April 21, 2016

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

Source: Bigstock

As Dick Nixon might say, mistakes were made. But Jackson’s failings should not be held against his larger role in shifting the balance of power in Washington. His faults were small relative to the outsize role he played in the American project of self-government.

Nevertheless, Jackson’s opponents can”€™t seem to let his failures go. Judging historical figures by current standards of propriety is wrongheaded. It’s based on the notion that figures of national pride should be morally spotless. Similar to the campaign to remove Woodrow Wilson’s namesake from Princeton University, those demanding we purge famous but flawed persons from public symbols have a twisted conception of history. They believe that unless someone comports to modern sensibilities in regard to race, gender, and ethnicity, they are irremediably damned. Such a mind-set ignores the contextual nature of different eras.

Jackson’s America was far different from today’s. Slavery was still acceptable. Political elites were far more insulated. Northern industry was just beginning to boom. The abolition of property requirements to vote meant that citizens were beginning to get their first taste of civic life. The Jacksonian Era brought a popular sentiment into the political realm that has yet to be extinguished.

For his role in democratizing the federal government, Andrew Jackson’s place on our currency is well-earned. A nation’s legal tender shouldn”€™t serve as a heartwarming symbol of equality. It should provide utility in greasing the gears of domestic commerce, as well as document those ideas and figures who helped shape the country. Jackson’s time in public life brought a much-needed democratic check to elite-driven politics. Competent leaders are necessary in any representative government. But so is a strong reminder that voters still hold a say in the direction of their country.

That’s the legacy of the man affectionately known as the “€œPeople’s President.”€ It should continue to be honored with his face imprinted on the $20 bill. Jackson’s bold and fiery persona is just too damn American to be replaced by some frumpy broad. If we really need a woman somewhere on our currency, why not mint another coin?


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