Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Question for Liberals

While we're at it...I don't suppose that liberals believe that Ronald Reagan should be on American coins or currency, but (and restricting it for now to political figures) who do you think should be so honored? Who should be tossed (current bills; current coins, )? As I said earlier today, my list would basically start with James Madison, then MLK, then HST. (Note: this Sunday question is inspired by this post from a while ago, but I didn't get around to it until now).


  1. Andrew Jackson should not be on US currency. His main contribution to our monetary history was to destroy the 2nd Bank of the US by vetoing it's 1932 recharter. He had 4 years to manage the consequences of this devolution of power and still managed to bungle it up so badly as to cause the depression of 1837.

    Replace him with anybody as far as I care...

  2. I agree with Paul. Priority #1 should be taking Jackson off US currency.

    And while I rather like the idea of adding MLK to a coin and perhaps replacing Jackson's face on the 20 with FDR's, I'd prefer we got away from this form of hero worship and put places, landmarks, even appropriate art work on our currency.

  3. I quite like the British practice of changing who's on the currency once in a while. I suppose that's tied to their practice of including non-political figures -- which I also like -- wouldn't you grin every time you saw a Mark Twain nickel? (The list of names suggested by the public for use on Bank of England banknotes is pretty great too. I know I'd grin every time I saw a John Cleese shilling.)
    As far as political people ... it feels weird to pick non-Presidents, but after Madison and Truman, I'd suggest that Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman share something.
    Co-sign on getting rid of Andrew Jackson; also JFK, if half-dollars are still in circulation.

  4. Madison definitely.

    I'd add Adams pere. For all his crankiness he was an enormously important force at key points and a remarkably thoughtful politician and legal constitutionalist. Equally important - he should appear with Abigail.

    I think we ought to have something like a century rule - sort of like for Roman Catholic saints, so I'd wait a few decades on MLK.

    As for HST, I was born & raised in Indep Mo so you can imagine I've got a soft spot for Harry. But he ordered those bombs dropped, and that's a legacy a step too far for me to want to see him "enshrined".

    I'd rather have Eleanor, though that would violate my 100 year rule.

    And I agree with Paul that putting Jackson on currency is a farce.

  5. Put the Kennedy Brothers on Dollar Coins. HST gets the dime and Roosvelt gets the two dollar coin. Kick Jackson off the twenty and replace him with MLK Jr.

    I think Margaret Chase Smith, Harriet Tubman, or a Grimke sister needs to be in circulation. Not sure how to do that.

  6. Is John Adams on money? Probably should be. Otherwise I agree about Madison, HST and MLK. There are some other non-presidents who should be considered, too -- the ones who leap to mind are John Smith, Lafayette, Daniel Boone (?), Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Frederick Douglass. And by way of capturing what America is all about, you couldn't do much better than P.T. Barnum.

    The native Americans have really been shafted in all this. There should be at least one prominent Indian leader on money, and not a "generic" Indian like on the old buffalo nickel. Metacomet (aka "King Philip"), Black Hawk and Sitting Bull all come to mind, although being white, I have a distorted view of Indian achievements -- I remember these guys because they're in the history books, and what got them there was waging war on white America. Ideally you'd want to recognize Indians who were good for other Indians, which maybe is these guys or maybe not. (I realize we've already had Sacagewea on a dollar coin. Good start, I guess, since it's a twofer -- she's also a woman. But her claim to fame was helping whites.)

    In the old days, there was a kind of taboo against putting people on money, so the figure on coins and bills was usually "Liberty" in some form: Standing Liberty, Walking Liberty, Bust of Liberty, Seated Liberty, Liberty Getting Up to Answer the Doorbell, etc. These were all stereotyped neoclassical images of some kind. The Treasury should commission artists today to reimagine Liberty for our era -- see if they can come up with some new Liberty figures for the 21st century. I have no idea what the results would be, but I'd be really interested in seeing them.

  7. Most of the replies above posted while I was writing mine. I agree about Eleanor Roosevelt, and would also suggest George C. Marshall.

  8. John Marshall. Who undoubtedly saved the Republic and was a more useful founder than Hamilton, though I understand why Treasury puts their man on the tenner.

    I balk at putting Eleanor Roosevelt on anything, if only because it sets bad precedent; do you really want Nancy Reagan Dollars? (pick the first lady of your least love).

    Definitely support Douglass/Tubman and George Marshall. If we want to stick all three Kennedys on the half dollar, that'd be cool, but it'd have to up circulation to make it work.

    If you want Barnum, you have to get Poe. They're two sides of the same coin of American behavior (read Poe's stuff for 'The Sun' it's totally killer. Sun people, transaltantic mail ships.)

  9. I like Jeff's suggestion about reviving the tradition of an abstract Liberty character. I've always been amused by the French custom of redesigning their symbolic "Marianne" character periodically to fit current standards of beauty--remember when Catherine Deneuve was officially designated as the face of France? I look forward to the debate over whether Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts should be the model for Liberty.

  10. Sequoyah.

    I think there is something noble and generous in honoring the native American who did the best job of kicking our asses, which I guess would be Sitting Bull. OTOH Little Bighorn looms large because a general was among the fatalities. An expert might offer a better choice.

    I'd also consider Geronimo, for being the last important holdout.

    I once saw a documentary about a native American, name unfortunately forgotten, who was notable for leading his people on a long march to safety while avoiding battle.

  11. I agree with getting Jackson off the $20, and I don't quite see why Washington gets two (the $1 and the $0.25). Or Lincoln (the $5 and the $0.01; of course, one way to solve that is to get rid of the penny).

    Frederick Dougglas should go on something, maybe replacing Washington in one place.

  12. Just to save anyone the trouble of looking them all up:

    1¢ Abraham Lincoln
    5¢ Thomas Jefferson
    10¢ Franklin Roosevelt
    25¢ George Washington
    50¢ John F. Kennedy
    $1 “silver” coin Susan B. Anthony
    $1 “gold” coin Sacagawea

    Bills in circulation
    $1 George Washington
    $5 Abraham Lincoln
    $10 Alexander Hamilton
    $20 Andrew Jackson
    $50 Ulysses S. Grant
    $100 Benjamin Franklin

    Bills no longer in circulation
    $500 William McKinley
    $1,000 Grover Cleveland
    $5,000 James Madison
    $10,000 Salmon P. Chase
    $100,000 Woodrow Wilson

  13. Is MLK on any money? I think he should be on something.

    You know, as celebrity-conscious as American culture is, I've always been amazed that we don't put, like, Paul Newman or someone like that on the money.

    Seriously, though: back in August I did a post on the major kerfuffle in right-wing land when an entry in a British design competition put Obama on the dollar bill. Some people thought it was serious and went ballistic.

  14. Teddy Roosevelt should be on money. Andrew "Trail of Tears" Jackson shouldn't. And while I don't agree that Grant was a bad president, he wasn't good enough to be on money. JFK is way overrated and should be bumped from the 50 cent piece.

  15. Gregory Peck should be on all currency. All of them.

  16. In reply to someone above about our modern interpretation of lady would probably be someone in a bikini......which leads me to think that just going with ms january, ms february, ms march.......etc. hmmmmmm......that would probably represent our current cultural state better than anything, no?

  17. If the dems in congress and prez o let the republicans force through some crap about reagan on ANYTHING then they are truly a bunch of panzies. This is the sort of thing where they ought to stand up and say HELL NO! But I'm betting that they want......get ready for ronnie on the $1 bill very soon.

  18. I second John Marshall. He is essentially the founding father of one of our three branches of government.

    I nominate James Polk. He did more to expand the Union than just about anyone. We all know about Jefferson and the LA purchase, Polk needs some love for Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Oregon treaty. So: won a war, added Texas (formally days before his term, but had to win a war to keep it), California, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, most of Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. That seems pretty significant to me.

    I agree with the consensus here that Jackson doesn't belong. I don't understand what Kennedy did that merits his inclusion, and although I understand that professional historians are enthusiastic about Truman, he doesn't do it for me either.

    I am fine with MLK, and although the 100 year rule has instinctive appeal to me, I will point out that he was a contemporary with Kennedy, who has been on a coin for a pretty long time already. Even FDR would not qualify on the 100 year rule. I think a better threshold would be something like 25 to 40 years.

    I think Madison is a great idea.

    My top three would be, in order, Madison, Polk, Marshall.

  19. I'd say drop both Jackson & Grant. Reissue the $500, and that gets us a total of three bills to play with.

    I'd say go with Madison, TR, and MLK, in that order (and in that order on bills, since that's the order they'd be used in.

  20. Dude, I'd be down with Polk, except that he was a fucking creeper and attempted to do all sorts of sketchy shit around Congress. If we're barring Jackson for genocide and originating the Imperial Presidency (plus the 2nd BOTUS and depression). Unless that new bio makes him sound better than in Howe's "What Hath God Wrought"

    I'd also argue that, barring the Founders, no slaveholders. Or for every slaveholder, two abolitionists or "liberators" as broadly as that may be construed. Because otherwise, the currency gets gunked up with a bunch of dead white men. So, if we get Polk, Fanny Lou Hammer and Diane Nash (posthumously).

    Also, George Thomas, loyal Union General from Viriginia, and Clarence Darrow.

  21. Women always get screwed on questions like this. We had the Sacajawea (sp?) dollars and Betsy Ross and they don't even have that currency in circulation anymore.

  22. I want to join the chorus to bump off Jackson, and third putting TR on.


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