Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Old Hickory Was A Butcher

Esther Cepeda is a prolific columnist for the Washington Post - she writes two a week. Her topic in today's pages (it is actually dated June 26 but my local paper ran it today) was to critique the fed's plans to vary up the $10 bill, and have Alexander Hamilton share the space with a female historical figure, as yet unnamed. Cepeda describes this as "pure folly" and argues that the founders represented on our money should be left alone. That was all well and good til she arrived at Andrew Jackson. That bitch again.

For reference, click here to read Esther Cepeda's column. My emailed comment follows.


Dear Ms. Cepeda,

This morning I was enjoying your column about plans to vary up the design of the $10 bill. Although I am more open to playing with the design of our money a bit, feel it would be good to elevate some women historical figures, and I'm not worried about Alexander Hamilton's place in history, I appreciated many of the points you raised.

Then we came to your summation of Andrew Jackson and I felt stunned. You wrote,"Jackson was many things - some of them terrible - but he earned his place in history by being someone who actually came from humble beginnings, became president and played a major role in advocating for wider participation of non-landed gentry in democracy."

Talk about burying the lede. This is the president who pushed for the violent relocation of tens of thousands of indigenous people from their traditional lands - with such determination that he refused, as President, to abide by a Supreme Court ruling against him. While pushing the Indian Removal Act through Congress he said, "Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers. What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic?"

There are other crimes and scandals we could go into, but even these are slight in comparison to the amount of blood on his hands from Indian removal alone. You can't wash that stain off him so easily. This would be like describing Radovan Karadžić as a small-town doctor who gallantly defended his country (and yeah, he did some terrible things, but whatever).

I have had the opportunity to spend some time working on the Qualla Boundary of North Carolina, a reservation for the Eastern Band of Cherokee. The ATM machines dispense the same money you and I use every day, and when Cherokees make a withdrawal and collect their twenty-dollar bills, they are confronted once again with the visage of Andrew Jackson occupying this symbolic place of honor. For those who know the history, this hits them as hard as the sight of a Confederate battle flag flying over a state capitol hits African-Americans in an aching spot. Don't glad-hand Andrew Jackson. He has his place in history but he is due for a frank reckoning by history. Perhaps it is he who should share his place on our money with a woman. Considering Jackson's estimation about "savage" cultures, Wilma Mankiller might be a very satisfying choice.


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