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$10 bill change rankles descendant of Alexander Hamilton

A display of $10 note currency plates from the past century are seen at a press conference at the National Archives on June 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew discussed the redesign of the $10 note to feature a woman and enter circulation in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote.
A display of $10 note currency plates from the past century are seen at a press conference at the National Archives on June 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew discussed the redesign of the $10 note to feature a woman and enter circulation in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. Getty Images

Doug Hamilton is just fine with plans to put a woman’s portrait on U.S. paper money, but he’d prefer that the Treasury Department leave the $10 bill alone – particularly the prominent visage of his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Alexander Hamilton.

The 10-spot is a source of family pride in Hamilton’s house in suburban Columbus, a dignified symbol of the historical importance of his ancestor, whose picture has been on it since 1929. So naturally, Hamilton started making some noise when he heard about the proposal that has Alexander Hamilton sharing the note with a deserving woman yet to be chosen.

The 64-year-old salesman for IBM has joined a growing number of voices in a backlash against what he calls the “diminishing” of Hamilton, the first secretary of the Treasury who founded the nation’s banking system.

“He’s the father of paper money,” says Doug Hamilton, who has a son and grandson carrying the name of their famous ancestor. (His daughter, Elizabeth, was named for Alexander Hamilton’s wife.)

He’s urging people to sign a petition on the White House “We The People” website, and this weekend he’ll be preaching the Hamiltonian gospel at a series of annual events in New York and New Jersey planned around the anniversary of Alexander Hamilton’s death on July 12, 1804, a day after his duel with Aaron Burr.

Outcry over Hamilton’s possible demotion has been somewhat lost in the wave of excitement over the inclusion of a woman’s portrait on paper currency. The Treasury Department says the $10 bill was chosen because it’s up next for a redesign to improve anti-counterfeiting features. The new bill would go into circulation in 2020.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said this week that he’s sticking with the plan, despite critics arguing that a woman should be featured on the $20 bill in place of Andrew Jackson, whom many historians view less favorably because of his treatment of Native Americans and his ownership of slaves.

Meanwhile, former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke wrote in a blog that he was “appalled” at the idea of adding a woman to the $10 bill at Hamilton’s expense. The New York Times wrote in a Fourth of July editorial that it’s a much better idea to bump Jackson, an undistinguished president who, ironically, hated the idea of paper currency.

Doug Hamiltonsays his ancestor’s towering achievements have earned him a permanent place on the bill, and the picture should remain untouched.

“We think,” Doug Hamilton says, “he is somebody the younger generation should look up to.”

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