In light of the action the government is about to take in regard to the bailout plan it would do us well to be reminded of the opposing voices of the past that echo down to us. Davy Crockett – yes, that Davy Crockett – is reported to have argued against the principle of such government spending in a speech before Congress. The Congress was considering giving money to the family of a war veteran. This is an excerpt from Crockett’s speech:

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 so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground 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.

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.

The fascinating background to the speech can be found here. You should go to the link and read this. Not only is it fascinating. It is important.

Note: there are some who wonder if this really took place since it is only found in the book, The Life of Colonel David Crockett, by Edward Sylvester Ellis. Ellis was born after Crockett died at the Alamo.

“However, there is a historical record that supports a similar story – the House considered a bill of relief for the family of deceased general Brown in April of 1828 and Davy Crockett is on record opposing that bill and offering personal support to the family. You can read the (very brief) summary of that in the Register of Debates here. Crockett’s comments are summarized at the bottom right of the page.” (This answer was given to a question concerning the historicity of Crockett’s speech and can be found here.)

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