In 1821, David Crockett was elected to the Tennessee State Legislature, and reelected to that position two years later. Then, he served three of four terms in the US Congress from 1827 through 1835. After failing to win a 4th term in the 1834 election, Davy Crockett went to Texas.
Crockett was a steadfast advocate against wasteful government spending and in his most memorable speech "Not Yours to Give", he criticized his Congressional colleagues' motivations for spending taxpayer dollars. To understand his deliberate act of political incorrectness, I present the story of Crockett‘s education on the subject of “unconstitutional” spending.
The 23rd session of Congress began the morning business one day in 1834 with a vote on an appropriation bill to benefit the widow of a career naval officer. Only moments before the legislation's expected unanimous passage, third-term congressman David Crockett arose. By the time the man from Tennessee finished speaking, the impulse was soundly defeated. Conversely, by offering one week of his own salary and persuading most of his 240 colleagues to follow, the woman actually received more assistance than the bill mandated.
During his first term in Washington DC, Crockett and several fellow legislators witnessed a great fire in Georgetown from atop the Capitol steps. The heartbreaking images of hundreds of freezing people huddled around several small fires, while in the distance raged the monster that rendered them homeless, motivated the representatives to appropriate $20,000 for the victims’ relief. For several days, the sanctimonious politicians would bask in the glow of their apparent benevolence. However, soon it would be time to seek re-election.
"Well, friend," the unsuspecting campaigner addressed the farmer at his plow, "I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates, and…" "Yes, I know you," the man interrupted, "You are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before and voted for you the last time you were elected. But you had better not waste your time on me, I shall not vote for you again." The surprised incumbent insisted upon learning how he lost the candid man's trust.
"I do not see how it can be mended." The man said respectfully, "You gave a vote last winter which shows that you have not the capacity to understand the Constitution. You are not the man to represent me. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine. The Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred and rigidly observed in all its provisions…. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is most dangerous the more honest he is."
Crockett assured the farmer that if he had been the one with the vote, he "would have done the same." To which the knowledgeable man passionately replied, "The government should have no more funds than it needs. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be trusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress begins to stretch its powers, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people."
"Well, my friend," Crockett said, "I have heard many speeches about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard, and if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law, I wish I may be shot."
The excellent constituent was a well respected farmer and neighbor named Horatio Bunce. His prophetic message to Congressman Crockett is still relevant today. It is based on the understanding that any government vast enough to give you everything you think you need, is also big enough to take erything you have.
Henry Piarrot is a hotel manager in Sevier County, TN. Please send all story recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org