[Originally published May 6, 2016 in Atlanta Times News]
When this Carolina Gamecock lawyer of twenty years launched a second career with an Atlanta Metro newspaper two weeks after 9/11/2001, we first used a famous quote from our fellow Palmetto State native, Andrew Jackson: “One man with courage makes a majority.” Little did I know then how relevant to the history of the first two decades of the 21st Century, would my signature line for thousands of op-ed columns become.
This past week the Obama Administration, in its latest exercise of executive overreach, announced that the hero of the Battle of New Orleans will be replaced on the front of the $20 bill by Harriett Tubman, leader of the slave-liberating “Underground Railroad.”
There have been many great and courageous men and women, famous and anonymous, who have played parts in the exceptional saga of the United States of America. Whispers from the ministry of the er ah office of the Lord er ah, Secretary of the Treasury, are that Jackson may appear on the back of the Twenty among a panoply of civil rights leaders. Of course, we can turn all of the currency into the affirmative action equivalents of tee-ball team portraits in which everyone gets a trophy for showing up. This appears to be the intent of those now in power who emphasize more their grievances against the United States than its greatness.
But if America has been the most exceptional nation in the history of the world, and it has; then shouldn’t prominent displays on the currency, and in national monuments and holidays, be preserved for the figures pivotal to achieving that exceptionalism? I think so.
Harriett Tubman was a heroic figure who helped free hundreds of slaves. The actions of President Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant freed all the slaves, while the latter, as president, attempted a Southern Reconstruction to confer equal rights; hence, the $5 Lincoln, $50 Grant and national holiday for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose courage produced a Civil Rights Act that enforced the equality guaranteed by the post-Civil War amendments the former figures fought for.
There would have been no exceptional American union for Tubman, Lincoln, Grant and King to preserve and sanctify but for the military and political courage of South Carolina-born Old Hickory, which nickname was conferred by soldiers red, yellow, black and white who served under him when he led them home safely for hundreds of miles after being betrayed by federal government. Yes, Jackson was born into a slave-owning culture similar to millions before him around the world and he denounced a Supreme Court which attempted to deny him the executive authority to relocate defeated enemies exercised by previous presidents.
But if we are going to trash all former slave owners and warriors, then shouldn’t we first tear down the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial? Re-name the District of Columbia, Obamaton and New Orleans, New London? And shouldn’t all those presidents who presided over removals of defeated Indian tribes before Jackson and Martin Van Buren, who afterward, actually presided over the Trail of Tears, also be trashed?
Yes, a Treaty of Ghent had been signed before General Jackson and an amateur army of free blacks, Creek Indians who sided with America against Creek domination of Georgia and Alabama, Tennesseans and Cajuns defeated the greatest military power on earth at New Orleans, even as Washington, D.C. still smoldered from its sacking by the British. But Britain still held Canada and would certainly have kept New Orleans and the Mississippi Rivier, upon which the treaty was silent. Most probably had they held Nawlins and Washington at the time the treaty was delivered, British admirals would have burnt it to light cigars. Andy Jackson spoiled that chance for British High Tea.
But for Jackson, there would have been no heroic Lincoln, Grant or Tubman.
The three popular and electoral (one stolen) election victories by Jackson broke the elitist stranglehold on the presidency. He paid off the national debt and destroyed the corrupt equivalent of The Fed in his day. More importantly, when his vice president in his first term led the nullification/secession movement during his second, President Jackson threatened to make himself general again to lead the union army against he his native state and John C. Calhoun’s nullifiers.
Jackson deemed the U.S. Constitution as having been ratified by “We the People”, not mere states, to form a more perfect “Union” and thus impossible to co-exist with any imagined right of states to secede. Only We the People could do that. He also shared Jefferson and Lincoln’s disdain for an imperial third branch of government as Oligarchs on a Supreme Court meant to interpret, not amend that Constitution.
All have sinned, and one day I pray that those who shout “pro-choice” will be publicly vilified for the millions of innocent babies killed at their behest. We overcame slavery and oppression. Hopefully one day, after bathroom Common Sense is restored, and hopefully without the necessity of a second civil war, we can ensure the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness for babies in the womb.
In the meantime, could we please not re-write a false history of those without whom our historic prosperity would have been impossible?
Yes, mass movements and forces greatly influence history, but still…one man or woman with courage can make a majority and an exceptional nation.