The 20 Dollar Bill
Write a 3-4 page essay (double-spaced, 12-pt. font, Times New Roman) on Andrew Jackson and the $20 bill. Last year, the Treasury Department announced that it was replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. This decision has generated controversy. In your essay, devote Half of your paper defending why Andrew Jackson deserves to remain on the $20, and the other Half on why he should be replaced. You must defend both positions strongly. Base your argument on the assigned readings from American Yawp, Howe, and Wallace . All three sources should be cited at least once.
The 20 Dollar Bill
The 20 Dollar Bill: Arguments for and against the Replacement of Jackson by Tubman on the Bill
It has long been said that history sides with the times. A hero of yesterday may not be considered the villain of tomorrow. The saying could not be any truer when we look at the life of Andrew Jackson, the Seventh President of the United States. The president has been the face of the $20-dollar bill for a great number of years, to the point that the currency is often referred to by his name rather than its value. Certain factions of the public however are of the opinion that Jackson should not be on the $20 bill in this day and age, and should instead be replaced by Harriet Tubman. The advocacy group known as Women on 20s had placed rather strong arguments as to why Jackson’s replacement should be Harriet, stating that it is time for a change; a change that last occurred in 1928 when Jackson replaced Grover Cleveland on the $20 bill in 1928.
Arguments have arisen in order to keep Jackson on the bill. The most notable argument is that Jackson is one of the main symbols of the great nation. This is due to the fact that he was one of the leaders who took the reins and attempted to lead America into a new era of democracy, against the tide of extremely wealthy and aristocratic elites who wielded a great amount of power on the nation even after the American Revolution had taken place and attempted to change the status quo (The American Yawp). During that time, Jackson was able to create a reputation for himself as a nation builder and as a strong asset to the creation of a nation of which at the time was on his knees.
Furthermore, the story of Jackson is one of hope and determination. He was an orphan at a very young age. He was born into a very poor Scott-Irish family who had immigrated to the United States with little or no wealth, and thus had to start their lives from scratch and attempt to earn a living within a nation that had not yet gained a foothold in the world economy. At the time, the United States was only viewed as a beacon of hope to those who appreciated the fact that the nation had risen from the ashes and would grow bigger and better with time. Jackson’s rise to power was therefore important, the beginning of a change in the political and social climate of the United States. Never in the History of the young nation had any person from such a disadvantaged background been able to rise and take the reins of power, let alone be the president of the nation.
The past of Jackson has been argued to be a sign of hope; a sign that is enshrined within the denomination of the note. The $20 bill has thus been thought to show that humble beginnings can get one somewhere. These humble beginnings are illustrated in the life of Jackson and show that anyone who sets their mind to it can be able to achieve anything that they deem fit (Howe 365). The means that Jackson used to get to power, however, are questionable and may be the reason as to why there have been calls for his image to be replaced by that of Harriet Tubman. Jackson was known to have dealt with slave traders, even to the extent of owning a number of slaves. He is however also known for the fact that he played a leading role in the ending of the slave trade, thus creating a white spot on his rather dark past.
His dark past, however, remains to be a topic among the majority of the activists proposing his removal from the currency. It is argued that it would be unjust and wrong to have someone who was well known to commit a lot of social ills against people in America before he came into power should be recognized and revered by being the face on the $20 bill (Wallace and Foner 74). Their arguments are backed by the fact that during Jackson’s time in the military., he had taken part in coordinated and gruesome attacks on the Cherokees and therefore was assumed to be inhumane in a lot of aspects. In addition to this, Jackson was also known to be against the creation and use of paper money, in favor of the more common gold and silver coins which he preferred. This led to continuous wars between Jackson and the Banks all through his presidency. Therefore, it is seen as a contradiction as to why he should be placed on the face of paper money, when in reality he was opposed to the idea.
Enter Harriet Tubman, a slave who has gained popularity over the last few decades for her courage and ability to stand up for others. She is viewed as the direct opposite of Jackson, having come from a slavery background, the same slaves that Jackson is said to have bought and sold. As a young slave, Harriet attempted to protect her and was hit in the head, a sign of her selflessness and courage. Furthermore, Harriet was well known for her trips on the Underground Railroad, 19 to be exact, in which she was able to assist in the liberation of more than 300 slaves. She solidified her reputation among the community of slave liberators, earning the title “General Tubman” from John Brown.
Tubman also left an impact on the nation via the civil war, where she served as a nurse and treated a countless number of people of dysentery. Tubman used her knowledge to assist her patients to attain a quick recovery, faster than what medicine at the time could provide. She was also part of the troop that took part in the Combahee River Raid, which led to the liberation of more than 700 slaves. In addition to all of these, Tubman was able to tour the nation and stand out as an inspiration to all women, fighting for their rights.
In conclusion, Tubman clearly seems to have the upper hand
in the whole argument as to whether she should be the one to replace Jackson on
the dollar bill. Being a black woman in this day and age where the black woman
is revered and the society seeks to uplift her even more gives Tubman an
advantage. In the spirit of uplifting the black female, the public is thus in
favor of taking off Jackson’s face in favor of Tubman. As stated at the
beginning of the essay, history has a tendency to turn the heroes of today,
into the villains of tomorrow.
Howe, Daniel, Walker. What Hath God Wrought : The Transformation of America,. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Web.
The American Yawp. Democracy in America. 2017. Web. 2 April 2017.
Wallace, Anthony, F. C. and Eric Foner. The Long, Bitter Trail : Andrew Jackson and the Indians. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. Web.