New face for $ 10 bill stirs back­lash

Fans of Alexan­der Hamil­ton cry foul over plans to de­mote the first Trea­sury sec­re­tary to add a woman.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Ji m Puz­zanghera

WASHINGTON — The his­toric gain for women in land­ing a promised spot on U. S. pa­per cur­rency stands to be a big loss for one found­ing fa­ther — and his sup­port­ers aren’t pleased.

The an­nounce­ment that a woman would grace a green­back for the f irst time in more than a cen­tury has been widely ap­plauded. But the de­ci­sion by Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Ja­cob J. Lew to place the yet- un­named fe­male on the $ 10 bill, which for more than eight decades has fea­tured Alexan­der Hamil­ton, is draw­ing a sharp back­lash.

For­mer Fed­eral Re­serve Chair­man Ben S. Ber­nanke said he was “ap­palled” that Hamil­ton — the first Trea­sury sec­re­tary and, “with­out doubt, the best and most fore­sighted eco­nomic pol­i­cy­maker in U. S. history” — was be­ing de­moted.

New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Sch­nei­der­man also urged Lew pub­licly to “honor Hamil­ton by leav­ing him where he is.”

Colum­nists and ed­i­to­rial boards have made sim­i­lar pleas. Hamil­ton fans have es­tab­lished #SaveHamil­ton on Twit­ter. And two pe­ti­tions have been launched on the White House web­site urg­ing Pres­i­dent Obama to keep Hamil­ton as the face of the $ 10 bill.

Even the head of the or­ga­ni­za­tion that has been push­ing for a woman’s im­age to be placed on pa­per cur­rency — it pre­ferred the more ubiqui--

tous $ 20 bill — said she didn’t want the vic­tory to come at Hamil­ton’s ex­pense.

“We cer­tainly had not set out to dis­place one of our great founders and ar­chi­tects of our coun­try,” said Bar­bara Or­tiz Howard, founder of Women on 20s. “That wasn’t our in­ten­tion.”

Lew said that Hamil­ton’s im­age still will be on the $ 10 bill in some way and that the de­ci­sion about which de­nom­i­na­tion would fea­ture a woman was made based on the next bill sched­uled for an up­date.

“Alexan­der Hamil­ton has left an en­dur­ing mark on our na­tion’s history,” Lew said in a speech at the Na­tional Ar­chives this month. “That is why we will make sure that his im­age will re­main a part of the $ 10 note.”

Howard said her group wouldn’t be pleased if a woman has to share the $ 10 bill with a man.

And Hamil­ton’s sup­port­ers said he is too im­por­tant in Amer­i­can history to be rel­e­gated to a sec­ondary po­si­tion. Some have won­dered if Hamil­ton’s im­age could be re­duced to a se­cu­rity water­mark that could be seen only by hold­ing up the bill to a light, said Rand Sc­ho­let, a Florida busi­ness­man who founded the Alexan­der Hamil­ton Aware­ness So­ci­ety in 2011 to pro­mote his life and legacy.

“It is hard to un­der­stand that the cur­rent sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury would di­min­ish the f irst sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury,” he said. “It’s re­ally baf­fling.”

Hamil­ton’s sup­port­ers ad­mit he’s not the most well­known found­ing fa­ther. He never was elected pres­i­dent and died rel­a­tively young, be­fore he turned 50 af­ter a duel with then- Vice Pres­i­dent Aaron Burr.

“I think Hamil­ton has his­tor­i­cally been un­der- ap­pre­ci­ated, and be­cause he’s a non- pres­i­dent, he might have been seen as some­what of an easy tar­get,” said Pooja Nair, a Los An­ge­les lawyer and pres­i­dent of the so­ci­ety’s Cal­i­for­nia chap­ter.

What re­ally frus­trates Hamil­ton back­ers is that he has a strong claim to a spot on pa­per money be­cause he’s widely viewed as the fa­ther of the na­tion’s fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

Af­ter ar­riv­ing in Amer­ica as a poor or­phan from the West Indies, Hamil­ton rose to be­come a trusted aide to Ge­orge Washington dur­ing the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion and a ma­jor force in rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the U. S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

As Trea­sury sec­re­tary, Hamil­ton con­sol­i­dated the war’s debts, set up a tax- col­lec­tion sys­tem and in­tro­duced plans for the U. S. Mint.

Ber­nanke pointed out in a post on his blog this week that Hamil­ton founded the na­tion’s f irst ma­jor pri­vate bank and also over­saw the con­tro­ver­sial char­ter­ing of the First Bank of the United States, a pre­cur­sor to the Fed­eral Re­serve.

On the other hand An­drew Jack­son, whose im­age is on the $ 20 bill, was an out­spo­ken op­po­nent of a cen­tral bank and pa­per cur­rency.

On top of that, there’s the char­ac­ter is­sue: Jack­son has been vil­i­fied for his poor treat­ment of Na­tive Amer­i­cans, while Hamil­ton has been held up as an early abo­li­tion­ist.

To Ber­nanke and oth­ers, the so­lu­tion is clear: keep Hamil­ton on the $ 10 bill and let a woman re­place Jack­son on the $ 20 bill. But it’s not that sim­ple. Two years ago, the Trea­sury’s Ad­vanced Coun­ter­feit Deter­rence pro­gram rec­om­mended that the $ 10 bill be the next de­nom­i­na­tion re­designed. The new bill will be un­veiled in 2020, the 100th an­niver­sary of the Con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment grant­ing women the right to vote, Lew said. If a woman were to be put on the $ 20 bill in­stead, the wait would be longer.

In ad­di­tion to anti- forgery pro­tec­tions, the $ 10 bill is slated to get a new tac­tile fea­ture to al­low blind and vis­ually im­paired peo­ple to dis­tin­guish it from other de­nom­i­na­tions, the Trea­sury said. Be­cause there are fewer $ 10 bills in cir­cu­la­tion than $ 20 bills, it’s a bet­ter de­nom­i­na­tion to test the new fea­ture.

“The rea­son that the … Trea­sury Depart­ment has se­lected the $ 10 bill is the $ 10 bill is cur­rently the one that is un­der re­view by the ap­pro­pri­ate author­i­ties for up­graded re­design for se­cu­rity pur­poses,” White House Press Sec­re­tary Josh Earnest said this week when asked if Obama had a view on the con­tro­versy. “And that is why the dis­cus­sion is hap­pen­ing in the con­text of the $ 10 bill.”

Sc­ho­let said he’d be happy if Trea­sury de­cided to pro­duce two ver­sions of the $ 10 bill — one with Hamil­ton and the other with a woman. Howard said that would be OK with her, too. And Lew hasn’t ruled out that pos­si­bil­ity.

“We have to f ind a way to con­tinue to honor Hamil­ton, but at the same time start rec­og­niz­ing that women are fun­da­men­tal in our so­ci­ety,” she said.

‘ It is hard to un­der­stand that the cur­rent sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury would di­min­ish the first sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury.’

— Rand Sc­ho­let, founder of the Alexan­der Hamil­ton Aware­ness So­ci­ety

Karen Bleier AFP/ Getty I mages

BEN S. BER­NANKE, for­mer Fed chair­man, is “ap­palled” by Hamil­ton’s $ 10 bill de­mo­tion.

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