Davy Crockett

(1786—1836) American frontiersman, soldier, and politician

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born in Tennessee, spent a shiftless youth until his political career began (c.1816) with his appointment as justice of the peace. He boasted that none of his decisions was ever reversed because of his dependence on “natural-born sense instead of law learning.” After being twice elected to the state legislature, he accepted a humorous proposal that he run for Congress, and to his surprise was elected, serving from 1827 to 1831, and again from 1833 to 1835. Because of his opposition to Jackson, the Whigs adopted him as a convenient tool through whom to draw the backwoods democracy to its standard. Davy was soon turned by skillful politicians into a frontier hero, whose picturesque eccentricities, backwoods humor, tall tales, shrewd native intelligence, and lusty pioneer spirit were all aggrandized. Whig journalists in short order turned out such books, attributed to Davy, as Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett (1833), An Account of Col. Crockett's Tour to the North and Down East (1835), The Life of Martin Van Buren (1835), and Col. Crockett's Exploits and Adventures in Texas (1836). With the exception of the last, which is posthumous, he may have had a hand in all these works, and he gladly claimed the Tour and life of Van Buren. Swallowing the Whig bait, he enjoyed his sudden rise to fame and was glad to aid in propagating the myth, which, however, removed him from office, since his constituents would not tolerate his desertion of Democratic principles. Piqued, he left Tennessee to participate in the war for Texan independence, and a few months later died in the heroic defense of the Alamo, adding a final dramatic chapter to his career. A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee (1834) passes as his autobiography, although the claim has often been disputed. In any case the book has the robust manner attributed to Crockett, and contains fine examples of the farce and exaggeration of the tall tale.

Subjects: Literature — Warfare and Defence.

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