Yours to Give!
Speech before the House
by David (Davy) Crockett
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.
"Later, when asked by a friend
why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:
"Several years ago I was one
evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of
Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over
in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and
drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done,
many houses were burned and many families made homeless, and, besides,
some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on.
The weather was very cold, and
when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something
ought to be one for them. The next morning a bill was introduced
appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business
and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.
"The next summer, when it began
to be time to think about the election, I concluded I would take a scout
around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there,
but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn
up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more
a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward
the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the
fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as
I thought, rather coldly. (Click here for page
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