Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why Erase Alexander Hamilton?

What’s wrong with these people? What’s wrong with this administration? Can’t they get anything right?

You can’t make it up. How can anyone be stupid enough to want to remove Alexander Hamilton from the 10 dollar bill?

After all, Hamilton was the father of the United States Treasury. Without his work as first secretary the nascent American republic might very well have gone bust. Hamilton made American solvent, no small task at the time. No small task today, either.

Many historians have called him, after George Washington, the second most essential of the founding fathers.

So, how did the current treasure secretary, Jack Lew decide, in the interest of diversity, to replace Hamilton with a woman?

Had it been her decision Mona Charen would have removed Andrew Jackson from the twenty dollar bill. With reason.

She makes a good case:

If there’s one figure whose face arguably does not deserve to adorn the currency, it’s the man on the $20 dollar bill, not the $10. That is Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States, adamant opponent of paper currency (!), friend of slave power, and scourge of Native Americans. Who can forget that when the Cherokee appealed their treatment by the state of Georgia to the Supreme Court, and won, President Jackson refused to enforce the law? Jackson pushed for and signed the Indian Removal Act, which led directly to the forced deportation of nearly 17,000 Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee, and others — known as the Trail of Tears. He was fiercely opposed in this by his predecessor, John Quincy Adams, who took the view (in case you’re tempted to argue that Jackson was only doing what was possible at the time) that Indians should be paid for their land if they wished to sell, and that they should be given the protections of the U.S. Constitution.

Richard Brookhiser wrote a biography of Hamilton, so he is well qualified to recount Hamilton’s extraordinary achievements:

Hamilton, who died in 1804 before he was 50, packed a lot into a relatively short life. He was a journalist all his mature life, beginning with youthful pieces written in his native Caribbean, continuing until he founded the New-York Evening Post (still publishing, minus the hyphen and the Evening) three years before he died. His greatest journalistic project was a series of 85 opinion pieces, written in 1787-88, under the pseudonym Publius to support the ratification of the Constitution. Hamilton conceived the series, tapped John Jay and James Madison as collaborators, and wrote three-fifths of the essays himself. College students and justices of the Supreme Court still read and cite the Federalist Papers.

When he was around 18 Hamilton dropped out of what is now called Columbia University to join George Washington on the front lines of the War for Independence.

Brookhiser describes what happened:

George Washington met Hamilton early in the Revolution, promoting him from an artillery captain to a colonel on his staff, drafting orders and correspondence.

Hamilton so impressed Washington that the first president enlisted him for several different functions in the new administration:

When Washington was president, he turned to his ex-aide for advice on a range of issues, from etiquette (hold a reception every week, and a few dinners every year; be sure to invite everyone in Congress) to foreign policy (interest is the governing principle with nations: just because France had helped us during the Revolution didn’t mean she always would). When Washington decided to go home after two terms, Hamilton ghosted his farewell address.

And then, Brookhiser explains what Hamilton achieved in his job in the Washington cabinet:

But Hamilton’s greatest achievement was what he did as the nation’s first Treasury secretary from 1789-94. He saved the new country from its first debt crisis, laid the foundations of its future prosperity—and earned the hostility of several of his great peers, hostility that dogs him to this day.


The United States scraped through the Revolution on a combination of paper money and loans. But when peace finally came in 1783 the larder was bare. American debt was trading on the bourses of Europe at one-quarter to one-third of its value—junk level. Individual states, which had made their own outlays as semi-sovereign powers, were many of them even worse off. Massachusetts tried to balance its books with a land tax that drove desperate farmers to revolt. Other states arbitrarily discounted their obligations.

Hamilton as Treasury secretary adopted two strategies for handling the debt. The first was for the new federal government, as reorganized under the Constitution he had helped ratify, to assume the debts of all the states, along with its own. The second was a policy of nondiscrimination: All holders of U.S. debt would be paid at a common rate.

Brookhiser’s article contains most of the salient details.

Read through it and you will conclude that nothing can justify removing from the currency a man without whom the United States might have been stillborn. What do Jack Lew and the Obama administration have against achievement and patriotism?

There ought to be a Congressional investigation. And then, there ought to be a law.


Anonymous said...
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Larry Sheldon said...

Who knew it took so many words to be so wrong--but then that is why I seldom read comments. And I guess if I was going to say things as stupid as that I would post as "anonymous, too.

Larry Sheldon said...

The question "Why Erase Alexander Hamilton?" is almost self-answering.

It is important to the Soros-Cloward-Pivin-Lenin-et-alia crowd that "Anonymous" admires that all that is valuable about our country be buried or destroyed (or destroyed AND buried).

See Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, George Lucas and Walter Murch, and Ayn Rand for the details.

John the River said...

It is unnecessary for another reason as well.

Alexander Hamilton really "self-identified" as a woman!

[Ducking. It's a joke!]

Luke Lea said...

And then there is the question of who will the woman be? I nominate Francis Perkins. She made it a condition of her serving in Roosevelt's cabinet that he commit to a list of proposals. On the list were (as I remember) wage and hour laws, workmen's comp., occupational safety, old age pensions, end of child labor, etc. Roosevelt promised and it was one of the very few, maybe the only, promise he ever kept.

Luke Lea said...

Here is a good intro to Perkins:

He oral history over at Columbia U. is extraordinary as she was also a great raconteur.

Whitehall said...

One reason many Americans would want Jackson to stay on the $20 bill is that he killed the Bank of the United States, our central bank and a predecessor to the Federal Reserve System. If you're suspicious of the Fed, Jackson should be you icon.

Of course, current bankers hate him.

On the flip side, his economic and fiscal policies put the US into a decade-long recession.