Sears – a Liberty boy and a “king” — New York State Quarter Coin

Today, the New York State Quarter Coin remembers when Isaac Sears of the Provincial Congress along with Colonel Lamb removed the British ordnance from the Battery on August 22, 1775.

From Pictures of the olden time, as shown in the fortunes of a family of the Pilgrims by Edmund Hamilton Sears, published in 1858:


In the uprisings and commotions which followed, Isaac Sears appears again at the head of the New York Liberty Boys. He had become a leader among the people of such acknowledged energy, impersonating so fully the spirit of opposition, that he was familiarly known as “King Sears.”

If any stroke was to be made which implied sudden and perilous responsibility, King Sears was pretty sure to be called upon, and he never shrunk from taking it.

First, after the repeal of the Stamp Act, and in the new commotions which ensued, we find him conspicuous in several affrays, caused either by putting up or tearing down the Liberty-poles.

In July, 1770, one of these symbols of the popular spirit had been erected on the Park, where it stood in sight of the British troops, who determined to cut it down.

The attempt was made by some soldiers of the sixteenth regiment; the people assembled near the house of a Mr. Montague, which stood near, and resolved to prevent the outrage.

Sears as usual was among them, and, it would seem, was foremost in the affray. A scuffle ensued; the soldiers entered the house and destroyed the front windows, but they did not succeed in demolishing the pole.

The officers interfered, and ordered the soldiers to their barracks. But the attempt afterwards was more successful, and the pole was taken down.

The people resolved on the erection of another.

Isaac Sears, Joseph Drake, and Alexander McDougal, as a committee of the citizens, presented to the Mayor and Common Council an address, informing them of their determination to erect another Liberty-pole as a memorial of the repeal of the Stamp Act, and asking permission to place it on the same spot which the other pole had occupied.

The request was at once denied.

But permission was obtained from an individual to erect one on private grounds, close by the old spot, and accordingly it was drawn through the streets, from the ship-yard, by six horses, decorated with – ribbons, with flags flying, and bearing the inscription, “Liberty and Property.”

Thousands of citizens followed in the procession. The pole was raised in sight of the British soldiers, who did not venture to interfere.

It was surmounted by a gilded vane, on which the word “Liberty” was inscribed; and there the hated emblem was left to whirl before their eyes with every breeze.

The British ministry had by no means surrendered the principle involved in the Stamp Act, and not more than two years after its repeal imposed a tax on tea, glass, and painter’s colors.

Subsequently the act was modified, and the tax on the two last-named articles was taken off, while that on tea remained, and furnished occasions for constant and angry irritation.

How the tea which was brought into Boston harbor was disposed of, is very well known. It fared no better in the harbor of New York.

In 1773, a ship with a cargo of tea arrived in that port, and was lying off the wharf waiting for an opportunity to discharge her freight.

King Sears was on the look-out for her, and immediately made preparations for her reception.

He prepared combustibles for the destruction of the ship, cargo and all, in case she should be brought up to the city.

She returned with her freight to England.

The captain of another ship ventured to bring up seventeen cases of tea on his own account, and they were instantly seized and thrown into the stream.

More serious transactions ensued. The Boston Port Bill passed the Parliament, and went into operation the 1st of June, 1774, — a bill which destroyed at one stroke the commerce of Boston, and reduced many wealthy houses to poverty and ruin.

The sufferings of that city excited a lively sympathy throughout all the other Colonies. New York appointed a committee of fifty, through whom to send aid and express their condolence with the sufferers, and in this committee Isaac Sears was conspicuous.

John Hancock visited New York, and conferred with the committee on the subject, and wrote home to the people of Boston, that they might depend on the support of the New Yorkers, “among whom,” he says, “Captain Isaac Sears has great influence, and is quite a king here.”

In 1775, Isaac Sears was chosen member of the Provincial Congress, and, as a chairman of one of its committees, soon had entrusted to him more important business than the erection of Liberty-poles.

At this time the war of the Revolution had actually commenced, for blood had been shed at Lexington and Bunker Hill. But as yet the scene of conflict was confined to Massachusetts, and nothing beyond popular tumults had occurred to disturb the repose of the city of New York.

Tryon, the English Governor, dwelt there, faithful to his superiors, and an object of suspicion to the people.

A British man-of-war, of sixty-four guns, called the Asia, lay off the fort in the North River, ready for any emergency, and twenty-one pieces of ordnance were planted upon the Battery.

The Provincial Congress resolved on the removal of the cannon.

They appointed a committee to see that the work was done, and “King Sears” was placed at the head of it.

Warned of the intended movement, Captain Vandeput, of the Asia, determined if possible to prevent it, and for this purpose detached an armed barge, which moved up towards the Battery, to be on the watch; and the Asia herself lay ready to sweep it with her guns.

On the night of August 22d, King Sears put himself at the head of a select number of the Sons of Liberty, joined by “Col. John Lamb’s artillery corps,” and, dashing over the Park, attempted the capture of the ordnance.

The dark and midnight silence of the city was suddenly broken by the flashes and the thunders of the artillery.

A musket from the barge drew Colonel Lamb’s volley, and a man on board was killed.

The Asia opened her fire, which swept the Battery, and shattered the upper part of several houses near Whitehall.

But the exploit was completely successful, and the retreating column, rattling over the pavements under cover of the darkness, told that the twenty-one pieces of ordnance had been captured, and were in possession of the Provincial Congress.


The New York State Quarter Coin shows with a plan of the city of New York in 1775.

New York State Quarter Coin