Two Hamiltons For A Tubman

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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207 Responses

  1. notme says:

    Will liberals be happy now that there will be a token women on our money?Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to notme says:

      C’mon @notme , you phoned that one in.Report

    • David Parsons in reply to notme says:

      I won’t be happy until it’s not considered a “token” to have a woman’s portrait on the bill. (But I wouldn’t cry if the treasury pulled Washington off the 1 and replaced him with Oney Judge.)Report

      • notme in reply to David Parsons says:

        I too will be quite happy when a women has done something so significant for this country that she deserves a place on our currency for something other than her sex. People of all sexes and races deserve to be lauded for their service and significant contributions to their country.Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to notme says:


          I know what you are saying, but it still sounds pretty gross. For much of this country’s history women were not in a position to do the kinds of things that get people on to our currency. So I also think it’s worth looking beyond government officials. Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea both had their chance on our coinage and for good reason. Tubman is just as solid a choice as anyone else for paper money.Report

          • notme in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            Quotas based on sex or race are pretty gross and no fancy language will make it sound any better.Report

            • Kim in reply to notme says:

              Of course. now if we could just fire all the incompetent men…Report

              • Art Deco in reply to Kim says:

                So you can replace them with incompetent women.Report

              • Kim in reply to Art Deco says:

                Generally not the case, surprisingly enough.
                Ever wonder why women were nurses for so long, and why they’re replacing doctors so often?

                If all you need is competency, for god’s sake man, hire a woman!

                Of course, you’ve already expressed your disdain for psychologists, so I suppose I should use what I know about psychology to torture you until you actually accept that Some Psychologists know what they are doing.Report

              • Art Deco in reply to Kim says:

                Ever wonder why women were nurses for so long, and why they’re replacing doctors so often?

                Because nursing is a vocation, not a profession, and to treat it as a profession is to damage it and reduce it. You could say much the same about the clergy.

                As for medical degrees, let’s see an audited statement on demographic stock and flow, most particularly one which relates demographic categories to standardized test scores.Report

              • Art Deco in reply to Kim says:

                so I suppose I should use what I know about psychology to torture you until you actually accept that Some Psychologists know what they are doing.

                In your dreams.Report

          • Art Deco in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            There’s nothing gross about it, Mike. We have no equivalent of Margaret Thatcher, and even she needs some time and seasoning.

            You can complain that women were ‘not in a position’. You’re neglecting Judith Kleinfeld’s observation about men and women in certain realms: the standard deviation of performance for men is larger. More achievers, more skid row denizens. Most of the men you have on their now distinguished themselves in a military realm at one time or another. Absent gender-norming courtesy DACOWITS, you’re just not going to find many women who do this.

            Look at the crop of women heads of government since 1960. Mrs. Thatcher, Mrs. Meir, and Mrs. Gandhi are the only standouts. Mrs. Gandhi is a figure one should be ambivalent about and Mrs. Meir is an analogue to James Madison or Gen. Pershing: she presided over a somewhat misbegotten conflict. The current Queen makes for a fine icon, but she manifests a host of things the politicians on American bills cannot and do not.

            You’ll be waiting a looong time for someone who is worthy of the honor.Report

  2. Mike Dwyer says:

    It’s a good choice. I think Frederick Douglas would have probably been a solid choice for important African Americans, however to get a woman on paper currency, Susan B. Anthony would have irked too many people (plus she already got her face on coinage). I think Tubman is a good compromise and certainly deserving. I really liked the idea of Rosa Parks though.

    I am bothered we are losing Jackson though. He was a bastard, but also did a tremendous amount for the country.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    I am stealing this joke and doing so shamelessly.

    “Hamilton dodged a bullet.”Report

  4. CJColucci says:

    Maybe we should consider not limiting each denomination to a single person, and use a rotation of worthies. Perhaps they could be thematic. With Lincoln as the main man on the five, we might rotate in William Seward, Frederick Douglass, and other contemporaries.
    The only problem I see with this (I don’t see vigorous debate over whether Jackson or Calhoun ought to be on a bill as a problem.) is that it might slow down recognition of denominations, a problem we could solve, as other countries do, by making each denomination a different color.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to CJColucci says:

      Good idea!!Report

    • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

      We need to get take Lenny Bruce, Spenser Tracy, and John Muir off of the $5 and replace them with W.E.B. Du Bois, Edith Wharton, and Anne Hutchinson.Report

    • KenB in reply to CJColucci says:

      They should embed a flexible touch-sensitive display on each bill, have it rotate through a set of, say, 1000 historical figures, and let us swipe left to remove someone from the set.Report

    • The only problem I see with this (I don’t see vigorous debate over whether Jackson or Calhoun ought to be on a bill as a problem.) is that it might slow down recognition of denominations, a problem we could solve, as other countries do, by making each denomination a different color.

      That is, in my opinion, the main problem. When I was trained as a teller, we learned to always go by the faces to avoid being taken in by the scam of pasting the wrong numbers on a bill. With color-coded denominations, I’d worry about how it would work for persons with color blindness.Report

    • notme in reply to CJColucci says:

      That might be nice but presents problems. Several years ago when the Treasury was developing the new bills to update them and the anti counterfeiting devices, PBS’ NOVA did a episode about the efforts. I remember them discussing the limits of what they could do to change the look of the bills because part of the world wide draw/use of US currency is that everyone knows what it looks like and that look has changed very little over time, eg, the color, size, texture and portraits. So it may be cool for Norway to have bills with monopoly money colors but there are very good reasons why we don’t.Report

      • Doctor Jay in reply to notme says:

        I’m with you on this one. I think the color and overall look of US currency is pretty deeply embedded in our culture, and in world culture.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to notme says:

        Everyone knows what it looks like? I just live in Canada, and all I know is that it all looks the freaking same, so whenever I’ve gone to the states I’m totally at the mercy of cashiers to give me right change.

        In Canada, if I’m making a fifteen dollar purchase and the only bill in my wallet is brown, I glance at the change and make sure I see one each of red, green, purple, and blue.

        In the states I’m fishing a beige bill out of my wallet, and looking for beige, beige, beige, and beige in the change.Report

        • uwntl in reply to dragonfrog says:

          Also, I’m not sure the “monopoly money” colors other countries employ, which the US rejects, is the reason the Dollar is the world currency. If only it were that simple….Report

          • Autolukos in reply to uwntl says:

            Seems rather unlikely, but for some reason a lot of Americans have strong feelings on the issue.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to uwntl says:

            Stillwater dammit!Report

            • Murali in reply to Stillwater says:

              I thought you randomly decided to change your screen name…Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

                That in a dark mood I went with something more primal? Like an unintelligible emotionally based scream? UWNTL!!

                Nothing so fancy. But I am a bit dark right now. Darker than usual. My brother died ten days ago. I’m having some bit of trouble making sense of it all.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’m sorry for your loss @stillwater.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to dragonfrog says:

                Thanks D. My words above just sorta slipped out, actually, but it’s where I’m at. Cryin all the time. He was 54 and decided there just wasn’t anything left to live for. It just tears me up.Report

              • Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

                Oh man, I am sorry to hear that.Report

              • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

                Condolences on your loss. That sucks.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

                Awful. My sympathies. I lost my mother just about two months ago. I’m not really over it yet. Some days it feels like just pushing forward because that’s what there is to do.

                Know that you don’t suffer alone. I wish I could tell you it goes away with time, but so far for me it hasn’t. It just recedes to the point that I can move on with life and do things for the people who rely on me. Right now, it’s gonna look pretty bleak, nothing’s going to seem to have a lot of emotional richness. That does come back.

                Remember the good times you shared, most of all.

                If he had a family of his own, keep them close, they need you as much as you need them. Even if not, you’ve got people to lean on, and this is the time to do it.

                Feel free to exchange private correspondence with me. Maybe an exchange with another recently-bereaved person will help you out.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Thanks Burt. And Chris, greg and Jaybird. Mortality sucks. Ever since I was young my projection into the future was my brother squeezing me over our parents’ inheritance, trying to get every last drop of the cash. Not him going before them. Funny how those little things trip a person up. I just never saw this coming.Report

              • Francis in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’m deeply sorry for your loss. I don’t know if seeing one more comment helps, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

                no matter how distant you were recently, you were still brothers. There is no shame in tears. All I can say is try to remember the better times you had together.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Francis says:

                Thanks Francis. It definitely helps. Through all this I’ve felt like a piece of wood drifting out to sea, so hearing other folks kind words means a lot. Helps me get back to shore at least.

                Thanks for the reminder to focus on the good times. He was a good guy who lost his way.Report

              • Chris in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Burt, I’m sorry to hear that as well.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Man, we need some posts on death, dying, and grieving, bro.

                I know I’ve got a lot to say.Report

              • Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

                I would love to read it.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

                Thank you. I don’t believe I’ve announced that before here publicly before this.

                So I figure, hey, I was just right there at the place @stillwater describes being at. Maybe he could use at least a little solidarity after sharing news of a similar loss.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Thanks Burt. This s*** sucks, yeah?Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

                Yes. I have good days and bad days. Mom would have wanted my days to be good, because after all, she loved me. So I try and aim for more good days than bad days over time.

                As for your brother, you should try to not think about the dispute you feared having with him. When my grandfather passed a few years ago, for a few days all I could think of was how many awful racist things came out of his mouth when he was alive. Which didn’t square with the fact that I was grieving for him at the same time — those were just the strongest emotional reactions I had to him.

                What really helped me with that was eulogizing him. I dug into his past, did some investigating, and put together all sorts of things to say during the services. It got me remembering why I loved him, why I was going to miss him. I miss him still. I don’t know that’s a path open to you or that would be helpful to you, but it really did work for me.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

                It gives me hope, in the moment, that you’ve been able to find a balance between grieving over your mother and getting on with your life, Burt. I have to say, I’m having trouble finding that. It’s not that my brother and I were particularly close but instead the nature of his last days and how that effects me. I didn’t know. Wasn’t aware. He didn’t let me into the degree of his suffering. I’m having a hard time with that.

                I applaud you and am personally encouraged by your being able to function in around the loss of your mother, and I feel for ya. It’s no small task to face the day in light of these types of events. They shake the ground we stand on.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

                I am sorry for your losses Burt and StillwaterReport

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Burt Likko says:

                My wife’s mother passed in December.
                I remember when mine passed away in 1996, I recalled a line from a poem about how when a parent dies, the umbrella between us and eternity is torn away,leaving us as the umbrella for our children.
                Both you and Stillwater have my condolences.Report

              • I’m really sorry for your loss, Stillwater and Burt.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

                Thanks Gabriel.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

                I wish I could do more than just offer my sympathy and condolences. Not sure I can but know ‘ thinking of you a d your families, @burt-likko and @stillwater .Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

                Kazzy, that’s enough* and very welcome. And thank you for the sentiment.

                *Unless you have an elixir or potion of some sort…Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

                More unsolicited advice: if you do “imbibe of the elixirs”, keep mindful at this time to not do so more than is your custom.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Oof. I’ll be thinking of you both @stillwater and @burt-likko .Report

              • j r in reply to Burt Likko says:

                My condolences, Burt and Stillwater. For all the depth and resilience of the human brain, nothing compresses our world down to nothing so quickly as the passing of a loved one. It comes back.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Ah, jeez. That sucks.

                Saying “Goodbye” sucks.Report

              • Murali in reply to Burt Likko says:

                My condolences Burt.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Murali says:

                Thanks to all for their condolences. For me it’s been a little while. My heart really goes out to @stillwater. One reason I’m here is the community of minds, which is a comfort and a joy.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Dude, that totally sucks.Report

              • aaron david in reply to Stillwater says:

                I am so sorry @stillwater That is just horrible.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to aaron david says:

                Thanks, Aaron. It’s been a rough ride.

                The weird thing is you get that call and you sit down cuz you know it’s gonna be bad news, and then you just have no way to deal with it other than tears.Report

              • Aaron David in reply to Stillwater says:

                I hear you Stil. I fortunatly haven’t been there, but my MIL died last summer. Not unexpectedly, but my wife took it increadibly hard. Still is taking hard. Hang in there.Report

              • Murali in reply to Stillwater says:

                Really sorry to hear about your loss.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                Oh my, @stillwater . I’m just reading this now. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. Losing my parents was tough, but then it’s what one always knows is coming sooner or later. I can’t even conceive of what it would be like to lose my sister, though, and so I don’t know what to say other than I am so, so sorry. My heart breaks for you.Report

          • Damon in reply to uwntl says:

            Might want to correlate other counties mouthing about going off the dollar standard for selling oil and the length of those counties that have a “change in leadership”, political instability, mass demonstrations, or invasion.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:

              Per notme’s comment, are other countries rejecting the “dollar standard” because there’s chatter about changing the faces on the bills or their overall design?

              I’d hate to judge those folks for basing policy, like notme apparently is, on the surface features of US Certified Merkin greenbacks. They ought to spend the same whether they’re Ole White Guy green or female and colored. In fact they would. Know what I mean?Report

              • Damon in reply to Stillwater says:

                I didn’t scroll up that far. He does have a point. One of things about our currency is that it’s consistently looked the same, so I can buy that.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:

                Sure. If you think that blackmarket exchanges of local currency into US dollars exemplifies the US Dollars’ role in global economics. 🙂

                The reason the dollar is the world currency has literally nothing to do with (well, not entirely nothing, as you say) the color or markings of the bills. A Tubman bill would effect the Dollar’s role in international finance on the order of an infinitesimal, if it was detectable at all.Report

              • Damon in reply to Stillwater says:

                That wasn’t what I meant. There was a report a few years ago about some countries using Tide detergent as a proxy for money. Why? Because it’s quality, availability, and it was viewed as a valuable product. As a result, it became a defacto method of exchange. The US dollar is like that. Looks the same. Hold value, lots of them floating around., etc.Report

              • Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

                The cash economy is mostly criminals, who are switching to bitcoin.Report

              • NoPublic in reply to Kim says:

                The cash economy is mostly criminals, who are switching to bitcoin.

                [citation needed]
                Given that something around 20 million working families have no checking account let alone credit cards I think this is grossly overstating the case. I must know half a dozen folks who live on cash and barter and are gainfully employed.Report

              • Kim in reply to NoPublic says:

                Okay, so that’s about 20% of American employment. Blackmarket GDP is at 9% or so, in America — if we assume that you have the same percentage employment as GDP (and there is strong reason to suppose that you’d have more employment in the blackmarket than the GDP would suggest…), that’s half of 20 million right there.

                But… worldwide, criminals use dollars. They’re a reserve currency for a reason — value’s stable and worth investing in. Also they’re portable.

                Nigeria’s black market is at 50% of its GDP, and they’ve got significant reason to want dollars (Russia… well, less reason, at any rate).

                But there’s 7 billion people on the planet, and if we give a 5% rate of black market employment, well, you can do the math.

                Doesn’t take too much usage of dollars to get that over 20 million. Not much at all.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Kim says:

                I hear ya. The blackmarket or underground economy is a real thing. But that has little to do with the markings on actual USAmerican currency.Report

              • Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

                Of course. But actual use of AmDollars as reserve currency is done by large banks, who don’t look at the cash at all. They. Don’t. Care.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Kim says:

                Exactly. Which means that the surface features of a US denomination bill – pretty much definitionally – don’t matter since the transactions are computer-based, yes?Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to uwntl says:

            I’m sure the physical form of the currency is nearly irrelevant – the only economically significant commodities where large international transactions involve actually counting box loads of cash are heroin and cocaine.Report

        • notme in reply to dragonfrog says:

          I didn’t say other countries. I was talking about all the informal uses. In the past folks in many countries have kept their wealth in US dollars rather than their local currency b/c of local currency instability.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to notme says:

            I quite understand that. (Or at least I think I do – I’m not sure I follow your first sentence “I didn’t say other countries”).

            Scotland has five complete sets of notes in circulation (two issued by the Bank of Scotland, one by the Royal Bank of Scotland, and two by the Clydesdale Bank – see, in addition to Bank of England notes being in common circulation in Scotland.

            Bank of England notes having themselves gone through four series since the 1970s – a series D fiver had the Duke of Wellington on it, series E had George Stephenson, revised E had Elizabeth Fry, and F has Winston Churchill, for example.

            The Scots can keep this straight without problems. Cambodians are no stupider than Scots, they would be perfectly capable of handling a new series of US banknotes.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to dragonfrog says:

          Long ago I worked with illiterate adults. “Illiterate” does not mean “dumb” nor does it mean “unable to count.” It means “lacks mental skill [or in some cases capacity] to extract concepts in brain from squiggles on paper.”

          Such people learn ways of negotiating money that don’t involve reading the numbers on the corner (Seriously, @dragonfrog? Canadians can’t figure that one out on their own without a big-ass number in the lower left? You’re bustin’ my chops here.)

          The least intellectually able among them would simply figure out which picture on the money meant a big amount, give that one to the clerk, and trust in the clerk’s honesty to give back the right amount.

          But others memorized all the faces and what numbers they meant. Some were better at doing the counting silently in their heads than others.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Burt Likko says:

            I am quite capable of obviously examining each US banknote in front of the cashier, rudely advertising that I am double-checking their change.

            I don’t have to do that in Canada – just putting my change in my wallet I see enough to know I got the right amount – the tiniest visible sliver of a banknote communicates its denomination. The benefit of living in a “monopoly money” country.

            And yes, it’s true, if you step on my toe, I will apologize to you.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

      I think the problem with this is the amount of anti-counterfeit information that’s put into the printing plates for each bill. Perhaps you could have a changeable center faceplate, but that adds expense (particularly if you can’t make that work with the printing presses and have to redesign them as well.)Report

    • Zac in reply to CJColucci says:

      I love this idea and endorse it fully. It could be like the state-themed quarters.Report

  5. Doctor Jay says:

    I’m not sorry to see Jackson get off the paper money, and my best reason for that is that Jackson himself hated paper money, and was immensely distrustful of it. Jackson vetoed the charter renewal for the Second National Bank, probably because of his hard-money proclivities, and partly because he had a personal beef with Nelson Biddle, president of the SNB.

    Andrew Jackson had a profound effect on the United States, it’s quite true. Even if most of the things he did ended up being things I don’t like, he still is a very important figure. Surely we can find some other forum to honor him than on the money?Report

  6. veronica d says:

    I strongly approve of this development. 🙂Report

  7. Roland Dodds says:

    I was surprisingly happy to hear the news. I know it sounds like signaling, but it seemed like the figures on our bills have been enshrined there forever. Any change, and specifically this change, is a good thing to me.

    But I would still rather our money look this awesome.Report

  8. While I have my problems with Hamilton (for one thing, he supported an unjust war, just like the people who are on the 1, 2, and 100 bills), I’m glad we’re keeping him. I’m also glad we’re dumping Jackson. Tubman in my opinion is an excellent choice.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      I think you are approximately a party of one on the whole American Revolution shouldn’t have happened thing.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I think on the whole, African American’s probably would’ve rather had their ancestors set free a few decades earlier.

        Also –

        • j r in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

          Man I love Vox…

          So, the southern states rebelled from the Union and fought a costly and ultimately self-destructive war to maintain the institution of slavery, but if America had still been a British colony the British government would have been able to abolish slavery? I know everything sounds more authoritative in a British accent, but this is pushing it.

          This argument would be much more convincing if Britain’s abolition laws happened in the 18th century, but once Whitney patented the cotton gin the industry became so productive that the Civil War became almost an inevitability. The interesting thing about the history of slavery is that many at the time of the revolution thought that the institution was on its way out, but it actually became much more entrenched throughout the beginning of the 19th century.Report

        • I’m actually think slavery is a counterpoint to my position, for reasons similar to what J-R suggests. I can imagine that the US exiting the British Empire made the success of British abolitionism possible. And even I have to admit that some states abolished slavery shortly after the Revolution began or shortly after independence, which I can’t help but count as a good thing.

          As to whether, as that article suggests, we would have had a parliamentary system and whether that would have been a good thing….I’m not so sure on either count. I’m a little more confident in that article’s claim that American Indians would have been treated slightly less bad.Report

          • Right. I suspect it (with a Civil War or at least an uprising) would have happened a bit sooner, but (not just a bit) closer to our timeframe than theirs.Report

            • Actually the Civil War might have been even worse. Southerners fighting for slavery, some northerners for independence, and New French to stir excrement.

              Or the war might have been avoided with less encroachment on the slavery institution due to fears of the above, or because of a French threat and wars in the West, keeping slavery around longer.Report

              • Another thing I’d fear in that hypothetical would be if the UK managed to abolish slavery in North America, the freed persons might not have the full rights and privileges of white British subjects, in the way that the 13, 14, and 15 amendments granted them in theory.Report

              • That was a thing in Turtledove’s Southern Victory. After the Confederacy won, the US was not especially inclined to follow up. African-Americans could vote in some states, though. One family moved from Kentucky to Iowa for that reason (among others).

                (Kentucky was in the Confederacy until WWI when the US grabbed it (with Oklahoma and part of Texas), then ended up back in the Confederacy later.)Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:


          I think JR makes good points. The whole Box piece seems awash in counter factuals. The British Empire was no bed of roses. The Brits might have freed their slaves but many Colonial subjects were paid wages that might have well made them slaves. There is also the Opium War.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

          This is assuming that the United Kingdom would have followed the same course when it came to abolishing slavery even with the Thirteen Colonies in the Empire. The pro-slavery faction would have been more powerful because King Cotton though.Report

      • You might be right. But a lot of people I know today would reject a war started for similar reasons as that one. I mean mostly the underlying reasons, not the propaganda ones from the declaration, but even those cannot always hide the many base–and to my mind insufficient–justifications for war.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


          Besides what JR pointed out, would you be happy if the United States stayed in the British Empire and fully participated in 19th century Colonialism? Would you want ancestors who sold opium to the Chinese and used batons against Ghandi?

          The British Empire is not awash in glory.

          The American Revolution was not perfect and America is far from perfect. But I think the ideals of the American Revolution were just and important for the world. We would be a world ruled by the gentry without them.Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I have long argued, semi-seriously, that the French and Indian War, and specifically the Plains of Abraham, was the last significant military action in North America. The argument is that this left Britain as the only major player, at which point it would inevitably end up as an effectively-independent more-or-less liberal democracy. Whether we have a president or a prime minister and a governor general are mere trivia. As I say, this is only semi-serious, in part because it supposes that French Canada would have been a viable player in the long run, even apart from the outcome of that war.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:


              I suppose there is truth to this but I think the same truth also makes the American Revolution sort of inevitable. They were already semi-independent and far from the mother colony. By the time of the Revolution, many had only distant connections with the U.K. They probably wanted to be on their own officially.

              I don’t like counter factually because they assume too much and ignore too much. Dylan Matthews hand waves away the entire history of the British Empire in the 18th century to make a Slatepitch. I would use a genie wish to get rid of the Slatepitch and Vox navel gaze.

              I am also not sure of the ultimate goal or purpose of arguing that the American Revolution was wrong in 2016. The Revolution happened and the United States exists. What is the point of saying”Hamilton supported an unjust war” except for a variant of special snowflake?Report

            • Granting the false premise of the proposal (as I understand it, “Whether it was overtly British, quasi-autonomously Commonwealthy, or independently American, an English-speaking nation in North America would necessarily have been an Anglocentric liberal democracy,”) I still disagree: there were multiple armed engagements against Spain and Mexico.

              There was German military activity in the United States during the First World War and naval engagements up and down the Atlantic Seaboard in the Second. Not sure whether you’d want to describe Pearl Harbor as occurring in North America, I guess one could go either way.Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Burt Likko says:

                The part I am most confident of is the Anglocentric liberal democracy. Every other former British colony with a majority population of European descent has gone that way, as well as some with a majority non-European population.

                The premise with regard to Spain and Mexico is that we would have stolen more or less the territories we did, regardless of technicalities of governments. It’s not as if Manifest Destiny was contrary to the spirit of Victorian England.

                As for the 20th century stuff, I am unimpressed by minor sabotage on the coast. Early in WWII a Japanese submarine surfaced at took a few pot shots at an oil complex in California. The locals were very impressed at the time, but the military significance was nil.

                Pearl Harbor is an interesting question, as the raid was of vast political significance. But Hawaii most certainly is not part of North America in any pure geography sense. The question only arises because it seems odd to have a US state that is not part of N.A. Even granting that in a political sense it is part of N.A. today, in 1941 it was no more part of N.A. than is Guam.Report

              • Spain and Mexico is that we would have stolen more or less the territories we did,

                The population of the southwest consisted of aboriginals with no more affinity for the one then the other, and a five-digit population of colonists (among whom Mexicans were a minority in Texas). The notion that that territory was ‘Mexican’ was a diplomatic fiction.Report

              • notme in reply to Art Deco says:

                The territory was Mexican only b/c they stole it from the Spanish.Report

            • Kolohe in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

              There are plenty of paths (starting with the 1763 Treaty of Paris) that result in multiple independent nation-states in the 20th century between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico (and not just the obvious one), and many opportunities for any of those nation-states (and the one that does exist) to exit the road of liberal democracy towards a authoritarian or tyrannical rest stop (again, besides the obvious one).Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kolohe says:

                The counter-factual is that Britain takes over French Canada, just as in our timeline, but that for whatever reason the American Revolution never happens, or happens but fizzles. That last is incredibly easy to posit, starting with Washington falls off his horse and breaks his neck at some important moment.

                This leaves North America as a collection of British colonies. How they are organized, both internally and with respect to one another, and how firm or loose is London’s hand in them is open to variation. Also, the population is of predominantly European ancestry, and outside of parts of Canada is predominantly Anglophone. My argument is that in the real world, this has been a consistent recipe for a liberal democracy. Sure, we can construct scenarios that go in different directions, but I think the smart money is on the observed trend.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                It’s a consistent trend because you have one humongous country that managed to stick together, and three sisters whose combined population today equals what that humongous population was back in 1890.

                Splitting up the USA creates a lot more laboratories of government and not necessarily democracy. Particularly since the most likely scenario, if London would have been able to keep a lid on things in 1776, was eventually trans-Appalachia settlement revolting against London (and against Native American sovereignty), creating a separate country in the Old Northwest – but with trade routes that still had to go through British East America or the Franco-Spanish Mississippi delta. So we probably eventually get a North American version of the War of the Triple Alliance, with a similar long term trajectory of political and economic development.Report

          • @saul-degraw

            The war was just or unjust regardless of whether the British Empire was “awash in glory.” And I agree with you, the British Empire wasn’t. But as far as it treated the American colonists, its rule fell far short of anything that in my opinion justifies killing people.

            I wouldn’t be happy with remaining in the British Empire and taken part in colonialism any more than I’m happy with the US taking part in colonialism or manifest destiny. But the fact that the British Empire was at least as bad as the American Empire turned out to be doesn’t make the American Revolution a just war and something we should celebrate.

            The American Revolution was not perfect and America is far from perfect. But I think the ideals of the American Revolution were just and important for the world.

            I’ll give you that much, the ideals were (most of them) pretty good. But so were (some of) the ideals for which American leaders claimed to be fighting wars in Iraq, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

            We would be a world ruled by the gentry without them.

            I think the democratizing trend of “modernity” would have happened with or without the American Revolution or its ideals. It all would have happened differently, but it still would have more or less happened. Or might have happened. I don’t think the ideals themselves have a lot of causal power when it comes to whether we would be (or still are) ruled by something that can be called a gentry. However, since we’re dealing in counterfactuals, your counterfactual is as good as mine.Report

      • I agree with Gabriel on that point. I have high standards for what consititutes a possibly justified war, and the American Revolution does not meet them.Report

        • notme in reply to KatherineMW says:

          So you plan on giving up you US citizenship? Or you’ll just bad mouth the revolution that won your freedom and continue to enjoy the perks?Report

          • El Muneco in reply to notme says:

            Although the comment I’m replying to is unjustifiably over-abrasive and somewhat incompletely thought out, it brings to mind a larger point that has been fermenting in the back of my mind for quite some time now…

            The “love it or leave it” crowd are generally big proponents of American exceptionalism, and treat any discussion of American life (much less actual criticism) that doesn’t explicitly train a positive light on the subject as being an attack. And one not just on the topic, but on the very idea of America itself.

            But to me, they’re getting it backward.

            American exceptionalism is about American ideals, almost in a platonic sense. It’s aspirational. The Founders, and us their descendants, dared to dream of an America that is unattainable in this fallen world. Pointing out where real Americans, and real America, didn’t live up to that isn’t an attack – it’s a chance to remind ourselves of those great ideals and to reinforce that being an American is a process of striving for something that you can only get close to, never attain. It’s not an attack to point out where we came up short in the past. It’s our duty.Report

            • notme in reply to El Muneco says:

              All that is nice but she is saying that there wasn’t sufficient justification for the revolution it self much less the ideals.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to notme says:

                By Just War Theory, it’s a slam-dunk – there wasn’t. Of course, by Just War Theory, without Pearl Harbor, we wouldn’t have been justified in intervening in WWII until the death camps were conclusively proven. And even then we probably would have to have pulled up and let the Soviets take Germany all the way to the Rhine, with inevitable consequences.

                That’s why many people, myself included, consider Just War Theory to be somewhat… problematic.

                I think a case can be made that the rift between the colonies and GB could still have been healed, at least if they’d started in 1774 or so. That the Parliamentary allies we’d already built up, who were after all in the same “party” and same intellectual tradition, could have gotten the American colonies basically the same deal that Scotland had. And then, with Parliamentary representation, the huge population would be a force driving law-making going forward. So the “alternate” UK today might have America looking a little more like “our” GB, but the “alternate” GB looking a lot more like “our” USA.

                Of course, this wouldn’t have worked because slavery…

                Now that you mention it, looking back, I’m not sure if I would have been a Son of Liberty. I doubt if I’d have been a Tory – I’ve always had Whiggish sentiments. I’m just not sure if the idea of revolution in 1775 was as clear to the average person as it seems in retrospect. In fact, I’m pretty sure it isn’t.

                So to sum up, I think it’s actually an open question as to whether the revolution was justified. I like the results, obviously. But weighing the costs of revolution and independence (which costs also include 1812) against the possibility of change within the existing system – that gets real murky real quick.Report

              • @el-muneco

                I see–and agree with–most of what you’re saying in this comment, including the part about just war theory being “problematic,” and in more ways than you suggest. And I should probably own up to the problematism, since I’m the one invoking just war theory.

                Kind of as an aside, I do think the case for the Revolution (or some sort of Revolution) is a lot stronger after the Coercive Acts than before. I’ve obviously staked out my view that the revolution was regardless not justified, but perhaps I have overly exacting standards. (My standards are also ahistorical, and if I adopted this position as the historian I’ve been trained to be and not as a person living in 2016, I’d have to treat the issue much less stridently.) The truth is that it happened.

                I do agree with your warnings about us not knowing what America and the UK (and the world) would look like today without a Revolution. Maybe things would be better, maybe not.Report

          • Gabriel Conroy in reply to notme says:

            So you plan on giving up you US citizenship? Or you’ll just bad mouth the revolution that won your freedom and continue to enjoy the perks?

            She doesn’t have a US citizenship to give up, if I understand correctly.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      I’m reasonably sure, for instance, that I would not have liked Patrick Henry at all. He seems like a judgemental blowhard grandstander to me. And a few other prominent patriots, too. But not Franklin, and not John Adams, and not Washington. Jefferson was a brilliant writer, but somehow couldn’t carry out the ideals that he could so ably espouse. Not that unusual a failing.

      So yeah, I often wonder which side of the War of Independence I would have been on.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        I suspect I would have started out skeptical and turned about when Franklin did or once there was a whole war on.

        Truthfully, a lot would gave depended in my own interests at the time.Report

        • CJColucci in reply to Will Truman says:

          I’ve long thought that colonial rule was never that irksome and that the representation argument was largely bogus because even granting the colonies representation in Parliament, even on a fair basis (itself a radical idea in England, where constituencies varied enormously in size), the colonies would likely have been consistently outvoted. What they really wanted was to run their own show, which is a legitimate enough beef. Whether I would have been willing to go to war over it back then I don’t know, but since it worked out at fairly low casualty levels, I can’t say now that it was a bad idea.Report

      • I don’t honestly know what side I’d have been on, either. I admit my critique is ahistorical. I’m using my 20th century sensibilities (I first had my major skepticisms about the justness of the war in 1988, when I had to read Johnny Tremain for 8th grade) and applying them to the 18th century.Report

      • @doctor-jay

        I will say I have a soft spot in my heart for Hamilton (even though he was a bit of a pompous ass). And if we can get past the Revolution and move on to the 1790s and beyond, Adams and GW start to look a little better. (TJ does not.)Report

  9. Burt Likko says:

    Update: Alas it appears we won’t even see the concept art until 2020, and even then Jackson is going to be on the reverse side of the $20 bill.Report

  10. Damon says:

    Frankly, I’m really not all that worked up either way. We’ve moving to a zero cash environment anyway, so making any changes seem more politics than anything else. But for got sake, make her image decent looking. The images I’ve seen frankly suck.

    While we’re at it, bring back the 500 dollar bill. I get SO tired of carrying around bricks of hunners.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Damon says:

      @damon ‘s got 99 problems and one of them is that those fat stacks o’ Benjamins throw his back out, yo.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Damon says:

      You joke, but I’ve noted that the ATMs around here have changed from “twenties and fives” to “twenties and fifties”…Report

      • Damon in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I’ve never seen an ATM dispense 50s. They used to dispense 10s, that’s gone. Now I typically don’t get cash in the 50, 150, etc. increments where a 50 would be convenient perhaps, but whenever I pull 100 out all I get are 20s and the occasional 2 tens.

        If I want anything bigger, I have to go into the bank and exchange it.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Damon says:

          I’m offered fifties at my ATM now. Not really liking it. Most retail clerks aren’t either; the typical cash register I see is set up with four slots for bills: ones, fives, tens, and twenties. When people offer bills other than those, they can’t store and make change nearly as fast.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Burt Likko says:

            The ten has all but disappeared around where I am, mostly for that reason. You don’t get them from the machines and you can just give someone two fives if they need that much change.Report

            • What I see around here that is interesting is people — often, but not exclusively, an Hispanic family — that pay for groceries from a small bundle of brand-new hundreds. Other than holding them up to the light to check the anti-counterfeiting strip, the clerks all seem to treat it as a routine thing.

              A few months ago I found three hundreds laying on the floor at the grocery. I turned them in with the manager, who gave me a receipt (but no promises about how corporate would handle things). Some days later she called to tell me that one of their regular customers had shown up in tears, having lost three hundred-dollar bills, and that corporate had decided to give her the three I had found. I suppose it’s possible it was some sort of scam, but I’d like to think not.Report