Here’s an unexpected side effect of our nation’s Hamilton obsession: Thanks to the renewed fame of Alexander Hamilton and the persuasive efforts of unofficial lobbyist Lin-Manuel Miranda, a woman might not appear on the front of the next edition of the $10 bill as promised. Instead, TIME reports, Hamilton may stand his ground on the front, pushing any female gatecrasher to the backside of the bill.
Turns out, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is #Ham4Ham. He gave Hamilton writer-star Miranda a tour of the Treasury last month, thanking him for “the ingenious way in which he has been able to tell Hamilton’s story and ignite a renewed interest in one of our nation’s founding fathers.” Last year, Lew told New York magazine that Hamilton “was really outstanding … wonderful theater, a quite ingenious adaptation of a great biography.” Yeah, yeah, you and the rest of the theater geeks.
Last June, just before Hamilton opened on Broadway, Miranda seemed fine with—even excited by—the prospect of Hamilton yielding his prime real estate to a worthy American woman.
He proposed an alternate course for the Treasury in another tweet: “The MURDEROUS Andrew Jackson is still money?”
Miranda didn’t come up with that idea on his own. When women first began advocating for a woman on U.S. paper currency, they proposed replacing Jackson on the $20 bill. But it’s not that simple: Even though the $10 bill got redone in 2006 and the $20 bill hasn’t had a makeover since 2003, the Treasury’s anti-counterfeit task force has recommended revamping the $10 bill first, since it’s currently the easiest target for counterfeiters. Rather than wait 15 or so years for a new $20 bill—a “senior government official” told TIME that we probably wouldn’t need a new $20 bill until at least 2030—the Treasury is putting a woman next in line. (A Treasury official said a new $20 bill could come sooner if counterfeiting technology improves. Here’s hoping!)
Miranda might have approved of a Hamilton replacement when the show was still in development, but now that the show has blown up beyond all reasonable expectations, he’s changed his tune. When Miranda visited the Treasury last month, he made his case for the late Founding Father and assured his followers that Hamilton would retain his current place of honor.
In this case, “getting the job done” will likely mean preserving the whiteness and maleness of our currency for another two decades. Whatever happened to “Yay Women!”?
Lew’s attempt at even-handedness is no solution at all. Andrew Jackson—who hated paper money, presided over the genocide of indigenous Americans, and owned slaves—will still get props on a piece of currency, and the one woman on any bill will be relegated to the back. The Treasury has also floated the concept of printing two bills, one with Hamilton and one with a woman, which would dilute the latter’s standing just as much.
There’s a better way: A woman should replace Hamilton on the $10 bill, Hamilton should get promoted to the $20 for his services to Broadway, Jackson should disappear, and our currency situation will be thereby stabilized until opening night of Kanye’s FDR musical.