Take It From Jackson, Not Hamilton!

The power of symbols is all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds this morning. Mostly it’s liberals petitioning South Carolina to stop using the Confederate flag in light of the racist murder of nine people in a historic Black church there. Oddly, it happened the same day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle was allowed to say No to a request by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to issue official license plates with the stars and bars on them.

Alexander Hamilton: George Washington's consigliere, and an abolitionist far ahead of his time.

Alexander Hamilton: George Washington’s consigliere, and an abolitionist far ahead of his time.

And double oddly, on the very same day, the Treasury Department announced it was going to put a woman on the ten dollar bill, and I for one am not happy. Not that I’m against putting a woman on currency. I am, however, against giving the Ten, which is Alexander Hamilton’s spot, to her. Half the point of the petitions from the past year, to replace Andrew Jackson with a woman, was to take Jackson down a peg by taking him off the Twenty.

Alexander Hamilton was George Washington’s Karl Rove: the consigliere, the operative who could turn principles into action. He was also a president of the (love the names from back then!) New-York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and Protecting Such of Them as Have Been, or May be Liberated, a.k.a. the New York Manumission Society, an organization that called for the abolition of slavery as early as the Revolution, in the 1770s. He also proposed arming freed slaves in military units, ninety years before Lincoln. Hamilton: The Musical is coming to Broadway this summer, and it’s sold out for the first month.

To honor Hamilton is to honor the can-do, behind the scenes person in every regime or organization, the person you could hand a dirty job to and know that it is done. Vito Corleone had Tom, Sterling Cooper had Joanie, and George Washington had Hamilton.

Mozart's on the Austrian euro. Why not  Ella on the Twenty?

Mozart’s on the Austrian euro. Why not Ella on the Twenty?

Andrew Jackson waged genocidal and unauthorized proxy wars against sovereign nations such as the Cherokees. Following the victory that made him a national hero – the Battle of New Orleans, which, sadly, was fought after the peace treaty had been signed – he marched into the cathedral at New Orleans and had the bishop crown him. He is the granddaddy of the fraud populist tradition in American politics, which is alive and well – which explains why it’s politically more possible to replace Hamilton than Jackson:

Like so much else in American politics, the crazies are more attached to their symbols than the sane are to theirs. Not me. I call bullshit. Take it from Jackson.

If we’re going to make a concession to the rednecks, let’s not put an activist on the money. Let’s face it, people don’t like activists. Let’s recognize America’s great contribution to global culture. Lots of European countries put composers on their currency. We should put Ella Fitzgerald on ours. A black woman, yes, and a great American, who won more hearts and minds than Jackson ever did, without firing a gun.