Jackson’s departure from the 20: a long time coming

Aidan Lindell, Staff Writer

The Department of Treasury has discussed a redesign of the $20 bill since 2013. Andrew Jackson’s face on the front has been controversial for some time, yet the Biden administration promised to replace Jackson with notable civil rights activist and slave abolitionist Harriet Tubman by 2030. Although Jackson’s replacement is a step in the right direction for our society, it is a long overdue. 

In fact, it is a step that we should never have had to take at all, because Jackson should never have ended up on our money to begin with.

Like most countries, America’s banknotes depict figures that are important to its history and the formation of its national values. This can be seen with our other notes: the $1 bill depicts our First President, the $10 bill depicts a notable Revolutionary War commander, and the $5 bill depicts the president who helped free the slaves. All of these men have, in some way, defended the idea that all people are born with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And then there’s Andrew Jackson. There is perhaps no President who more so represents the antithesis of those three inalienable rights than Jackson. To illustrate this, it would be best to focus on each individual right, and explain the affronts to each committed by our seventh president.

First is the right to life. Fairly self explanatory: no person should be put to death by the government or anyone else without a fair and just trial. Jackson, however, seemed to disagree. In his day, he was known for his hot temper and his tendency to resolve personal disputes with deadly pistol duels. He had openly wished to have killed several members of Congress, and in one instance in 1806, actually did kill a man who insulted him and his wife.

Although this was committed before he became president, he did worse. In 1830, as president he passed and enforced the Indian Removal Act. This act allowed governors and land owners to forcefully acquire Native lands, often through threats of violence. This led to multiple death marches, such as the Choctaw Trail of Tears, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Natives. Not exactly a staunch defender of every man’s “right to life.”

Second is the right to liberty. All men are created free, and cannot be subject to servitude except in cases, such as punishment for a crime. In 1804, he purchased a plot of land which he developed into a slave plantation. 

As president, he did little to emancipate those stuck in perpetual bondage that so defies the concept of liberty. In fact, when anti-slavery abolitionists were sending pamphlets and publications, hoping to soften the hearts of slave owners, he enforced a rule which restricted the sending of this literature to subscribers only. He also made publicly available the names and personal information of these senders and receivers, putting them in danger of retaliation and intimidating them into stopping.

Finally, is the right to the pursuit of happiness. Any person can seek personal happiness and fulfillment, so long as doing so doesn’t harm others. To see Jackson’s affront to this right, one only needs to look back to the Choctaw Trail of Tears, where the livelihoods of thousands of Natives was uprooted, and they were forced to leave the lands they had found so much happiness and prosperity in.

At this point, someone who has more positive opinions of Andrew Jackson may be keen to point out all the good he’s done for the country: being born to a common logging family, his election showed that the right to vote and participate in politics was not excluded to an elite few, and that the power really did belong to the hands of the people. Additionally, he is the only president to pay off the national debt.

However, even one who is of the opinion that Jackson was an overall positive figure in the development of this country must agree that he doesn’t belong on our money. You see, one of Jackson’s campaign promises and projects while in office was the deregulation of banks. He abolished the federal bank, and in 1836, passed a law requiring all land purchases to be made with gold and silver, with paper notes not being allowed. 

If Jackson hated national banks and paper currency so much, why would any supporter of his want his face on a paper currency printed by a national bank? It would be analogous to naming a 9/11 victims’ charity the “Osama Bin Laden Charitable Trust.” It’s the ultimate disrespect to what the man stood for, and is an insult to those who don’t support him.

Not only do his actions and beliefs not line up with our fundamental principles of liberty, but to iconize him on something he would have hated serves only to disrespect his legacy. It makes no sense that Jackson has remained on our money for nearly the past 100 years, and his removal is long overdue.