Thursday, March 04, 2010

And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

So, some two-bit votesucker has floated the idea of putting Reagan's face on the $50 bill.

While I have no strong opinion on the matter one way or the other, I'll note that it would remove the face of the nepotistic scandal-ridden incompetent drunk that currently resides there, and that wouldn't be a bad thing at all. Why U.S. Grant's face is printed on banknotes in the first place has always confused me.

Speaking of confusing, other than playing slap-tickle with Marilyn Monroe and getting shot while still young and handsome, what did Kennedy do to get his mug on coinage?


genedunn said...

What did Kennedy do?
1) Had the good sense to hire AWESOME speech writers.
2) Figured out a way to distance himself from the Bay of Pigs
3) Somehow sold a temporary delay in Soviet missiles being positioned in Cuba as a huge victory
4) Got us into Vietnam
5) And you have to admit... slap and tickle with Marilyn Monroe is pretty cool

wolfwalker said...

Why U.S. Grant's face is there in the first place has always confused me.

It's for what he did before becoming president: win the Civil War.

what did Kennedy do to get his mug on coinage?

Nothing. Except be a popular dead president at a time when the Treasury was designing a new coin, but not a new bill.

Tam said...

"It's for what he did before becoming president..."

Fed conscripted immigrants into a meat grinder?

Tam said...

Actually, I'm being a little unfair there. Grant wasn't a bad general, but he was hardly a Hannibal, either. Beating an opponent you have outnumbered, who is also out of food and ammunition, is hardly the stuff of legend.

(...and yet Montgomery is lauded for his role at El Alamein...)

John said...

In additon to being the inspiration for a generation of liberal narcissists, John F. Kennedy was an anti-communist and managed a dramatic reduction in marginal tax rates. Of course, I'm sure it's the former rather than either of the later that got his face on the coinage, kept his brother in the Senate, and made any number of relatives famous.

Jay T said...

Grant wasn't a military genius by any stretch. He happened to be in charge and thus gets a great deal of credit for the victory. As a President he was a disaster.

Monty is a product of desperate times for the English. The papers had to create a hero to give the beleaguered nation some confidence.

Kennedy...well, he liked the beach a lot.

alath said...

Grant was a terrible president, agreed.

It's always been conventional military history wisdom to disparage Grant's generalship, and I was of much the same mind until I read Keegan's "Mask of Command." Keegan makes a pretty good case that Grant played the hand he was dealt about as well as anyone.

You get the same kind of unfavorable comparisons between Zhukov/Rokossovsky and the German generals, but in the end I believe such comparisons are apples-to-radiators (to borrow an expression I saw here yesterday). For the most part, the Soviet generals made sensible decisions given the resources and situations they had to work with.

Anonymous said...

Well, we know whose mug is slated for the new trillion-dollar bill, don't we?


perlhaqr said...

"History has made its verdict," Rep. Brad Sherman of California told CNN. "Reagan's policies are controversial. Grant was in favor of winning the Civil War and keeping the Union together. The currency is not a place to score cheap political points."

"Felling the Soviet Union" is only controversial to leftist fuckwits.

Anonymous said...

Well, what good Southerner likes Grant?


Tam said...


Not disparaging, I just don't think he's the Great Captain that my school textbooks made him out to be. (Nor either is he the inept bungler that the trendily revisionist paint him.) He got the job and kept the job for exactly the reason Lincoln said: He fought. Unpleasant as it may be, sometimes the only way out is through. I believe Grant spent the Generals' Currency as wisely as he could, but he also knew it had to be spent.

GregInAllston said...

Personally, I'd like to see Teddy Roosevelt's portrait by John Singer Sargent on the $50.

Alan said...

It's worth noting that Kennedy would be considered a right wing conservative by today's Democrats.

Roberta X said...

"Why U.S. Grant's face is printed on banknotes in the first place has always confused me."

For many years, a singe $50 was the exact right amount to bribe a minor government official; Grant's face showed the function of the bill. Hopelessly outdated now, alas. We need to move him to the $500.

Tam said...

"It's worth noting that Kennedy would be considered a right wing conservative by today's Democrats."

He'd be considered a right wing conservative by most Republicans, too.

Anonymous said...

In 1969 the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board decided to stop production of $500, $1000, $5000, and $10,000 notes. This turns out to have the nice side effect (from Gov perspective) that with inflation it becomes ever more difficult to conduct business with cash.

Why not put Ronnie on the $1000 bill?


staghounds said...

The less the bills are stores of actual value, the more meretricious they will become.

Ken said...

Tam, not to go all Atlas Shrugged or anything, but have you read JFC Fuller's Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship or The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant?

I've read the former but not the latter. Fuller makes out a case for Grant, but I leave it to the reader to judge.

Joanna said...

What's a $50 bill?

/song of the broke Millennial

Ken said...

Some people, upon getting one, report a sudden urge to smoke a cigar, drink a glass or two of whiskey, and lay siege to a Winn-Dixie. "I propose to move at once against your ice cream cooler."

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Grant and the meatgrinder reductionism is a bit of a stretch. He did things before the 1864 drive on Richmond. And unlike froo-froo Euro style generals that likened battle to Chess (Good? Lee. Bad at chess? McClellan) Grant was an American... he played Checkers. The object of checker is to take all your opponents pieces. You can win chess by manuever ONLY and some are thus reluctant to do necessary sacrifices. (I'm still looking at YOU McClellan. Jerk.)

And aside from competence at generalship, Grant may arguably be the best Autobiographer ever.

Nathan said...

Hell, what did Andrew Jackson do to get his mug on the double-sawbuck? Other than kill Seminoles and, oh, take New Orleans after the War of 1812 ended. And be responsible for the Trail of Tears.

And fight strenuously against a federal central bank, which ironically issues currency with his picture on it.

Grant, yeah, take him any day over that poof McClellan.

Bram said...

Grant had some qualities that the other Generals Lincoln ran through before him. He didn't make stupid mistakes. He was attack minded and kept the pressure up on the Confederacy. He was willing to use the Army of the Potomac as a club and keep bashing the South until it was over - instead of trying to plan a decisive battle to win the war in one swipe.

He wasn’t a great President, but the Democrats were already skilled at the smear. Grant was a drunk, Author a crook, Reagan an old fool, Bush an evil retard, blah, blah….

TJP said...

"Rep. Patrick McHenry announced that he will introduce a measure that would replace Grant's face with Ronald Reagan's"

Reagan would look strange with a beard.

What did Kennedy do? He pushed for drastic reduction of FDR's income tax rates--confiscation which could only be described as communist.

Bram said...

Andrew Jackson did, for one brief shining moment in 1835, have the national debt completely paid off. Then a big recession came along and Uncle Sam has been borrowing ever since.

Jay T said...

Grant would fight, that much is true, but he was at best average. A dog will fight too. Still, I salute him for his courage to win the war.

An old joke but what the heck. You know what the Kennedy's miss most? The airport at Martha's Vinyard.

Too soon?

Bram said...

Too late.

Don Meaker said...

It is important to remember that the south was out of meat because of Grant's campaign in Tennessee, which deprived them of most of their pork, his campaign along the Mississippi which deprived them of most of their Texas beef, and the campaign in Georgia which deprived them of most of their chicken.

RE Lee thought history showed no better general than Sam Grant.

wolfwalker said...

Like NJT said, Grant did things before 1864. Some of them pretty bold, and some of them pretty hairy. Like his very efficient smackdown of Forts Henry and Donelson in 1861, which brought "unconditional surrender" into the public lexicon. And like his invention of "mobile warfare," nineteenth-century-style, in early 1863. He completely flummoxed the enemy around Vicksburg by throwing away The Book and his supply-train, and instead living off the land while he beat the hell out of every Confederate force in the region, then besieged Vicksburg and eventually took it on July 3rd, 1863.

Still, Tam, I tend to agree with you that "Grant wasn't a bad general, but he was hardly a Hannibal, either. Beating an opponent you have outnumbered, who is also out of food and ammunition, is hardly the stuff of legend." It's why I don't think a whole lot of Monty, either.

I'truth, very few famous generals are really as good as history paints them. How Robert E. Lee's reputation survived the debacle of Gettysburg, I will never understand.

Don Meaker said...

It is important to understand Gettysburg. RE Lee was suffering from dysentary, and as a proud member of the southern gentry, couldn't let it show. He couldn't step down from command, because Longstreet, the next senior general was opposed to fighting there. That is why you had the curious command relationship for picket's charge, where Longstreet refused to give the order for pickett to attack, and a mere artillery captain ended up ordering the corps ground attack.

Tam said...

"I'truth, very few famous generals are really as good as history paints them. How Robert E. Lee's reputation survived the debacle of Gettysburg, I will never understand."

Hooker got pantsed at Chancellorsville, and I don't think it diminishes him. The mid-to-late 19th Century had to have been a tough time to be a general; rifle-muskets, telegraphs, and railroads all happened while these guys were company- and field-grade officers.

Ed Foster said...

McClellan was a wuss, but an excellent staff officer who built a great army. He was just afraid to use it.

Very much like General Richard O'Connor, who built the British 8th army into a fighting machine that had a chance, then saw Monty the Showman get all the credit.

As for southerners not liking Grant, why not? If Lincoln had moved on the Carolinas by sea instead of through Virginia, the commander of the Union Army would have been Robert E. Lee.

Grant, a slave owner in Missouri, once said "If I thought for a moment this war was being fought over slavery, I would resign my commission and offer my sword to the Confederacy".

Lee on the other hand, thought the idea of rebelliion was disgraceful and treasonous, and campaigned actively for a peaceful end to the dispute. He was at least a quasi-abolitionist, and in 1862 he freed the slaves he had inherited from his father-in-law 5 years earlier.

Interestingly, Lee once wrote that slavery was more damaging to the white than black. It should also be remembered that he spent almost all of his military career outside the south.

Nothing but the military invasion of his Virginia could get him out of Yankee blue.

Anonymous said...

Grants strong point was that he inspired his officers and grunts to win, not think of reasons to lose. They knew no matter the set back they would win in the long run and go the hell home. Lincoln understood it and after the first two battles against him, so did Lee. True leadership is a rare thing.

"what did Kennedy do to get his mug on coinage? '

Have a rock band named after him Dude!


Bob said...

Kennedy also let his PT boat get sunk from under him, although he made lemonade out of lemons by his heroic efforts to rescue his crew afterwards.

Grant's reputation as a butcher comes mainly from the battle of Cold Harbor, where he got impatient and sent his troops directly at Lee's entrenched lines. He didn't repeat the mistake, but went back to the extending-the-lines strategy that caused Lee's inexorable retreat. Sherman made a similar mistake against Joseph E. Johnston at Kennesaw Mountain. Lee's troops were so skilled at digging in that even Union generals remarked on it, with entire reinforced trench networks built in just a few days' time. Not for nothing was Lee, an engineer by profession, called "the king of spades" early in the war.

Joanna said...

Maybe all it takes to get on money is a giant brass pair.

Which kind of explains the Euro, if you think about it.

D.W. Drang said...

If Grant and Andy Jackson were put on bills due to their generalship, we'd have bills with Patton and Pershing on them.

Pathfinder said...

I'll remind everyone that Grant defeated a man who is generally regarded as one of the top 5 US Generals ever - Lee - and who had trounced almost every Union General thrown at him.

Gettysburg is an almost win for Lee; if the Union had not gotten to the high ground in their retreat, I doubt that the outcome would have been the same.

That alone gets him the $50. With the inflation that is about to hit this country, Maybe Reagan can get on the $250 that will have to be developed so we can buy a loaf of bread! :-(

Ken said...

Well, maybe not for Gettysburg. I like Grant, but he was putting the coup de grace to Vicksburg when John Buford saved the high ground south of Gettysburg.

Anonymous said...

"Lee once wrote that slavery was more damaging to the white than black."

Prescient, yes?

BTW Ms. Tams, is this a backdoor prelude to build an audience for your (much-anticipated) before-during-after trilogy on the uncivillest of wars, or just a tease?


Anonymous said...

"Why U.S. Grant's face is printed on banknotes in the first place has always confused me."

Well, there was that whole crushing the South thing. That dealie sort of left a mark on the country.

Shootin' Buddy

Anonymous said...

"Well, there was that whole crushing the South thing. That dealie sort of left a mark on the country."

You said a mouthful there, SB...don't choke on those words as they are forcefed back down your throat.


Robert Langham said...

Give Nathan Bedford Forrest Grant's army and supplies for three months and the Capitol would be at Knoxville.

Anonymous said...

"Give Nathan Bedford Forrest Grant's army and supplies for three months and the Capitol would be at Knoxville."

+1 If he was with Lee at Gettyburg it may have been a very different story. Too bad for the South they were so class consious and Forest wasn't one of the boys.


Tam said...

"Well, there was that whole crushing the South thing."

Game ain't over at halftime.

staghounds said...

Yes- Wison, L. Johnson, Clinton, Gore- the Confederacy is still punishing the rest of the country.

Tam said...

Are you kidding? We have cleverly infected these people with a hatred of guns and manufacturing and military bases. When Janet Jackson's done singing, we'll have Oak Ridge, Fort Benning, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Fort Campbell, King's Bay, the only still-open auto factories, all the guns, and the entire right side of the political spectrum from Ron Paul to W.

They'll have Barney Frank, Chuck Schumer, Dick Daley and his pet President, the ruins of Detroit, and two million striking UAW members. Plus they're stuck with California. It won't be pretty.

Timmeehh said...

JFK was the first president to authorise jaunty and fashionable headgear for the army.

wolfwalker said...

Lee made three drastic tactical mistakes at Gettysburg.

1) he didn't follow up his victory the first day, thus letting the Union have the night and following morning to reinforce and dig in on Cemetery Ridge.

2) on the second day, he launched frontal attacks against an enemy who had superior numbers, superior defensive ground, and interior lines of communication.

3) on the third day, he let the morning slip away before launching a new frontal attack against the strongest part of the defender's position. Pickett's Charge was guaranteed to fail; the only question was how big the butcher's bill would be.

Bobby Lee was a good general in a mobile campaign, but pin him down to either defending or attacking a fixed position, and he became a very pedestrian commander indeed.

Matt G said...

I'll take either of the Johnsons. (Especially Andrew; he could have really hurt the South badly, and didn't.)

But my favorite is T.R., obviously.

Crucis said...

I'd prefer they bring back the $20 Gold piece and put Reagan's mug on that.

Then $20 would really be worth $20.

William the Coroner said...

He died when he was young and handsome. And he got a lot of tail. All in all, I think the tail is the most important reason.

William the Coroner

Anonymous said...

"Game ain't over at halftime."

It is when the other side throws in the towel during some guilty plea at some court in Virginny. (Johnny Banjo called, he wants to know his court date).

Besies, "three yards and a cloud of dust" Grant is there to keep an eye on y'all.

Shootin' Buddy

HTRN said...

SamSam posits that they pulled the big bills because they want us to go to easily traceable transactions.

Not so.

The big reason is counterfitting. Up until the appearance of supernotes and cheap, high quality printers, counterfitters exclusively focused on high value notes - today, something like half the 100 dollar bills circulating outside the US are fakes. When Treasury saw the handwriting on the wall in 69, they decided to make life more difficult for the moneymakers - they pulled the big bills. It worked for a time, until the computer age, and North Korea deciding to finance themselves with our currency. Now? They even counterfeit 5 dollar bills.

Brad K. said...

"what did Kennedy do to get his mug on coinage?"

Arguably, Kennedy's administration launched the modern space effort.

Which pushed development of transistors, IC's, Tang, and most of what we know about freeze dried food, to the delight of modern backpackers. IC and space led to GPS, MP3 players, and probably the nuclear power industry.

Internationally his support for the French in Vietnam seemed reasonable, at first, given the then-recent Korean campaign.

Kennedy overcame a strong bias - against Catholics in high office. His campaign, and days in office, were memorable for his pledge to be a President for all Americans, not just Catholics. That his faith was strong in his life, but his faith (or the Pope) would not dictate how he performed his duties. Kennedy's election was a turning point in religious tolerance. Worry in that election was strong, that the Pope would be running the country by proxie, if a "Papist" were elected.

JFK also had a rocking chair to ease his back. Not as dramatic, maybe as Lincoln's beard, but then Kennedy wasn't as ugly without the chair.

Kennedy was the first President much on TV. His youth, pretty and able wife, and darling children all endeared the new TV audience to their President. The news then was still of the previous, "Report the events, and a bit of background" news generation. TV news tended to support the government - it wasn't that long after WWII, and all the returned GI's had a significant impact on discipline and patriotic feeling in the country. Most of Kennedy's blunders were not widely reported at the time. And none of them seemed significant, played against the turmoil of the recent wars (WWII and Korea).

When Kennedy was put on the fifty cent piece, he was both revered, and had been assassinated. Assassination might be kind of a backhanded way to say, "Well, some enemy though he was worth taking out, so he must have been pretty good!"

(I still like that line about the guys on the grassy knoll, from the movie "Shooter" - "I still got the shovel!")

Georgehedgepeth said...

"Grant would fight, that much is true, but he was at best average. A dog will fight too."

Fighting is one thing, winning is another. Grant won. He won with a more modern style than Lee. He won ugly often. But he won.

Heath said...

Anonymous GregInAllston said...

Personally, I'd like to see Teddy Roosevelt's portrait by John Singer Sargent on the $50.

You do realize he was a flaming Progressive, right?

Teddy was a true badass and outdoorsman, but his politics BLEW.

Tam said...

I usually refer to him as "the less bad Roosevelt"...

Cybrludite said...

Re:Gettysburg. Had Chamberlain not held Little Round Top against Hood, I'd be paying my taxes to Richmond instead of D.C.

Re:Grant. When previous Union generals got their noses bloodied by Lee, they'd pull back. When Grant got his bloodied, he used his numbers to turn Lee's flank & keep on coming. I like to think of the early Union generals using their numbers like mooks in a Saturday morning Kung-Fu flick, while Grant used them like a real world back-alley thug would. It's much easier to beat three guys one at a time than having to do so all at once...

Will said...

As I recall the explanation at the time, the big bills were yanked to make it difficult for the drug dealers to ship their money out of the States, and easier to track it once it hit the banks. Truckloads of greenbacks makes things interesting. The bonus was causing the same problems for everyone else who wanted to move some money around, just on a smaller scale.

Beaumont said...

Now that their political careers appear to be at an end, one wonders if the Kennedy heirs will go back to bootlegging.
After all, it worked for Joe.