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Lane: Why pull Hamilton's face, when Jackson remains?

BY JOE LANE | JUNE 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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“It’s all about the Benjamins” is a familiar line uttered by hip-hop artists across the country. While the line may not resonate with all of American culture, the point is clear. It’s all about the money.

Of course, “Benjamins” refers to the $100 bill, which prominently features Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. There is little doubt that Franklin earned his place on US currency. His contributions to U.S. society — political, scientific, and otherwise — were instrumental in the creation of this great country.

Achievements such as these have solidified Franklin alongside Abraham Lincoln and George Washington as the faces of our currency. However, when I heard that Alexander Hamilton will soon be removed from the $10 bill and replaced with a prominent American woman, I was left wondering what he did to deserve the removal.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury announced that the next $10 bill would feature a prominent female figure in national history. In order for this to happen, the current face must give way (although, there has been some discussion of circulating two $10 bills; one featuring a woman and the other continuing to feature Hamilton).

The move is highly anticipated and certainly important for the advancement of women in America. However, the move is a big misstep for the Treasury, which could use this opportunity to not only make a statement about women in America but about tumultuous race relations as well.

Replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill would make much more sense than replacing Hamilton, sending out a bigger statement for the country. Jackson, though a president with a plethora of accomplishments, is perhaps best known for his horrific treatment of Native Americans, resulting in the infamous genocide known as the Trail of Tears and his slave ownership.

With hate crimes, police brutality, and the overwhelming strain on race relations in the United States, removing Jackson would be more meaningful than removing Hamilton.

Though I fear that many may assume Hamilton earned his place on the $10 bill as president, his role in U.S. history is as secretary of Treasury to President Washington. According to Forbes, not only did Hamilton play an important role in the creation of the U.S. Constitution but also in the free-enterprise system, as we know it today. Moreover, Hamilton came from a modest background, born out of wedlock in the West Indies; he was an early exemplification of the American Dream.

Forbes adds that the Treasury’s explanation for removing Hamilton, but not Jackson, is that the $10 bill is due for security updates. Security updates need not mean a face-change on legal tender, and it’s certainly not a valid excuse to pull Hamilton, leaving Jackson.

When it comes down to it, there is little doubt that Hamilton is the figure whether will be removed — as plans have already been set in motion — and little can be done to mend this misstep. However, it is important for the woman who replaces Hamilton to make a big statement.

Most of the discussion surrounding the change has focused on Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt; excellent choices, to be sure. While Roosevelt was no doubt one of the most powerful women in U.S. history, Tubman is the better choice. While police powers fall to the states, the federal government can make a powerful statement by picking a notable woman in the fight for civil rights.


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