- - Sunday, April 24, 2016
Sometimes the government does the right thing for the wrong reasons. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s decision to put Harriet Tubman’s face on the nation’s currency was the right thing to do, even if it was done as a way to demote Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, to the back of the bill. Many liberals are unhappy that Mr. Lew picked the wrong black woman. Harriet Tubman was a devout Christian and she armed herself, with both pistols and long rifles. Choose your wrong reason.
Jackson is particularly problematic judged against contemporary standards. He forcibly moved thousands of Indians from eastern states, notably North Carolina and Tennessee, uprooting families and seizing their land at a time when nobody worried much about the rights of red men. Ironically, Jackson dispatched them on a tragic “trail of tears” to what would become Oklahoma, where their children and grandchildren would grow rich when they struck oil on what was once regarded as “worthless land.”
Jackson was the founder of the Democratic Party, whose origins even today are celebrated at Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners by party regulars, honoring not only Jackson, but a slave owner, like George Washington and several of the Founding Fathers. Perfection in presidents would have to wait for two centuries. Alexander Hamilton, no slave owner but guilty of hanging out with slaveholders, was saved from eviction from the $10 bill only because he became a smash hit on Broadway. (Mr. Lew, like everyone else, may still be pulling strings to get tickets to “Hamilton.”)
The left is busy trying to clean up Harriet Tubman’s image. Some of them suggest that she was not really fighting against slavery, though she conducted 300 slaves to freedom on the Underground Railway, but against capitalism. She was a fierce believer in equality for all, supporting John Brown, the abolitionist that almost nobody else liked, and she was a champion of women’s suffrage more than a century ahead of everyone else. Her devout Christian faith and her belief in going armed doesn’t quite square with today’s liberal agenda. She never left home without a gun.
She was a Union spy during the War Between the States and her rhetoric reflects Patrick Henry’s famous cry to “give me liberty or give me death.” She, too, craved liberty more than life and was prepared to die for it.
In preparing to recognize her, the White House Millennium Council and the National Endowment for the Arts reviewed the work of several artists to find the right illustration for the currency, and chose Mike Alewitz, who has been lauded for commemorative murals he painted in Chicago, Baghdad and Chernobyl. Mr. Alewitz studied Miss Tubman’s life and last week presented the first of his works as prepared for the headquarters of the Associated Black Charities in Baltimore. When the politically correct got a peek at the artist’s work, more than feathers hit the proverbial fan. Mr. Alewitz portrayed her with the gun she always carried, and Treasury scouts, once they struggled upright from the fainting couch, demanded that the gun be replaced by a “staff,” the biblical big stick.
The artist refused. “I will not disarm Harriet Tubman,” he said, and even the coordinator of the project observed that “she did not lead a revolution with a feather.” The board will vote next week to decide whether to honor the real Harriet Tubman or the politically correct surrogate the frightened liberals want to put in her place. Reading history is not for the weak or the witless, and an authentic heroine deserves to be portrayed the way she was.