Capt. Isaac Sears

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Isaac Sears

Birthplace: Harwich, Barnstable County, Province of Massachusetts
Death: October 28, 1786 (56)
Canton, Kwangtung Province, China
Immediate Family:

Son of Joshua Sears and Mary Sears
Brother of Josih Sears; Nathaniel Sears; Joshua Sears; Nathaniel, 2nd Sears; Mary Sears and 4 others

Managed by: Nancy D. Coon
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Immediate Family

About Capt. Isaac Sears

He is known as the "Liberty Boy" of the Revolutionary period. He is also referred to as "King Sears", and his daughters are described as "beautiful and accomplished, dispensing the hospitalities of their father's house like princesses". One of the daughters is referred to in a 1785 letter from John Quincy Adams to his sister Mrs. William S. Smith, describing a dinner with General Knox, Secretary of War. The Sears family was also on the guest list of Mrs. John Jay.

Isaac was a peaceful trader until the French war, when he entered into privateering. In 1756 he took out the dogger DECOY (6 guns), and later the sloop of war (CATHERINE), but was most daring commanding the sloop BELLE ISLE (14 guns). It was owned by John Schermerhorn & Co, NY merchants, and put to sea in 1759. In Sep 1759 he attacked a large French sloop of 24 guns and 80 men. He was twice disabled and forced to withdraw and refit, but the third time he grappled, and after a long tme the grapplings gave way, and the French ship sheered off with 9 killed and 20 wounded. A gale sprang up and separated them. In 1761 he was wrecked on Sable Island, but managed to save himself and his crew.

He was in the forefront of opposition to the Stamp Act. He was one of the Committee of Correspondence of 51 in 1774, one of the Committee of 100 chosen by citizens in 1775, and with four others, was appointed to superintend fortification of West Point. He was a member of the NY Provincial Congress, and of the Assembly of 1783, and in 1776 was appointed by General Charles Lee, Deputy Adjutant General, as Lieutenant Colonel. He was known as a daring "Son of Liberty", and when John Hancock passed through New York in May 1775 he lodged with Isaac at his residence (No. 1 Broadway, later Sir Henry Clinton's Headquarters). In the autumn of 1775 he entered NY at noon with a company of CT Light Horse, and destroyed the Tory press of Rivington.

Before the war he had a small European and West India importing business, and was Inspector of Pot and Pearl Ashes til 1772. At that time he was removed on a false charge of neglecting duty, punished for his prominence in the public censure of the Assembly. Nevertheless, he was fully supported by George Clinton, Philip Schuyler, and Nathaniel Woodhull. During the war he conducted some business in Boston MA, and partnered with his son-in-law Paschal N. Smith (formerly a Captain of an eastern trader). They were known as Sears & Smith, Merchants, 62 Water Street, but they were not successful, and failed in 1784-5.

He resumed sailing, and 4 Feb 1786 departed with one of his sons for Batavia and Canton in HOPE, under Captain James Magee. Captain Magee had commanded the privateer GEN ARNOLD which belonged to Isaac and others, and which was wrecked in Plymouth Bay Christmas 1778 (most of the crew froze to death). With him on board were Mr Samuel Shaw, First American Consul at Canton, and Captain Thomas Randall, Vice-Consul, Canton. He developed a fever at Batavia, but when he was recovering, a "flux" set in which killed him.

He was a member of the Corporation of Trinity Church NY, and was vestryman 17 Apr 1784 to 6 Apr 1786, when he resigned and sailed for China. He was at Cambridge with Washington, and at the evacuation of Boston took up residence on Tremont Street opposite the north end of the chapel burying ground, in the mansion of Gov Phillips. After its confiscation by the state, he bought the Com. Loring house now known as the "Greenough Place" at Jamaica Plain near Boston. When residing in Boston he fitted out privateers, and was on many committees from 1777 to 1782. He was "a thorn in the flesh" of NY Tories and their sympathizers, and no man of the period was more vilified. Quoted as saying, "Hurrah! my boys, we will have the stamps!", he ensured they were seized and burned, and as a result the people placed him at the head of the committee for general safety. He was rough and uncultured, but of sterling character and honesty. In 1768 he with three others offered on behalf of the estate of John Schermerhorne, a reward for Noke, a runaway Negro slave aged about 16.


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Capt. Isaac Sears's Timeline

July 12, 1730
Harwich, Barnstable County, Province of Massachusetts
October 28, 1786
Age 56
Canton, Kwangtung Province, China