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.

Summer and Winter, as seen by Henry Adams

From The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams:

“Winter and summer, then, were two hostile lives, and bred two separate natures.  Winter was always the effort to live; summer was tropical license. Whether the children rolled in the grass, or waded in the brook, or swam in the salt ocean, or sailed in the bay, or fished for smelts in the creeks, or netted minnows in the salt-marshes, or took to the pine-woods and the granite quarries, or chased musk-rats and hunted snapping turtles in the swamps, or mushrooms or nuts on the autumn hills, summer and country were always sensual living, while winter was always compulsory learning. Summer was the multiplicity of nature; winter was school.”

I am trying to amend a long over-due need to become acquainted with the writings of Henry Adams, the grandson of President John Quincy Adams and the great-grandson of President John Adams.  Henry Adams was quite remarkable for the range and depth of his own writings.