GOP Presidential Field Fails the Founders

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Getty Images

Only two Republican presidential candidates will stand with Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. During Wednesday’s CNN’s Republican presidential debate, candidates were asked about the proposed changes to the $10 bill and the woman with whom they would prefer to replace the country’s first treasury secretary.

On June 17, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Hamilton would be at least diminished on the redesign of the $10 bill and that in his place a woman would featured prominently.

While most Republicans on the debate stage answered with proposals that were downright illegal—living individuals like their mothers and daughters, and foreigners like Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher—at least two candidates came to the defense of the father of the American financial system.

While Democrats erasing American history is all too common–such as the shameful movement to strip Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson’s names from their party heritage–it is particularly sad to see Republicans put up the white flag. As the party that claims to be a standard bearer for conservatism and American principles, the absolute failure to defend one of the handful of greatest men in this nation’s history is inexcusable.

Two candidates came to the defense of the father of the American financial system, but only one made a full-throated defense of American history.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was the first to defend Hamilton. He said that Hamilton should stay on the $10 bill, then proceeded to throw Andrew Jackson under the bus. Cruz proposed that civil rights hero Rosa Parks replace the hero of the Battle of New Orleans on the $20 bill.

It is right that Hamilton’s place on the $10 should be defended on the eve of Constitution Day. The great American lawyer, soldier, and statesman wrote 2/3 of the Federalist Papers and was an influential member of the Constitutional Convention. He is undoubtedly on a short list of the greatest founders and greatest Americans. His monumental efforts to create a robust national government and strong union helped save the struggling young republic. And in some ways more importantly, the financial system he developed as the first treasury secretary paved the way for a dominant American capitalist system.

Historian Richard Brookhiser elaborated on how prodigiously talented Hamilton was, even amongst a founding generation that produced so many truly exceptional individuals. In his book, Alexander Hamilton: American, Brookhiser used the testimony of John Marshall, the most prominent Supreme Court Justice in American history, to explain how Hamilton stood above his peers.

“If John Marshall was the father of judicial review, Hamilton was the grandfather,” Brookhiser wrote. “Years after Hamilton died, Marshall said that next to him, he felt like a candle ‘beside the sun at noonday.’ He deserves a statue in front of the Supreme Court almost as much as his statue at the Treasury Department.”

While it is great that Cruz stood up for Hamilton, whose most important monument is really his visage on our currency, he unfortunately used the opportunity to take a shot at Old Hickory.

Jackson has been the target of a relentless campaign to have his likeness stripped from modern life, and the “Women on the 20s” movement has ginned up a significant amount of support to remove the frontier hero and 7th president from the $20 bill.

In singling out Jackson, Cruz picked an easy target from early American history to diminish. All of the sins of the early republic have unfortunately been dumped onto this great man, who was mostly revered by Americans of all political stripes in the 19th century.

A thorough defense of Jackson, his policies, and his leadership skills can be read HERE and HERE. This man for all his faults, should be studied and respected by modern Americans for his accomplishments, and for the unrelenting devotion he had to his principles and his country.

Cruz should have resisted taking a shot at a man who was every bit the Washington D.C. outsider Cruz is. Historian William Garrott Brown described why early Americans revered Jackson, and why his most essential traits were seen as an ideal for the enterprising young nation:

He was the man who had his way. He was the American whose simple virtues his countrymen most clearly understood, whose trespasses they most readily forgave; and until Americans are altogether changed, many, like the Democrats of the ‘Twenties and ‘Thirties, will still “vote for Jackson,”—for the poor boy who fought his way, step by step, to the highest station; for the soldier who always went to meet the enemy at the gate; for the president who never shirked a responsibility…

These are the qualities that Americans—as long as they are still Americans—want in a leader. It would be wise for any Republican who wishes to be the next president to study this great man’s life. Indeed, the modern GOP is trending toward Jacksonian ideas that will be vitally important to the party’s future in the 21st century.

The better defense of Hamilton came from the only woman in the race—former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. She stood against tampering with the current lineup of prominent Americans on our currency, and pushed back against the subtle tokenism of the current movement to find a woman, any woman, to replace the great New Yorker. Additionally, she defended Old Hickory from being removed from the $20 bill.

Fiorina said:

I wouldn’t change the $10 bill or $20 bill. It is a gesture. I don’t think it helps to change our history. What I would think is—we ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group. Women are the majority of this nation. We are half the potential of this nation, and this nation will be better off when every woman has the opportunity to live the life she chooses.”

By standing firm with the heroes currently on the currency and giving a broadside to the “special interest” politics that are at the heart of this movement to strip them from it, Fiorina demonstrated that she would not back down to pleading from politically-correct browbeaters. Without a doubt, Hamilton and Jackson’s best defender on stage was a woman.

Follow Jarrett Stepman on Twitter:@JarrettStepman. Reach him directly at


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