New Yorker. Mariner. Privateer. Entrepreneur. Son of Liberty. Patriot. Some say Agitator, some say a “King.”
This is Isaac Sears, born in 1730 in Massachusetts and raised in Connecticut. He made his home in New York and defended her bravely against British tyranny leading up to and throughout the Revolutionary War. He was a man with a mission.
Isaac’s parents sent him to apprentice with a ship’s captain at age 16. He rose through the ranks and became a successful trader from the port of New York to places as far away as the West Indies. Ultimately, he became a successful privateer – some call it legalized piracy – during the French & Indian War. Privateers could legally outfit vessels for the purpose of capturing enemy ships as prizes. Isaac Sears amassed a fortune from privateering in the Atlantic.
Sears joined the New York Chamber of Commerce by 1761 where he had a front row seat to witness the economic oppression of the British monarchy through the Intolerable Acts such as the Stamp Act. By 1765, he was a founding member of the New York chapter of the Sons of Liberty.
Sears was at the head of nearly every demonstration of mob action in New York City from 1766 until the advent of war. He earned the nickname "King Sears" for his ability to swiftly organize New York mobs encouraging anti-British demonstrations.
In March 1767, British troops cut down a liberty pole that was laid in “The Fields” at the north end of Broadway. Isaac arrested one of the soldiers and dragged him to the mayor’s office. This earned him the attention of British authorities, and he became one of the most watched revolutionaries in New York, leading British Vice-Admiral Samuel Grave’s to call Sears “the most active Leaders and Abettors of the Rebellion.”
Not to be deterred, that Liberty pole was raised again. The British cut it down again. On and on it went. Then on January 19, 1770, a group of Redcoats attempted to post a broadside defaming the Sons of Liberty. Seeing this, Sears and several of his followers accosted the soldiers and took them prisoner. Isaac moved his hostages toward the Mayor’s Office when other Redcoats sounded the alarm. A mob brawl ensued between British soldiers and colonials. This street riot came to be known as the “Battle of Golden Hill.”
The city government offered a compromise which did not include re-installation of the Liberty pole. Sears and the Sons of Liberty refused to accept the compromise. Instead, they purchased a lot nearby and on February 6, 1770 the Sons of Liberty installed a 46-foot-high Liberty pole supporting a gilt vane bearing the word “Liberty” following a parade through the streets of New York. Now that’s trolling of the first order!
One month later on March 5, 1770 more violence would erupt in the Boston Massacre.
In December 1773, Isaac joined the Committee of Correspondence where he led a successful shut down of tea landing in New York in 1774. In May 1774 he joined the Committee of Fifty-One to help coordinate New York’s response to the Boston Port Act. In 1775, Sears openly advocated armed rebellion against the British. The British arrested Isaac on April 20, 1775, for his inflammatory remarks, but New York patriots rescued him from prison and carried Isaac triumphantly through the streets of the city.
Immediately following the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Isaac seized a British ship bound for Boston, and unloaded its 600 muskets. He then led 360 militiamen to confiscate the keys to the customs house, thereby closing the port.
Isaac hoped for a commission from the Continental Congress in the American Navy but Congress passed him over. Instead, he organized volunteer militia in Connecticut in October 1775, which he commanded successfully against Loyalists in New York in late 1775 and 1776.
Isaac outfitted a fleet of American privateers in 1777. These ships used French ports to harass British ships in their own waters. American privateers helped turn British opinion further against an already unpopular war. In the later years of the Revolution, Isaac moved to Boston, and became an important merchant in provisioning the army.
After the Revolution, Isaac returned to Manhattan as a hero. He bought 1 Broadway, the palatial house used during the occupation by British General Henry Clinton for £500 (trolling Sears style).
During the 1780s, he became involved in the effort to open American trade with China. Unfortunately, he contracted a fever and died at sea while en route to China in October 1786. Isaac Sears is buried on an island in Canton Harbor.
Isaac Sears was not a soldier, or a politician or a diplomat. He was a proud citizen of a newly founded nation, a fearsome and fearless advocate for liberty and a businessman simply trying to protect his family, neighbors, and nation from a tyrannical government.
Isaac Sears would recognize today’s federal expansion into commerce and our everyday lives along with a bloated federal budget for what it is: economic tyranny. He would certainly see the need for an Article V Convention of States and he would have flown his signed petition atop the Liberty pole!
Be a 21st century patriot and sign the petition to call a Convention of States and encourage others to do the same.