David Crockett served 3 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Upon his defeat for a 4th in 1835 by an Andrew Jackson supporter, he bid farewell to Washington declaring, “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas!”. He was killed in action defending the Alamo in 1836.
February 7, 2003
Colonel David Crockett was a member of Congress when the Georgetown fire, which could be seen from the nation’s capital, consumed many homes and left women and children suffering in the streets. Crockett, along with other congressmen, appropriated $20,000 for their relief. Later that year, while campaigning in his district, he met a farmer named Horatio Bunce who said he voted for him once but couldn’t do it a second time because he either did not have the capacity to understand the Constitution, or that he was wanting in the honesty and fairness to be guided by it. Horatio told him the Constitution must be sacred and rigidly observed in all its provision. He told Crockett that he read in the papers last winter where he voted for the bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers of the Georgetown fires. David Crockett replied “certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve suffering, particularly with a full overflowing treasury, and I am sure if you had been there you would have done just as I did.”
“It is not the amount Colonel Crockett, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man. If you had the right to give anything the amount was simply a matter of discretion. You could have given twenty million as easily as the twenty thousand. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all. The Constitution neither defends charity nor stipulates the amount. You will vary easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individuals members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose.”
At a later time in the House of Representatives, a bill was taken up to appropriate money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. The speaker was about to put the question to a vote when Crockett arose: “Mr. Speaker: I have as much respect for the money of the deceased and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice.
We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of public money. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object. If every member of Congress will do the same it will amount to more than the bill asks. The bill failed to pass.
Later Colonel Crockett spoke, “You remember that I proposed to give a weeks’ pay? There are in that House many very wealthy men who think nothing of spending a week’s pay for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity and justice to obtain it.”
Colonel David Crockett was elected to Congress in 1827 and served until 1835. In one hundred and seventy five years congress has changed very little. The only real change we see is that there isn’t a Davy Crockett there to control them.
© 2003 Derry Brownfield, All Rights Reserved