Liberal advocates of big government view your money as their money. Since the United States Congress was first established there have been Congressmen who want to spend your money on their projects. In fact, the authority to spend other people’s money has long been too great a temptation for many who serve in Congress; especially those of the liberal persuasion. But one Congressman learned the hard way that spending other people’s money can backfire on an elected official. Congressman Davy Crockett learned this lesson many years ago just in time to save his seat in Congress.
Before gaining immortality at the Alamo, Davy Crockett served in the United States Congress (1827 – 1831 and 1832 – 1835), but his philosophy concerning spending other people’s money is even more relevant today than it was all those years ago. He came to his philosophy after a misstep in which he voted with his colleagues in Congress to use taxpayer dollars to help private citizens in Georgetown recover and rebuild after a devastating fire. According to Edward S. Ellis, author of The Life of Colonel Crockett—abiography published in 1884—Crockett’s “charitable” vote did not go unnoticed by one of his more influential constituents. This particular constituent was well-informed on current events, such as Crockett’s voting record, knowledgeable of the Constitution, and set in his beliefs concerning the responsibilities of a Congressman. Had he lived today, he would have been a member of the Tea Party.
Crockett was home stumping for re-election when he happened upon this particular constituent plowing a field. When Crocket approached the man and asked for his support, the farmer sternly refused. It seems he knew all about Crockett’s vote to use public funds to help the residents left homeless by the Georgetown fire recover. Crockett was taken aback by the man’s attitude and claimed “…certainly nobody would 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.” This is when Davy Crockett learned a lesson that saved his seat in Congress. It is a lesson today’s Congressmen on both sides of the isle would do well to learn.
The farmer replied, “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 legitimate purposes…The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power than can be entrusted to man…While you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he.” The farmer went on to tell Crockett that if he and his colleagues in Congress wanted to give money in a charitable cause, they should have given their own—not that of American taxpayers. Speaking of the practice of spending public funds to relieve the burdens of private citizens, the farmer said: “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 to charity.” The farmer’s message to Davy Crockett was clear: tax dollars are not yours to give. They are collected to finance specific government responsibilities as stated in the Constitution and nothing more.
Properly chastened, Crockett agreed with the man, apologized, and enlisted his help in getting re-elected. Needless to say, with the help of this constituent Crockett won his re-election campaign. Further, the next time Congress voted to devote public dollars to relieve the suffering of a private citizen Crockett not only voted against the motion but challenged his colleagues to each give one week of their own salaries to take care of the person in question. Thanks to Crockett’s impassioned speech—just a more eloquent a recital of what his constituent had told him—the vote to use taxpayer’s dollars for public charity failed.
I have known of this story for many years. I suppose it to be true, but don’t really know. Only two people know: Davy Crockett and his biographer Edward S. Ellis, and they are both long since dead. However, regardless of the story’s authenticity its message is both true and prescient. What the farmer in the story feared has come true in spades. When it comes to welfare, food stamps, and the 100 plus other programs that make up the government’s misnamed War on Poverty, the trillions of dollars that have been spent by Congress were not theirs to give. I wonder what Davy Crockett’s constituent, a simple farmer who knew the Constitution better than his Congressman, would think of the entitlement society America has become and the use of public funds by liberals in Congress to create and maintain a dependent and, hence, loyal constituency.
The Constitution prescribes specific uses for the taxes collected by the government. There is nowhere in the Constitution a requirement or even an allowance for using tax dollars for charitable causes—coercively using one man’s money to benefit another man is not charity, it is robbery. Further, using tax dollars to get people hooked on government handouts so they will dependably support the politicians who give them the handouts is not just un-Constitutional, it is unconscionable. Davy Crockett learned this lesson from a simple farmer. It is too bad more members of Congress don’t have constituents like this simple farmer.