Blogs > Liberty and Power > Did Davy Crockett Say It? "Not Yours to Give."

Sep 25, 2009 3:59 pm


Did Davy Crockett Say It? "Not Yours to Give."



I didn't know that some had questioned the historical veracity of the wonderfully pro-limited government speech attributed to Davy Crockett,"Not Yours to Give." Here is a recent email from the executive director of the Tennessee Historical Society as posted on the H-List in Southern History. Does anyone have any comments? Did Crockett, in fact, make the speech? I made a slight edit to make this post more blogger friendly.

We have had an inquiry for scholarly assistance in clarifying the source of a speech popularly attributed to David Crockett,"Not Yours to Give." The speech is widely circulated on conservative websites. For example, see here.

There is mention of Crockett offering comments on such a topic in the register of debates for April 2 1828, but verbatim transcripts are not available for this time period. Edward S. Ellis is cited at some websites as giving the text of the speech in his 1884 book, The Life of Colonel David Crockett. See, for example, here. However, a search of the Ellis book itself on Google Books yielded nothing like the" citation" at conservative websites. Does anyone know of any copies of Crockett's speech or otherwise give direct evidence of attribution of this speech to him?


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RickC - 9/26/2009

On the plus side though, he had enough of a sense of principle to cast the only nay vote regarding the removal of the Cherokee. Historical figures like Mr. Crockett always seem to defy the limited perspectives we want to assign to them.


Jeffrey Rogers Hummel - 9/25/2009

I wouldn't be surprised if the speech of David (who never liked the moniker "Davy") Crockett is apocryphal. Although first elected to Congress in 1827 as a supporter of Andrew Jackson, he broke with the administration and was defeated for re-election. Upon his return to Congress in 1833, he was successfully wooed by the Whigs, who paraded him around the Northeast as their own, authentic Westerner. Known as a braggart, Crockett put his name to a scurrilous and defamatory 1835 biography of Martin Van Buren, actually written by A. S. Clayton of Georgia. For a good, short summary of Crockett's role in Jacksonian politics, see pp. 278-79 of Schlesinger's Age of Jackson. Gore Vidal's Burr contains an even more unflattering portrait.

On the other hand, I wouldn't trust Google Books to tell you whether Ellis's Life of Colonel David Crockett actually contains the speech. I've sometimes found Google's online copies incomplete and the search function defective. The Wikipedia entry on Crockett, which strikes me as accurate and balanced, especially about such controversial questions as whether Crockett surrendered at the Alamo, reports that the speech is, in fact, in the Ellis book, although also admitting that there are still doubts about the speech's authenticity. Just to check myself, I've ordered a copy of the book through our university library.

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