This is something I have wondered about for some time now–the choices of U.S. presidents (and others) on U.S. currency. In particular Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill and Ulysses Grant on the $50 bill. Were these really the best choices? Jackson led an almost genocidal war against the Native Americans and Grant had one of the most corrupt administrations in U.S. history (according to a class I once had in high school).
My question is simply this: how did Jackson and Grant get on our money? What is the story behind this?
I tried to answer, but the system ate my post. I was trying to say that the treasury can’t say why anyone on the currency was picked to be on the currency, but I will point out that Jackson’s veto of the Bank of the United States and Grant’s restoration of the Gold Standard both had major impacts on banking and helped contribute to the modern banking system.
Washington was a flagrant land speculator and stirred up trouble with the French and Indians. He had slaves, as did Jefferson. Franklin had illegitimate children, and while he formed fire departments and libraries, he always got a cut.
I’d say drop all the people and go back to ideal like Liberty, lady Columbia, etc.
Jackson went on the twenty more then one-hundred years after his war (1812), I doubt one American in twenty even recalls he was a general. He’s on the money because he’s a famous president, not because of the Battle of New Orleans (unlike Grover Cleavland, who he displaced on the 20).
Honestly I doubt there was any sort of deep search to find our most “morally pure” presidents to put on the money. The Dept of Treasury probably just picked a couple popular ones.
I think it’s disgusting that someone like Jackson, or even a ‘mere’ slaveholder like Jefferson, is on our money. People can hem and haw all they like about different moral norms and blah blah blah but frankly I think it’s fucking disgusting moral relativism.
When Andrew Jackson took over the Presidency, the vote was still largely limited to landowners. Jackson deserves much of the credit for turning America into a democracy in which ordinary people got a say.
No, blacks and women didn’t get to vote (I add that only because some other weisenheimer will bring it up if I don’t), but the fact remains, by the end of the Jackson administration, about 45% of the adult population could vote. That’s progress, any way you slice it.
Thomas Jefferson is the single person who is most responsible for the very existence of the United States of America. It would be preposterous to put anyone on U.S. currency ahead of him.
Jefferson’s owning slaves was certainly a great sin, but the greatest people of history are great because they did great things, not because they were saints. Mandela was a terrorist. Gandhi said many supportive things about Nazism. Martin Luther King was an adulterer. All great men all the same.
Um, no, Hitler did not improve the German economy. When he came to pwoer in 1933, the Germany economy was poor. When he was finished in 1945, the German economy was nonexistent. How is that progress? Hitler quite literally destroyed Germany; as a result of his rule it ceased to exist as a nation-state, millions of its people were dead and the rest destitute, its great cities lay in ruins. It re-emergence is purely the result of the good will and charity of its enemies.
Sure, it might have been a little better off in, say, 1937 than it was in 1933. If you jump off a fortieth storey balcony, you will technically be perfectly healthy when you pass by the 20th storey. That doesn’t make the jump any less stupid.
Jefferson created his country. Hitler destroyed his.
Andrew Jackson won the battle of New Orleans against nearly twice his number in British troops. Sure, the battle was fought after a treaty had already been signed but a British victory might have put the Mississippi river under their control.
Grant was the Union General in charge when the war came to an end. That says enough I think.
Okay, sorry about the Hitler thing. I guess I was sort of ignorantly repeating a truism. I think my overall point still stands, but I shouldn’t have grasped for a needless and inaccurate historical soundbite.
Re: Mandela, Gandhi, and King… I don’t know enough to say anything about Mandela, but I do think that the specific allegations you’ve leveled against Gandhi and King are, though certainly negative, not on the same level as owning people as slaves. If Gandhi had actually flown over to Germany and shot some concentration camp prisoners or King had chopped up a few women and put them in the trunk of his car, we’d be talking about a different issue, but I think that it’s fair to say the accusations you’ve brought up are of a different magnitude than mine against Jefferson.
How is that? There’s nothing Thomas Jefferson did that makes me think he should be thought of as “most responsible” for the existence of the United States. He drafted the declaration of independence, but that was only drafted when a majority of the congress voted in favor of independence. Jefferson, while a passionate patriot, was certainly not the person in congress who was most pro-independence, that would probably fall to someone like John Adams.
And lets not forget Washington, who, while he was no military genius kept a rag-tag Army alive against arguably the most powerful military force of his time. He was up against the largest expeditionary force the world had ever seen at that time, and he even scored some key victories (recapturing Boston, Trenton and Princeton) that kept the American cause and its supporters morale high enough to stay in the war.
I don’t know who the single most important founding father was, in fact I don’t know that there was one, but to say Jefferson was it, just doesn’t cut it in my opinion.
Moral relativism is a tough cookie. On one hand, most people are loathe to buy in to it completely because under a strict relativist viewpoint anything could be excused. Female genital mutilation? Hey, that’s okay in THEIR CULTURE. Gang rape as a judicial punishment? Hey, it’s the culture man, what’s right for us isn’t right for them.
However on another hand, the logic of its ideas are quite seductive. It only makes sense that someone is going to act in the manner in which they were socialized. If you’re born in 1750 on a plantation, you’ll be raised from day one understanding that blacks there are your father’s property. That, it’s a perfectly normal way of life, and to think otherwise would be akin to, hell, thinking today that going down to the supermarket and abducting a black man to be your personal slave is acceptable behavior.
The development of sociology has truly allowed us to look at human societies under a lens and with a viewpoint probably unimagined hundreds of years ago.
To the defense of men like Jefferson, he’s one of the people that helped develop the concept that there is more than just “moral relativism” at work, Jefferson believed in absolute rights that humans ought to have. Regardless of what society at large thinks. Him and the other founding fathers took the ideas of guys like Locke and publicized them even more, they made them the framework of an entire government. The fact that some of them refused to see how this all applied to blacks, is but a reflection of the fallibility of humans.
Moral relativism allows us to look at Jefferson’s life and garner explanation for the reason he was a slaveowner. Common sense allows us to look at his life and recognize that there was greatness there that existed quite independently of any of his personal failings.
I’d say that Jackson was/is a hero to the national Democratic party, not just the Southern Democrats. The big annual Democratic fundraising dinner is still called the “Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner”, and at the '92 inauguration, I managed to get a Democratic Party button with pictures of Jefferson, Jackson, FDR, and Kennedy on it.
He fought the Creek war, but that was not a genocidal war. It was a straight up war that the Creek (or at least the Red Stick faction of Creeks) lost badly. There were atrocities on both sides, but Jackson at least gave Creek women and children safe passage in that war (which was more than the Creeks were doing during their attacks). Jackson also adopted a Creek child and raised the child as his own.
He fought against the Seminoles, but again it was a straight-up (though brutal) war.
Do you mean the Cherokee? Jackson did not lead any war against the Cherokee (though he was the force behind the Cherokee removal). You might be interested in this thread in which the Cherokee removal was discussed at length (and heatedly).
Jacksonian Democracy is another reason Jackson is on the currency. He was the first American President who began life in the lower classes, and was a champion of the common man. (The white common man, of course.)
However, I don’t think Jackson should be on the currency. Even in his own time there were plenty of folks making moral arguments against the mistreatment of the Cherokee. If we want to celebrate the man-of-the-people frontiersman/politician, I nominate Davy Crockett (who, not incidentally, opposed the Cherokee removal to his political detriment).
Assuming your question isn’t just rhetorical, I was speaking generally of things I’ve heard here and there. Actually, I was watching a documentary on tv a while ago. The U.S. Supreme Court said that the Native Americans were entitled to land or something to which Jackson responded, then let them (i.e., the Supreme Court) go and take care of the matter. So Jackson evidentally wasn’t a big fan of the Native Americans, in any event.