Davy Crockett is best remembered as a legendary frontiersman and defender of the Alamo, but there is another, lesser-known side to the colonel: that of a congressman.
Between 1827 and 1835, Crockett served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 9th and 12th congressional districts of Tennessee. While serving in Congress, Crockett proved himself to be every bit as fearless in the political arena as he was on the battlefield, particularly when it came to defending constitutional principles and civil liberties.
On one occasion in particular, Crockett daringly opposed a move to appropriate “money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer,” despite the bill’s political popularity and the fact that many of his colleagues had already spoken in favor it. Speaking against the bill, Crockett explained that he was not against charity, but rather that he was against government charity.
The Constitution, he argued, did not authorize Congress to make charitable contributions as they so desired. Instead it placed limitations on congressional appropriations, lest government spending become uncontrollable. This was an important principle that had been instilled in Crockett in years past by a local farmer, Horatio Bunce.
As Crockett recounted, Bunce had explained that, “…If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other.”
While the restraint that Crockett spoke of that day has largely faded in today’s political environment, this tale and others like it should serve as a reminder to us and our elected officials of the strict constitutional principles-like limited government and fiscal responsibility-enshrined in our Constitution.
– James Quintero