Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

If Davy Crockett could figure it out, why can't the Democrats?

Davy Crockett (1786-1836), made famous to current Americans by the 1950's Disney television shows and song featuring him and his legend, served in the U.S. Congress from his home state in Tennesee from 1826 to 1834. It was said that at one time he got up and gave a speech in Congress against a congressional appropriation of money for a Navy widow, soundly defeating an appeal to pity among his fellow Congressmen. It seems Davy Crockett had a little Constitutional quibble with Congress's right to give away any money not their own personal funds for charitable purposes. He had been schooled by then in the Constitution by a farmer he met, who refused to his face to vote for him again, after Crockett had earlier voted in favor of appropriating $20,000 in taxpayer funds for citizens rendered homeless by a fire near Washington, D.C. The farmer had asked him:

"Well, Colonel, where do you find in the Constitution any authority to give away the public money in charity!"

The conversation went on, with Davy Crockett replying:

"Well, my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did."

The answer:
"It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the Government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the Government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. 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. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life. The Congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution." [my bold]


Every time I watch the Democrat candidates (and too many Republicans), especially the millionaires vying for political office, debating and promising to throw out bucketfuls of the people's money for their own pet charitable causes and favored special interests--even good charitable causes and good special interests, that they could easily donate their own and their friends' and their fundraisers' millions to--I remember that even clodhoppers and backwoodsmen once understood the principles this country was founded upon, which seem to escape our best and brightest. And I marvel at those long-ago days when ploughboys and hillbillies had the understanding and the guts to stand up for Constitutional principles in the face of ignorant do-goodism and craven political pandering. As Crockett said, most politicians, until they learn better, are happy to be charitable with other people's money: "Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people." Crockett challenged his fellow Congressmen to donate their own money to the Navy widow; none of them took him up on it.

Crockett was eventually defeated in an attempted re-election, and saying "you may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas," he ended up at the Alamo and bravely gave his life in a final sacrifice for the freedom and independence of the Texans.

I can understand his sentiments in leaving Washington, and I venerate his character expressed by his lifetime of truly charitable deeds and service.

Where are such heroes in Washington today?

Michelle Malkin also featured this poignant reminder of Crockett's speech, in connection with politicians quick to offer handouts to people who've made bad choices in the sub-prime mortgage market.

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