Former head of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, was shocked to hear that Alexander Hamilton might be replaced by a woman on the $10 bill. He has suggested that Andrew Jackson is a much better target for removal.
Former chair of the United States' Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke (pictured above) used his blog on Monday to make clear his disapproval of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's decision to put a woman on the $10 bill, either replacing or joining the portrait of the very first head of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
But Bernanke's criticism of Lew's move is not because a woman will be on US paper money for the first time in over 100 years - quite the contrary. Bernanke wrote on his Brookings Institution blog that "to honor a deserving woman on the face of our currency" is "a fine idea" but he, and many journalists at leading US publications like the Washington Post and the New York Times, are of a different mind than Lew on whose portrait should get the boot to make way for her: the controversial former President Andrew Jackson.
Andrew Jackson's legacy is a complex one: a man who fought against political domination by monied elites, but who also enforced policies that were devastating to indigenous peoples.
Bernanke's "appalled" blog post extols the many virtues of Alexander Hamilton, as the "most foresighted economic policymaker in US history." He also argues how logical it is that a man who "played a leading role in creating US monetary and financial institutions" be depicted on a banknote.
Treasury should dump Jackson instead
Historian and journalist Richard Brookhiser went even further than Bernanke - comparing Jack Lew to Aaron Burr, who fatally wounded Hamilton in a duel in 1804 in an article for the Wall Street Journal.
Bernanke's criticism of Andrew Jackson, whose face is on the $20 bill, is somewhat muted. He refers to the seventh US president as a "man of many unattractive qualities and a poor president," though one might assume Bernanke's allusions would be clear to any US audience.
Andrew Jackson is well-known for his policies regarding Native Americans, which was namely one of removing them from their ancestral homelands and moving them further west, to places that were at the time, in the 1820s and 30s, outside of US borders.
One of the forced marches of Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830 became known as the Trail of Tears - thousands died of disease, exposure, and starvation.
On top of political reasons, Bernanke also notes that Andrew Jackson was vehemently opposed to the creation of a US central bank and therefore "would probably be fine with having his image dropped from a Federal Reserve note."
Bernanke concedes, however, that as "decisions like this have considerable bureaucratic inertia and are accordingly hard to reverse," it is unlikely that Lew would replace Jackson instead of Hamilton.