Alexander Hamilton Wins the $10 But Does Diversity Lose?
The recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Treasury that our Founding Father Alexander Hamilton will remain on the face of the $10 bill has sparked much controversy. The $10 bill is the first bill scheduled for a redesign in 2020, and many wanted to see a woman on the face of the next bill. Instead, the back of the bill will feature five female suffrage leaders – including Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony.
However, the $20 bill being released as late as 2030 will remove Andrew Jackson from the front and replace him with the black slavery abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman. The back of the $20 bill will feature Andrew Jackson and the White House. For many, this is too long to wait to advance women’s equality since 2030 is far into the future.
Further changes also impact the $5 bill. It will continue to feature Abraham Lincoln on the front, but the back will honor the civil rights movement. It will have images of Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Marian Anderson singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Thanks to the support of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson sang there when she was refused permission to sing at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s (DAR) Constitution Hall. The $5 bill will be released after 2030, and all of these new bills will incorporate tactile features to assist the blind.
But does diversity really lose with this outcome – with women relegated to the back of the $10 bill and waiting over a decade to finally grace the face of the $20 bill?
The answer is yes and no. While both gender and racial diversity are critical in promoting an inclusive society reflective of all of America’s people, we have to consider who is being replaced. We cannot deny Alexander Hamilton’s historical significance. Nevertheless, the Treasury Department needs to speed up its timeline so women and minorities are not waiting in “the back of the bus” until 2030 to see progress.
Alexander Hamilton Earned the Face of the $10 Bill
In many ways, it is disgraceful to even ponder removing Alexander Hamilton from the front of the $10 bill when considering his contribution to this country. Setting aside his role during the American Revolutionary War and being an impressive Founding Father who immigrated to the U.S. as an orphaned illegitimate teenager with little to his name yet quickly rising to prominence and eventually founding the Bank of New York (i.e., today’s BNY Mellon) – his legacy as the first Secretary of the Treasury is undeniable.
Hamilton’s monetary policies and the financial infrastructure that he created in a mere six years in office laid the foundation for where we are today. He established critical stability for the United States at its inception.
- Appointed by President George Washington, he was the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. The Treasury Department manages the government’s revenue and helps set the country’s financial and monetary policies.
- Hamilton established the U.S. Mint that prints our money.
- He created our first National Bank – which planted the seed for our central banking system.
- Hamilton got the country off to a strong economic footing by having the federal government absorb the war debts incurred by the states. His policies allowed the nation to recover from the Revolutionary War, manage our debt, and borrow from countries like France so the U.S. could flourish and grow. This established the perception that the U.S. was a legitimate and viable country that should be respected on an international scale.
- Wanting to stop smuggling off America’s coast and its negative economic impact, he encouraged efforts to patrol our waters. Many view this as laying the foundation for forming the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Arguably, he was one of the fathers of the U.S. Stock Market by promoting a banking and bond trading environment that encouraged the eventual establishment of the New York Stock Exchange.
Given the lasting economic impact of his legacy, if anyone is going to be removed from the face of our country’s currency, Alexander Hamilton is an inappropriate candidate. He is also less of a hypocrite compared to those like Thomas Jefferson. He was an abolitionist and did not believe in slavery. Of all the Founding Fathers and dead presidents on our currency, he is the last one who should be replaced.
A better option to erase from our money truly is Andrew Jackson.
Andrew Jackson – A Disgraceful Legacy Undeserving on Any Currency
Andrew Jackson does not deserve to be on our nation’s currency – on the front nor back. In many ways he is a forgettable president. If it were not for the fact that he is on the $20 bill, most Americans today would not even know who he is. Does anyone remember John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, or Millard Fillmore? They are all forgotten presidents whose legacies escape most of us. Being less memorable does not invalidate anyone’s contribution, but it should make us evaluate their key accomplishments.
What Jackson is remembered for is an embarrassing and sad chapter in on our nation’s history. His presidency should not be celebrated nor memorialized on our currency.
- Jackson initiated the policy of Indian removal, which forced many Native Americans to live on Indian reservations under deplorable conditions.
- The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed and signed during his presidency – empowering him to evict all the Native Americans tribes living to the east of the Mississippi River. The policy called for the forcible removal of Native Americans from their tribal lands, which led to the “Trail of Tears.” Jackson implemented this act in contradiction to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Cherokee. As many as 6,000 people perished during their forced migration.
- He signed nearly 70 treaties with tribes during his presidency – some of which he negotiated himself – in an effort to control the Native peoples.
- Jackson was a prominent slave owner – owning upwards of 300 slaves during his lifetime and putting him in an elite group of slave masters given the size of his slaveholdings.
However, even if we ignore his brutal legacy against Native Americans and slaves, Jackson should be disqualified from being on our money since he did not even believe in paper money. He preferred gold and silver currency.
In his farewell address as President, Jackson talked about “the mischiefs and dangers of a paper currency” and the need “to restore the constitutional currency of gold and silver.” Arguably, this alone makes him unworthy and the perfect person to be replaced on the $20 bill by former slave Harriet Tubman. He is probably rolling over in his grave in disgust since he has been on our currency for so many years.
Diversity & the “Qualification” Argument
So where does this leave us with diversity? Hamilton earned his spot and Jackson deserves to collect dust in a neglected corner. Yet, leaving Hamilton on the face of the $10 bill – the first bill scheduled for redesign – means women and people of color have to wait as late as 2030 to be on the front of any paper currency.
The answer is to keep Hamilton and release the $20 bill in 2020 when they issue the new $10 bill. The Treasury Department should stop dragging its feet and mint the $20 bill sooner to advance diversity. Its proposed currency changes fail to go far enough to celebrate America’s “melting pot” and rich history when so much time will elapse before experiencing and seeing progress. People like tangible and immediate results, and not delayed gratification over a decade later.
This brings us to a bigger argument about diversity – being qualified. When deciding who gets what seat, we can never ignore qualifications. In order for the majority to buy into the business case for diversity, we have to make sure everyone with an opportunity is qualified.
It goes without saying that the new people being added to our currency are undoubtedly deserving and should have been added to our money years ago. However, when we think of diversity more broadly – in the workplace and in our schools – people always want to scrutinize if someone is “qualified.” This happens to diverse candidates regardless of whether or not discussion about their qualifications is warranted.
What Diversity Approaches Must Include
To support diversity and progress, several things have to happen simultaneously. These are imperative in promoting sustainability and lasting support for new initiatives.
(1) Everyone needs to possess a requisite baseline of qualifications.
(2) So everyone has a fair chance to advance, marginalized groups need access and opportunities created for them – making space for underrepresented populations who have historically had less opportunities than they deserve. This is critical in promoting inclusion in an increasingly diverse society.
(3) Mediocre candidates with “legacy” seats should be ousted.
(4) Some degree of affirmative action is required to jumpstart this process.
There needs to be a healthy balance of all four factors happening at the same time. This promotes a compromise benefitting the majority and minority – with not everyone being immediate winners and some being instant losers.
Where Do We Go From Here?
In an increasingly diverse population, it is about time the U.S. currency was redesigned. Our money needs to be more reflective of America’s diverse demographics. As we move ahead together as a nation, we need to balance who is being replaced within a broader historical context that considers both our embarrassing legacies and moments of great national accomplishment. There is also a need for speed in the 21st Century. The government is moving at a ridiculously slow pace to revamp our money.
In the end, we have reached a tolerable compromise with future changes to the $5, $10, and $20 bills. The reality with all compromises is that no one is ever 100% happy with the outcome – with everyone getting some piece of what they want and nobody being fully satisfied.
The next move – after the Treasury Department hastening its pace with the $20 bill – is to overhaul the $2 bill. To move closer towards progress, we should remove Thomas Jefferson from the $2 bill. He should be replaced by a Native American – maybe someone notable like Sitting Bull.
While Jefferson did write the Declaration of Independence and is a memorable Founding Father, in the eyes of some, his good works are partially erased by who he was in his private life. He was a hypocrite by owning slaves and having a “relationship” with his teenaged slave who was his wife’s half-sister. These facts leave a dark cloud over someone who championed freedom.
However, the day we see uniform national agreement on a shift like removing Thomas Jefferson from the $2 bill could mean we have really made progress as a nation. This would be a strong sign reflecting our evolution in how we evaluate diversity, who we memorialize and for which reasons, and who ultimately gets a seat at the table.
The Azara Group (TAG) is a consulting firm that promotes the development of leaders in an increasingly competitive and diverse marketplace – providing strategy consulting services and leadership training services to advance professional and life success. TAG leverages expertise in career strategy, diversity, negotiation skills, and business acumen to provide strategic advice and consulting services to help people and organizations get what they want, achieve their goals, and advance their business and career objectives. TAG also helps companies better attract, retain, and promote diverse talent, and develop robust diversity platforms and strategies to create a more inclusive workplace.
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