So when is a Loyalist not a Loyalist? When you are a Sandemanian. Yup, it's a real word and one I had to research to understand the story of Hopestill Capen. At first glance the Sandemanians seem to be pacifists but further exploration reveals that while they did not believe in taking up arms in rebellion, they did not discourage taking up arms to defend a government. While Hopestill Capen made it clear that he disagreed with British policies and favored a new government, he would not take up arms in the Patriot cause. Many Sandemanians, like other Loyalists, left the country when the British were driven out of Boston. Hopestill refused to go and wanted to ride out the war remaining neutral. His silk & dry-goods shop is now the Union Oyster House - called the oldest continuously operating restaurant in America.
His own words: "But as to the charge of my being an enemy to my country, no accusation can be more unjust...had I not been check'd by the command of God...to be subject to the Higher Powers...I should have been one of the foremost in opposing the measure of the British Parliament...neither do I think myself in any way bound in conscience to become an informer against my country...but to be subject to all the laws that are made that are not contrary to the laws of my Maker." And "...whenever it shall appear to my conscience that a change in government has taken place, and is so established that the power is of God, I shall know myself to be as tenaciously bound to adhere to God's law respecting being subject to that power, and to what I am from its support with cheerfulness" (Casey). In plain terms, I will be happy to support the Patriots at the point where they are clearly in charge of the government.
In October 1776 Capen's wife, Patience (Stoddard), petitioned for his release. She expressed that she and her children had suffered greatly because of Hopestill's confinement. More than 80 citizens of Boston signed the appeal and attested to the fact that he was an honest and peaceable man. The sheriff complained that this petition and a second appeal from Hopestill in December was insulting and asked for protection from Mr. Capen's insults. The petitions did not change things for Hopestill and ..."was summarily denied, as the Patriots tended to look upon even the vaguest hints of neutrality or loyalism as a threat to their authority. Capen's persecutors were concerned he and all the other Sandemanians were no different. He was held for over two years and finally released in October 1778, when he decided that emigration to Nova Scotia would be the only option if he wished to live in peace" (Smith 143). It is ironic that he was denied the basic right of habeas corpus espoused by the founding fathers. He never got a chance to defend his position in front of a judge or jury.
Hopestill's appeal to his jailer, Mr. Wm. Greenleaf
It is unclear to me when or if Hopestill returned from Nova Scotia but he and his wife have headstones in Copps Burying Ground in Boston. His headstone reads "memorial" which leads me to believe he may have been buried elsewhere. These photos are from findagrave.com.
Sources & further reading on Sandemanians and Hopestill Capen
- The Stone-Campbell movement: an international religious tradition. Edited by Michael W. Casey, Douglas Allen Foster. University of Tennessee Press 2002
- The perfect rule of the Christian religion: a history of Sandemanianism in the eighteenth century. John Howard Smith. SUNY Press. 2008 p. 143
- Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, With an Historical Essay, Volume 1 by Lorenzo Sabine. Little, Brown & Company. 1864. pg 293
John Capen (1612-1692) - my 9th great-grandfather
Bernard Capen (1650-1691) - brother of James Capen - my 8th great-grandfather
John Capen (1685-1733) - cousin of James Capen 2nd - my 7th great-grandfather
Hopestill Capen (abt 1731-1807) - 2nd cousin of James Capen 3rd - my 6th great-grandfather
The rest of my Capen line:
Thomas Capen (1739- ) - 5th great-grandfather
Thomas Capen (1762-1808) - 4th great-grandfather
Timothy Capen (1793- ) - 3rd great-grandfather
Edward Abbott Capen (1838-1936) 2nd great-grandfather
Fannie May Capen (1878-1961) great-grandmother
T. Richard Carter (1914-2005) grandfather