Many Americans today may have little knowledge of the man on the $10 bill: Alexander Hamilton, famous for his early contributions to the country’s financial system and the Federalist Papers.
But a group with a more personal connection to the Founding Father — his direct descendants — are grappling with the Treasury Department’s recent decision to demote their ancestor, who may share the bill in some capacity when it is redesigned in 2020 to feature a woman.
The decision surprised Alexander’s fifth great-granddaughter, Debbie Hamilton, 63, who lives outside Los Angeles.
While she said the country needs to honor women on its currency, she does not want Alexander to lose his position on the $10 note or even have to share it, given his place in American history.
Debbie Hamilton has signed a petition calling for a reversal of the Treasury Department’s decision.
Her brother, Douglas Hamilton of Columbus, Ohio, shares her views.
Douglas, 64, has managed to remain connected with his ancestry. In 2004, 200 years after Alexander’s death, he played the part of his fifth great-grandfather in a re-enactment of his famous fatal duel with political rival Aaron Burr.
Still, neither Debbie nor Douglas Hamilton suggests that the Treasury not swap out one of the many men featured on its currency for a woman. They just don’t want it to be the $10 bill.
Instead, they propose the $20 bill, which now has a portrait of Andrew Jackson, who was the country’s seventh president in the 1820s and 1830s.
Douglas Hamilton suggested that a woman replace Jackson, citing the president’s record as a slaveholder and his role in negotiating the forced relocation of Cherokee Indians in what came to be known as the Trail of Tears.
Ideologically, Hamilton makes the most sense to keep on the $10 bill, Debbie Hamilton said. The first secretary of the Treasury championed a national bank while Jackson opposed paper money and vetoed the renewal of the Second Bank of the United States.
Larry Robertson, another Hamilton descendant, offered a compromise that would preserve the places of his ancestor and Jackson: Create a $15 bill, and put Betsy Ross on it.
At least one famous person agrees with the modern-day Hamiltons: former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Bernanke wrote Monday that adding a woman is “a fine idea, but it shouldn’t come at Hamilton’s expense.” Bernanke called Hamilton “without doubt the best and most foresighted economic policymaker in U.S. history.”