Davy Crockett: “Not Yours to Give”

 

Davy Crokett

Davy Crockett (1786-1836) was an uneducated frontier man who was sent to Congress to represent Tennessee.  He spoke honestly with many speeches and tales attributed to him (rightly or wrongly).  Whether the “Not Yours to Give” was actually spoken in Congress is open to debate but many support the sentiment.  An excerpt follows:

   “One day in the House of Representatives, a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Mr. Crockett arose:

     “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 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.

    “He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and of course, was lost.”

The full text is available at: http://www.pointsouth.com/csanet/greatmen/crockett/crocket2.htm

Tomorrow:  The Beast Butler     Rita Bay 

 

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