Davy in Congress
"Y OU have had bad luck, Davy," Elizabeth said when Davy returned home.
"Yes, I have had bad luck, Elizabeth. How did you know?"
"The news has gone all through the country. Every one knows it. There is more news about you, too, Davy."
"What is it?" Davy wanted to know.
"The rumor is that you are going to run for Congress again. Are you?"
Davy walked back and forth across the cabin floor. "Why can't people let me alone? All I want is to stay here with you and the children," he said. "And yet, something is always taking me away from you. Who said I am a candidate for Congress?"
"Your old friend, Cambric Ruffles," laughed Elizabeth.
"Cambric Ruffles!" exclaimed Davy. He threw back his head and laughed, too.
"Do you remember how I gave him that name, Elizabeth? We were in the State Legislature together. He wore such fancy clothes that I gave him a fancy name. I called him Cambric Ruffles. It was not long until everyone else was calling him that, too. And now Old Cambric Ruffles says I am a candidate for Congress. He is trying to make fun of me. He thinks people will laugh at me if I am a candidate for Congress again. I think I will just turn the joke on him. I will be a candidate for Congress. I believe I can win this time."
The news that Davy Crockett was again a candidate for Congress spread rapidly. A few people thought it was a joke, but more people were pleased about it.
Davy had two opponents. One was Colonel Alexander,—the man who had defeated Davy by two votes the previous election. The other man was General Arnold. These two men traveled about the country together and made speeches. They never mentioned Davy Crockett.
"They think I am not important enough to mention," said Davy. He traveled alone. He talked to the settlers. He made speeches when he could get groups of people together. Some of his speeches were full of jokes and fun. But as a rule they were simple, honest, and sincere. Wherever he went Davy was welcomed by the people. He made new friends quickly and easily.
At last on the occasion of a big political rally the three candidates met. They were to speak from the same platform. Davy made the first speech. Alexander was the second speaker. He talked against Arnold, but did not mention Davy. Then Arnold spoke at great length. He talked against Alexander, but did not mention Davy. While he was speaking a large flock of guinea fowl passed the speaker's stand. They made so much noise that Arnold could not go on with his speech. He had to wait until the guinea fowl had been driven away before he could continue. When he had finished his speech Davy walked to the front of the speaker's platform and said, "General, you do not understand the language of the guinea fowl."
"What do you mean?" Arnold demanded.
"You have not paid the slightest attention to me, but my little friends the guinea fowl have been calling for me. They were saying all the while, 'Crock—ett! Crock—ett!' "
The crowd roared with delight. The men cheered for Davy. General Arnold was angry. He shook his fist at Davy and walked away.
Davy was elected to the Congress of the United States. When the news was brought to the Crockett home, no one was happier than Elizabeth. "This is a big step for you, Davy," she said. "I am proud of you."
"I am elected to Congress," said Davy, "but I wonder how I shall ever get to Washington. I do not have enough money for traveling expenses."
"That has been taken care of, Davy," said Elizabeth. "While you were gone, Major Winchester came to our cabin. He gave me some money for your trip to Washington."
When the day came for Davy to start for Washington, he left home on horseback. He rode to Nashville and left his horse. He traveled the rest of the way by stagecoach. Davy was more than a month making the trip from Nashville to Washington. At every village along the way people gathered to see and to cheer him. "Go ahead, Crockett, go ahead," they shouted.
When Davy finally reached Washington he found that many wild, impossible stories were being told about him. Many people laughed at his rough manners and at his clothes. They called him "The Gentleman from the Cane." They spoke of him with scorn.
Davy's bold, honest nature made both friends and enemies for him. He went about his new duties seriously. He worked for the interests of the people who had elected him.
A bill affecting the sale of lands in West Tennessee was to be introduced in Congress. "I know about these lands," said Davy. "When I was in the State Legislature of Tennessee the matter was brought up there. I studied it then. I decided it was wrong. Many of the settlers who cleared these lands will lose their homes and their little farms if this bill becomes a law. I was opposed to it then and I shall oppose it now."
"Think of your political future," said another Congressman. "Some of the most powerful men in Congress are for this bill. It will pass anyhow, whether you oppose it or not. If you vote for it the men who are interested in it will help you politically."
Davy made no reply. He turned on his heel and walked away.
When the bill was introduced in Congress Davy got to his feet.
"I want to tell you something about the lands mentioned in this bill," he said. "I know about these lands. I live on a part of them. I am 'The Gentleman from the Cane.' These lands belong to the people of West Tennessee who settled them. They should not be sold for speculation. I have been told that some powerful men are for this bill and that it will pass regardless of what I may do or say. I have been told that if I vote for the bill it will help me politically. Nevertheless I shall not vote for this bill. If my political future depends upon my voting for bills that I know to be wrong, then I shall be glad when my term in Congress is over. I am opposed to this bill because I know it is wrong."
Davy presented a new land bill of his own. He called on his friends to help pass it. But the powerful men in Congress who wanted the first bill passed opposed Davy's bill. After a few weeks of debate the first bill passed and became a law.
"Go ahead, Crockett, go ahead," Davy said to himself.
But the men in Congress who were greedy for land were not through. Now the question of the Indian lands came up. It was proposed to take the lands from the Creeks, the Cherokees, the Choctaws, the Chickasaws, and the Seminoles. These lands had been kept by the Indians under treaties. The lands were valuable. Many settlers wanted them. In some places the white settlers had already forced the Indians off their own lands. Now Congress proposed to move all the Indians to new lands in the West, and to sell their old lands to the whites.
A bill to provide for moving the Indians was introduced in Congress. This bill was debated by the Congressmen. Davy listened to the statements made by both sides. Again he got to his feet and demanded the right to speak.
"From what I have heard here I am led to believe that some of you do not like Indians. I have good cause for not liking them myself. My grandfather David Crockett was killed and scalped in a fight with the Indians. I fought against the Indians in the Creek war. I was just as determined then as any man that the power of the Indians should be broken. But times have changed. The Indians have changed, too. I know them. Many of them are now my friends. They are friendly to the whites and they lead peaceful lives. They have adopted the ways of the white man. I am against removing them from their homes."
"You are not representing the wishes of your people," a Congressman shouted.
"Maybe not," said Davy, "but I am representing my own conscience. There is a question of right or wrong in this bill. I stand for what I know to be right. My vote against the bill may cost me my seat in Congress. But I will vote against the bill as it now stands.
"Let me tell you about the Indians from whom you want to take the land. Let me tell you about the land to which you want to send them.
"These Indians are no longer hunters and warriors. They have become farmers. The land on which they now live is fertile and can be farmed. You want to take them from this fertile, easily farmed land and send them to the western plains. If you will give them land as good for farming as the land you propose to take from them, I will vote 'yes.' As the bill stands I will vote 'NO.' "
But the bill was passed in spite of Davy's opposition. However, his earnestness and his honesty brought him many new friends. The newspapers carried stories about his fearlessness and courage. The fact that he was ever ready to champion the cause of the people made him popular. Plays and songs were written about him. People came to Washington just to see Davy Crockett.
Davy gave up wearing buckskin clothes, but he always wore his coonskin cap. To friends Davy was kind and generous; to his enemies he was cold and unforgiving.
One day when Davy called at the White House, quite a crowd had assembled. A guard saw Davy. In an effort to clear a way for him the guard called, "Make way for Colonel Crockett!"
"Colonel Crockett can make way for himself," laughed Davy.
1. Tell what you think was the reason Davy beat his opponents for Congress?
1. Who makes the laws for your state? Who makes the laws for the United States?
2. How are these people elected?
3. How are laws made?
4. Why are laws necessary?