“Davy Crockett was killed at the Alamo in 1836 fighting for the independence of Texas. Earlier, however, he had served nine years in Congress. During one of these years a fire broke out in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington, and many of the Congressman, including Crockett, helped fight the blaze. The next morning the Congress voted $20,000 to assist those whose homes were destroyed. Crockett voted for it. However, when he went home he found himself in deep trouble with one of his constituents named Horatio Bunce. Bunce commended him for the anxiety to help the victims of the fire but scolded him for using other people’s money as ‘charity.’ He challenged Crockett to find where the Constitution allowed Congress to spend one penny of other people’s money for charity. Crockett couldn’t think of any such provision. Bunce told him he had a right to help with his own money, but not other people’s money.
“Crockett returned to Congress and ran into a similar situation. Congress wanted to give a substantial sum to the widow of a distinguished naval officer who had just died. Crockett took the floor and said:
“‘Mr. Speaker, I have as much . . . sympathy as . . . any man in the House, but . . . 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 to appropriate a dollar of the public money . . . 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 give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will among to more than the bill asks.’
“Crockett took his seat. This bill was defeated, but even though some of the congressmen were very wealthy, not one of them came forward to take up Crockett’s offer to donate a week’s salary to the widow as a gesture of private charity.”
Taken from pages 391-392 of “The Making of America” by W. Cleon Skousen (of The National Center for Constitutional Studies), who retrieved this story from pages 138-139 of “The Life of Colonel David Crockett”, published in 1884, by Edward S. Ellis. To read Crockett’s full speech, CLICK HERE.