Essay: Jackson vs. Tubman on the Twenty Dollar Bill

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  • Jackson vs. Tubman on the Twenty Dollar Bill
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22 March 2018

Jackson vs. Tubman on the Twenty Dollar Bill

As Harriet Tubman becomes the new candidate for the face of the $20 bill, it is questionable as to if Andrew Jackson should be revoked of that position. Is he deserving enough? Have his actions throughout history leveled above those of Harriet Tubman’s in order for him to maintain such a position? Yes, Andrew Jackson has done several good things both during his time of presidency and now to impact the United States. Beating John Quincy Adams in the fight for presidency in 1828, Jackson was the first president who was popularly elected, opposed to being chosen by the political parties entirely. Immediately, people began to favor Jackson over Quincy Adams. In an article entitled “Andrew Jackson: the good, the bad, and the ugly” written by James Rutledge Roesch, a popular campaign slogan is used to describe Jackson’s popularity, stating “John Quincy Adams who can write, Andrew Jackson who can fight!” (1). By saying this, Jacksonians were implying that although Quincy Adams attended Harvard University and was extremely educated, Jackson had fought against the Indians and the British. Jackson’s main goal was to reestablish the Jeffersonian ideal of “that government which governs best governs least” (Roesch 1). Jackson’s election marked a turning point in American politics. Jackson is best known for obtaining the Western territory previously owned by the Cherokees, initiating the Trail of Tears and expanding the United States government out West. Although, some of his actions have been questionable, leaving Harriet Tubman the best possible candidate for the new face of the $20 bill.

At the beginning of the campaign in 1828, Andrew Jackson and fellow Jacksonians in congress passed one of the heaviest protectionist tariffs in American history. It was figured that such a tariff would raise rates so high that Quincy Adams would not be able to do anything but veto the bill. To the Jacksonian’s surprise, Quincy Adams signed the bill anyway. Jacksonians figured that the bill would give Jackson an issue to discuss in the North, where Southern war hero Quincy Adams would gain little support. To summarize such a conflict, the South expressed their hatred of the Tariff of Abominations and the fear of enslavement. Southerners feared that they could not stop the North from taxing the South. Those of the South, South Carolinians specifically, wanted to nullify the tariff, but congressmen of the North claimed them to be unworthy of the name of Americans. Continuing on anyway, they nullified both the tariff of 1820 and 1832. Eventually, a compromise needed to be made between the North and the South. Although, Jackson was not very compromisable at this time. “During the Creek War, when his troops decided to desert, Jackson road out in front of them and threatened ‘I’ll shoot dead the first man who makes a move to leave!’” (Roesch 2). Jackson use the same tactic against South Carolina in their attempts to create a compromise. Jackson continuously rejected any compromise in regards to the tariffs and state rights. Jackson claimed that if each single state was to attempt to nullify or re-align their rights from the nation, they were simply “breaking a league, destroying the unity of a nation, and any injury to that unity is not only a breach which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offense against the whole Union” (Roesch 1).

As previously stated, Andrew Jackson was responsible for the purchase of Western land, forcing Natives to resettle elsewhere. Although, it was not that simple. The five civilized tribes, the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribe, populated Western land. They had given up their traditional Native American lifestyle to undergo a more economic and cultural revolution. “The Indians abandoned hunting and foraging for agriculture and manufacturing, established schools and churches, built roads and bridges, published newspapers, formed constitutions and bills of rights, dressed in American-style clothing, and intermarried with Americans” (Roesch 2). Before the natives had changed their lifestyle, they had posed a threat to the safety of Americans. Now that they were civilized, the Native Americans were in the way of Jackson’s intent to use the Western land for fertile cotton-growing land. Jackson claimed Indian removal to be an issue of humanity, making it clear to the Native Americans that if the tribes were to remain in the East, that they could be susceptible to extinction. Jackson encouraged the Natives to resettle in the West so that their cultures could “flourish.” Obviously, this was not the case. There was no threat to the survival of the Native Americans. The only threat that Jackson had seen was that the Natives were occupying valuable land. When the Indian Removal Act was authorized by President Jackson, it was intended to provide to the Natives an appraisal of their land and compensation. Most importantly, this removal was supposed to be voluntary. Jackson first stated “this emigration should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel the aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers, and seek a haven in a distant land” (Roesch 2). Unfortunately, Southern states made this removal forceful. Life for the natives was made so entirely miserable that they were forced to leave. Tribes were banned from creating and following their own laws. They were forced to abide by the laws of the state and to pay state taxes, but they could no participate in state polls or take place in state courts. Despite this, Jackson did nothing to stop the states in the wrong doings or to help the natives. He said, “I am obliged to sustain the States in the exercise of the right” (Roesch 3).

So yes, Andrew Jackson was a man who quite possibly assisted in the strong development of the government that we now see in the United States today, but his wrongdoings cannot be undone. As president, Jackson went back on his word. Jackson did not see the natives to be true Americans. With this being said, Jackson allowed the mistreatment of innocent people to take place within his states. This is just one example of Jackson’s wrongdoings, already making Harriet Tubman an amazing choice for the new face of the $20 bill.

Works Cited

Rutledge-Roesch, James. “Andrew Jackson: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Abbeville

Institute, 3 Nov. 2015,

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