New money

Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew has announced a number of changes to the artwork on U.S. dollar bills, the biggest of which will be the replacement of Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the twenty.  This decision has stirred controversy on social media, but the opposition at its best is based on an appeal to tradition fallacy.

Our current paper money designs go back to 1928, with updates to confound counterfeiters in 1996.  Under present rules, portraits that appear on our money must be of people no longer living, making a long list of worthies still with us ineligible.  The rules also offer a subtle insult—I wish you could be portrayed on a dollar bill—but perhaps American society has enough vitriol.

Jackson’s face also first appeared on his bill in 1928.  His presence on national currency is ironic, given his fight against a national bank, but of greater significance are the many crimes against humanity perpetrated by Jackson.  Even by the standards of his own time, his betrayal of the Cherokee, for example, was a horror.

By contrast, Harriet Tubman is someone who all of us ought to celebrate.  In many respects, her life story is an illustration of the sorts of arguments that we who support gun rights make with regard to government tyranny.  She was born into a society—the State of Maryland—that in her day permitted and even enabled the violation of the basic rights of a large percentage of the population.  Rather than waiting for outside aid, she freed herself by running away and then risked her life repeatedly, returning south of the Mason-Dixon line to guide other slaves northward to freedom in Canada in a passage called the Underground Railroad.  And she was a pistol-packing freedom fighter, carrying a revolver, in some reports, or a single-shot percussion handgun, according to her descendants.  She was presumably armed against patrols searching for fugitive slaves, though in at least one journey, she encouraged the flagging spirits of one of her passengers by pointing her gun at him and telling him that he was to carry on or die on the spot, since leaving someone behind to talk created a risk that the whole group would be taken.

In other words, she is a model for every one of us who values rights.  Advocates of gun control often accuse us of being armchair warriors, living in a Red Dawn fantasy rather than in reality, but Tubman is a fine example of someone who stood up for what was right, not just with moral authority, but also by using firearms to protect rights.  Sadly, the Treasury isn’t likely to use the picture that’s been floating around Twitter, showing her with a raised revolver in one hand, reaching her other hand out to the viewer, but even her face alone will be an image we can hold up to people who yearn to curtail rights as a real-life case of someone who fought on the side of good.

Alexander Hamilton makes sense on one of our bills, considering his role in founding the Treasury Department, but just as we have done with Washington and Lincoln, it makes sense to honor Americans who didn’t wait for freedom to be given to them.  We gun owners should get behind the new twenty dollar bill.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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