Andy and Harriet

Congrats to Harriet Tubman on the $20!

There are certain peculiar events that, when you hear about them, your first reaction is "How did that ever happen?" - but then after a moment's thought, your mind turns to the question of "Strange that it never happened before."

Such an event was last week's news of Democratic President Andrew Jackson being booted off of the $20 bill where he's resided since 1928.  He will be replaced by escaped slave Harriet Tubman.

There's no question that Ms. Tubman was a true-blue gun-totin' American heroine.  After personally escaping the evils of chattel slavery, nobody would have blamed her if she'd stayed as far away from the Deep South as possible.  Instead, she made countless trips South throughout the 1850s, rescuing at least dozens and possibly hundreds of other escapers.

This would have been dangerous for anyone - assisting fugitive slaves was a Federal crime even in the North - but, as an escaped slave herself, the potential punishments had Ms. Tubman ever been caught beggar the imagination, death being among the milder possibilities.

Fortunately, this never happened, and when the Civil War arrived, she was able to turn the tables: not only did she lead even more escaped slaves out directly to Union Army recruiters who put rifles in their hands, but she personally led the Combahee River Raid.  This unjustly-forgotten exploit saw Tubman leading three steamboats through a minefield deep into plantation country, collecting and rescuing 750 slaves.

While she suffered from discrimination all her life, she eventually received a modest government pension and died in a nursing home named for her in 1914.  Even without being on our money, she's still covered in history books and is a name nearly all Americans recognize.

So why haven't we had her on our currency since, oh, the 1970s or so?  Only a member of the KKK could be offended at honoring such a self-sacrificing patriot.

It's not as if we haven't had ladies on our currency before, though admittedly not for a while.  Indeed, Harriet Tubman herself probably handled money with Pocahontas or Martha Washington on it.  Coins have portrayed ladies much more recently; we've all seen Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollars.  They aren't popular, but that's for reasons utterly unrelated to the gender of the occupant; neither John F. Kennedy half-dollars nor Eisenhower dollars were any better liked.

Could it be, as the Left argues, that America just doesn't like black people?  Hardly: there is exactly one individual American who has an entire Federal holiday all to himself, and that would be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  The two dead white guys who once had that honor, the Father of his Country George Washington and the Saviour of the Union Abraham Lincoln, long ago lost their individual days to the portmanteau Presidents Day, which supposedly honors everyone from Millard Fillmore to Richard Nixon.

So why now?  Why, when we were expecting the new female face of the $20 to be Michelle Obama (hey, the first white First Lady was on currency for a while) or Hillary Clinton, were we rewarded with someone of unimpeachable character who is a sterling example of liberty and patriotism?

Indeed, when was the last time we saw a Democrat removed from anything official and replaced with a Republican, other than by the voters?

We don't know.  But we'll take it.  Bring on the Harriets, and long may she be honored!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

I would prefer that she be put on the $5 bill and not the $20. Lincoln caused the biggest loss of bloodshed in our country's history and should not enjoy the elevated status that he has.

April 26, 2016 11:50 PM

Never cared for Andrew Jackson anyway. Glad to see Tubman elevated to that position.

April 27, 2016 5:15 PM

It's ironic that a man who was once known for being a prolific slave-owner (owning more than a hundred slaves at one time, and trading as many as 500 slaves over the course of his life) will be replaced by a lowly former slave. Hope he's spinning in his grave.

April 27, 2016 5:19 PM

Sometimes Petrarch, YOU and SOME of the individuals commenting here, can take completely unexpected positions on things.

It's been my experience that usually, when what on its surface, seems to be an "eminently reasonable" position appears on these pages, one can usually find a subtly, or not so subtly unreasonable basis for said position, or that it only serves as a minor subtext for the expression of a larger, unreasonable position.

For example, bassboat's post.

If I've interpreted his position correctly, he is lamenting the fact that Lincoln prosecuted the war against the confederacy in order to preserve the Union. The logical conclusion that could be drawn from such a position, is that bassboat believes that the preferable outcome would have been to allow the confederate states secede from the Union, and thereby free to continue their barbaric practice of human chattel slavery, unimpeded.

If there is an alternative interpretation, in which the "avoidance of bloodshed" would not have led to the breakup of the United States, and/or the continued status of black people as "property" in the south, I'd be willing to reconsider my opinion that bassboat believes that continued slavery and the dissolution of the Union, were preferable to the actual outcome.

Interesting that the illegal secession from the Union by the confederate states, and the attack on Fort Sumter, which preceded the war, are apparently overlooked as "causing the bloodshed".

Aside from that one comment, there wasn't much to disagree/object to here. Of course there was the usual pot-shotting of Liberals, and the customary denial/mocking of the existence of systemic racism, by erroneously asserting that the only holiday honoring a single individual, is MLK-day:

"Could it be, as the Left argues, that America just doesn't like black people? Hardly: there is exactly one individual person who has an entire Federal holiday all to himself, and that would be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

As previously alluded to, Petrarch is incorrect. MLK is NOT the only individual so honored. Christopher Columbus also has a federal holiday, which is recognized this year on Monday, October 10th.

Secondly, Petrarch knows full well that:

A. The holiday only came about after an extremely contentious fight, with vigorous opposition coming mostly from the usual suspects. Even after ratification, some states either bastardized the holiday by combining it with some sort of confederate "observance" (blatant insult), or omitted a reference to MLK altogether.

So hardly the full-throated display of America's "affection" for black people that Petrach would have us to believe.

B.Prior to 1971, both Washington AND Lincoln both had holidays in their honor, and ironically enough, it was a republican President (Nixon) who's responsible for combining them into "Presidents' Day". Which I oppose by the way. Those great men deserve to be fully and individually honored along with MLK.

All that said, those are minor quibbles with an otherwise excellent article.

Nicely done.

May 1, 2016 3:50 PM

Tony liberal,
Thanks once again for jumping to conclusions.I merely wanted to replace Abe with Harriet, an excellent choice. now point number one for you to consider, the 10th amendment gave the states the right to secede if the federal government passed any laws that the state(s) felt to be wrong. Check out Vermont, they have had a lonf standing group of secessionists. Point number two, you eagerly jumped to the conclusion that I wanted to keep slavery being a liberal. I abhor slavery and was glad to see it go. God made all people in his image and not just one group. You need to look before you leap especially being a liberal. Have you considered how the federal goverment has turned the black population into nothing more than a vote chattel? yes they are free to a degree but the black population has been treated like slaves by the liberals with their knee jerk racism charges. I suggest that you check out your walls and see if they are made of glass before making suck accusations. Bassboat

May 1, 2016 5:13 PM

BassBoat, sorry but your accusations of my jumping to conclusions are without merit.

One, I was careful to not state my interpretation of your comment as "fact", by leaving open the opportunity for you to demonstrate how the most obvious and reasonable interpretation of your comment, was in fact incorrect...Which you have utterly failed to do, by the way.

Not wanting to get bogged down into a debate of what the 10th Amendment ACTUALLY means, but what it ACTUALLY says is:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people"

Now, only those desperately predisposed towards states' secessionist rights, could read those words, and arrive at the tortured interpretation that they somehow form the legal basis and justification for states to secede from the Union.

But as you well know, that's not the point.

While I'm glad to "hear" you "SAY" you "abhor slavery", my previous points remain unrebutted:

A. It's obvious that your preference was for a dissolved Union, rather than United States as currently constituted, and consisting of 51 states.

B. The practical result of having allowed the states to secede and form a separate "confederate nation", would have in fact, prolonged slavery in those states. So your saying you "abhor slavery" amounts to little more than empty rhetoric.

So again I say, it appears that your preference is for there to have been a dissolved union, which would have RESULTED in a confederate "country" that was free to continue to engage in human chattel slavery.

I again invite you to show me where I've misconstrued your position.

"Vote chattel"? "Slavery through 'knee jerk racism charges'"?

C'mon man.

If you want me to take your comments seriously, and not as just mindless ranting resulting from Limbaugh-induced delirium, you're going to have to at least offer some modicum of logic/support to back it up, or at least offer an intelligent basis of your opinion.

May 1, 2016 6:28 PM

Thanks for pointing out the glitch with the holidays Tony, I wasn't thinking of Christopher Columbus as he's not an American. I've fixed the article accordingly.

Regarding "avoidance of bloodshed" and slavery, there is a school of thought that argues that slavery would have naturally died out anyway over the following half-century or so, since it's completely uneconomical compared to modern industrial and agricultural techniques, which because of the sophistication of the equipment involved cannot be entrusted to slaves who understandably don't care if something breaks.

It's hard to imagine slavery remaining profitable past, say, 1930. Would it be a worthwhile moral exchange for the lives of the Civil War dead vs additional decades of chattel slavery? That's a question for God alone.

But of course, in 1860 nobody had any idea of what the Industrial Revolution would lead to, and they did have thousands of years of an uninterrupted history of slavery being practiced everywhere on earth. So it's both understandable and admirable that America seized the opportunity to get rid of it, regardless of the cost.

May 1, 2016 7:19 PM

You're very welcome Petrarch.

Yes, Indeed.

I have no doubt that as you said, slavery would have eventually ceased at SOME point, but consider the moral bankruptcy of a people and culture that had they won argument, and/or the Civil War, would have perpetuated slavery save for it's eventual unsustainable profitability.

"Would it be a worthwhile moral exchange for the lives of the Civil War dead vs additional decades of chattel slavery?"

Of course it was.

"That's a question for God alone."

I beg to differ.

Unless one is prepared to question throughout history, ALL such "moral exchanges" of lost lives vs allowing the mass perpetuation of evil, and/or victimization of the defenseless, then in my mind, the answer is and was quite clear.

Also, let us not overlook the untold number of past and future slave deaths in the equation which would easily surpass those lost in the war.

And what does one imagine what the quality of life in the "confederate states" would be for ex-slaves and their descendants, once they outlived their "profitability"? I cannot fathom the amount of human suffering that would have eventually unfolded had the south been allowed to prevail...Under ANY circumstances. I imagine the current European refugee crisis would look like a day at Disney World by comparison.

"So it's both understandable and admirable that America seized the opportunity to get rid of it, regardless of the cost."

I would add that it was also a MORAL "imperative" for Lincoln/America to take the actions they did.

No matter the "bloodshed".

May 1, 2016 8:33 PM

You have proved my point of being a knee jerk liberal and as usual you call me a liar. If you prefer lost lives then you can live with it. And by the way, did not the colonies secede from Great Britain? Open your eyes and read the book "Secession, State & Liberty by David Gordon and assisted by the Ludwig von Mises Institute or as a liberal would you prefer to not expose yourself to other ideas? Bassboat

May 1, 2016 9:30 PM


Please just stop.

I merely stated the practical results had your position carried the day, and politely asked you please show me where my interpretation of your position was incorrect.

And, as expected, being wholly incapable of doing so, you instead respond with ad hominem attacks.

But that of course comes as no surprise, given the typical CONservative "debate strategy" of responding with distraction and deflection to a rational argument, and failing that, attempting to change the debate.

Yep, typical CONservative.

P.S. I find it amusing that you continuously attempt to use the word "liberal" as though it's some sort of slur, when it should be obvious from my handle, that being so (a liberal) is a source of pride for me. :)

May 2, 2016 6:26 AM

When you insinuate that I am not telling the truth or slur the statement that I made about abhorring slavery you are the one who is out of bounds. I wanted Harriet on the $5 bill instead of Abe. I rather slaves for several years than 600,000 slaughtered by Abe's decision and countless others maimed and wounded. How much suffering did they and their families have to endure? Remember that these people were on both sides of the war, not just the South. And yes I do consider the word liberal a slur and I believe that liberals do too or why else would they prefer to be called "progressives"? Bass boat

May 2, 2016 11:14 PM

"I rather slaves for several years..."

And my previous characterizations of your position, differs how?

You cry crocodile tears about the 600,000 "slaughtered" in the Civil War, but what about the ACTUAL slaughter of millions of Africans to feed the slave trade?

You say "I rather slaves for several years" as if slavery was just some minor inconvenience that the victims would only have to bear for just a few short years.


The "government"-sanctioned enslavement-torture-murder of blacks would have persisted for at least decades in the confederacy had it prevailed. Then, to be followed by untold misery as either the bottom rung in a confederate "caste" system, or as refugees trying to escape to the North, and most likely being denied entry.

Yeah, that would've been a sweet trade off.

You attempt to justify your advocacy of continued slavery over the righteous conflict which ended it, by citing the 600,000 lives lost, right?

What about the 17 and 60 million killed during WWI and WWII respectively?

Would you argue that America should not have fought those wars either?

Of course you wouldn't (or at least I HOPE you wouldn't).

Hmmmmmm, So let's see...

In WWI and WWII with over 70 million dead, plus untold casualties, and in which the primary beneficiaries were Europeans.


In the Civil War which resulted in fewer than 1 million deaths, and in which the primary beneficiaries were Africans.


I leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions as to your motivations.

"And yes I do consider the word liberal a slur..."

Ha ha, of COURSE you consider the world "liberal" a slur...The point that apparently escaped you, is that you're attempting to "slur" me with a virtue. For all the "insult" the word "liberal" conveys, you might as well refer to me as "kind","compassionate","generous","empathetic","humane", "progressive", or yes, even "virtuous". :)

"I believe that liberals do too or why else would they prefer to be called "progressives"?"

Uh, really?

Tell me, have you EVER seen a liberal object to being called a "liberal", and instead, insist on being referred to as a "progressive"?

This is the kind of fantasy that could only originate in the fevered little mind of a conservative.

The reason liberals are ALSO calling themselves "Progressives" is to draw the distinction between the fact that they are "PRO" progress, while the "CONservatives" are the opposite; AGAINST progress, or more accurately, regressive.

So if there ARE liberals who "prefer" to be called "Progressive", it's to constantly call attention to the fact that those on the other side are "Regressives" (CONservatives).

Make sense?

May 3, 2016 10:16 AM

You have strayed so far from the original point that I think you need help. Please get some. And yes, I think Harriet should be on the $5 bill. Bassboat

May 3, 2016 8:19 PM

One small factual clarification to this debate:

"You cry crocodile tears about the 600,000 "slaughtered" in the Civil War, but what about the ACTUAL slaughter of millions of Africans to feed the slave trade?"

Certainly millions of Africans were slaughtered to feed the slave trade. But that had nothing to do with the Civil War. Beginning in 1794 and completely in force by 1807, importing slaves to the United States was illegal, American ships were barred from the slave trade, and American nationals were forbidden from investing in it.

So by the Civil War, the international slave trade was a half-century dead, at least as far as America was concerned. Thus, a delayed or cancelled Civil War would have affected only the existing American slaves and their offspring, not any newly captured Africans.

Obviously slavery itself is plenty wicked and needed to cease, but the facts might alter the moral calculus.

May 3, 2016 8:35 PM

Ahhh Petrarch, thank you for the clarification for your readers.

I was aware of that fact, but since Bassboat was bemoaning "lost lives", I felt that the figure was pertinent given his advocacy of continuing the practice which ultimately was at the root such massive loss of life.

Given that, I believe the sheer magnitude of slave deaths, which dwarfed the "pittance" of Civil War deaths, showed the insincerity and utter hypocrisy of his stated motivation for opposing the Civil war.

Bassboat, I accept your concession, but "uncle" would have required less typing. :)

May 3, 2016 10:53 PM

Dream on Tony, hate to see you fold. I'd still like to have a cup of coffee with you.

May 3, 2016 11:23 PM

Ha Bassboat!

You've got moxie...I'll give you that! :)

Yes, I'm sure it would be a very lively, and enjoyable cup of joe.

Til next time.

May 4, 2016 6:47 AM
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