Sunday, June 21, 2015

The People on our Money



"Underfunded, understaffed, looked down on by the regular navy, despised by the merchants who paid the tariffs, the Revenue Marine was no one’s darling.
Well, except maybe Alexander Hamilton, he’d loved his revenue cutters that brought money into the Treasury, but look what happened to him, Washburn thought. Irritate the wrong people and there you are, worm food."

--Smuggler's Bride

I was thinking about the plan to put a new face on the US $10 bill, the bill now bearing the likeness of first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. I'm glad they're not talking about replacing Mr. Hamilton. Much as I love the idea of a woman gracing our currency in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, it would be a mistake to overlook Hamilton's contributions to the nation.

In addition to heading the Treasury, Hamilton was a founding member of the Anti-Slavery Society, founded the US Coast Guard (aka the Revenue Marine aka Revenue Cutter Service) and co-wrote the Federalist Papers. He had a vision of the country moving away from an agrarian society of landed gentry and small freeholders to one of industry, bolstered by hardworking immigrants. It was the kind of foresight that carried us into the 21st century, and still drives us today.

I've always wondered what Hamilton would have made of his life had it not been tragically cut short by the stupid duel with Aaron Burr. We'll never know, but at least having his face on the $10 reminds Americans that our Founding Fathers were more than presidents, sometimes they were leaders in planning for the future.

If you'd like to know more, I highly recommend Pulitzer Prize winning author Ron Chernow's excellent biography of Alexander Hamilton.


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