De Vos – Jackson Bytes
The Friday Report
I wasn’t there, but I think Andrew Jackson’s getting a bad rap.
He’s graced our $20 bill for the last 87 years and now folks are clamoring to replace his stern visage with the stern visage of a woman.
The Treasury Department has already announced that it intends to put a woman on a bill. They considered the $20 but settled on the $10 as if to underscore gender pay differential. Me? I’d pick Star Wars characters, “That’ll be 21 Vaders and 36 Leias, please. Oh! Don’t you have anything smaller than a Skywalker?”
Andrew Jackson, our 7th president is vilified by some because he oversaw the forced and tragic exodus of Native Americans from the east to the west. These tortuous passages are told in tales of the Cherokee “Trail of Tears” and the Potawatomi “Trail of Death” among many others.
Often overlooked is the apocalyptic condition of the Native American population at the time. For thousands of years Europeans raised livestock and developed immunity to what became the deadly cross-species germs of smallpox, flu and measles. It is believed that these diseases came to the Americas around 1520 when Spanish slavers sold an infected African cargo in Mexico.
Over the next 200 years, 90% of the native population in South, Central and North America died from these European diseases. To get an idea of the scope of this, if that happened today in North America it would mean the death of over 330 million people.
That alone would rock anybody’s world but Jackson was facing another reality. Georgia farmers were determined to eradicate the natives for no better motive than sheer greed and envy of their land. Bows and arrows were a feeble match for the Sharps rifle. Jackson defied the Supreme Court in moving the tribes, arguing that moving them was the only way to save them from extinction. And plus, he wanted their land.
There are over 8 billion $20 bills in circulation, more than one for every person on the planet and every one of them bears Jackson’s lantern-jawed countenance. The reason he was chosen has been lost to history but it was an odd choice because Jackson was a staunch advocate of the gold standard and opposed paper currency.
Whose picture is on what bill may someday be a moot point as money becomes digitized and further and further removed from actual value. Consider that a hundred-dollar bill costs about a dime to make.
We used to trade in pigs and wheat but sometime in the 1500’s Dutch merchants began taking checks and today when we make our Visa payment online, the only thing that happens is the bank takes a byte out of our hides.
One of the largest bank robberies in history took place recently with the robbers not even being on this continent. Hacking into bank customers’ accounts, they first made a $10,000 deposit, and then successfully transferred that “money” into their own offshore accounts, siphoning away huge sums in the process.
No famous people’s pictures were involved.
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We’ve been featuring book recommendations from Grand County library patrons in recent columns, but among our most loyal and enthusiastic patrons are children.