Kevin Price
Horatio Bunce and holding candidates accountable
By Kevin Price
November 12, 2009

Examples of irresponsible governing can be found everywhere and transcend political party lines. Democrats are being held by a particularly high standard these days because they are in the driver's seat. Here is a reality check; Democrats have been fairly honest about their intentions to move rapidly to government control or ownership of the means of production (socialism) for years. Those quiet critics on the side, the GOP, have been equally cooperative in that effort. Their only concern is the pace towards massive government control. Republicans should actually be held to a higher standard.

There are certain bills that were passed that I am using as a litmus test for the next election. Every candidate who supported either bailout and candidates who support socialized medicine in any form are two good examples. Those who voted for such, need to be dealt with in a manner Horatio Bunce handled one of my favorite historical characters.

When Davy Crockett (also known as the "king of the wild frontier") served in the US House of Representatives and ran for reelection. He was handled rather firmly by one of his constituents named Horatio Bunce. Bunce told Crockett that he believed in the Constitution and that Crockett had, essentially violated his oath of office. This bothered Crcokett who strongly believed in the Constitution and limited government. He wanted to know exactly what he was talking about. Bunce told him "My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?" Crockett recognized the vote and the fact that the Constitution does not give him the right to allocate those dollars. He tried to justify it because the amount was so "small."

Bunce would have none of it, "It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life.' "The congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.'

Crockett repented for his bad decision and pledged to not do such again. When an appropriation bill came forward that was not constitutional (aid for the widow of an Admiral), he offered his own salary for a week to help her if his colleagues would join him, and if they did, the sum to be given would be higher that the appropriation. That bill to provide aid was destined to be approved until Crockett took them to task. They voted against the bill, but also kept their week's pay. Crockett got back on the House floor after the vote and noted "You remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men — men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased — a debt which could not be paid by money — and the insignificance and worthlessness of money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $10,000, when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. 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."

In 2010, if your member voted for bills that are unconstitutional, hold them accountable. If they are not willing to repent, you need to look else where for candidates. Kevin Brady (R-TX), on my show indicated that if TARP had been spent differently, there would have been better results. He had no regrets other than that. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) argued that he voted for TARP because "the best minds in the country argued that the economy would collapse without this spending." Those "best minds" did not swear to defend the Constitution. Candidates who have voted for bills like this need to denounce those decisions or we must decide to denounce them.

© Kevin Price


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Kevin Price

Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of

His background is eclectic and includes years of experience in both business and public policy, as well as two decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He was an aide to U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) and later went on to work in policy areas with some of the nation's leading think tanks including the National Center for Public Policy Research and was part of the Heritage Foundation's Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts... (more)


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