The State Legislator: 1821-1824

Crockett's Populist Campaign Style

“I put off to the liquor stand, and was followed by the greater part of the crowd”

 In 1821, after a frontier upbringing that included multiple westward moves, involvement in the Creek War, the passing of his first wife, and a second marriage David Crockett finally tossed his hat in the ring for the Tennessee General Assembly.  His campaign style was noncommittal, populist, and placed an emphasis on his backwoods roots.  He often attempted to appear ignorant in order to be more relatable to his constituents and he even participated in a squirrel hunt to boost his political popularity.[1]  Crockett won the election in a dominating fashion and went to Murfreesboro, the state capital, as the representative from Lawrence and Hickman County.

 Land was an issue that consumed Crockett from the very beginning and placed him in alignment with common men. The Congressional Reservation Line was established in 1806 to fulfill land warrants for North Carolina east of it.[2]  West of the line, poor squatters settled on the federal land.  When land east of the line was inadequate due to the number of warrants and concerns over the agricultural prospects of the land, speculators and warrant-holders moved west.  In 1818, the land west of the Congressional Reservation Line was officially opened to warrant holders and they started to move in.[3]  This is the reality Crockett was faced with when he arrived in Murfreesboro.  He would prove himself a friend to the settlers west of the line.

 In his state political career Crockett was a man that did not appear to be overly tied to party. He voted against the suppression of gambling, against divorce proceedings, and introduced a bill to expand western navigation.[4]  In his bid for re-election in 1823, Crockett defeated Andrew Jackson’s nephew-in-law painting himself as a common man and his opponent as an upper class, out of touch, politician.[5]  In what was to become the first of many splits Crockett also backed Colonel John Williams for senate instead of Andrew Jackson himself.[6]  As was a continuous theme, however, land was his major concern.  Crockett worked with future president James Polk to establish a deadline for the North Carolina warrants, crafted laws that would allow settlers to have first rights at acquiring lands when they hit the market and opposed hard currency tactics from land speculators.[7]  Crockett, a debtor himself, was a man that saw the need for credit and the inadequacy of hard money system.  Overall, Crockett did not put an end to the land issue during his time in the General Assembly.  What he did do, however, was set himself up for a chance to go to Washington as a congressman.

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[3]A Century of Lawmaking: Statutes at Large, 15th Congress 1st Session, 416. https://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/15th-congress/c15.pdf. Accessed November 19, 2018. 

[4]William C. Davis, Three Roads to the Alamo: the lives and fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis, (New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1998), 73.

[5]Ibid., 85.