The U.S. mint has decided to remove Alexander Hamilton from the ten dollar bill. I, for one, do not agree with this decision. Why should Hamilton be removed when he was one of the most influential men in the history of our nation? I understand the willingness to put a woman on our currency. In fact, I support the move considering the precedence that was set forth when Pocohantas was featured on the twenty dollar bill from 1865 to 1869 and Martha Washington was featured on the one dollar (in silver) note.1 (Not to mention the currently in circulation Sacagewea gold dollar coin.) Basically, this is nothing new under the sun. That being said, we shouldn’t replace Alexander Hamilton from the ten dollar bill because Hamilton was one of the only Founding Fathers to achieve the American Dream for himself, he was the driving force in the founding of the American banking system, and he was among the greatest proponents of the American Constitution.
When trying to understand the exceptional impact that his life had on the establishment of the American Dream, it is crucial to note that Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant2 to the colonies. Not only was he an immigrant, but he was an orphaned, love-child who was raised by a single mother after his father left them at age ten…immigrant. He was definitely not born with a golden spoon in his mouth. Hamilton’s immigration to the colonies in 1772 was funded by members of his community, mostly sugar-growers and shop-keepers. The young Mr. Hamilton moved to New York City and attended King’s College, which is now Columbia University. Alexander soon became caught up in the revolutionary fervor of the times and began to write essays and speak publicly on the topic. In 1776, Hamilton became a Captain of Artillery in the Continental Army and was named General Washington’s aide-de-camp a year later. The position led to a lifetime of friendship with George Washington which allowed Hamilton to showcase his economic genius. After serving in the Constitutional Convention of 1787-1788, in which he helped ratify the Constitution, Hamilton was appointed the first Secretary of the Treasury by Washington, where he became the father of the American banking system.
As the father of the American banking system, Hamilton helped many others achieve the type of financial stability that is necessary to live the American dream. The creation of the National Bank3 introduced a uniform currency (the American dollar…basically the same as we know it today), which replaced the multiple currencies of each state and stabilized the fledgling nation’s floundering economy4. Founded in 1791, the First Bank of the United States was granted a twenty-year long charter to house the country’s treasury. In addition, the Bank was able to fund the American government’s ventures into trade and exploration, as well as facilitate the existence of the Federal government. The Bank was instrumental in making the U.S. rich enough to become a major player on the world stage despite being unpopular with states’ rights advocates and many business men who saw the Bank as a hindrance to commerce. The American financial system, one that was originally set up to combat large and impeding debts, came about as a result of the National Bank.
“…he (Hamilton, in the third person) ardently wishes to see it incorporated, as a fundamental maxim, in the system of public credit of the United States, that the creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of extinguishment. This he regards as the true secret for rendering public credit immortal.”5
Hamilton felt that the American financial system should be constructed in such a way that America (and the American people) could navigate their way out of debt. If America was ever in need of this reminder, now is that time.
The National Bank was not Hamilton’s only contribution to the success of the American experiment. One of the greatest and most recognized accomplishments in the life of Alexander Hamilton is the writing of the Federalist Papers.6 The Federalist, as it is known, was the most elegant and forceful argument for the ratification of the Constitution. The Founding Generation admitted that their first system of government under the Articles of Confederation was not working. Our Constitution was written “in order to form a more perfect union”7 and that’s what Hamilton and his writing partners, James Madison and John Jay, were working towards. The Federalist Papers are the reports that convinced the American people to accept the new Constitution. Hamilton wrote many of the papers, including Federalist number Fifteen, which addresses the most pressing issue set forth by the Constitution: keeping the Union together. Under the Articles of Confederation, America was a loosely allied coalition of thirteen neighboring countries. The Constitution was drafted in order to unite us as one. “…there are material imperfections in our national system, and that something is necessary to be done to rescue us from impending anarchy.” (Hamilton, Federalist 15) Hamilton’s writings during and following the Constitutional Convention include arguments for the establishment of the Electoral College and other voting regulations (Federalist 68) and the foundational argument for the national banking system/the ability of the government to levy taxes to fund an army and conduct international trade in Federalist 29 and Federalist 30.
Alexander Hamilton, the poor and orphaned immigrant to the colonies, was able to reach the highest points of prosperity in his adopted home. As a founding father, Hamilton was absolutely crucial in the shaping of the country. He achieved the American Dream, fathered the American financial system, and defended the United States’ Constitution. The life of the face on the ten dollar bill should be held up to all Americans, from the newly-immigrated who are just starting out in our great land and the low-to-middle class who are tirelessly working for a better life to the rich, famous, and powerful, as an inspiration to achieve and preserve the American dream.
Part One of Four.
Part Two- Cut Down Old Hickory: Why We Should Remove Andrew Jackson from the Twenty Dollar Bill
- Holland, Bryan. “Woman to be Featured on Newly Redesigned $10 Bill, Treasury Announces”. http://www.history.com/news/woman-to-be-featured-on-newly-redesigned-10-bill-treasury-announces. 6/22/15. History.com. A+E Networks.
- com staff. “Alexander Hamilton”. http://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/alexander-hamilton. 2009. History.com. A+E Networks.
- com staff. “Bank of the United States.” http://www.history.com/topics/bank-of-the-united-states 2009. History.com. A+E Networks.
- “First Bank of the United States”. http://www.ushistory.org/tour/first-bank.htm. 12/4/96. ushistory.org.
- Hamilton, Alexander. “Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States”. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/bank-ah.asp. 1791. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School’s Lillian Goldman Law Library.
- Hamilton, Alexander. John Jay. James Madison. “The Federalist Papers”. http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html. 1787-1788. Multiple Newspapers and Pamphlets.
- The Continental Congress of 1787-1788. “The United States Constitution” http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html. 6/21/1788. The Congress of the United States of America.