Old Hickory has been chopped off the front of the twenty-dollar bill. Andrew Jackson will still appear on the back of the bill, but Harriet Tubman (freed slave, conductor on the mostly mythical Underground Railroad, and Union spy) will now appear on the front. Jackson was a famous war hero and a feared duelist, but he finally met his match at the hands of fainting-couch feminists who require trigger warnings when reading about history.
Although a somewhat interesting figure, the hard truth is that Tubman was not particularly important. While entire histories of her day and age have been written without so much as mentioning her name, Jackson has a whole age named after him. The one consolation that Americans have is that Jackson will not be replaced with the utterly insignificant (and almost literally unknown) Wilma Pearl Mankiller or the insufferable (and extremely overrated) Eleanor Roosevelt. It may also interest the Obama Administration to know that it has just removed the sole Scotch-Irish figure from the currency, thereby disenfranchising one of the oldest, largest, and most distinguished ethnicities in America. Orange Lives Matter!
The campaign to replace Jackson began with a group of activists, ‘Women on 20s,’ who declared Tubman the winner of an online poll and presented a petition to the Obama Administration to change the bill accordingly. This is not at all surprising, as Tubman has been drilled into upcoming generations’ heads as one of the most important figures in American history (James M. McPherson notes in a collected review of several Tubman biographies that she was more recognisable among college students than Benjamin Franklin or Patrick Henry).
Outside of the online activism of so-called ‘social-justice warriors,’ there was little to no interest in changing the bill to be ‘politically correct.’ As public-choice economics teaches, however, when a policy’s benefits are concentrated (in this case, the Yankee-like satisfaction of forcing your views on others) and its costs dispersed (one more crack in the crumbling foundation of American national identity), the potential winners will make themselves more influential than the potential losers. So while the many Americans who are fed up with political correctness were at home or work minding their own business, the few who view America’s history as one dismal episode of patriarchy, racism, and exploitation after another were making their voices heard.
When the Obama Administration announced last year that it would be Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill who would be replaced with a woman – not Jackson as everyone expected – outraged central-banking elites and social-justice warriors formed an unholy pro-Hamilton/anti-Jackson alliance. Federal Reserve Chairman Benjamin Bernanke and business publisher Steve Forbes praised Hamilton’s consolidation of money and power in Washington, D.C., and argued that he was the founder of America’s modern economy and government (make of that dubious honour what you will). The Huffington Post, speaking for the fans of ‘Hamilton,’ a hip-hop Broadway musical that is currently all the rage on the Internet, shrieked, ‘Anti-Slavery Hamilton Gets Pushed Off The $10, While Genocidal Slaver Stays on the $20.’
In addition to stewing over the Obama Administration’s initial decision, the Huffington Post also complained that ‘Jackson’s ideological forerunner,’ Thomas Jefferson – apparently nothing more than ‘a slave-trading landed elite’ – remained on any currency at all. Yet while Hamilton’s supposed lifelong opposition to slavery is now sung to the skies (despite the fact that he married into a slaveholding family, traded in slaves himself, hobnobbed with slaveholders, and dutifully enforced laws and treaties upholding slavery), it was Jefferson who tried twice to abolish slavery in Virginia, encouraged the Congress to abolish the slave trade as soon as legally possible, gave voice to the conflicted slaveholders torn between reconciling the injustice of slavery with the safety of their own race, and who urged posterity to press on against slavery. Yet Jefferson must bow to Hamilton for his mere membership in the New York Manumission Society?
There was never any danger of Hamilton going anywhere, however. At the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton presented a plan for a supreme, quasi-monarchical central government. Hamilton did not intend for his plan to be taken seriously: his goal was simply to present an extreme alternative to the federal New Jersey Plan and thus make the national Virginia Plan seem moderate by comparison. In its handling of the currency change, the Obama Administration took a page right out of Hamilton’s book: by announcing that it was going to replace Hamilton (an extreme plan not meant to be taken seriously), it set up a perfect ‘compromise’ on removing the politically incorrect (Southerner, slaveholder, and Indian fighter) Jackson. Just as Hamilton later presented the Constitution to New Yorkers in terms which he had no intention of obeying himself once it was ratified, so the Obama Administration never had any intention of actually removing Hamilton – it was all a charade.
The American Left’s glee at the Obama Administration’s reversal on its currency redesign was predictable. As the Left’s plot to elect a new electorate by disguising government-engineered mass-migration as mere ‘immigration’ populates America with people who admire Pancho Villa more than George Washington, can sing ‘La Cucharacha’ but not ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ and celebrate Cinco de Mayo over the Fourth of July, leftists have dropped all pretense and revealed their hate for America – specifically, white Americans and their history. The only dissent on the Left was from hopeless, hilarious malcontents for whom putting Tubman on the currency was akin to putting her back on the auction block: after all, slaves were bought and sold, and dollars are used to buy and sell things – get it?
As usual in the culture wars, the left-libertarians were completely useless, either sniffing that they do not care whose face is on the government’s worthless pieces of paper or hailing the choice of a freedom fighter.”
What was most disappointing, however, was the pathetic attempt by neoconservatives to turn the tables on the Obama Administration and force Tubman and Jackson into contemporary political clichés. So Tubman became a “gun-toting, Bible-believing, Republican-voting Sarah Palin,” and Jackson the “racist founder of the liberal Democratic Party.”
Jackson was a war hero who won his spurs as a boy in the American Revolution and defeated a British invasion and Indian insurrection during the War of 1812, as well as an immensely popular President who lowered taxes and spending to balance the budget, paid down the debt (the last time in history this was done, by the way), and killed the corrupt national bank. That is, Jackson defended his country and cut the government down to size, but ‘conservatives’ are going to repudiate him as a ‘racist’ (in fact, for his time, Jackson was known as a benevolent slaveholder and was an early foe of the so-called ‘Slave Power’) and ‘Democrat’ (as if the quasi-libertarian Democratic Party of the Jacksonian Era has anything to do with the collectivist Democratic Party of today) in favour of a female slave from the lunatic fringe of abolitionism? Paleoconservative Paul Gottfried has lamented the strange shift of ‘conservative’ icons away from statesmen like Edmund Burke, John Adams, John Randolph of Roanoke, and John C. Calhoun to revolutionaries like Frederick Douglass, Leon Trotsky, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, but this particular bargain surely sets a new low for the foundering conservative movement.
The reason that the American Right is such a sham opposition to the Left is because it suffering from a severe form of “occupation mentality,” in which it has unwittingly abandoned conservative principles and adopted the ideology of its leftist occupiers: Jacobinism (leveling traditional liberties and institutions and erecting in their place a civil religion of equality and democracy), globalism (placing an international agenda over the interests of the country), and cultural Marxism (revising history, revolutionising society, and silencing dissent, all in the name of political correctness). Thus, while the paleoconservative Russell Kirk could define conservatism as belief in a permanent moral order, respect for tradition, recognition of man’s fallen nature, adherence to prudence, appreciation of diverse ways of life, liberty and property as the foundation of civilisation, defense of natural communities over artificial collectives, confidence in restraints on power and passions, and understanding that ‘change is not reform,’ the modern ‘neoconservative’ must be for trimming taxes and regulations while busting the budget and racking up the debt, waxing eloquent about the Founding Fathers while surrendering the border and dissolving America’s national identity, waging war for the pointless projection of power or installation of puppet regimes – and last but not least, must have a personal relationship with his lord and saviour, Ronald Reagan. Furthermore, while the paleoconservative M.E. Bradford could argue that ‘equality as a moral or political imperative, pursued as an end in itself – Equality with the capital “E” – is the antonym of every legitimate conservative principle,’ the neoconservatives now maintain – in accordance with Bradford’s rival, Harry Jaffa – that equality is the fundamental conservative principle.
Whatever the truth and justice of the cause for which abolitionists like Tubman fought, they were most certainly not conservatives in any sense of the word. Indeed, the abolitionists were the most fanatical Jacobins in American history, especially the militant wing to which Tubman belonged. In his latest book, A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War, popular historian Thomas Fleming explains how the abolitionists were actually extremely counterproductive, making the peaceful abolition of slavery impossible and the so-called ‘Civil War’ inevitable. Tubman herself was a conspirator with John Brown, a literal terrorist whose plot to incite a race war (and, even more significantly, the Republican Party’s subsequent obstruction of justice) showed Southerners what they had to expect from a Republican presidential administration. Due to their occupation mentality, neoconservatives cannot accept that the true conservatives of Antebellum America were not the abolitionists or the ‘anti-slavery’ Republicans demanding radical change and breaking the law, but the slaveholders and the ‘pro-slavery’ Democrats defending an established way of life against vicious, violent attacks and upholding the rights of the States against nationalising, consolidating pressures. Because of their indoctrination, however, neoconservatives do not have the moral courage or intellectual ability to challenge their occupiers and preserve what is true and valuable from this era, as Russell Kirk did in The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot and John Randolph of Roanoke: A Study in American Politics. Instead, neoconservatives dutifully adopt their occupiers’ heroes and diligently convince themselves that they are, in fact, conservative.
A few of the more-principled and less-partisan conservatives who scoff at the hype over Tubman have still tacitly endorsed the Obama Administration’s currency redesign simply because they personally dislike Jackson for betraying the Indians, threatening South Carolina during the Tariff/Nullification Crisis, and transformation of the presidency into an elected monarch. As a Jeffersonian small-f federalist and small-r republican, I sympathise with them to an extent, yet I would also repeat our own John Devanny’s warning to The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher after he cheered on last summer’s Confederate flag controversy:
Mr. Dreher, who has written intelligently on a host of religious and social issues and who has positioned himself as a defender of local communities, must be warned of the path he trods. Aside from subscribing to a faulty and over simplistic, indeed even Manichean perspective on the flag, I believe him to be gravely unaware of the danger his argument contains. Allow me to edit Mr. Dreher’s words quoted above, ‘Be of good cheer: the cross is coming down all over, and it’s coming down because it is inescapably a symbol of anti-Semitism, bigotry, and medieval superstition, and it is inescapably a symbol of Christian contempt for the humanity of Muslims and gays.’ Don’t think it would not or could not happen. Mr. Dreher has written well about the rapid secularization of the culture and the hostility towards Christians; he should know better than to dabble in the arts of the Manichean enemy. Indeed we have seen similar arguments used against Christian symbols in the past that follow Mr. Dreher’s reasoning and phrasing with respect to the Confederate flag.
Every single politically correct charge which has been leveled against Jackson can – and will, soon enough – be leveled against other American heroes. Today, it may be a historical figure who you loathe; tomorrow, it may be one who you love. The Confederates have already been purged to the thunderous applause of ‘conservatives.’ How long until the heroes of the Alamo become land-stealing whites who were racist against the Mexicans? How long until the Founding Fathers become selfish traitors who denied to slaves and women the same liberty which they declared for themselves? How long until the Cavaliers and the Puritans become genocidal conquerors? All of these hypothetical purges are already happening. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, conservatives must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.