Why Did They Fight?

Concord Bridge: Where the shot was fired that was heard all around the world.

In 1843, Captain Levi Preston was 91 years old.  A young scholar, Mellen Chamberlain, was researching the American War for Independence, and he had the occasion to interview the veteran of Lexington and Concord.

“Captain Preston,” he asked, “what made you to to the Concord fight?

Captain Preston, bristling  at the notion that he was made to fight, replied, “What did I go for?”

The young historian continued, “Were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

Captain Preston replied, “I never saw any stamps and I always understood that none were sold.”

“Well, what about the tea tax?” the historian asked.

Captain Preston: “Tea tax? I never drank a drop of the stuff. The boys threw it all overboard.”

Chamberlain: “I suppose you had been reading Harrington, Sidney, and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?”

Captain Preston:  “I never heard of these men. The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ Psalms, and hymns and the almanacs.”

Chamberlain:  “Well, then, what was the matter?”

Captain Preston:  “Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had been free, and we meant to be free always. They didn’t mean we should.”

Captain Levi Preston

The interview with Levi Preston can be found in David Hackett Fischer’s Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas.

Liberty and Freedom: One of many great studies by David Hackett Fischer.

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