A Lesson On The Role of Government With Respect To Charity
Not Yours to Give!
Speech before the House of Representatives
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 2 of 5)