Davey Crockett is more well known for his American folk stardom than his three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Some of the stories that have been passed down over the generations about this larger-than-life frontiersmen are mere lore, but a surprising amount are, in fact, accurate. Davey was a very skilled hunter and once killed 105 black bears in a single Winter season (this story has been corroborated). Most reputable accounts, too, report that he did actually kill a black bear with a butcher knife in the dark of night. These brave feats and journeys were immortalized by the Disney classic bearing his name, wildly popular amongst young boys of the 50’s and 60’s. The coon skin cap became a most popular toy for youngsters at around the same time and even long afterward.
His time in office, on the other hand, was relatively insignificant; no major pieces of legislation to speak of did he write or co-sponsor. Probably the only political achievement of note that any student of history might know was his staunch opposition of Democrat Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Fighting alongside Native Americans in the War of 1812 and the Creek War (as did Jackson) Crockett couldn’t stomach the forced removal of his friends and neighbors.
There were other military men and pioneers who became politicians - John Tyler, Andrew Jackson himself, and Abraham Lincoln to name a few. Crockett was probably cut from a different cloth from even these hard men. It became increasingly difficult for him to relate and interact with the gold watch fob toting, polished statesmen in Washington. He wasn’t ever known or recognized for his ability to speak, and rightly so, but there was one speech to speak of that caught my eye recently from the great Congressmen Crockett.
In his address “Not Yours to Give,” Crockett laid out a principle as old as our Articles of Confederation themselves. The public purse, that is taxes collected from you and me, isn’t to be used for charity work, it’s to be used for the essential functions of the federal government. As outlined by article 1, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution: “congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States….”
Crockett’s speech came in opposition to an appropriation of funds for a local fire which devastated homes and left some homeless and in need. Crockett proposed that each house member give up one week’s pay, to which he first volunteered, rather than sign over tax dollars unconstitutionally to the cause. Surely, he said, those in the room who were much wealthier than he could afford to raise the funds necessary to help. In the end, nearly no one listened and only Davey and a few others voted “nay.” So, in just 50 years since the constitution was ratified we had already lost its original intent when it came spending.
If you fast forward many years you’d see a similar banner as Crockett’s being carried by Texas Congressmen Ron Paul. Paul agreed that the constitution didn’t give congress the authority to spend a dime on things which were extracurricular to what is explicitly listed in Article 1 Section 8. Not only is it not the Government’s job to dole out money for non-essential government tasks, Paul warned of a skyrocketing national debt because of our very loose spending tendencies. Most people ignored him. As of now we have about 29 Trillion dollars of national debt, or about $87,500 per person. Some people don’t think this figure really matters. They certainly will think it matters when foreign nations no longer find it profitable to invest in us and/or confidence in the dollar crumbles, which could be very soon.
But how do we answer the question: who is responsible for meeting material needs, raising funds for tragedies, and helping those in need? That’s a really easy question. Us. Each Biblical command that we receive as Christians to help orphans, aliens, widows, the oppressed, the hungry, the naked… is for us – not the government. There is no instance where Jesus addresses government representatives about helping the sick, disenfranchised or hungry. His commands were always to individuals. It’s convenient to pass responsibility to the government, but in doing so we might be denying our charge to do something.