Keep Bloody Andrew Jackson on the Twenty

Petitioners for the removal of Andrew Jackson from the twenty-dollar bill are fortunate they do not have to contend with Old Hickory himself. Jackson, who survived numerous duels, would be the first to battle any attempt to dishonor him.

Jackson has been on the twenty since 1928, 100 years after he was elected, pushing Grover Cleveland off the note. Therefore, most of us have spent our lifetime with a few Jacksons in our pocket. And it is the “everyman” with true American grit who should be most loathe see Jackson moved off the twenty, as he rose in the greatest of our traditions, by a love for country combined with an unrelenting will to advance from nowhere.

Jackson was born on the Ides of March in 1767 in the Carolinas to Scotch-Irish parents in the harshest of climates. His mother was recently widowed. Fortunate to have some schooling early on, he became the type of American boy immortalized by humorists, who was adept at cursing, fighting, and pulling pranks. Yet by 13, he was serving as a courier in the South Carolina militia during our Revolution. He risked life and limb for country to a greater degree than any modern critics by that young age in battling our then-enemies, the British and their Native American allies. He was captured with his brother Robert and sent to prison where he caught smallpox, which killed his brother. As prisoner, legend holds that young Andrew Jackson refused to shine the boots of a British soldier, was slashed with a saber, and proudly wore the mark the rest of his life. His mother secured his release but died soon after, leaving him an orphan at 14. Surrounded by death, he held a deep resentment for his revolutionary foes as he rose in society through hard work, including making saddles, teaching school, and studying law.

Jackson’s critics are fortunate not to have been born in a time where the country needed Jackson to continuously fight for our preservation when our existence hung in the balance. In 1802, Jackson was elected as the General of the Tennessee militia, and fought a myriad of enemies and conflicts on the frontier. He is hailed in military circles for his role as hero of the Battle of New Orleans in 1814-15, where he lead an motley crew of federal troops, militia, free African Americans, Creoles, Native Americans, and pirates against a larger contingent of British. Not far from New Orleans, he invaded and conquered Spanish Florida to protect against threats from British and Native Americans adverse to our continental ambitions. Soon afterward, the Sunshine State became a U.S. possession.

In peacetime, Jackson epitomized the American Dream. He opened a law practice, became Tennessee’s first congressman, then a U.S. senator, then a judge, then president. Apart from dueling, he maintained interests familiar to frontier Americans, including dancing, fighting in taverns, and gambling on horses and cards.

As president, Jackson's accomplishments are sufficient to keep all other claimants off his bill. In fact, few Americans have ever had an entire age named after them. The Age of Jackson, which started with his election, is characterized by the sense of promise embodied by those who dare to strike out at stake their own claim to the bounty America has to offer. Today, the best among us still cling to this notion that in the U.S.A. -- if you are breathing, you have a chance to make something remarkable of your life.

In terms of more tangible accomplishments, Jackson guarded against an early threat to break up the Union by ordering federal troops into South Carolina in 1832 when it tried to assert states rights in the form of declaring federal tariffs void.  Lincoln later followed the same formula to oppose secession. Jackson opened numerous ports of trade, including many in Latin America and the Middle East.  He won most-favored nation trading status such places as Muscat (Oman), Siam (Thailand), and Russia. He also collected huge sums of money owned by foreign governments, most notably France. He also led the greatest expansion of voting rights up to that point to include to non-land owning men.

Some critics have asserted that Jackson would never want to be on paper money, as he despised the concept, and that he was against the Second National Bank. However, being depicted on money nearly a quarter of a millennium after you were born is clearly a recognition that the 7th President contributed in a special way to this country being what it has become, in all its glory and complexities. More significant to the issue of whether Jackson should be on a bill is that Jackson remains the sole president to satisfy the national debt. No chief executive before or after has accomplished this impressive feat. The one who achieved this goal is most deserving of being on our money, as such “satisfaction” gives our currency its most value.