Samuel Seabury Samuel Seabury
Raalph Earl (1751-1801)
Oil on canvas, 1785
Bequest of Lispenard Seabury Crocker

Anglican cleric Samuel Seabury was regarded in pre-Revolutionary America as a "Man of great good sense." Amidst the growing controversy between the colonies and their British rulers, he used this reputation to gain a hearing for his conviction that loyalty to the Crown must be preserved. By 1774, with much of America verging on armed revolt, he was publishing his anonymous Letters of a Westchester Framer, in which he declared: "If I must be enslaved, let it be by a KING....If I must be devoured, let it be by the jaws of a lion, and rats and vermin!"

When authorship of these Tory sentiments became known, Seabury was forced to seek refuge for most of the Revolution behind British lines. At the war's end, however, he managed to restore himself to the good graces of his countrymen, and by 1789, he was the presiding bishop of the newly organized Protestant Episcopal Church.

Seabury's portraitist, Ralph Earl, also had been a Loyalist during the Revolution and had been expelled from Connecticut as a British spy in 1778. After experiencing some professional success during his exile in England, he returned to America in 1785, where he advertised himself as the student of those "most celebrated Masters" of English painting--"Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. West, and Mr. Copley."