The Justice of Peace and the Legislator.
Vagabondage.—Measures of Protection.—Measures
Government.—Crockett’s Confession.—A Candidate for Military
Honors.—Curious Display of Moral Courage.—The Squirrel Hunt.—A
Candidate for the Legislature.—Characteristic
Electioneering.—Specimens of his Eloquence.—Great Pecuniary
Calamity.—Expedition to the Far West.—Wild Adventures.—The
Midnight Carouse.—A Cabin Reared.
The wealthy and the prosperous are not disposed to leave the comforts of a high civilization for the hardships of the wilderness. Most of the pioneers who crowded to the New Purchase were either energetic young men who had their fortunes to make, or families who by misfortune had encountered impoverishment. But there was still another class. There were the vile, the unprincipled, the desperate; vagabonds seeking whom they might devour; criminals escaping the penalty of the laws which they had violated.
These were the men who shot down an Indian at sight, as they would shoot a wolf; merely for the fun of it; who robbed the Indian of his gun and game, burned his wigwam, and atrociously insulted his wife and daughters. These were the men whom no law could restrain; who brought disgrace upon the name of a white man, and who often provoked the ignorant savage to the most dreadful and indiscriminate retaliation.
So many of these infamous men flocked to this New Purchase that life there became quite undesirable. There were no legally appointed officers of justice, no organized laws. Every man did what was pleasing in his own sight. There was no collecting of debts, no redress for violence, no punishment for cheating or theft.
Under these circumstances, there was a general gathering of the well-disposed inhabitants of the cabins scattered around, to adopt some measures for their mutual protection. Several men were appointed justices of peace, with a set of resolute young men, as constables, to execute their commissions. These justices were invested with almost dictatorial power. They did not pretend to know anything about written law or common law. They were merely men of good sound sense, who could judge as to what was right in all ordinary intercourse between man and man.
A complaint would be entered to Crockett that one man owed another money and refused to pay him. Crockett would send his constables to arrest the man, and bring him to his cabin. After hearing both parties, if Crockett judged the debt to be justly due, and that it could be paid, he would order the man’s horse, cow, rifle, or any other property he owned, to be seized and sold, and the debt to be paid. If the man made any resistance he would be very sure to have his cabin burned down over his head; and he would be very lucky if he escaped a bullet through his own body.