On History and the Ten-Spot

Alexander Hamilton was male, and a white male at that, but even those undeniable and unfashionable facts hardly seem sufficient reason to kick the poor fellow off the $10 bill. The Treasury Department he founded and ran with undeniable genius is planning to do just that, however, and for precisely that sexist and racist reason.
Current Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, whose zero-interest-bearing and debt-laden and economically stagnant tenure will surely fare far more poorly than Hamilton’s in the history books, no matter how hard this current generation of liberal historians might try, has announced that his vastly more illustrious predecessor will soon be replaced on the ten-spot by a woman. They haven’t decided which woman yet, although it seems likely that it will be a woman of darker hue than Hamilton’s, and it doesn’t seem that matter that any of the admittedly august candidates can’t quite match Hamilton’s very extraordinary achievements on behalf of the country, as they’re hell-bent that it will be some sort of a woman.
We have nothing against the idea of a woman’s likeness on our currency, and note that the British Pound Sterling has fared well enough with pictures of various Queens on the paper, and that those Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollar coins they tried to make popular always bought us a full dollar worth of goods during their brief appearances, and we certainly won’t deny the important contributions that countless women have made to America’s progress, which in most cases have been far greater than anything the likes of Jack Lew will ever do, but it is infuriating to think that Alexander Hamilton of all people, white and male people that he was notwithstanding, will be the one to make room.
Even before his crucial role in establishing the unprecedentedly successful American economic system, Hamilton was a an important figure. While a successful attorney his eloquent writings helped fuel the revolutionary spirit in his already-crucial hometown of New York City, and when the revolution he had urged at last came about he backed up his words by putting his life on the line as a volunteer in the underdog army that fought the mighty British Empire. His exceptional talents were recognized by General George Washington, who promoted him to the level of aide-de-camp, and he led an out-manned and out-gunned contingent to victory over the formidable British Gen. Cornwallis at the crucial Battle of Yorktown. After Hamilton played a important role in the ratification of the Constitution, Washington’s faith in his young colleague’s varied talents was such that he appointed Hamilton as the first Secretary of the Treasury, and Hamilton then formed the Federalist Party as the first-voter based political organization in the history of democracy, helped his longtime foe Thomas Jefferson become President of the United States for the sorts of principled reasons that no longer seem to have any role in the nation’s politics, and otherwise led a life of exemplary public service.
Despite such undeniable achievements, Hamilton has always been one of the more controversial of the Founding Fathers. He was by all accounts a rather vain fellow, and after urging revolution against the British and doing to so many risky things to win independence from them he was strangely Anglophilic in his proposals to emulate the British economic and political and cultural model, and he had some famously foppish ideas about military uniforms. He clashed with the more revered Jefferson about economics and politics and culture, urging an urbanized and socially mobile and culturally dynamic society that was at odds with the Jeffersonian ideal of the gentleman agrarian, but mostly it was his economic ideas that make him unfashionable. If Washington was the father of our country, and Hamilton’s friend Madison the father of our constitution, and Jefferson the author of the Declaration of Independence and its principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and Franklin a brilliant polymath and lovable reprobate, Hamilton was the guy most responsible for making America a red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist country, and the current crop of historians will never forgive him for that.
The stupid of idea of finding room for some woman or another and especially some “woman of color” on our currency began with the intention of replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20, as he was the guy who slaughtered the Seminoles in his rash effort to win Florida from the Spanish and forced the Cherokees onto the The Trail of Tears and was generally the worst-ever president as far as all Native Americans are concerned, and African-Americans and other hyphenated-Americans also don’t have much reason to like him, but he was also the founder of the Democratic Party and therefore doesn’t has to worry about his likeness remaining on our currency. None of Jackson’s politically incorrect outrages can quite compare to Hamilton’s capitalism, and Jackson’s depression-causing aversion to big banks makes him all the more lovable to his party’s current members, so Hamilton is apparently the one to go.
Oddly enough, Hamilton’s demotion comes at a time when he’s being celebrated in a hit hip-hop musical being staged on Broadway by an impeccably multi-cultural and racially diverse cast. That a red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist should be a hip-hop star really isn’t all that surprising, though. He was born out-of-wedlock in the West Indies, fully embraced the cutting-edge lifestyle of New York City, and died in a gunfight defending his honor over a “dis,” and he was not only not one of those evil white male slave-holders but also contributed much of his ethically limited fortune to supporting the abolitionist cause, so he was arguably the first rap hero. We’d like to think that this relatively minor achievement is enough to keep him on the $10 bills, but in this crazy age it’s hard to be hopeful.

— Bud Norman


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