  Jackson was also the first Democratic President--while Tubman was a long time supporter of Republican Causes (which in a way makes a decision by the Obama Administration to dump him from the bill--instead of the Federalist Hamilton all the more curious).

I've never understood why Jackson was even on any currency--as he actively worked to destroy the US financial system while President.  When Congress renewed the charter for the Second Bank of the United States, Jackson acted unilaterally to withdraw all of the Treasury's funds from the bank--leaving it bankrupt.  He was censured by Congress for that move--but refused to return the money--instead putting it into banks owned by the States.  Jackson also hated paper currency--so he instituted a policy that all Federal Government land sales had to be conducted with gold or silver currency only.  That led to a run on banks--which did not have the hard currency on hand to meet the demand--and caused an economic depression starting in 1837.  If Jackson were around today, he would be a curious combination of Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul.

Jackson's greatest legacy is establishing the practice of the President openly defying the wishes of the other two branches of Government.  When the Supreme Court ordered Jackson to treat Indian Tribes in the Southeast as sovereign nations and stop relocating them to desolate Western areas--Jackson refused stating that Chief Justice John Marshall "Has made his decision, now let him enforce it"--while continuing to send thousands of Native Americans to their deaths.  He also established the spoils system in Washington--where it was no longer what you know but who you know that got you government jobs.  And he wanted to get rid of the Electoral College--because it cost him his first run at the Presidency to John Quincy Adams.

So all and all, we aren't losing much by bidding farewell to the "honor" bestowed upon the most over-rated President of all time.

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