By Brian McKay
We couldn’t be happier at zenruption to see Andrew Jackson purged from the $20 bill. As, by far, the shittiest “Great” president, he had an entire age, “The Age of Jackson” named after him. Sure, he pulled himself up from being an impoverished orphan, but he also committed some atrocities for which being honored on a Federal Bank note was probably a never good choice.
For anyone that might doubt our assessment, here are a few really shitty things associated with Andrew Jackson.
· Andrew Jackson was a very active slave owner who bought and sold slaves in bulk. He showed no pity to them. When one slave escaped his master, Jackson offered a $50 reward plus an extra $10 for every 100 lashes given to the slave up to 300. That was essentially a death sentence.
· Part of Jackson’s wealth came from acquiring land that had been promised to native American’s in a treaty.
· His forced removal of Indians from the South was called “The Trail of Tears”. The Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muskogee, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee people were forcibly moved from lands east of the Mississippi river to areas in the West. They suffered disease, starvation and exposure, with more than 10,000 dying before reaching their resettlement area. The Cherokee were moved in 1938 due to the discovery of gold in Georgia with 2,000 – 6,000 dying along the way. These marches to their destinations were overseen by state and local militias that could hardly be considered anything near humane.
· His actions doomed relations with the Native American tribes and set them up for the conditions that still afflict them today.
· Jackson created trumped up charges against Federal office holders in order to purge them and install his own loyalists. So many office seekers crowded into the White House for his inauguration, that it nearly descended into a riot. This horrific style of patronage in politics would survive another century and be embodied in the likes of Tammany Hall in New York.
· John Quincy Adams said this upon seeing the effect of Jackson’s impact on the Republic, “The American Union as a moral Person in the family of Nations, is to live from hand to mouth, to cast away, instead of using for the improvement of its own condition, the bounties of Providence, and to raise to the summit of Power a succession of Presidents the consummation of whose glory will be to growl and snarl with impotent fury against a money broker's shop, to rivet into perpetuity the clanking chain of the Slave, and to waste in boundless bribery to the west the invaluable inheritance of the Public Lands.”
Jackson was an authoritarian who used his veto power prolifically, expanded the power of Presidency beyond that of the Congress (as it still remains today), used Federal power against non-whites and created ugly patronage schemes.
On the other hand, Harriet Tubman was an anti-slavery activist, a humanitarian and a Union spy. She made thirteen missions to rescue enslaved family and friends and fought for women’s suffrage after the Civil War.
We welcome her to the $20 bill. It was time for a change.
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption. History is his thing. Yes, he gets really upset when it gets perverted. We like it when he gets upset and we goad him into buying drinks and wings.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license