An Open Letter to United States Department of the Treasury
This letter is to explain my thoughts about the current portraits adorning our U.S. paper currency.
Citizens of the World with Shared Brains
I have some thoughts about the portraits currently adorning our paper money. Specifically, the $20 and the less used, often forgotten $2.
The current $20 features former president Andrew Jackson, who was in office between 1828 and 1836. Andrew Jackson has been on the $20 bill since 1928 and I'm sure at the time that made sense. However, we now have the benefit of hindsight and I feel this is an issue that should be revisited. Let's start with one of the major goals of Jackson's second term as president, which he was elected to in 1832. The Second Bank of the United States was chartered by James Madison in 1816 for a 20 year period. Rather than let the bank die a natural death when it would expire in 1836, Jackson worked hard to kill the bank. He specifically viewed it as evil and as a nemesis. He also had a strong distrust in paper currency. Now, paper currency today is not at all the same as it was in 1932. However, it is ironic that a man who had such a firm distrust in paper currency and the national bank now has his portrait on one of the most used notes.
Secondly, and what I feel is most damning, is his policy toward Native Americans. Previous administrations had relied on treaties and negotiations in order to acquire lands formerly inhabited by Native American peoples. While these negotiations may not have always been in good faith, it was a more diplomatic method of attaining the land. Jackson, however, had been actively involved in the removal of Native Americans for a decade prior to becoming president. Early in his first term the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed into law forcing the Native Americans off of their land without negotiations or treaties. This contributed to the death of thousands of people. In fact, many Native Americans today will not use the $20 bill because of their feelings about Andrew Jackson.
So, if we were to remove Jackson from that bill, who would we put there instead? Thomas Jefferson. One could argue against this because he owned slaves. However, he was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and he was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of this country and brought in a vast number of natural resources.
Thomas Jefferson, however, is currently on the $2 bill, however his contributions to this country should give him placement on a more used bill. So, who should be on the $2? Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky.
Senator Clay is widely regarded as one of the finest statesmen this country has ever had and it would be hard to argue against that. Senator Clay is largely responsible from keeping this country from Civil War four about 40 years, starting first with the Missouri Compromise. I think in recent history we've come to realize that a Civil War was necessary in order for the United States to truly become united. However, this country could not fight that war until the timing was right. Thanks to Senator Clay, that opportunity was given to us. He was a great American statesmen in that though he represented Kentucky, he represented the best interests of this fledgling country.
Also in Senator Clay's favor is his American System, an economic system with deep roots in the philosophies of Alexander Hamilton, a man who was an economic genius who helped this country get out of debt following the revolution almost single-handedly and is now on the $10 bill. The American System allowed this country to compete with British manufacturing, making the United States a real presence in the world market following the War of 1812.
As I've detailed in this letter, I think that Andrew Jackson should be removed from our currency. Thomas Jefferson should be moved from the $2 bill to the $20. Senator Henry Clay more than deserves a place on the $2.