Popular with Trump, will Jackson stay on the $20 bill?


WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for his 19th century predecessor Andrew Jackson is stoking fears he may cancel plans to replace that controversial President on the $20 bill with abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

The Treasury Department announced a year ago that by 2020 it would remove slave-owner Jackson’s likeness in favor of an image of Tubman, an African-American who escaped from slavery and helped others to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Tubman, who also fought for women to be granted the right to vote, would be the first African-American as well as the first woman to appear on a US banknote.

With nine billion in circulation, the $20 bill is among the most widely used denomination along with $1 bills, which number 11.7 billion.

US President Donald Trump at the tomb of former President Andrew Jackson in Nashville, Tennessee on March 15, 2017. AFP PHOTO

During the administration of President Barack Obama, the Treasury conducted a survey on who should be the first woman to appear on the currency, and selected Tubman.

Another survey by “Women on 20s,” a group calling for a woman to appear on the $20 banknote, collected more than a half-million responses in an online poll in which Tubman was first out of four finalists, including civil rights icon Rosa Parks and stateswoman and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

But since Trump’s election, Andrew Jackson’s stock has risen strikingly in the White House, a development that worries Tubman supporters.

Displayed in the Oval Office
“We are keeping a very close eye as to any further signal and any delay or change in the progress towards having design and production ready for Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill by 2020,” Women on 20s Founder Barbara Ortiz told AFP.

Trump “seems to be using every opportunity to extol the virtues of Jackson,” she said, recalling that Jackson was a slave owner and his role in the “Trail of Texas.”

Jackson oversaw the start of forcible expulsions of Native Americans from their ancestral lands in the southeastern United States to areas west of the Mississippi River, resulting in thousands of deaths from starvation, exposure and disease.

As a military officer, Jackson also led an invasion of Spanish Florida to destroy the “Negro Fort,” where former slaves had settled.

Five days after his inauguration, Trump displayed Jackson’s portrait prominently in the Oval Office, drawing inspiration from the former army commander, who was famed for his success in battle against the British and seen as a “man of the people.”

Trump’s advisor Stephen Bannon also praised Trump’s inaugural address as “very Jacksonian.”

Last week, Trump laid a wreath by Jackson’s tomb at his former Tennessee plantation, marking the 250th anniversary of his birth. Trump praised the “very great” Jackson for taking on “an arrogant elite.”

“Does that sound familiar to you?” Trump asked.

When Tubman’s selection was announced during his campaign, Trump panned the choice as “purely politically correct,” and said Tubman’s picture would be better placed on the $2 bill, which is hardly used.

The Treasury Department declined to comment.

Before his departure, former Treasury secretary Jack Lew considered unveiling the new bill’s design publicly to help make the change irreversible. But this was nixed to avoid encouraging counterfeiters.

Instead, in January and during Trump’s inaugural ceremonies, the Treasury, which is located next to the White House, displayed portraits of the heroes emblazoned on banknotes, George Washington ($1 bill), Abraham Lincoln ($5 bill), Alexander Hamilton (the first Treasury secretary who appears on the $10 bill) and Harriet Tubman, slated to appear on the $20 bill.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday joked that Trump himself should appear on the $1,000 bill, which is no longer in circulation.



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  1. Harriet Tubman was a brave and courageous woman who risked her life to aid the escaped slaves. She was noble character and, by all accounts, a good woman. She was not an important figure in 19th century America and does not belong on the currency.
    Jackson was a very important figure as a military man who became President by mobilizing individuals to vote. He was a POW in the Revolutionary War when, as a messenger for the southern revolutionaries, he was captured by the British. His mother died of exhaustion when she walked 200 miles to plead for his release. He was 15 at the time. He never forgave the British for his and his families treatment in the war. He was orphaned as a teenager, learned to take care or himself, became a lawyer, was a natural leader and found himself a militia leader and land owner in the frontier of Kentucky and Tennessee. He owned slaves at an early age. They were as poor as he but he was the one with the freedom to do something and became wealthy with a plantation near Nashville, in Tennessee.
    He was a ruthless Indian fighter, as was Washington at the time of the Revolution. The Indians sided with the British with good reason. They would get a much better deal under the King than any American president. The Americans were ruthless in their extermination in response to Indian cannibalism and scalping. Jackson’s role in the War of 1812 was pivotal. He ruthlessly suppressed the British Indian allies along the Mississippi’s eastern shore and managed to defeat the same army that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in the Battle of New Orleans. He did it with two militias, freed slaves, somewhat reluctant New Orleans residents and a band of French pirates who found firing cannons on land much easier than at sea. They managed to kill the three field generals of the advancing British army and end their attempt to seize of the Mississippi river valley. They then followed the British along the coast to Florida where they exiled the Spanish governor and seized Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The British made no further claim to the Mississippi River watershed and devoted their energy to India and Africa.
    Jackson’s presidency was not a success but he did manage to stop South Carolina, his home state, from attempting to secede from the Union over the slavery issue. He threatened to burn the South Carolina capital to the ground if they voted to secede. Such was his reputation that they immediately backed down. Jackson put the Union of the States above slavery without a moments hesitation. His presence in the early years of the 19th century, when the States were imperiled by the British and their Indian allies was vital and is why he is on the money. His failure to end slavery and his killing of the Eastern Indians are often cited as reasons why not to put him on the money. He was also the only President to have personally killed people in duels. He was very “Un PC” and was seen as much more important in the 19th century than in the 20th century when all of the perils of his day had long ago receded.
    So keeping Jackson on the money is the right move. Harriet is a minor figure by comparison.