Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

Libertarians are thrilled that someone they can admire will appear on the future $20 Federal Reserve Note. Back in May, Lawrence Reed presented the case for Tubman on the FEE website. The whole piece is worth reading, but here’s just a bit:

Before the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in America in 1865, American blacks risked everything attempting to escape from their masters, who sometimes pursued them all the way to the Canadian border. Tubman, herself a fugitive slave, became the most renowned “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, a network of trails for escapees from the antebellum South to the North. As many as 100,000 slaves risked life and limb traveling its routes. It was the most dangerous “railroad” in the world.

Harriet TubmanIn a day when so many people despise refugees, it’s impressive that the government would honor someone who helped bring refugees out of the USA. The Fugitive Slave Act meant that escaped slaves (not to mention black people who had never been slaves) weren’t safe even in the North, so many went on to Canada.

Some people think that Tubman shouldn’t be honored because she was a lawbreaker. I think she should be honored precisely because she defined unjust laws. I’ve read of one slavery apologist who complained that Tubman took people’s “property” away, but no human being can be the property of another. Property rights are grounded in the principle of self-ownership. If the KKK is upset, that’s a plus.

It’s questionable whether a government that runs itself so deeply into debt is really honoring anyone by putting their images on its currency, but I won’t quibble about that.

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