Tuesday, June 15

Speech before the House of Representatives

by David (Davy) Crockett (Not Yours to Give)

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 done 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.
"I began: 'Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates, and--'
" 'Yes, I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine. I shall not vote for you again.'
"This was a sockdolager... I begged him to tell me what was the matter.
" 'Well, Colonel, it is hardly worth-while to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intended by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest....But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.'
"I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any Constitutional question.
" 'No, Colonel, there's no mistake. Though I live here in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings in Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some suffers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?'
"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.'
" '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 intrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by 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 thing 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 suffers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of 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 creditable; 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. So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch it's power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you..'
"I tell you I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go to talking, he would set others to talking, and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, for the fact is, I was so fully convinced that he was right, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him: Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I did not have sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.
"He laughingly replied: 'Yes Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again upon one condition. You say that you are convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around this district, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied that it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and perhaps, I may exert a little influence in that way.'
"If I don't [said I] I wish I may be shot; and to convince you that I am earnest in what I say I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of the people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbecue, and I will pay for it.
" 'No, Colonel, we are not rich people in this section, but we have plenty of provisions to contribute to a barbecue, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbecue. This is Thursday; I will see to getting up on Saturday week.. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you.'
"Well, I will be here. but one thing more before I say good-bye. I must know your name.
" 'My name is Bunce.'
"Not Horatio Bunce?
" 'Yes.'
"Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before though you say you have seen me, but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend.
"It was one of the luckiest hits of my life that I met him. He mingled but little with the public, but was widely known for his remarkable intelligence and incorruptible integrity, and for a heart brimful and running over with kindness and benevolence, which showed themselves not only in words but in acts. He was the oracle of the whole country around him, and his fame had extended far beyond the circle of his immediate acquaintance. Though I had never met him before, I had heard much of him, and but for this meeting it is very likely I should have had opposition, and had been beaten. One thing is very certain, no man could now stand up in that district under such a vote.
"At the appointed time I was at his house, having told our conversation to every crowd I had met, and to every man I stayed all night with, and I found that it gave the people an interest and a confidence in me stronger than I had ever seen manifested before. Though I was considerably fatigued when I reached his house, and, under ordinary circumstances, should have gone early to bed, I kept up until midnight, talking about the principles and affairs of government, and got more real, true knowledge of them than I had got all my life before. I have known and seen much of him since, for I respect him --- no, that is not the word --- I reverence and love him more than any living man, and I go to see him two or three times a year; and I will tell you sir, if everyone who professes to be a Christian, lived and acted and enjoyed it as he does, the religion of Christ would take the world by storm.
"But to return to my story. The next morning we went to the barbecue, and, to my surprise, found about a thousand men there. I met a good many whom I had not known before, and they and my friend introduced me around until I had got pretty well acquainted --- at least, they all knew me. In due time notice was given that I would speak to them. They gathered up around a stand that had been erected. I opened my speech by saying:
"Fellow-citizens --- I present myself before you today feeling like a new man. My eyes have lately been opened to truths which ignorance or prejudice, or both, had heretofore hidden from my view. I feel that I can today offer you the ability to render you more valuable service than I have ever been able to render before. I am here today more for the purpose of acknowledging my error than to seek your votes. That I should make this acknowledgment is due to myself as well as to you. Whether you will vote for me is a matter for your consideration only.
"I went on to tell them about the fire and my vote for the appropriation and then told them why I was satisfied it was wrong. I closed by saying:
"And now, fellow-citizens, it remains only for me to tell you that the most of the speech you have listened to with so much interest was simply a repetition of the arguments by which your neighbor, Mr. Bunce, convinced me of my error.
"It is the best speech I ever made in my life, but he is entitled to the credit for it. And now I hope he is satisfied with his convert and that he will get up here and tell you so.
"He came upon the stand and said: " 'Fellow-citizens --- It affords me great pleasure to comply with the request of Colonel Crockett. I have always considered him a thoroughly honest man, and I am satisfied that he will faithfully perform all that he has promised you today.'
"He went down, and there went up from that crowd such a shout for Davy Crockett as his name never called forth before.
"I am not much given to tears, but I was taken with a choking then and felt some big drops rolling down my cheeks. And I tell you now that the remembrance of those few words spoken by such a man, and the honest, hearty shout they produced, is worth more to me than all the reputation I have ever made, or shall ever make, as a member of Congress.
"Now, sir," concluded Crockett, "you know why I made that speech yesterday. There is one thing now to which I wish to call to your attention. You remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men --- men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased --- a debt which could not be paid by money --- and the insignificance and worthlessness of money, particularly so insignificance a sum as $10,000, when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it." David Crockett was born August 17, 1786 at Limestone (Greene County), Tennessee. He died March 06, 1836 as one of the brave Southerners defending the Alamo.
Crockett had settled in Franklin County, Tennessee in 1811. He served in the Creek War under Andrew Jackson. In 1821 and 1823 he was elected to the Tennessee legislature. In 1826 and 1828 he was elected to Congress. He was defeated in 1830 for his outspoken opposition to President Jackson's Indian Bill - but was elected again in 1832.
In Washington, although his eccentricities of dress and manner excited comment, he was always popular on account of his shrewd common sense and homely wit; although generally favoring Jackson's policy, he was entirely independent and refused to vote to please any party leader.
At the end of the congressional term, he joined the Texans in the war against Mexico, and in 1836 was one of the roughly 180 men who died defending the Alamo. Tradition has it that Crockett was one of only six survivors after the Mexicans took the fort, and that he and the others were taken out and executed by firing squad.

Thursday, June 3


     There is tremendous power in words. Words can elicit feelings of adoration, or incite vicious acts of hatred. Personally, I believe that people should say what they mean and stand behind what they say. I hold people accountable for what they say. It’s not complicated, their words mean what they mean. A lot of people will not like what I have to say, and that is their prerogative. However, I would ask that if they take issue with what I say that they first ask themselves if what I say is true. Many will say that I am dredging up the past, and I am. They think I should keep these things buried. Well, I have to wonder about their motivation for keeping silent about these issues. No one likes to have their mistakes exposed, but how else can we learn from history? With this in mind I am going to dredge up a bit of Egremont’s history with a mind to learn from our past.

     I will get to the three little words in a moment, but first let me lay a foundation. There is a small group of people in this town who have their own agenda. Their agenda is not in the best interest of the town as a whole, but benefit’s a few at the expense of the many. These people are advancing their agenda at the literal expense of the entire town. We as taxpayers have to pay for their agenda if we allow them to advance it. I hear whispers of dissent coming from people who disagree with what is being done, yet feel powerless to do anything about it. For those people I have three little words, which I will get to in a moment.
     A little more than a decade ago the selectmen, and the finance committee, convinced the town to vote for a water department. They told the voters that if they voted in favor of this agenda item that it would provide clean water to the recipients at an affordable price. They also assured the townspeople that it would not cost the taxpayers anything, for it would be paid for by the people who actually use the water. Now I don’t want to say that the selectmen and finance committee lied to the people, but someone lied to someone and we are paying the price. At the very least the town leaders misinformed the people.
     Before the town voted on this water issue the taxpayers paid a substantial sum of money for a committee to study this issue. This expensive committee then looked at all the facts and came to the conclusion that the water company was a good idea. Based on their study they told the town that there would be no cost to the taxpayers. What did this committee overlook? Based on this study they told the people who were going to receive the water that it would be affordable. What did this committee miss? Again, I don’t want to accuse anyone of lying, but we were grossly misinformed. I bring this up not to beat a dead horse, but to illustrate that this situation can be avoided in the future with three little words, which I will now get to.
     I hope you’re wondering what these three little words are because these three little words are the most powerful words in the world. These three little words formed a nation. These three little words are the first three words in our Constitution, "WE THE PEOPLE". You see my friends, we the people have the power in the town of Egremont. This is a town meeting form of government. We the people have a vote on every issue, and shame on you if you are too lazy or too busy to get involved.
     We do not simply vote for representatives to represent our interests as in a representative form of government we vote for advisors to advise us on the issues that we will be voting on, then to enact the will of the people. The selectmen do not represent us, they are an advisory board. It is the responsibility of this board to study and advise the voters on these issues, but we have the final vote. The finance committee does not represent us, they advise us on the financial aspects of each agenda item that we will be voting on, but "we the people" have to vote.
     These advisors have led us astray in the past. They have misinformed us in regard to the issues that we were voting on. However, we have only ourselves to blame. The fact is, most of "We the people", decided to not even show up to vote on the issues. "We the people" allowed a small group of people with their own agenda to advance this agenda. Now "we the people" have to pay the price for allowing this small group of people to co-opt our towns agenda. This is now in the past and we shall see if we the people will learn from this bit of history.
     From this point forward, I plan to hold our selectmen liable for the words they use to advise us, and I hope you do as well. When the finance committee recommends a vote on any particular issue I plan to hold their feet to the fire, and I hope you do as well. However, when the town meeting barely has enough people to form a quorum, the problem is not the town officials, the problem is not a small group of people with their own agenda, the problem is "WE THE PEOPLE".

Thursday, May 27

Guilt By Association

As I learn more about the town meeting behind the town meeting the more frustrated I get. It has come to my attention that while the people who were discussing the water issue in regard to whether the town should vote to either take the money out of free cash or raise and appropriate the money from new taxes, there was another choice that would have resolved the issue without spending any of the taxpayers money.
Frankly I am outraged that during the debate over article 3 none of the selectmen or the finance committee informed the voters that if they were to vote down the entire article there was another article that would have raised the monies from the people who actually use the water. This seems deceptive. I wonder how people would have voted if the issue were presented in total honesty. What ever happened to truth in advertising?
Honestly, I don’t know who we can trust when the people that we elect to advise us on these issues obfuscate such important aspects of the issues. Now I can’t say that they didn’t post the information, but when you consider that you have to vote on article 3 before you can discuss article 4, it seems like a slight of hand to me. They moved on to article 5 by saying that article 4 was moot because article 3 passed. Lets look at this technique that was used to deceive the town and tell me if you aren‘t as offended as I am.
The elected officials, for fear of losing votes, don’t want to tell the water users that they have to pay the full cost of the water they use. They write the article that raises and appropriates the funds from the taxpayers. Then they write the article that raises the funds from the water dept. revenues as a backup plan in case the townspeople figure out that they’re getting hosed. I’m sure they were overjoyed at the fact that the argument became whether to use free cash or raise and appropriate from taxation.
The honest way to have presented it would have been to write one article and offer two options. Option one, raise solely from water dept. revenues. Option two, use free cash or raise and appropriate a 35% portion from new taxes. Now, if these were the choices which one do you think the voters would have passed? So next time this happens, and it will come up next year, lets argue the proper issues. Don’t be fooled by the straw man argument.
This is my opinion, and you can disagree if you like, but there isn’t a person who was on that stage that isn’t guilty of deceiving the voters and anyone up there who kept silent is just as guilty by association.

Guilt by association

Wednesday, May 26


It has come to my attention that all of the people who are connected to the town of Egremont water supply are in dire need of public assistance. According to the town’s board of select, the water commissioner and the finance committee, the people who are receiving water from the town water supply are impoverished to such a degree that they cannot afford to pay their water bill. Therefore, we as a community must come together and meet the needs of the underprivileged. Water is a basic necessity of life. We cannot have our fellow townspeople dying in the streets for lack of such a basic bodily requirement. As a community we must pool our resources and help those in need. I know everyone in the town feels the same way. We are a community that comes together for the general welfare of the whole. Our attitude reflects the caring nurturing spirit of an old New England town. That being said, we must still be accountable. In order to make sure that our welfare dollars are being spent properly we must set up a system to regulate where the money goes and keep an account of the recipients of these public funds. I ask the selectmen to hold a special election to elect an Egremont water welfare committee. The chair of the committee would delegate its members to create an application form for applicants to fill out and a means test to set guidelines for those who apply for the welfare water. Like any welfare system we must set up guards against fraud. For even in a community minded town such as ours, there may be wolves amongst the sheep. I would wholeheartedly support this measure and hope that all of the townspeople will get behind this for the good of the community. After all are we not our brothers keeper?

Monday, May 24

Welcome to Eye on Egremont

Welcome to Eye on Egremont. The name of the blog is self explanatory. We need to keep an eye on our own community. We have one of the purest forms of government in the world, the town meeting. We the people have the right to vote on every issue that the town has to make a decision on. The boards and elected officials are placed in an advisory position at the meeting, then they administer what was decided on at the meeting. We the people, or at least those who attend, make the decisions.
The town meeting is where the decisions are actually made by the voters. Unfortunately most people don’t even bother to show up to the town meeting. FYI people, every raise and appropriate article on the warrant means you are giving the elected officials the authority to take your money in the form of taxes and spend it on the things you voted on at the meeting. It’s like co-signing a loan. If you don’t agree with the expenditure then vote against it. If a lot of your friends feel the same way then get them to come out and vote with you.
Someone told me that Egremont is a small town run by a small group of reactionaries who make the decisions for everyone. The only way that this can happen is that far too many people find it too burdensome to actually come to the town meeting. I’ve got a newsflash for you, when you fail to show up for the meeting you have actually voted, for the agenda of that small group of reactionaries. Why? Because that small group of reactionaries are the only ones who actually show up. They make it their business to be at the meetings. So by all means, stay at home and watch TV. Let the reactionaries decide what is going to be done with your money.
My vision for this site is that it would raise the awareness of the citizens of Egremont and motivate them to get involved with running their own town, our town. I hear a lot of people bitching about the way things are run, yet every town meeting is packed to the rafters with empty space. Last town meeting barely pulled enough people to allow a vote on the issues. What I plan to do on this site is post all of the happenings of the town government for all to see and all to discuss. I hope that it will create a buzz around the town and pack the meetings with well informed people who are empowered to vote.