New Faces on the Money

There were plans for changing some of the dollar bills, but with Trumpenfuhrer at the helm who knows how it will all end. Here’s how I would overhaul the entire American currency.

$1. George Washington. As one of the few “hero” presidents who actually deserves the honor, he can stay on the one-dollar bill. Washington stayed out of foreign wars and overseas alliances that would tangle the new nation in conflicts. He broke alliance with France when it declared war on Britain. He was a respecter of all faiths. (He wrote to a rabbi: “May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”) He wasn’t perfect; he suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, but he did so without killing anyone, and he at least pardoned the rioters. Most importantly, he was committed to respecting the checks and balances of the government, and deferred to Congress on most legislation. He used his veto power only when he believed a bill was unconstitutional. He recommended the Bill of Rights, one of the most important contributions to American thought. Finally, he refused to become a king (when he easily could have), by stepping down and setting the precedent for two-term presidential service. Washington ensured the survival of a new system of liberty, and he got it through a very rocky stage. For this and more he retains the top position of privilege.

$5. Abraham Lincoln. Harriet Tubman. There are good and bad reasons to hate on Lincoln, but the fact is that he does not live up to his mythological reputation. Harriet Tubman is a wholly positive image for blacks and also women, having helped slaves escape the South, and then later worked for women’s suffrage. Lincoln engineered the most terrible and unnecessary war in American history, devastating the country and killing 600,000 Americans, 38,000 of whom were blacks. It hardly improved the lot of African Americans (who wouldn’t experience real freedom until the Civil Rights movement a century later), and produced the backlash of Jim Crow laws and the KKK. Peaceful alternatives would have achieved a better outcome more quickly, and without as much retribution against blacks. Other nations had already ended slavery by offering slave owners compensation for a gradual freedom, and Lincoln should have had the wisdom to follow suit. He was the worst presidential offender of civil rights (after Woodrow Wilson), arresting and jailing anyone (journalist or protestor) who dared criticize the war. Like the future George W. Bush, he disappeared citizens without arrest warrants, forbidding them the right to challenge their detention. Lincoln also treated the Indians horribly, running the Navajos and Mescalero Apaches out of their New Mexico territory, cheating the Sioux out their lands, and also signing off on the largest mass execution of Indians (or anyone) in U.S. history. Everyone wants Harriet Tubman to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20, but it’s more appropriate that she replace Lincoln. (My idea for Jackson’s replacement, below, is much better.)

$10. Alexander Hamilton. John Tyler. The $10 bill should have the 10th president who was also the best in history. It’s especially fitting since he vetoed the attempt to create a Third National Bank, which was something Alexander Hamilton should never have created in the first place. Tyler courageously fought his own party the Whigs to do the right things, which ruined his chances for a second term. He had only joined the Whigs as a protest against “King” Andrew Jackson while remaining a classic Democrat at heart, and was committed to his constitutional duty regardless of any party philosophy. He showed himself to be a sincere free speech advocate by urging the pardon of mobsters who were rioting against him on the White House lawn. He used restraint in the Dorr Rebellion, which made possible the expansion of voting rights and increased political power for non-land owners in the state of Rhode Island. He agreed to compromise on a British land claim in Maine, thus averting a likely war with Britain, and then also agreed to work with Britain to jointly enforce a ban on the high-seas slave trade. (For an Anglophobe and Southern sympathizer like Tyler to do both of these things was doubly impressive.) He ended the Second Seminole War, the longest and bloodiest Indian war in American history, and reversed Jackson’s ethnic-cleaning policy by allowing the Seminoles to stay on their Florida lands. He cut the number of troops in the American army by a whopping 33%. He recognized Hawaiian independence and promised protection for the nation when it asked for it. He peacefully opened China to free trade, allowing the U.S. to begin leading in the Asian theater. Tyler is an unsung hero.

$20. Andrew Jackson. Osceola. What native American is better suited to replace the foul Andrew Jackson? Osceola resisted Jackson’s eviction of the Seminole tribe. The other four tribes effected by the Indian Removal Act (the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee) ended up marching hundreds of miles west with little more than the clothes on their backs, and on some of those marches as much as 25% of the Indians (men, women, and children) died en route. Those that survived were forced to settle on shitty land in Oklahoma. The Seminole tribe held their ground in Florida, and Jackson declared war on them in 1835, resulting in the longest and bloodiest Indian war in U.S. history (It was President John Tyler who finally ended it in 1842, and allowed the Seminoles to remain on Florida land). Osceola was one of the warriors leading the Seminoles, and according to legend he put a knife in the treaty that was supposed to evict them. The accounts don’t agree on which treaty he stabbed — was it Payne’s Landing (1832) or Fort Gibson (1833)? — and Osceola probably never really did this, but he was certainly on fire for revolution, and he was just as much in the right as the Americans who fought the British in the Revolutionary War. At one point he lashed out crying, “The white man shall not make me black. I will make the white man red with blood; and then blacken him in the sun and rain.” Violence isn’t enlightened, but sometimes it can’t be avoided; against an Andrew Jackson it becomes necessary. The Indians were being thrown off their own land. If the American Revolution was justified against England (it was), so too was Indian warfare against certain U.S. administrations. I cannot think of a better substitute for Jackson on the $20 bill than freedom fighter Osceola.

$50. Ulysses Grant. Warren Harding. Grant needs to go. As a hard-core Reconstructionist, he made things worse for African Americans by his “nation-building” strategies in the South. His predecessor Andrew Johnson was correct in warning that the harshness of northern military rule would cause a backlash against southern blacks — and sure enough that’s how Jim Crow laws and the KKK were born. Johnson had proposed that federal civilians be used in the South instead of a military rule, and that would have been the better solution. Johnson however was a virulent racist and so he can’t be the new $50 face. I say Warren Harding. Everyone hates Harding, but our obsession with his sex life (which is irrelevant) and the minor greed of his underlings (which has been overblown) has completely overshadowed his tremendous impact on a war-ravaged economy, astute foreign policy, and sound liberty record. He returned the nation to peace after World War I. He put the federal government on a budget for the first time and set the conditions for the economic expansion of the Roaring Twenties. He established the Office of the Budget. He was an early advocate for civil rights, and addressed severe racial tensions fueled by World War I thanks to his racist predecessor Wilson. He supported anti-lynching laws. “Democracy is a lie,” he said, “without political equality for black citizens.” He freed hundreds of political prisoners, repairing the severe wounds wrought by the Espionage and Sedition acts of 1917 and 1918 under Woodrow Wilson which had been among the worst assaults on free speech. He was one of the best presidents in history, not one of the worst as we are often told.

$100. Benjamin Franklin. He was one of the founding fathers and a scientist too, so he has to stay.

The Penny. Abraham Lincoln. Martin Luther King. Like Harriet Tubman on the $5 bill, Dr. King replaces Lincoln. There have been plans to put MLK on the $5 bill, but I say Harriet Tubman should take that ownership. There’s no denying that King did more for African Americans in a dozen years (1955-68) than any other forces alone or combined did in the previous two centuries. His wake up call was “the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free”, one hundred years after the Civil War. Inspired by his Christian faith and the teachings of Gandhi, he crusaded non-violently to achieve legal equality for African-Americans. He acted in positively empowering ways, and taught that blacks should take responsibility for their communities, rather than constantly playing the victim card or rioting in the streets. King would be appalled by today’s Leftists who silence honest discussion, demand to be spared offense out of cultural sensitivity, and decry as “racist” honest and accurate assessments of religions which lend themselves to violence more than others. To groups like Antifa, he is an alien, despite whatever they think on the subject.

The Nickel. Thomas Jefferson. Geronimo. Jefferson is a classic example of the Peter Principle. He did great things in his early career (especially authoring the Declaration of Independence), but his ascendance to the presidency spelled disaster. His worst act was the Trade Embargo of 1807, which devastated the American economy while having virtually no effect on the British and French; American exports dropped 80% and imports dropped 60%, resulting in massive unemployment and Americans starving. Rarely in American history has the population starved due to a government policy, and this alone makes Jefferson one of the worst presidents of all time. The Embargo Act also placed the country under military rule, which led to searches, seizures, and arrests without warrants and with the slightest suspicion of someone exporting goods. The irony is that while Jefferson ended the persecution of free speech under the Alien and Sedition Acts during John Adams’ administration, he committed just as many violations of civil liberties on his own watch. Finally, Jefferson set the precedent for ethnic cleansing, arguing that if the Native American Indians would not assimilate into white society, they had to be removed from their ancestral homelands and relocated to less desirable land further west. This would not be implemented on a large scale until Andrew Jackson, but it is Jefferson we have to thank for it. So it’s only fitting that Geronimo replace him on the nickel.

The Dime. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Jimmy Carter. The lawless egomaniac FDR should be replaced by the humble Jimmy Carter. He was the last good president of America, and in some ways channeled John Tyler, doing what needed to be done regardless of what his own party thought about it. He promoted individuals taking responsibility for themselves, pushed for reducing the federal deficit, and believed that welfare was bad for the family and work ethic. His fiscal policies led to the prosperity of the Reagan years (not Reagan’s policies, as commonly believed), and they would set the precedent for later tight-money policies that led to prosperity in the Clinton years. He insisted that America shouldn’t police the globe, showing rare wisdom for a president of the post-World War II era. He created the Departments of Energy and Education. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment, which ensured that women were treated equally (though the amendment failed), pardoned those who avoided the draft during Vietnam, spoke out against apartheid in South Africa, and avoided the post-World War II tendency of presidents to support anti-Communist dictatorships that committed human rights violations. On the downside, he failed to successfully negotiate for the release of American hostages in Iran (though U.S. policy in Iran was doomed to failure anyway before Carter took office), and even worse he overreacted to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and promoted Islamism to fight Communist forces. For these he gets an unduly bad rap. On whole his record is outstanding.

The Quarter. George Washington. Grover Cleveland. If Washington stays on the $1 bill, we don’t need him twice. Cleveland used to be on the now obsolete $1000 bills and was a very good choice for that, given his shrewd fiscal policies. He was the last of the 19th century presidents and marked the close of an era, before McKinley turned the U.S. into a trans-world empire. Cleveland used admirable restraint in all things: he reduced government spending, stayed out of foreign affairs, and vetoed unconstitutional bills more often than any other president up to that point. He was known for saying, “I did not come to legislate.” He crusaded for the gold standard and restored it during his second term, to guarantee a stable currency. His tight money policies pulled the country out of an ugly recession caused by his predecessor Benjamin Harrison. He tried to protect native American land in Indian Territory (today Oklahoma), with some success, and he gave Indians citizenship and reservation land to farm, with mixed results. He did a few bad things too (like smashing the Pullman Strike with an unconstitutional use of military force, continuing Benjamin Harrison’s naval build up, and risked war with Britain over a minor Venezuelan dispute), but on whole Cleveland was a good president who respected the limited role of executive power. After him came the many Caesar presidents.

The Half-dollar. John F. Kennedy. Calvin Coolidge. There is no president I would like to love more than JFK, but he’s too tragic a figure, and his blunders outweighed his good marks. “Silent Cal” should replace him. He was called “Silent” for being a man of few words, and proof that being a good president doesn’t depend on charisma or oratory skills. He used restraint in foreign policy and stayed out of unneeded wars. He hugely improved the economy. His predecessor Harding had reduced the top income tax rate from 71% to 46%, but Coolidge’s three revenue acts in 1924, 1926 and 1928 brought it down to 25%. He continued Harding’s tight fiscal policy which kept the Roaring Twenties booming along, and quality of life improved remarkably in the 20s as a result. As production costs declined for businesses and incomes rose for consumers, more people than ever were able to purchase goods that are common in households today — cars, indoor flush toilets, electricity. In this period, the rich, while paying at a lower rate, also paid a greater share of the income tax than they had under the higher rates. The middle class also prospered. He vocally opposed racism and supported anti-lynching legislation which led to the decline of the second KKK. He favored laws which limited the number of hours children could work. Like Harding he was the kind of president we need in the 21st century.

The Dollar. Susan B Anthony. The lead crusader for women’s suffrage has to stay. Thanks to her, women eventually got the right to vote.

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