Davy Crockett

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I leave this rule for others when I'm dead
Be always sure you're right — THEN GO AHEAD!

David Crockett (17 August 17866 March 1836), usually referred to as Davy Crockett, was an American frontiersman, soldier and politician. After serving as a US Congressman for the state of Tennessee, he joined in the Texas Revolution and died in the Battle of the Alamo.

Quotes[edit]

I am at liberty to vote as my conscience and judgement dictates to be right, without the yoke of any party on me... Look at my arms, you will find no party hand-cuff on them!
  • I would rather be beaten and be a man than to be elected and be a little puppy dog. I have always supported measures and principles and not men. I have acted fearless[ly] and independent and I never will regret my course. I would rather be politically buried than to be hypocritically immortalized.
    • In a letter following his defeat in the 1830 elections, as quoted in David Crockett: The Man and the Legend (1994) by James Atkins Shackford, p. 133
I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world...
  • I am now here in Congress... I am at liberty to vote as my conscience and judgment dictates to be right, without the yoke of any party on me, or the driver at my heels, with his whip in hand, commanding me to ge-wo-haw, just at his pleasure. Look at my arms, you will find no party hand-cuff on them!
    • Letter (28 January 1834), reported in A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (1834), p. 113, final paragraph.
  • I am sorry to say I do doubt the honesty of many men that are called good at home, that have given themselves up to serve a party. I am no man's man. I bark at no man's bid. I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the white house, no matter who he is. And if this petty, un-patriotic scuffling for men, and forgetting principles, goes on, it will be the overthrow of this one happy nation, and the blood and toil of our ancestors will have been expended in vain.
    • An Account of Col. Crockett's Tour to the North and Down East : In the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-four (1835), p. 172
  • I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world. The best land & best prospects for health I ever saw is here, and I do believe it is a fortune to any man to come here. There is a world of country to settle.
    • Letter to his children (9 January 1836)
  • I am rejoiced at my fate. I had rather be in my present situation than to be elected to a seat in congress for life. I am in great hopes of making a fortune for myself and family. I hope you will do the best you can and I will do the same. Do not be uneasy about me for I am with my friends.
    • Letter to his children (9 January 1836)
I know not whether, in the eyes of the world, a brilliant death is not preferred to an obscure life of rectitude. Most men are remembered as they died, and not as they lived.
  • Pop, pop, pop! Bom, bom, bom! throughout the day. No time for memorandums now. Go ahead! Liberty and Independence forever.
    • Last entry in his diary, (5 March 1836)
The time will and must come, when honesty will receive its reward, and when the people of this nation will be brought to a sense of their duty, and will pause and reflect how much it cost us to redeem ourselves from the government of one man.
  • I know nothing, by experience, of party discipline. I would rather be a raccoon-dog, and belong to a Negro in the forest, than to belong to any party, further than to do justice to all, and to promote the interests of my country. The time will and must come, when honesty will receive its reward, and when the people of this nation will be brought to a sense of their duty, and will pause and reflect how much it cost us to redeem ourselves from the government of one man.
  • I know not whether, in the eyes of the world, a brilliant death is not preferred to an obscure life of rectitude. Most men are remembered as they died, and not as they lived. We gaze with admiration upon the glories of the setting sun, yet scarcely bestow a passing glance upon its noonday splendor.
    • As quoted in David Crockett : His Life and Adventures (1875) by John Stevens Cabot Abbott, Ch. 11
  • We must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living.
    • Speech in the US House of Representatives, as quoted in The Life of Colonel David Crockett (1884) by Edward Sylvester Ellis. Though it may have expressed his attitudes on the issue, there has been dispute as to the authenticity of this speech as there is no known record of it prior to this 1884 work.
  • 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.
    • Speech in the US House of Representatives, as quoted in The Life of Colonel David Crockett (1884) by Edward Sylvester Ellis.
  • Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to 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.
    • Comment to a friend about the US Congress, as quoted in The Life of Colonel David Crockett (1884) by Edward Sylvester Ellis.
  • Thare is no chance of hurrying bussiness here like in the legeslature of a State thare is such a desposition here to Show Eloquence that this will be a long Session and do no good...
    • On the US Congress, in a letter during his first session as a US Congressman, as quoted in David Crockett: The Man and the Legend (1994) by James Atkins Shackford, p. 89
Although our great man at the head of the nation, has changed his course, I will not change mine.
  • Heaven knows that I have done all that a mortal could do, to save the people, and the failure was not my fault, but the fault of others.
    • As quoted in David Crockett: The Man and the Legend (1994) by James Atkins Shackford, p. 106
  • The party in power, like Jonah's gourd, grew up quickly, and will quickly fall.
    • As quoted in David Crockett: The Man and the Legend (1994) by James Atkins Shackford, p. 107
  • Although our great man at the head of the nation, has changed his course, I will not change mine. … I was also a supporter of this administration after it came into power, and until the Chief Magistrate changed the principles which he professed before his election. When he quitted those principles, I quit him. I am yet a Jackson man in principles, but not in name... I shall insist upon it that I am still a Jackson man, but General Jackson is not; he has become a Van Buren man.
    • On US President Andrew Jackson, as quoted in David Crockett: The Man and the Legend (1994) by James Atkins Shackford, p. 112

A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (1834)[edit]

A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee (1834) Full text online, and downoadable PDFs
  • I leave this rule for others when I'm dead
    Be always sure you're right — THEN GO AHEAD!
    • Personal motto, on the title page.
    • Variants: Be sure that you are right, and then go ahead.
      • As quoted in David Crockett: His Life and Adventures (1874) by John Stevens Cabot Abbott, who indicates that he also often used simply "Go ahead!" as a battle cry, and general assertion of determination.
      • Unsourced variants: Be always sure you are right — then go ahead.
        Be sure you are right — then go ahead.
        Always be sure you are right — then go ahead.
  • Most of authors seek fame, but I seek for justice — a holier impulse than ever entered into the ambitious struggles of the votaries of that fickle, flirting goddess.
    • Preface (1 February 1834)
  • I know, that obscure as I am, my name is making a considerable deal of fuss in the world. I can't tell why it is, nor in what it is to end. Go where I will, everybody seems anxious to get a peep at me … There must therefore be something in me, or about me, that attracts attention, which is even mysterious to myself.
    • Preface (1 February 1834)
  • I don't know of any thing in my book to be criticised on by honourable men. Is it on my spelling? — that's not my trade. Is it on my grammar ? — I hadn't time to learn it, and make no pretensions to it. Is it on the order and arrangement of my book ? — I never wrote one before, and never read very many; and, of course, know mighty little about that. Will it be on the authorship of the book? — this I claim, and I hang on to it, like a wax plaster. The whole book is my own, and every sentiment and sentence in it. I would not be such a fool, or knave either, as to deny that I have had it hastily run over by a friend or so, and that some little alterations have been made in the spelling and grammar; and I am not so sure that it is not the worse of even that, for I despise this way of spelling contrary to nature. And as for grammar, it's pretty much a thing of nothing at last, after all the fuss that's made about it. In some places, I wouldn't suffer either the spelling, or grammar, or any thing else to be touch'd; and therefore it will be found in my own way.
    But if any body complains that I have had it looked over, I can only say to him, her, or them — as the case may he — that while critics were learning grammar, and learning to spell, I, and "Doctor Jackson, L.L.D." were fighting in the wars; and if our hooks, and messages, and proclamations, and cabinet writings, and so forth, and so on, should need a little looking over, and a little correcting of the spelling and the grammar to make them fit for use, its just nobody's business. Big men have more important matters to attend to than crossing their ts—, and dotting their i's—, and such like small things.
    • Preface (1 February 1834)
I gave my decisions on the principles of common justice and honesty between man and man, and relied on natural born sense, and not on law, learning to guide me...
  • I gave my decisions on the principles of common justice and honesty between man and man, and relied on natural born sense, and not on law, learning to guide me; for I had never read a page in a law book in all my life.
    • On the basis of his legal decisions, in Ch. 9
  • It was expected of me that I was to bow to the name of Andrew Jackson, and follow him in all his motions, and windings, and turnings, even at the expense of my consciences and judgment. Such a thing was new to me, and a total stranger to my principles. … His famous, or rather I should say infamous Indian bill was brought forward and, and I opposed it from the purest motives in the world. Several of my colleagues got around me, and told me how well they loved me, and that I was ruining myself. They said it was a favorite measure of the President, and I ought to go for it. I told them I believed it was a wicked unjust measure, and that I should go against it, let the cost to myself be what it might; that I was willing to go with General Jackson in everything that I believed was honest and right; but further than this, I wouldn't go for him, or any other man in the whole creation.

Col. Crockett's Exploits and Adventures in Texas (1836)[edit]

A pseudo-autobiography, generally ascribed to Richard Penn Smith. (cf. Sabin. Amer. bibl., v. 20, p. 471; Burton's Gentleman's magazine, Philadelphia, 1839, v. 5, p. 119-121; Dict. Amer. biog.)
  • I have never knew what it was to sacrifice my own judgment to gratify any party and I have no doubt of the time being close at hand when I will be rewarded for letting my tongue speak what my heart thinks. I have suffered myself to be politically sacrificed to save my country from ruin and disgrace and if I am never again elected I will have the gratification to know that I have done my duty.
    • Comments on his final election defeat (11 August 1835) Ch. 2; in Dr. Swan's Prescriptions for Job-Itis (2003) by Dennis Swanberg and Criswell Freeman, p. 45, part of this seems to have become paraphrased as "Let your tongue speak what your heart thinks." No earlier publication of this version has been located.
I concluded my speech by telling them that I was done with politics for the present, and they might all go to hell, and I would go to Texas.
  • I also told them of the manner in which I had been knocked down and dragged out, and that I didn't consider it a fair fight any how they could fix it. I put the ingredients in the cup pretty strong I tell you, and I concluded my speech by telling them that I was done with politics for the present, and they might all go to hell, and I would go to Texas.
    • Comments on his final election defeat (11 August 1835)
    • Variant: Since you have chosen to elect a man with a timber toe to succeed me, you may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.
      • As quoted in David Crockett: The Man and the Legend (1994) by James Atkins Shackford, Introduction, p. xi
  • Sorrow, it is said, will make even an oyster feel poetical. I never tried my hand at that sort of writing but on this particular occasion such was my state of feeling, that I began to fancy myself inspired; so I took pen in hand, and as usual I went ahead.
    • On being inspired to make an attempt at poetry, Ch. 2
In the land of the stranger I rise or I fall.
  • The corn that I planted, the fields that I cleared,
    The flocks that I raised, and the cabin I reared;
    The wife of my bosom — Farewell to ye all!
    In the land of the stranger I rise or I fall.
    • Ch. 2
  • In peace or in war I have stood by thy side —
    My country, for thee I have lived, would have died!
    But I am cast off, my career now is run,
    And I wander abroad like the prodigal son —
    Where the wild savage roves, and the broad prairies spread,
    The fallen — despised — will again go ahead.
    • Ch. 2


Misattributed[edit]

  • Fame is like a shaved pig with a greased tail, and it is only after it has slipped through the hands of some thousands, that some fellow, by mere chance, holds on to it!
    • This is from Pickings from the Porfolio of the Reporter of the New Orleans "Picayune" (1846) by Dennis Corcoran; it seems to have become attributed to Crockett in The Dictionary of Biographical Quotation of British and American Subjects (1978) by Richard Kenin and Justin Wintle, p. 206
  • The enemy fought with savage fury, and met death with all its horrours, without shrinking or complaining: not one asked to be spared, but fought as long as they could stand or sit.

Quotes about Crockett[edit]

Fought single-handed through many a war
Till the enemy was whipped and peace was in store
And while he was handlin' this risky chore
He made himself a legend forever more
Davy, Davy Crockett, the man who knew no fear.
  • Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
    The greenest state in the land of the free
    Raised in the woods so's he knew ev'ry tree
    Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three
    Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier

    Fought single-handed through many a war
    Till the enemy was whipped and peace was in store
    And while he was handlin' this risky chore
    He made himself a legend forever more
    Davy, Davy Crockett, the man who knew no fear.

  • He is gone from among us, and is no more to be seen in the walks of men, but in his death like Sampson, he slew more of his enemies than in all his life. Even his most bitter enemies here, I believe, have buried all animosity, and join the general lamentation over his untimely end.
    • John Wesley Crockett, his son, in a letter (9 July 1836), as quoted in David Crockett: Hero of the Common Man (2005) by William Groneman III
  • Though tortured before they were killed, these unfortunates died without complaining and without humiliating themselves before their torturers.

External links[edit]

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