David Crockett - Tour to the North and the East
Colonel Crockett, having been reelected again repaired to Washington.
During the session, to complete his education, and the better to prepare
himself as a legislator for the whole nation, he decided to take a short
trip to the North and the East. His health had also begun to fail, and his
physicians advised him to go. He was thoroughly acquainted with the Great
West. With his rifle upon his shoulder, in the Creek War, he had made wide
explorations through the South. But the North and the East were regions as
yet unknown to him.
On the 25th of April, 1834, he left Washington for this Northern tour. He
reached Baltimore that evening, where he was invited to a supper by some
of the leading gentlemen. He writes:
"Early next morning. I started for Philadelphia, a place where I had never
been. I sort of felt lonesome as I went down to the steamboat. The idea of
going among a new people, where there are tens of thousands who would pass
me by without knowing or caring who I was, who are all taken up with their
own pleasures or their own business, made me feel small; and, indeed, if
any one who reads this book has a grand idea of his own importance, let
him go to a big city, and he will find that he is not higher valued than a
"The steamboat was the Carroll of Carrollton, a fine craft, with the rum
old Commodore Chaytor for head man. A good fellow he is--all sorts of a
man--bowing and scraping to the ladies, nodding to the gentlemen, cursing
the crew, and his right eye broad-cast upon the 'opposition line,' all at
the same time. 'Let go!' said the old one, and off we walked in prime
"Our passage down Chesapeake Bay was very pleasant. In a very short run we
came to a place where we were to get on board the rail-cars. This was a
clean new sight to me. About a dozen big stages hung on to one machine.
After a good deal of fuss we all got seated and moved slowly off; the
engine wheezing as though she had the tizzic. By-and-by, she began to take
short breaths, and away we went, with a blue streak after us. The whole
distance is seventeen miles. It was run in fifty-five minutes.
"At Delaware City, I again embarked on board of a splendid steamboat. When
dinner was ready, I set down with the rest of the passengers. Among them
was Rev. O. B. Brown, of the Post-Office Department, who sat near me.
During dinner he ordered a bottle of wine, and called upon me for a toast.
Not knowing whether he intended to compliment me, or abash me among so
many strangers, or have some fun at my expense, I concluded to go ahead,
and give him and his like a blizzard. So our glasses being filled, the
word went round, 'A toast from Colonel Crockett.' I give it as follows:
'Here's wishing the bones of tyrant kings may answer in hell, in place of
gridirons, to roast the souls of Tories on.' At this the parson appeared
as if he was stumpt. I said, 'Never heed; it was meant for where it
belonged.' He did not repeat his invitation, and I eat my dinner quietly.
"After dinner I went up on the deck, and saw the captain hoisting three
flags. Says I, 'What does that mean?' He replied, that he was under
promise to the citizens of Philadelphia, if I was on board, to hoist his
flags, as a friend of mine had said he expected I would be along soon.
"We went on till we came in sight of the city and as we advanced towards
the wharf, I saw the whole face of the earth covered with people, all
anxiously looking on towards the boat. The captain and myself were
standing on the bow-deck; he pointed his finger at me, and people slung
their hats, and huzzaed for Colonel Crockett. It struck me with
astonishment to hear a strange people huzzaing for me, and made me feel
sort of queer. It took me so uncommon unexpected, as I had no idea of
attracting attention. But I had to meet it, and so I stepped on to the
wharf, where the folks came crowding around me, saying, 'Give me the hand
of an honest man.' I did not know what all this meant: but some gentleman
took hold of me, and pressing through the crowd, put me into an elegant
barouche, drawn by four fine horses; they then told me to bow to the
people: I did so, and with much difficulty we moved off. The streets were
crowded to a great distance, and the windows full of people, looking out,
I suppose, to see the wild man. I thought I had rather be in the
wilderness with my gun and dogs, than to be attracting all that fuss. I
had never seen the like before, and did not know exactly what to say or
do. After some time we reached the United States Hotel, in Chesnut
' The crowd had followed me filling up the street, and pressing into the
house to shake hands. I was conducted up stairs, and walked out on a
platform, drew off my hat, and bowed round to the people. They cried out
from all quarters, 'A speech, a speech, Colonel Crockett.'
"After the noise had quit, so I could be heard, I said to them the
"'GENTLEMEN OF PHILADELPHIA:
"'My visit to your city is rather accidental. I had no expectation of
attracting any uncommon attention. I am travelling for my health, without
the least wish of exciting the people in such times of high political
feeling. I do not wish to encourage it. I am unable at this time to find
language suitable to return my gratitude to the citizens of Philadelphia.
However, I am almost induced to believe it flattery--perhaps a burlesque.
This is new to me, yet I see nothing but friendship in your faces; and if
your curiosity is to hear the backwoodsman, I will assure you I am illy
prepared to address this most enlightened people. However, gentlemen, if
this is a curiosity to you, if you will meet me to-morrow, at one o'clock,
I will endeavor to address you, in my plain manner.'
"So I made my obeisance to them, and retired into the house."
It is true that there was much of mere curiosity in the desire to see
Colonel Crockett. He was a strange and an incomprehensible man. His manly,
honest course in Congress had secured much respect. But such developments
of character as were shown in his rude and vulgar toast, before a party of
gentlemen and ladies, excited astonishment. His notoriety preceded him,
wherever he went; and all were alike curious to see so strange a specimen
of a man.
The next morning, several gentlemen called upon him, and took him in a
carriage to see the various objects of interest in the city. The gentlemen
made him a present of a rich seal, representing two horses at full speed,
with the words, "Go Ahead." The young men also made him a present of a
truly magnificent rifle. From Philadelphia he went to New York. The
shipping astonished him. "They beat me all hollow," he says, "and looked
for all the world like a big clearing in the West, with the dead trees all
There was a great crowd upon the wharf to greet him. And when the captain
of the boat led him conspicuously forward, and pointed him out to the
multitude, the cheering was tremendous. A committee conducted him to the
American Hotel, and treated him with the greatest distinction. Again he
was feted, and loaded with the greatest attentions. He was invited to a
very splendid supper, got up in his honor, at which there were a hundred
guests. The Hon. Judge Clayton, of Georgia, was present, and make a speech
which, as Crockett says, fairly made the tumblers hop.
Crockett was then called up, as the "undeviating supporter of the
Constitution and the laws." In response to this toast, he says,
"I made a short speech, and concluded with the story of the red cow, which
was, that as long as General Jackson went straight, I followed him; but
when he began to go this way, and that way, and every way, I wouldn't go
after him; like the boy whose master ordered him to plough across the
field to the red cow. Well, he began to plough, and she began to walk; and
he ploughed all forenoon after her. So when the master came, he swore at
him for going so crooked. 'Why, sir,' said the boy, 'you told me to plough
to the red cow, and I kept after her, but she always kept moving.'"
His trip to New York was concluded by his visiting Jersey City to witness
a shooting-match with rifles. He was invited to try his hand. Standing, at
the distance of one hundred and twenty feet, he fired twice, striking very
near the centre of the mark. Some one then put up a quarter of a dollar in
the midst of a black spot, and requested him to shoot at it. The bullet
struck the coin, and as Crockett says made slight-of-hand work with it.
From New York he went to Boston. There, an the opponent of some of
President Jackson's measures which were most offensive to the New England
people, he was feted with extraordinary enthusiasm. He dined and supped,
made speeches, which generally consisted of but one short anecdote, and
visited nearly all the public institutions.
Just before this, Andrew Jackson had received from Harvard University the
honorary title of LL.D. Jackson was no longer a favorite of Crockett. The
new distinguished guest, the renowned bear-hunter, was in his turn invited
to visit Harvard. He writes:
"There were some gentlemen that invited me to go to Cambridge, where the
big college or university is, where they keep ready-made titles or
nick-names to give people. I would not go, for I did not know but they
might stick an LL.D. on me before they let me go; and I had no idea of
changing 'Member of the House of Representatives of the United States,'
for what stands for 'lazy, lounging dunce,' which I am sure my
constituents would have translated my new title to be. Knowing that I had
never taken any degree, and did not own to any--except a small degree of
good sense not to pass for what I was not--I would not go it. There had
been one doctor made from Tennessee already, and I had no wish to put on
the cap and bells.
||"I told them that I did not go to
this branding school; I did not want to be tarred with the same
stick; one dignitary was enough from Tennessee; that as far as my
learning went, I would stand over it, and spell a strive or two with
any of them, from a-b-ab to crucifix, which was where I left off at
A gentleman, at a dinner-party, very earnestly invited
Crockett to visit him. He returned the compliment by saying:
"If you ever come to my part of the country, I hope you will call
and see me."
"And how shall I find where you live?" the gentleman inquired.
"Why, sir," Crockett answered, "run down the Mississippi till you come
to the Oberon River. Run a small streak up that; jump ashore anywhere, and
inquire for me."
From Boston, he went to Lowell. The hospitality he had enjoyed in
Boston won his warmest commendation. At Lowell, he was quite charmed by
the aspect of wealth, industry, and comfort which met his eye. Upon his
return to Boston, he spent the evening, with several gentlemen and ladies
at the pleasant residence of Lieutenant-Governor Armstrong. In reference
to this visit, he writes:
"This was my last night in Boston, and I am sure, if I never see the place
again, I never can forget the kind and friendly manner in which I was
treated by them. It appeared to me that everybody was anxious to serve me,
and make my time agreeable. And as a proof that comes home--when I called
for my bill next morning, I was told there was no charge to be paid by me,
and that he was very much delighted that I had made his house my home. I
forgot to mention that they treated me so in Lowell--but it is true. This
was, to me, at all events, proof enough of Yankee liberality; and more
than they generally get credit for. In fact, from the time I entered New
England, I was treated with the greatest friendship; and, I hope, never
shall forget it; and I wish all who read this book, and who never were
there, would take a trip among them. If they don't learn how to make
money, they will know how to use it; and if they don't learn industry,
they will see how comfortable everybody can be that turns his hands to
Crockett was not a mere joker. He was an honest man, and an earnest man;
and under the tuition of Congress had formed some very decided political
principles, which he vigorously enforced with his rude eloquence.
When he first went to Congress he was merely a big boy, of very strong
mind, but totally uninformed, and uncultivated. He very rapidly improved
under the tuition of Congress; and in some degree awoke to the
consciousness of his great intellectual imperfections. Still he was never
diffident. He closed one of his off-hand after-dinner speeches in Boston,
"Gentlemen of Boston, I come here as a private citizen, to see you, and
not to show myself. I had no idea of attracting attention. But I feel it
my duty to thank you, with my gratitude to you, and with a gratitude to
all who have given a plain man, like me, so kind a reception. I come from
a great way off. But I shall never repent of having been persuaded to come
here, and get a knowledge of your ways, which I can carry home with me. We
only want to do away prejudice and give the people information.
"I hope, gentlemen, you will excuse my plain, unvarnished ways, which may
seem strange to you here. I never had but six months' schooling in all my
life. And I confess, I consider myself a poor tyke to be here addressing
the most intelligent people in the world. But I think it the duty of every
representative of the people, when he is called upon, to give his
opinions. And I have tried to give you a little touch of mine."
Every reader will be interested in the perusal of the following serious
speech, which he made in Boston. It is a fair specimen of his best
efforts, and will give one a very correct idea of his trains of thought,
and modes of expression. It also clearly shows the great questions which
agitated the country at that time. It can easily be perceived that, as a
stump orator in the far West, Crockett might have exercised very
considerable power. This phase of his peculiar character is as worthy of
consideration as any other.
"By the entire friendship of the citizens of Boston, as well as the
particular friendship with which you have received me this evening, I have
been brought to reflect on times that have gone by, and review a prejudice
that has grown up with me, as well as thousands of my Western and Southern
friends. We have always been taught to look upon the people of New England
as a selfish, cunning set of fellows, that was fed on fox-ears and
thistle-tops; that cut their wisdom-teeth as soon as they were born; that
made money by their wits, and held on to it by nature; that called
cheatery mother-wit; that hung on to political power because they had
numbers; that raised up manufactures to keep down the South and West; and,
in fact, had so much of the devil in all their machinery, that they would
neither lead nor drive, unless the load was going into their own cribs.
But I assure you, gentlemen, I begin to think different of you, and I
think I see a good many good reasons for so doing.
"I don't mean that because I eat your bread and drink your liquor, that I
feel so. No; that don't make me see clearer than I did. It is your habits,
and manners, and customs; your industry; your proud, independent spirits;
your hanging on to the eternal principles of right and wrong; your
liberality in prosperity, and your patience when you are ground down by
legislation, which, instead of crushing you, whets your invention to
strike a path without a blaze on a tree to guide you; and above all, your
never-dying, deathless grip to our glorious Constitution. These are the
things that make me think that you are a mighty good people."
Here the speaker was interrupted by great applause.
"Gentlemen, I believe I have spoke the truth, and not flattery; I ain't
used to oily words; I am used to speak what I think, of men, and to men. I
am, perhaps, more of a come-by-chance than any of you ever saw; I have
made my way to the place I now fill, without wealth, and against
education; I was raised from obscurity, and placed in the high councils of
the nation, by the kindness and liberality of the good people of my
district--a people whom I will never be unfaithful to, here or elsewhere;
I love them, and they have honored me; and according as God has given me
judgment, I'll use it for them, come of me what may.
"These people once passed sentence upon me of a two years' stay-at-home,
for exercising that which I contend belongs to every freeman in this
nation: that was, for differing in opinion with the chief magistrate of
this nation. I was well acquainted with him. He was but a man; and, if I
was not before, my constituents had made a man of me. I had marched and
counter-marched with him: I had stood by him in the wars, and fought under
his flag at the polls: I helped to heap the measure of glory that has
crushed and smashed everything that has come in contact with it: I helped
to give him the name of 'Hero,' which, like the lightning from heaven, has
scorched and blasted everything that stood in its way--a name which, like
the prairie fire, you have to burn against, or you are gone--a name which
ought to be the first in war, and the last in peace--a name which, like
'Jack-o'-the lantern, blinds your eyes while you follow it through mud and
"Gentlemen, I never opposed Andrew Jackson for the sake of popularity. I
knew it was a hard row to hoe; but I stood up to the rack, considering it
a duty I owed to the country that governed me. I had reviewed the course
of other Presidents, and came to the conclusion that he did not of right
possess any more power than those that had gone before him. When he
transcended that power, I put down my foot. I knew his popularity; that he
had come into place with the largest majority of any one that had gone
before him, who had opposition: but still, I did not consider this as
giving him the right to do as he pleased, and construe our Constitution to
meet his own views.
"We had lived the happiest people under the sun for fifty years, governed
by the Constitution and laws, on well-established constructions: and when
I saw the Government administered on new principles, I objected, and was
politically sacrificed: I persisted in my sins, having a clear conscience,
that before God and my country, I had done my duty.
"My constituents began to look at both sides; and finally, at the end of
two years, approving of my course, they sent me back to Congress--a
circumstance which was truly gratifying to me.
"Gentlemen, I opposed Andrew Jackson in his famous Indian bill, where five
hundred thousand dollars were voted for expenses, no part of which has yet
been accounted for, as I have seen. I thought it extravagant as well as
impolitic. I thought the rights reserved to the Indians were about to be
frittered away; and events prove that I thought correct.
"I had considered a treaty as the sovereign law of the land; but now saw
it considered as a matter of expedience, or not, as it pleased the powers
that be. Georgia bid defiance to the treaty-making power, and set at
nought the Intercourse Act of 1802; she trampled it under foot; she
nullified it: and for this, she received the smiles and approbation of
Andrew Jackson. And this induced South Carolina to nullify the Tariff. She
had a right to expect that the President was favorable to the principle:
but he took up the rod of correction, and shook it over South Carolina,
and said at the same time to Georgia, 'You may nullify, but South Carolina
"This was like his consistency in many other matters. When he was a
Senator in Congress, he was a friend to internal improvements, and voted
for them. Everything then that could cement the States together, by giving
them access the one to the other, was right. When he got into power, some
of his friends had hard work to dodge, and follow, and shout. I called off
my dogs, and quit the hunt. Yes, gentlemen, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and
Tennessee, and other States, voted for him, as a supporter of internal
"Was he not a Tariff man? Who dare deny it! When did we first hear of his
opposition? Certainly not in his expression that he was in favor of a
judicious tariff. That was supposed to be a clincher, even in New England,
until after power lifted him above the opposition of the supporters of a
"He was for putting down the monster 'party,' and being the President of
the people. Well, in one sense, this he tried to do: he put down every one
he could who was opposed to him, either by reward or punishment; and could
all have come into his notions, and bowed the knee to his image, I suppose
it might have done very well, so far as he was concerned. Whether it would
have been a fair reading of his famous letter to Mr. Monroe, is rather
questionable. "He was to reform the Government. Now, if reformation
consists in turning out and putting in, he did it with a vengeance.
|"He was, last of all, to retrench the
expenditures. Well, in time, I have no doubt, this must be done;
but it will not consist in the abolishing useless expenditures of
former Administrations. No, gentlemen; the spoils belonged to the
victor; and it would never do to lessen the teats when the litter
was doubled. The treasury trough had to be extended, and the pap
thickened; kin were to be provided for; and if all things keep on
as they are, his own extravagances will have to be retrenched, or
you will get your tariff up again as high as you please.
recollect a boy once, who was told to turn the pigs out of the
Well, he made a great noise, hallooing and calling the dogs--and came
back. By-and-by his master said, 'Jim, you rascal! you didn't turn out
the pigs.' 'Sir,' said he, 'I called the dogs, and set them a-barking.'
"So it was with that big Retrenchment Report, in 1828. Major Hamilton
got Chilton's place as chairman--and called the dogs. Ingham worked
honestly, like a beaver; Wickliff was as keen as a cutworm: all of them
worked hard; and they did really, I suppose, convince themselves that
they had found out a great deal of iniquity; or, what was more
desirable, convinced the people that Andrew Jackson and his boys were
the only fellows to mend shoes for nothing, and find their own candles.
Everett and Sargeant, who made the minority report, were scouted at.
What has come of all this? Nothing--worse than nothing. Jackson used
these very men like dogs: they knew too much, and must be got rid off,
or they would stop his profligacy too. They were greased and swallowed:
and he gave them up to the torments of an anti-Jackson conscience.
"Yes, gentlemen, as long as you think with him, very well; but if
not--clear out; make way for some fellow who has saved his wind; and
because he has just begun to huzza, has more wind to spare. General
Jackson has turned out more men for opinion's sake, than all other
Presidents put together, five times over: and the broom sweeps so low
that it reaches the humblest officer who happens to have a mean neighbor
to retail any little story which he may pick up.
"I voted for Andrew Jackson because I believed he possessed certain
principles, and not because his name was Andrew Jackson, or the Hero, or
Old Hickory. And when he left those principles which induced me to
support him, I considered myself justified in opposing him. This thing
of man-worship I am a stranger to; I don't like it; it taints every
action of life; it is like a skunk getting into a house--long after he
has cleared out, you smell him in every room and closet, from the cellar
to the garret.
"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. It cost the lives and
fortunes of thousands of the best patriots that ever lived. Yes,
gentlemen, hundreds of them fell in sight of your own city.
"I this day walked over the great battle-ground of Bunker's Hill, and
thought whether it was possible that it was moistened with the sacred
blood of our heroes in vain, and that we should forget what they fought
"I hope to see our once happy country restored to its former peace and
happiness, and once more redeemed from tyranny and despotism, which, I
fear, we are on the very brink of. We see the whole country in
commotion: and for what? Because, gentlemen, the true friends of liberty
see the laws and Constitution blotted out from the heads and hearts of
the people's leaders: and their requests for relief are treated with
scorn and contempt. They meet the same fate that they did before King
George and his parliament. It has been decided by a majority of
Congress, that Andrew Jackson shall be the Government, and that his will
shall be the law of the land. He takes the responsibility, and vetoes
any bill that does not meet his approbation. He takes the
responsibility, and seizes the treasury, and removes it from where the
laws had placed it; and now, holding purse and sword, has bid defiance
to Congress and to the nation. 1
"Gentlemen, if it is for opposing those high-handed measures that you
compliment me, I say I have done so, and will do so, now and forever. I
will be no man's man, and no party's man, other than to be the people's
faithful representative: and I am delighted to see the noble spirit of
liberty retained so boldly here, where the first spark was kindled; and
I hope to see it shine and spread over our whole country.
"Gentlemen, I have detained you much longer than I intended: allow me to
conclude by thanking you for your attention and kindness to the stranger
from the far West."
The following extract also shows the candor of his mind, his anxiety to
learn, and the progress his mind was making in the science of political
"I come to your country to get a knowledge of things, which I could get
in no other way but by seeing with my own eyes, and hearing with my
awful ears--information I can't get, and nobody else, from book
knowledge. I come, fellow-citizens, to get a knowledge of the
manufacturing interest of New England. I was over-persuaded to come by a
gentleman who had been to Lowell and seen the manufactories of your
State--by General Thomas, of Louisiana. He persuaded me to come and see.
"When I was first chose to Congress, I was opposed to the protecting
system. They told me it would help the rich, and hurt the poor; and that
we in the West was to be taxed by it for the benefit of New England. I
supposed it was so; but when I come to hear it argued in the Congress of
the nation, I begun to have a different opinion of it. I saw I was
opposing the best interest of the country: especially for the
industrious poor man. I told my people who sent me to Congress, that I
should oppose it no longer: that without it, we should be obliged to pay
a tax to the British Government, and support them, instead of our own
labor. And I am satisfied of it the more since I have visited New
England. Only let the Southern gentlemen come here and examine the
manufactories, and see how it is, and it would make more peace than all
the legislation in Congress can do. It would give different ideas to
them who have been deluded, and spoke in strong terms of dissolving the
Crockett returned to Washington just in time to be present at the
closing scenes, and then set out for home. So much had been said of him
in the public journals, of his speeches and his peculiarities, that his
renown now filled the land.
Back to: Biography of David
Source: David Crockett: His Life and
Adventures by John S. C. Abbott
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