On the money

The U.S. Treasury Department has decided that “a woman” will appear on the redesigned ten dollar bill. The image of Alexander Hamilton, who basically created our nation’s financial system, presently graces the ten note. It looks like he will either appear on the reverse side of the bill or find a home on a separate series of tenners.

Which woman will supplant Hamilton? Treasury Secretary Jack Lew doesn’t know. He wants to hear from the public before deciding.

You can’t blame Lew for not knowing. There isn’t a woman who contributed remotely as much to America as Hamilton did. Indeed, there are only a handful of men who can be said to have done.

This is a classic case of a “set aside.” A spot has been earmarked for a woman. Suitable (we hope) candidate to follow.

Such set asides tend not to work out well. For example, Bill Clinton had to have a female Attorney General. After a few false starts, we ended up with Janet Reno.

Ronald Reagan had to have a woman on the Supreme Court. We ended up with Sandra Day O’Connor.

It’s safe to say that there will be no clamor for Reno or O’Connor to replace Hamilton on the tenner.

In this instance, though, we are talking about images of dead people, not live people filling vital offices. A picture on a bill can do no harm.

The affront here is to American history. But it has taken so many hits, with more in the offing, that this one won’t matter much.

Recognizing Hamilton’s immense contributions to America, some have suggested that Andrew Jackson be the figure to make way for “a woman.” Jackson is a mixture of the positive and the negative, and at his best doesn’t rival Hamilton . But as a successful general, co-founder (in essence) of the Democratic Party, and transformer of American politics, he has a better claim to be on the money than “a woman.”

In any event, it is the tenner that’s slated for a makeover. If Hamilton were on the twenty, he would be spared.

Jackson isn’t safe, though. The purging (or relegation) of white male historical figures from our currency won’t end with Hamilton. Jackson may go when politicians decide there must be an African-American on the currency (unless we get a two-fer with, say, Rosa Parks or Harriet Tubman). Better Jackson than Ulysses S. Grant who, fortunately, is experiencing a well-deserved upward reassessment from historians.

I share the sentiment of the many conservatives who are outraged by Treasury’s plan to downgrade Hamilton. Sadly, though, the ship has all but sailed and there’s little point in opening what will be portrayed as a new front in the “war on women.”

Instead, we should focus on the education establishment’s effort to degrade and debase the teaching of American history. We should focus, that is, on trying to block the College Board’s plan to convert the teaching of AP U.S History into an exercise in left-wing, grievance-mongering pedagogy.

This is the best way to honor our Founders, including Alexander Hamilton – next to George Washington arguably the most indispensable of them all.