What I find interesting about this question is that it forced me to fully consider all sides before reaching my conclusion. The two main sides given this prompt are “Pro Jackson” and “No Jackson” … meaning “Yes, Andrew Jackson deserves to be on the $20.00 bill” or “No, Andrew Jackson does not deserve to be on the $20.00 bill.”
Let me explain, in brief, about these two arguments and then give you my answer in direct response to the question asked:
Some that support keeping Andrew Jackson on the $20.00 bill argue that he must remain on the $20.00 because he was a symbol and one of the important leaders of the first democratic cause in the U.S. He and with help and leadership of others, fostered a new and powerful system of financial and governing principles that threw off the last vestiges of aristocratic features lingering on after the American Revolutionary War. This movement curtailed monopolies and fostered fair competition, making it easier for the common man to go into business and create a life for themselves and loved ones. From this, after Jackson and his crew brought together subsequent movements, coalesced into the Democratic Party.
Jackson was a political pioneer. He was instrumental in rotating those who served in the President’s cabinet. Jackson stood by this practice as he fired members of his cabinet who were not respecting their roles in the White House. He was a champion of the common man throughout his presidency. He fought for the rights of farmers and condemned the corruption by the elite. Andrew Jackson was also a war hero by his actions in the War of 1812. He was a self-made man who people could easily relate to. He is a symbol of democracy for the way he transformed politics and for this alone, he should remain, as supporters argue, as the face of the $20.00 bill.
Once remembered as a war hero and symbol of democracy, Andrew Jackson is now highlighted by his faults. Detractors argue Andrew Jackson must be removed from the $20.00 bill. They cite two acts of utter depravity associated with Jackson to support their argument: Indian removal (Trail of Tears) and Slavery.
Andrew Jackson was a firm supporter of government policies that dealt with Indian removal that took Native American tribes from their ancestral lands, often moving them thousands of miles away. Indian removal was a major Jackson policy, running through the entirety of his tenure as President. This removal eventually led to the forced, westward migration of 46,000 Native Americans and in turn, led to the Trail of Tears, an infamous period where thousands of Cherokee Indians (believed to be about 4,000) died. Since Jackson’s policies led not only to the mass removal of people from their homeland, but thousands dead as well, detractors believe Jackson definitely not deserve to be on the $20.00 bill.
To bookend the fact that Jackson was heavily supportive of Native American removal, he was also a tremendous supporter of slavery. One of the main reasons behind Jackson’s and the Democratic Party’s desire to remove Indians was to acquire their land for slavery. Jackson denounced abolitionists as “monsters” and asked for Congress to prohibit abolitionist documents from circulating in the South. Perhaps the biggest connection Jackson had to slavery was a personal one. He owned 150 slaves at the time of his death. Had it not been for slavery, then Jackson would not have created wealth for himself.
I believe that, while Andrew Jackson did some questionable things in the presidency, he still did many acts that helped America prosper as a nation. So, in the totality of all that Andrew Jackson did with his life, good and bad, he deserves to be on the $20.00 bill.
I arrived at this conclusion not from a standpoint of arguing (supporting) the merits of keeping Jackson on or removing him from the $20.00 bill. That’s not what the prompt asks us to decide. It’s simply asks us to answer individually whether we believe Jackson deserves to be on the $20.00 bill. As an aside, I would like to see others on the $20.00 bill with him, each representing a particular struggle of the time Andrew Jackson was in office or some other related time period.
To remove Andrew Jackson from the $20.00 altogether would be an injustice to not only Jackson and his family of supporters, but also because his removal is being viewed through a modern lens. In fact, Jackson’s positions on the two issues of Indian removal and slavery “fell within the mainstream of American thinking” at the time. Because of this, it’s important to evaluate Jackson in this context. We need to remember our history, and history is messy. History is never a straight line of progress. It’s complicated. Decisions made from incomplete information or biased viewpoints well nor fully serve no one. America’s historical figures were all human. They, as we, all have our strengths and weaknesses.