A huge controversy has erupted ever since US Treasury Sec made this speech. There was a view that Alexander Hamilton will be removed from the note and be replaced by a Woman (who has done commendable work).
However, Treasury Sec did not really make this comment. He said we are exploring options and want to keep Hamilton on the note:
Given the vital role women have played to build our nation, it is only right that our currency reflect their contributions. In the past, we have honored women on our paper currency and on our coins and Congressional medals. Great women like Martha Washington, Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller, Mary Lasker, and Rosa Parks. These women confronted the status quo, and for them, no challenge was unsurmountable, no problem unbeatable. But the fact is, today, a woman is nowhere to be found on any of our seven paper bills. That is wrong, and it needs to change.
We will right that wrong, and when the new, redesigned 10 dollar note is released, it will bear the portrait of a woman. This is historic: We have made changes to the faces on our currency only a few times since bills were first put into circulation. And the woman whose engraved image will appear on the new 10 dollar bill will be the first to grace our paper currency in more than a century.
Of course, changing the look of our money will not erase discrimination against women in the United States. But it is a small step with big significance.
This is not the first time that the 10 dollar note has charted a new course for our paper currency. Back in 1928, when Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon put Alexander Hamilton on the 10, he did it over the objections of his advisers who argued that the bill should only carry the images of former U.S. presidents. The Secretary rejected that view, and established the 10 as a bill that celebrates visionary Americans—Americans who helped make our nation the strongest in the world.
Alexander Hamilton certainly did that. He was a military commander during the Revolution, an abolitionist long before the Civil War, the author of more than two-thirds of the Federalist Papers, and the driving force behind the ratification of our Constitution. He was also the first Treasury Secretary of the United States, and all of his successors, including me, are indebted to him. In the period following the Revolution, Hamilton laid the groundwork for our economy and America’s long term prosperity.
Alexander Hamilton has left an enduring mark on our nation’s history. That is why we will make sure that his image will remain a part of the $10 note. We are exploring a range of options to make sure that he continues to be honored on the 10.
Bernanke responds to this (how the world’s most powerful econ has moved to a role of a blogger is amazing, this happens in US. In India all our central bank chiefs remain part of the system for eternity). He says removing Hamilton is not right. At best we should replace Andrew Jackson from the $20 note:
Hamilton also played a leading role in creating U.S. monetary and financial institutions. He founded the nation’s first major bank, the Bank of New York; and, as Chernow points out, Hamilton’s 1791 Report on the Mint set the basis for U.S. currency arrangements, which makes his demotion from the ten dollar bill all the more ironic. Importantly, over the objections of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Hamilton also oversaw the chartering in 1791 of the First Bank of the United States, which was to serve as a central bank and would be a precursor of the Federal Reserve System.
In the nineteenth century, a principal public role of central banks was to control banking panics, as the Bank of England would do quite successfully. Unfortunately, in large part because of populist opposition, neither the First Bank of the United States nor its successor, the Second Bank of the United States, would have their charters renewed. President Andrew Jackson led the opposition to the Second Bank, vetoing a bill passed by Congress to continue its operations. The expiration of the Second Bank’s charter in 1836 likely worsened the very severe Panic of 1837, which was followed by a prolonged economic depression. The United States would go on to suffer numerous banking panics that would hamper its economic and financial development over the rest of the century.
Hamilton’s demotion is intended to make room to honor a deserving woman on the face of our currency. That’s a fine idea, but it shouldn’t come at Hamilton’s expense. As many have pointed out, a better solution is available: Replace Andrew Jackson, a man of many unattractive qualities and a poor president, on the twenty dollar bill. Given his views on central banking, Jackson would probably be fine with having his image dropped from a Federal Reserve note. Another, less attractive, possibility is to circulate two versions of the ten dollar bill, one of which continues to feature Hamilton.
I was in government long enough to know that decisions like this have considerable bureaucratic inertia and are accordingly hard to reverse. But the Treasury Department should do everything within its power to defend the honor of Jack Lew’s most illustrious predecessor.
Mark Thornton of Mises, a leading advocate of free banking and no central bank reacts to Bernanke’s post:
Hamilton should get some credit for the Constitution and for being a policy maker. But the Constitution was an inferior form of government compared to the Articles of Confederation and his economic policy making was all geared toward bigger government and monetary nationalism, the two problems that are arguably the greatest threats to the American people, their prosperity, and their liberty. Bernanke then goes on to present a convoluted history of National Banks and bank panics during the 19th century. However, he does provide a suggestion for resolving the $10 bill controversy. Leave good old Hamilton on the $10 and take President Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill and replace him with a women.
This is probably the only idea of Ben Bernanke (removing the anti-central banking Jackson from the $20 bill) that I can agree with. And while you are at it take the image of Thomas Jefferson off the $2 bill and replace him with Paul Krugman or Ben Bernanke.
Both suggest to remove Jackson but for different reasons. Bernanke an advocate of central banking believes Jackson should not be there. Thornton an advocate of no central banking also believes Jackson should not be there as when we have private bank money, there is no need to put govt officials pictures on the notes. It is also interesting to see how central bankers are criticised in US. Here we just pray them..