KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Knox County General Sessions Judge Andrew Jackson VI has a ruling of his own surrounding the debate over his ancestor being replaced on the $20 bill.
Democratic leaders in Washington continue to push for legislation to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. The Obama Administration announced the change in 2016, set to begin in 2020. However, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Congress in May the matter wouldn’t be discussed until 2026.
Jackson has seen controversies come and go surrounding the former president, like protests in New Orleans to remove a statue or his tomb in Nashville getting vandalized. However, he believes painting the seventh president as a monster is historically inaccurate.
“Some years or decades, he’s held in more favor than others,” he said.
He believes the pressure is a combination of people specifically wanting to remove President Jackson from the bill, and others wanting to add someone else.
While Judge Jackson recognizes his very famous ancestor owned slaves and supported policies that led to the forcible removal of Native Americans from their homes, he says what we think of as right and wrong today is much different.
“To impose them on someone who lived 200 years ago, I think is very dangerous because we don’t have the same mindset they had back then,” he said.
For the sake of common sense and historical accuracy, Judge Jackson said the former president should stay on the twenty.
“I have nothing against Harriet Tubman, but I have something against her replacing Andrew Jackson. I think, in my opinion, Andrew Jackson is more deserving of being on the $20 bill than she is, or anyone. I’m not picking on her. I don’t want him replaced with anyone,” he added.
His support for his ancestor goes beyond his lineage, but a genuine appreciation for his total body of work.
“I think he was one of the better presidents. He had his faults and did things we don’t agree with, especially these days, but I think overall he did a good job in making the country a better place to live,” he said.
“One thing people don’t realize is Andrew Jackson was a strong advocate for the common man. Back when he was president and alive, the common man included the white man. And it included men, not women. And of course not African Americans. So, in that regard, of course, no. While he was president and in the time he was alive, he struggled to increase the rights of people to vote from what it had been. He sort of started to trend to include more and more people, you know, give them their suffrage rights. Of course, we’ve come a long way since then, but he sort of got the ball rolling.”
On slavery, he said he wishes it never happened in America and said it was contrary to the Declaration of Independence, which founded our nation.
“But, that’s just the way it was back then. It doesn’t mean it was right, but if you lived back then, if you lived in the South back then, if you were successful at all, you would own slaves,” he said. “In this country, anybody can become president. He was the first person to prove that. When he was a teenager, he was orphaned, had no parents, all his brothers were dead. He was by himself. He became a very successful businessman, attorney, landowner and president. He’s the first person, I think, to really show if you work hard, you persevere, then in this country you can make anything of yourself. I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of him and I think it still applies to this country today.”
He also believes because he was a strong Union man, and his efforts to stop South Carolina from secession, he prolonged the Civil War for a generation. His theory is had it not been for his ancestor, the North may have not built up the infrastructure, people and resources to defeat the Confederacy years later.
While many think of the seventh president as the founder of the Democratic party, Judge Jackson, a Republican, doesn’t think his great-great- great grandfather would recognize either major political party today. He said it’s impossible to say. Issues like immigration and abortion didn’t exist then, so he couldn’t speculate how the seventh president would have felt. He did say, definitively, he would have made his opinion known.
He wants his great-great-great grandfather remembered for fighting for our independence, the War of 1812, the Battle of New Orleans, being one of the first to settle in Tennessee, helping writing the Tennessee Constitution, serving as the state’s first Congressman, third senator, governor of Florida, senator again and president of the United States.