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Salute Ronald Reagan with the $50 bill? Poll says Americans prefer to stick with Grant

May 17, 2010 |  8:06 pm

President Reagan 
  
He’s already had his likeness added to Statuary Hall at the Capitol, and plans are underway for a float that will honor him during Pasadena’s trademark Rose Parade next Jan. 1. Next year, after all, will be the Ronald Reagan centennial.

But Reagan on the $50 bill? As a new poll shows, many Americans are content with the bill’s current resident, President Ulysses S. Grant.

Bloomberg, reporting on the proposed Reagan-Grant swap by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) writes:

McHenry’s bill is widely opposed, according to a Marist College poll. Seventy-nine percent said the suggestion is a bad idea, compared with 12% who supported the plan. Nine percent said they are unsure.

So why stay with Grant? A commentary by Joan Waugh when McHenry first floated his proposal offers a few insights:Grant

Although Grant commanded immense prestige at the time of his death in 1885, a campaign by historians sympathetic to the South whittled away at his reputation beginning in the late 19th century, wrongly portraying him as a drunk, a general who recklessly sent his soldiers into danger and a corrupt, incompetent president. All those images are distorted, reflecting a larger historical amnesia afflicting many citizens.

The GOP should defend the former leader rather than trying to oust him from the $50 bill. There was a time when Republicans did celebrate Grant. In a speech delivered in 1900, for example, Theodore Roosevelt maintained that among the past presidents, the trio emerging as the “mightiest among the mighty [were] the three great figures of Washington, Lincoln and Grant.” Roosevelt's deeply appreciative comments reflected the widespread respect of his generation for Grant, and for good reason.

Follow this link for Waugh’s commentary.

-- Steve Padilla 

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Photos: Ronald Reagan/Associated Press. Ulysses S. Grant/Library of Congress.

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