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King Sears:
Isaac Sears in the American Revolution
May 5, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Jay Carper. Do not make copies of this document in any form without Jay Carper's written permission.

Compared to George Washington, Thomas Gage, and some others, Isaac Sears was a minor player in the Revolution. The lives and activities of these seeming "extras" can offer an informative and entertaining glimpse into facets of the Revolution that you don't normally see in history textbooks. The following actual newspaper articles are excerpted from Diary of the American Revolution, volumes I & II.

Captain Sears and John Case

Rivington's Royal Gazette, January 12, 1775

JANUARY 3--THIS morning, Mr. John Case, an old man of near sixty years of age, from Long Island, was entreated by an acquaintance of his to go to the house of Jasper Drake, tavern-keeper near Beckman’s Slip, where he was told Captain [Alexander] Mac Dougall, Captain [Isaac] Sears,1 and others wanted to converse with him on politics. He went, and soon entered into conversation with Captain [Alexander] Mac Dougall, who attempted to convince him that he was in an error, but not being able to effect it, politely left him. Captain Sears, with several other persons, then attacked him with the force of their eloquence and noise, but Case said he was an unlearned man, and but of few words, that he could not reply to above one. That he judged, however, the fairest way to come at the truth would be to recur to the origin of the present contest between Great Britain and the Colonies, and to trace from the time of the stamp act, the encroachments of ministerial power, and the increasing demands for provincial privileges. This was objected to by Captain Sears, as it would require too much time and attention to discuss. He said that he would question him a little, and asked Case whether the king had not violated his coronation oath? Mr. Case replied, that he thought he had not, and reasoned on this and other matters in as cool a manner as possible, in order not to irritate Captain Sears, who, however, soon grew warm, and branded Case with the appellation of Tory, and told him that if he was in Connecticut government he would be put to death. Sears then demanded of Case whether, if the Bostonians were to take up arms, he would fight for the king? Case answered, that if he fought on either side, he would certainly fight for no one else, as he conceived King George to be his lawful sovereign, for the minister a few days before prayed for our rightful sovereign Lord King George the Third, on which Sears replied he was sorry that he had turned churchman, where such prayers were used; Case replied, these expressions were delivered the preceding Sunday by Dr. Rodgers2 at the Presbyterian meeting, for he himself was a Presbyterian. After a few more queries and replies of a similar nature, Sears told him that he would not suffer, a Tory to sit in company with gentlemen, placed a chair in the chimney corner, caught Case by the arm, and forced him into it. He then called for a negro boy, who belonged to the house, and ordered him to sit along with him; for that he (Case) was only fit to sit in company with slaves; but the negro had too much understanding to comply. Mr. Case then called for some wine, and offered it to the company, but Sears refused to accept of it, pushed him down in the chair where he before had placed him, and ordered the rest not to drink with a Tory; and further, that whoever spoke to Case, should forfeit a bowl of toddy, which was exacted by him from two persons who happened to disobey his mandates. Sears then told Case that his age protected him, for if he was a young man, he would have placed him on a red-hot gridiron; and after he had detained this old man as long as he thought proper, he dismissed him.3

1 Afterwards called by the loyalists, King Sears.
2 John Rodgers, D. D., pastor of the Wall street church.
3 This account was published in Rivington’s Gazette, Jan. 12, in the form of a deposition, witnessed by Mr. Case. The Royal Gazette was a loyalist newspaper throughout the war.

Rivington's Press Destroyed

Pennsylvania Journal, December 6, 1775

NOVEMBER 29--ON the twentieth of this month, sixteen respectable inhabitants of New Haven, Connecticut, in company with Captain Sears, set out from that place to East and West Chester, in the province of New York, to disarm the principal Tories there, and secure the persons of Parson Seabury,1 Judge Fowler, and Lord Underhill.2 On their way thither they were joined by Captains Richards, Sillick, and Mead, with about eighty men. At Mamaroneck they burnt a small sloop, which was purchased by government, for the purpose of carrying provisions on board the "ASIA." At East Chester they seized Judge Fowler, then repaired to West Chester and secured Seabury and Underhill. Having possessed themselves of these three caitiffs, they sent them to Connecticut under a strong guard. The main body, consisting of seventy-five, then proceeded to New York, where they entered at noonday on horseback, bayonets fixed, in the greatest regularity, went down the main street, and drew up in close order before the printing office of the infamous James Rivington. A small detachment entered it, and in about three-quarters of an hour brought off the principal part of his types, for which they offered to give an order on Lord Dunmore.3 They then faced and wheeled to the left, and marched out of town to the tune of Yankee Doodle. A vast concourse of people assembled at the Coffee House, on their leaving the ground, and gave them three very hearty cheers.

On their way home they disarmed all the Tories that lay on their route, and yesterday arrived at New Haven, escorted by a great number of gentlemen from the westward, the whole making a very grand procession. Upon their entrance into town they were saluted with the discharge of two cannon, and received by the inhabitants with every mark of approbation and respect. The company divided into two parts, and concluded the day in festivity and innocent mirth. Captain Sears returned in company with the other gentlemen, and proposes to spend the winter at New Haven, unless public business should require his presence at New York. Seabury, Underhill, and Fowler, three of the dastardly protesters against the proceedings of the Continental Congress, and who it is believed had concerted a plan for kidnapping Captain Sears, and conveying him on board the ASIA man-of-war, are (with the types and arms) safely lodged in New Haven, where it is expected Lord Underhill will have leisure to form the scheme of a lucrative lottery, the tickets of which cannot be counterfeited; and Parson Seabury sufficient time to compose sermons for the next Continental fast.4

1 Samuel Seabury, D. D., first Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States. He was born in 1728; graduated at Yale College in 1751, and visited England to study medicine, but relinquished that study for that of the ministry. He was first settled at Brunswick, (New Jersey,) then at Jamaica, on Long Island, and afterwards in Westchester, New York. After the commencement of the war, he fled to New York City, where he remained until the declaration of peace. In November, 1784, he was consecrated as bishop of the Episcopal Church of Connecticut, and for many years after discharged the duties of the office at New London, in Connecticut. He died in 1796.
2 Nathaniel Underhill, Mayor of Westchester.
3 See account of the seizure of Holt’s types, &c., at Virginia; October 7, 1775 (Volume I, Chapter III).
4 Pennsylvania Journal, December 6: --The following recantation of Judge Fowler is printed in the same paper: --Whereas I, Jonathan Fowler, Esq., one of his Majesty’s Judges of the Inferior Court for the County of Westchester, in the Province of New York, did some time ago sign a protest against the Honorable Continental Congress, which inconsiderate conduct I am heartily sorry for, and do hereby promise for the future not to transgress in the view of the people of this continent, nor in any sense to oppose the measures taken by the Continental Congress.

I do also certify, that some time past being at Court at the White Plains, I heard a person say, whom several people present believed to be a lieutenant or midshipman of the Asia, man-of-war, that the captain of the Asia intended to take Captain Sears up, and that there soon would be delivered (gratis) from on board the man-of-war, great quantities of paper money in imitation of Continental currency, which would be printed with the types taken from Mr. Holt, of Virginia. As witness my hand, JONATHAN FOWLER.

General Lee’s Oath

Middlesex Journal, February 15, 1776

LAST Monday, General Lee arrived from Cambridge, at Newport, Rhode Island, attended by his guard, a party of riflemen, and the cadet company of Providence. While there he called before him a number of obnoxious persons, to whom he tendered an oath, of fidelity to the country, which was taken by all of them excepting Colonel Joseph Warton, Jr., Nicholas Lechmere, and Richard Beale, the two last custom-house officers, who refused taking it; upon which, they were put under guard and sent to Providence.1

The following copy of the oath imposed by General Lee, is submitted to the public, who will judge how far it is consistent with that liberty, independence, and right of private judgment, which the Americans pretend they are contending for:

"I, .., here, in the presence of Almighty God, as I hope for ease, honor, and comfort in this world, and happiness in the world to come, most earnestly, devoutly, and religiously do swear, that I will neither directly nor indirectly assist the wicked instruments of ministerial tyranny and villany, commonly called the king’s troops and navy, by furnishing them with provisions and refreshments of any kind, unless authorized by the Continental Congress or Legislature, at present established in this particular colony of Rhode Island. I do also swear, by the tremendous and Almighty God, that I will neither directly nor indirectly convey any intelligence, nor give any advice to the aforesaid enemies described; and that I pledge myself, if I should by any accident get knowledge of such treasons, to inform immediately the committee of safety. And, as it is justly allowed that when the rights and sacred liberties of a nation or community are invaded, neutrality is not less base and criminal than open and avowed hostility, I do further swear and pledge myself, as I hope for eternal salvation, that I will, whenever called upon by the voice of the Continental Congress, or by the Legislature of this particular colony under their direction, take up arms, and subject myself to military discipline in defence of the common rights and liberties of America. So help me God."2

1 Pennsylvania Evening Post, January 16.
2 GENERAL LEE, on his arrival at New York, despatched Isaac Sears to Long Island, to administer the oath to the Tories residing there. The following first report made by Sears to Lee, is taken from George H. Moore’s work on the "Treason of Major-General Charles Lee," now in course of preparation:

JAMAICA, March 17th, 1776.
SIR, --It is a duty that I owe to my Commanr to aquaint him of my proceedings in executg the order he gave me. Yesterday afternoon I arived at Newtown, and tendered the oath to four of the grate Torries, which they swallowed as hard as if it was a four pound shot, that they ware trying to git down. On this day at 11 o’clock, I came here, whare I sent out scouting parties, and have ben able to ketch but five Torries, and they of the first rank, which swallowed the oath. The houses are so scatering it is impossible to ketch many without hosses to rid after thim. But I shall exert myself to ketch the gratest part of the ringledors, and beleve I shell effect it, but not less then five days from this time. I can asure your honor they are a set of villins in this country, and beleve the better half of them are wateing for soport and intend to take up arms against us. And it is my oppinion nothing else will do but removeing the ringledors to a place of secuerty.
From your most obt Humle Sirt

New York Records Restored

October 3, 1781

Rivington, in the Royal Gazette of to-day, congratulates the public, and especially the inhabitants of the province of New York, upon the King's gracious restoration of those important records, which General Tryon's care and vigilance secured on board of the ship Duchess of Gordon, in the month of November, 1775. The general, then governor, was apprised of the wicked design to seize that inestimable treasure in the Secretary's office, (for the loss of which no money could compensate,) and to convey it to New England. And that it was upon the point of being carried into execution, by a party of the mob, headed by Sears, who has since profited so much by his plunders.

General Tryon caused such of the books to be selected as put it out of the power of almost every landholder without recourse to them, to give evidence in a court of law of the title to his estate; and these were brought off in strong boxes under locks and seals. They were earned home to England, in 1778, and lately sent back in one of the king's ships to their ancient deposit.

The residue, or general mass of papers, are among the rebels, having been first conveyed by order of the provincial Congress to Kingston, in Ulster county. Mr. Bayard, the deputy secretary, was with them, and watched over them, till the violence of the times wrested them from his hands and consigned them to others above three years ago; since which, they have been exposed to a perilous transportation from one place to another in carts.

It is impossible to say where the mischiefs would have stopped, had Sear's project succeeded, or to describe the wild confusion in property, consequent upon the access of designing villains to these records, in which all the inhabitants of this colony may find the chief links in chain of titles to their lands. It must therefore, be grateful to people of all ranks and classes, to know that these records are safe, and that due care will be taken to prevent their ever falling into the hands of the usurpers, who have already involved this country in so much misery.


Read the introduction to my new book!