Alexander Hamilton May Remain On Currency After All — Is A Prize-Winning Broadway Musical Responsible?

Last June, the U.S. Treasury announced that Alexander Hamilton, founding father of America, aide-de-camp to General George Washington, and the first secretary of the treasury, was going to be removed from the 10 dollar bill and replaced by an as yet unnamed woman.

At the time, The Chicago Tribune reported that many were appalled, including former federal reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and former secretary of state (and current presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton.

The conservative Human Events blasted the announcement of Hamilton’s proposed removal, calling it “an assault upon American history itself.”

Binyamin Applebaum, who writes for The New York Times‘ “Upshot” blog, also opined against removing Alexander Hamilton.

“Well, it’s almost a day later and I’m still angry that the Treasury Department is planning to remove Alexander Hamilton from his role as cover boy on the $10 bill and replace him with a woman to be named later.”

US News and World Report reported that many Hamilton fans were outraged by the proposal, including Lynn Olympia, president of the Alexander Hamilton Historical Society of Kentucky, and Ron Chernow, author of a biography on Hamilton.

Some, including Clinton and Olympia, suggested keeping Hamilton on the 10 dollar bill and replacing Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president who advocated the forced removal of Indians from their land, instead.

US News noted that this was the original plan; since the 100th anniversary of the Constitutional Amendment that gave women the right to vote is just four years hence, in 2020, then why not replace Jackson with a famous American woman, like Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Susan B. Anthony?

Instead, secretary of the treasury Jack Lew announced in a video that all of the currency will get redesigned.

“I’m proud to announce today that the new ten dollar bill will be the first bill in more than a century to feature the portrait of a woman.”

Lew did not mention Hamilton in his announcement.

It looks like the outrage was more than Lew and the Treasury Department was expecting; CNN Money has reported that Lew is expected to officially reverse himself this week and announce that Alexander Hamilton will remain on the 10 dollar bill; a woman will replace Jackson on the 20 dollar bill after all. Meanwhile, images of famous American women like Anthony will also appear on the back of the 10 dollar bill.

Hamilton: Saved By a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Broadway Play?

CNN Money reported that in addition to fans of Hamilton, the first U.S. treasury secretary, “The pro-Hamilton movement gained steam after the smash success of the hip-hop Broadway musical about his life this year.”

The play, entitled Hamilton: An American Musical, was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and based on Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton. It is set to hip-hop music featuring non-white actors. BBC News reported that the musical has won the Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Whether or not this announcement or the musical’s success — it has been viewed by President Barack Obama and other celebrities — contributed to the move to keep Alexander Hamilton on the 10 dollar bill is not known. However, its popularity, which seems to have led to a resurgence of interest in Hamilton and historian’s appreciation of his accomplishments, all played a role.

Hamilton’s Impact On America

Alexander Hamilton Statue at Treasury

Alexander Hamilton was one of America’s most important founding fathers. Though he was never president, his achievements — especially as treasury secretary under first president George Washington — led to a stable U.S. economic system. Hamilton was also a co-author of The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays that were written to persuade the original 13 states to abolish the Articles of Confederation in favor of a system with a stronger federal government, albeit with limited powers. This resulted in the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Hamilton was killed in 1804 in a duel with Aaron Burr, his political opponent.

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]