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Reps. Pascrell, Plaskett Lead Group of 64 Lawmakersin Calling on Treasury to Retain Hamilton on Ten Dollar Bill

Lawmakers urge Sec. Lew to feature woman on more prominent twenty dollar note

Washington, DC, July 30, 2015

Today, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) led a group of sixty-four lawmakers in urging U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to retain Alexander Hamilton, who spent his youth in the Virgin Islands and founded Pascrell’s birthplace of Paterson, on the ten dollar bill and instead feature a woman on the more prominent twenty dollar note.  Secretary Lew recently announced Treasury’s decision that a newly redesigned ten dollar bill will feature a woman, potentially replacing Hamilton.

The lawmakers’ letter to Secretary Lew lauds Treasury’s decision to finally recognize women’s contributions to our nation, but suggests replacing President Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill instead so a woman can be featured on a more prominent note. According to the Federal Reserve website, in 2014 there were 8.1 billion twenty dollar bills in circulation, compared with only 1.9 billion ten dollar notes.

“Given the fact that men are currently featured on all six paper currencies and all four of the most commonly used coins, redesigning the less-circulated ten dollar bill in a way that features a notable woman with Hamilton, as has been proposed, is simply not adequate,” the lawmakers wrote.  “We reiterate our deep concern with the effort to remove Alexander Hamilton from the ten dollar bill while preserving President Jackson on the more heavily-utilized twenty dollar bill.  We hope to work with you to preserve Alexander Hamilton’s place on our currency while elevating a woman to a place she deserves.”

Since the decision to redesign the bill was announced, many have expressed concern with the idea of replacing Alexander Hamilton or diminishing his presence on the ten dollar bill. Dozens of news outlets as diverse as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and USA Today, historians like Ron Chernow, and former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, along with many others, have urged Secretary Lew to move forward with the plan initially proposed by the grassroots organization Women On 20s to feature a woman on the twenty dollar bill in place of Andrew Jackson.

Rep. Pascrell first urged Secretary Lew to retain Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, on the ten dollar bill immediately after Treasury’s announcement of their redesign plan in June.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Secretary Lew,

We, like you, believe America’s currency sends a message both at home and abroad about our shared values, which is why we applaud your announcement that a notable woman will be featured on U.S. currency. However, we have to get that message right. We are concerned with your choice to feature a woman on the ten dollar bill, as opposed to the more prevalent twenty dollar bill.

As you know, the grassroots campaign to redesign the twenty dollar bill, Women On 20s, rightfully garnered the strong support of many Americans. The campaign highlighted that our currency is a way for our nation to make a statement about who we are and what we stand for. For this reason, we find it disappointing that Alexander Hamilton, one of the most influential interpreters of the U.S. Constitution, a passionate advocate for the abolition of slavery, and the founder of the nation’s financial system, will be removed from our currency while President Andrew Jackson retains his place on the twenty.

Although President Jackson is celebrated for founding the modern Democratic Party, for his populist achievements, and for his military prowess, he was also a slaveholder responsible for the Trail of Tears, which forced southeastern Native American tribes into mass migrations that resulted in thousands of Native American deaths. President Jackson contributed to the United States' painful history in its treatment of Native Americans, one that we are still working to rectify. Furthermore, President Jackson was a fierce opponent of the central banking system and paper currency, making him an ironic choice to be immortalized on our currency.

We understand that the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence Steering Committee has recommended the redesign of the ten dollar bill due to concerns about counterfeiting. However, the decision to feature a woman on U.S. currency should be a thoughtful one and rooted in the desire to recognize her contributions to our country, not just secondary to other considerations. Our currency has been historically dominated by men, but the time has come for that to change.

In order to provide this long overdue recognition for the significant achievements and contributions women have made to the United States, we urge you to feature a woman on a more utilized denomination, like the twenty dollar bill. As you know, in 2014, there were 8.1 billion twenty dollar bills in circulation, compared with only 1.9 billion ten dollar notes. Given the fact that men are currently featured on all six paper currencies and all four of the most commonly used coins, redesigning the less-circulated ten dollar bill in a way that features a notable woman with Hamilton, as has been proposed, is simply not adequate.   

The decision to add a woman to our paper currency is an important step forward for our country. We reiterate our deep concern with the effort to remove Alexander Hamilton from the ten dollar bill while preserving President Jackson on the more heavily-utilized twenty dollar bill.

We hope to work with you to preserve Alexander Hamilton’s place on our currency while elevating a woman to a place she deserves. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

(Signatories include Reps. Pascrell, Plaskett, Alma Adams, Beyer, Sanford Bishop, Blumenauer, Bordallo, Brady, Corrine Brown, Capuano, Cartwright, Clark, Clarke, Clay, Conyers, DeGette, Delaney, DeLauro, DelBene, Dingell, Donna Edwards, Ellison, Esty, Fudge, Grayson, Grijalva, Hahn, Hastings, Higgins, Himes, Holmes Norton, Jackson Lee, Jeffries, Hank Johnson, Kilmer, Kirkpatrick, Lawrence, Lieu, Lynch, Meng, McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, Meeks, Nadler, Neal, Norcross, Pallone, Pocan, Quigley, Rangel, Richmond, Tim Ryan, Linda Sanchez, Schakowsky, Sires, Slaughter, Adam Smith, Speier, Bennie Thompson, Mike Thompson, Van Hollen, Watson Coleman, and Frederica Wilson.)

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