Between you, me, and the lamppost, swaggering Andrew Jackson, a general and president, may be banished from the $20 bill.
How swell is that? Jackson, a legendary fighter, won the Battle of New Orleans, but weeks after the War of 1812 was won. All it achieved was making a hero out of him.
There’s more. The idea gaining currency is to put a famous American woman on the money. Now that’s sweet justice for change.
Seldom does government do something so simply right. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)and a citizen campaign are championing the proposal. No better way to mark the 100th birthday of “Votes for Women,” the suffrage movement that crossed into constitutional law in 1920.
Unsung Alice Paul, who led masses to victory, is the poetic choice. Paul finished what Abraham Lincoln began in claiming citizenship for all. (Lincoln’s the best, but left us out of “all men are created equal.”) She took the struggle to the streets of Washington, to the White House. Woodrow Wilson had no chance against her nonviolent resistance.
Just think: 2020 on the 20. Paul, a spirited Quaker, merits the recognition as much as anyone.
There’s no consensus yet on who should be the first woman to be portrayed on paper currency. Shaheen’s legislation calls for a citizen panel to recommend a major figure to the Treasury. The grassroots coalition has put forth candidates. They are: perennial favorite Eleanor Roosevelt, check. Civil rights heroine Rosa Parks, check. Civil War Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, check. But Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller? Come on, really?
(She was a late add.)
A demotion couldn’t happen to a more deserving figure than Jackson.
He presided in a dark period — not of nation building, as Steve Inskeep, NPR’s Morning Edition host says in The New York Times. The 1830s were pretty bad times, and the financial Panic of 1837 made them worse. Jackson scuttled the Bank of the United States, setting the stage for a major recession.
Jackson’s era was also marked by mob violence, often over slavery as abolitionists rose in Philadelphia. Jackson was squarely on the wrong side of history and harshly upheld slave laws in the District of Columbia.
At the Hermitage, Jackson’s lavish plantation near Nashville, Tennessee, you hear much about “the General” as the clock chimes. Where he sat and slept, and how he mourned his dead wife Rachel — he was a widower in Washington.
But guides don’t speak of the slaves he owned — 100 — unless you ask. They lived in the woods. All traces seem gone.
Jackson, who beat bookish John Quincy Adams in 1828, is one of the most overrated presidents. Men are his greatest boosters, in books and talk of “Jacksonian democracy.” Jackson had common origins and little education. But I have a hunch women are better judges of character in this case.
It’s hard to forgive “Old Hickory” Jackson for waging wars against American Indian tribes. Worst of all outcomes was the Trail of Tears. Thousands of Cherokees took a forced federal march from their native land in the Southeast to the Southwest — now Oklahoma — in the name of “Indian Removal.” It was personal to him.
With rugged charm, Jackson and George W. Bush had confidence in their wars of choice, dead wrong though they were. They’d get along great.
If not Paul, my picks from the “Women on 20s” short list are Eleanor Roosevelt or Rosa Parks. Mrs. Roosevelt did so much for so long for the people. During the Depression, as First Lady she acted as her husband Franklin’s eyes and ears. She stood for the dispossessed, for civil rights, workers’ rights, human rights, you name it. She wrote a newspaper column, “My Day,” which reached a vast spectrum of Americans.
Brave Rosa Parks was no ordinary bus rider when she refused to leave her seat in 1955. The seamstress knew she was forcing segregation laws up to daylight, to public scrutiny.
In naming the woman who may take Jackson’s place, I’m in for an all-woman panel or electorate. We women must ride the breeze and take the power of a historic turn on the $20 bill. After all, gentlemen, you guys elected Jackson in the first place.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit Creators.com