Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Quote of the Day (Davy Crockett, on Hell and Texas)

“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.”—Defeated Tennessee Congressman David Crockett, in his farewell to constituents at the Union Hotel Bar in Memphis, quoted in J. R. Edmondson, The Alamo Story: From Early History to Current Conflicts (2000)

It galled David Crockett ("Davy" to posterity) that he lost to Adam Huntsman, a one-legged lawyer supported by President Andrew Jackson and Gov. William Carroll, by less than three hundred votes. But typical of his talent for raw but effective storytelling, he turned it into a crowd-pleasing anecdote, which he duly recited to an appreciative audience upon arriving in Nacogdoches, Texas, on or about this date in 1836.

Savagely disillusioned with politics (the Whigs had hoped to run him for President), Crockett had come to Texas in the hope of turning around his life, much as another Tennessean (who unlike him, remained on good terms with Jackson), Sam Houston, had done—though he wanted instead to make his fortune as a land agent.

The ex-Congressman and frontiersman was right about a revolution being in the offing in this Mexican-held land, but he was wrong about his long-term prospects. Two months later, he fell at the Alamo and, like everyone else in that garrison, passed into legend.

I used the phrase “passed into legend” in that last sentence, but it might have been just as correct to write “became part of an endless controversy,” for the arguments involving Crockett after that became even more contentious than what had already happened back in his home state, when he became the only member of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation to vote against Jackson’s Indian Removal Act.

Did he go down fighting the overwhelming forces of Mexican dictator Santa Ana? Or was he executed after having surrendered? The latter interpretation has endured, based on the alleged eyewitness account of a Mexican officer who was there.(For an examination, pro and con, see this piece by Michael Lind in the Winter 1998 issue of The Wilson Quarterly.)

Crockett—and Alamo—partisans fiercely disclaim that any such thing occurred. Who knows when, if ever, the dispute will be resolved?

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