A man too important to ignore.

Photographer: A. Dagli Orti/DeAgostino/Getty Images

Will the $10 Founding Father Be Homeless Too?

Justin Fox is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”
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This is so Alexander Hamilton.

The “$10 Founding Father without a father,” as composer and rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda had been planning to describe him every night at the Richard Rodgers Theatre starting next month, was in the midst of a spectacular posthumous comeback.

Ron Chernow’s great biography has for a decade now been establishing him in the minds of reader after reader (latest convert, the Wall Street Journal’s Dennis K. Berman) as perhaps the most influential and definitely the most interesting of the Founding Fathers. Now Miranda’s transcendent musical, drawn from Chernow’s book, is about to storm Broadway -- and maybe, just maybe, American popular culture -- after its acclaimed run at the Public Theater downtown.

And now this. The Treasury Department that Hamilton built wants to throw him off the $10 bill, or maybe make him share it with an as yet-to-be-chosen woman of historical significance. There was already a campaign in the works to replace the $20 bill's scurrilous mascot, Andrew Jackson, with a woman, but it's the $10 that was next on the redesign schedule, so it's the $10 and its comeback kid that's in the crosshairs. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says Hamilton may end up on another bill -- he actually replaced Jackson on the $10 in 1928. But for now it looks like another setback for the man whose late career included so many, including getting shot and killed in 1804 by the vice president, Aaron Burr.

Related: Hamilton's Place in Our Hearts and Minds (and Wallets)

Not that Hamilton's modern benefactor is complaining:

Eliza was Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, who lived on for another 50 years after Hamilton's death and devoted most of that time to rehabilitating her late husband's reputation. Miranda also had this observation:

Which is surely the right way to take this. U.S. bills and coins have had the same set of guys on them for way too long. Changing things up is good. But Hamilton -- an immigrant from the Caribbean who rose to prominence without wealth or family connections, set the U.S. on a path to becoming a world economic power with the insights he gleaned from a few books, and was an early and vocal opponent of slavery -- is too good a symbol of what his nation is and can become to disappear. The campaign to put him on the $20 and throw Jackson off starts now.  

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Justin Fox at justinfox@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net