“Not Yours To Give” Davy Crockett Destroys The Idea Of Welfare In 1828
Not Yours to Give: Davy Crockett and Welfare
There are many people out there who don’t know that Davy Crockett was a congressman. Many people think he is just a character in a movie about some war or even just a mythical legend. There are even some people out there who have never even heard of the man, the legend, the three-term Tennessee congressman, the American hero: David Crockett. What the vast majority of ALL of the people previously mentioned also don’t know, is that he was very fiscally conservative!
While Crockett was in Congress; a distinguished naval officer died, leaving a widow. Members of the House of Representatives proposed to appropriate $20,000 of public money to give to the widow to assure her welfare and to honor the memory of the late officer. Crockett opposed that appropriation in such persuasive terms that it received only a very few number of votes and was resoundingly defeated.
Before you consider him heartless however, read the facts which will show he was just the opposite. Others before him had said that the country owed the departed officer a debt. Crockett reminded the House of the countless men who had served their country with distinction, but to whom Congress never admitted owing a cash debt. In Crockett’s speech before the House, he said the following:
Not Yours To Give!
Mr. Speaker — I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if suffering there be, 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 to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to so appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the grounds that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. This government can owe no debts but for services rendered, and at a stipulated price. If it is a debt, how much is it? Has it been audited, and the amount due ascertained? If it is a debt, this is not the place to present it for payment, or to have its merits examined. If it is a debt, we owe more than we can ever hope to pay, for we owe the widow of every soldier who fought in the War of 1812 precisely the same amount. There is a woman in my neighborhood, the widow of as gallant a man as ever shouldered a musket. He fell in battle. She is as good in every respect as this lady, and is as poor. She is earning her daily bread by her daily labor; and if I were to introduce a bill to appropriate five or ten thousand dollars for her benefit, I should be laughed at, and my bill would not get five votes in this House. There are thousands of widows in the country just such as the one I have spoken of, but we never hear of any of these large debts to them. Sir, this is no debt. The government did not owe it to the deceased when he was alive; it could not contract it after he died. I do not wish to be rude, but I must be plain. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. 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, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”
He went on to quote a constituent who had complained when he previously voted for a similar measure:
The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.
He may not actually have patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell, but he did his best to preserve the Constitution. This is something that every congressman should aspire to today! Vote Accordingly! Remind the government that we pay them a LOT of money with our taxes, but guess what congress! It is not yours to give! Foreign Aid? Not Yours To Give! Welfare? Not Yours To Give!
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