Primary tabs

Letter of Hopestill Capon


The following was written with an expectation that I should have the liberty to lay the same before the Court of


Inquiry, before whom I was impeached as an enemy to my country, and cast into prison in Boston, 6th August, 1776; but it has been said by some I was not rightly understood, and if opportunity be given me to open my simple meaning to the Court, and I am restored to my just right of liberty, cause of complaint will end; and if not, this will serve to inform all whom it may concern, the principles I acted upon; and if I am to be confined in prison for that I cannot in conscience do, it will be happy for me if I am indeed taught to suffer with patience.

To the Court of Inquiry.

MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT: Upon a deliberate review of what passed in my examination before the Court, I am greatly surprised that after the sober reasons I thought I had given the Court, in answer to the accusation brought against me, of aiding and abetting those called enemies to the Colonies, that I was so hastily ordered to close jail; and though I earnestly requested that I might be admitted to ball, it was utterly refused, though I could easily have got reputable inhabitants, men of property, who were not accused of being enemies to the Colonies, but hearty friends, that would have been bound in any sum for my peaceable behaviour during the time the Court should order; but lest the Court might have misunderstood me in my answers to them, I therefore think it most proper to commit my answers in writing, in hopes the Court will take the same into consideration, and liberate me from my present situation, which would be a very unhappy one if I was not conscious to myself that my present commitment arises, not from my having been guilty of the breaches of any law of my Maker or my country. And I am assured from the highest authority, Where there is no law there is no transgression; even from that Authority who spake all things into being, and who alone can give true peace to any conscience. And as this is a matter of conscience only with me, by which nothing but God' s revealed word in the Scriptures are any sure guide, and as I understand them, I am bound in conscience to conduct. However, some do say the voice of the People is the voice of God; in this I must dissent from them, let it offend who it will, because we are assured in the Scriptures, that the voice of great multitudes, with their boldest assertions, have in the end proved to be altogether false, and no other than the delusions of the grand Apostate, the God of this world; while the sayings of those who were few in number, and were looked on by the great and wise men of this world to be foolish, poor, ignorant, base, and some of them were called petulant fellows — a set that was every where spoken against, turning the world upside down, &c.; but in the end was found to be, that they were taught by the God of Heaven, who speaketh in the Scriptures, of whom it is testified in 40th chapter Isaiah, 15th, and onward: Behold the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance. All nations are before Him as nothing, and they are counted to Him less than nothing and vanity. It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the Heavens, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers, &c. And for this reason I am warranted to hear the God who speaketh in Scriptures, before the voice of the people, however foolish I may appear to the great and wise men of this enlightened age of the world; being assured that by the Scriptures I shall be judged on the other side of the grave, and by them I am commanded not to fear them that can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but to fear Him who is able to cast both soul and body into hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear Him, is the command of the God who speaks in the Scriptures. But as to the charge of my being an enemy to my country, no accusation can be more unjust; for I think every person acquainted with me can testify to the strong attachment and love I have to my country, and should choose to live in it if I could without being persecuted for that which in my conscience I cannot do. But as to the base, unkind, diabolical interpretations of some, that I only wait to see which will be the strongest side, and then join that, the simplicity of the Scriptures, which my conscience is bound to attend to, forbids my acting in any such crafty, deceitful way. For I do not think, if I was to take up arms against the King, whom I twice solemnly swore to be faithful to, (I mean when I took commissions in the Militia under former Governours,) and thereby perjure myself, and after that be taken by the King' s Army, that I should have


more to fear, if so much, as I now have to fear, in dissenting from some of my countrymen. But I soberly testify that I am not seeking to carry any thing in favour of my own opinion, or any thing or party whatever; but that I fear what will take place on the other side of the grave. But if I am left to my own natural choice, I shall fully join in any thing to shun the cross, which ever was and ever will be connected with the simple attention to the Scriptures, without hearing to the private interpretations of the best skilled in making themselves popular by their interpretations, even those that come the nearest to the grand Deceiver of mankind, in their bold assertions that God hath not said it.

But had I not been checked by the command of God in the Scriptures to the disciples of Christ, Be subject to the higher powers, for there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God, and he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God and shall receive to himself judgment, &c˙, (and many other passages of Scripture similar to this are binding on my conscience,) I should have been one of the foremost in opposing the measures of the British Parliament. But I do not mean by this to bring an accusation against my own countrymen, nor have I a stone to cast at any one; neither do I say that my countrymen are obliged, nor could be by any human power or authority, to take the same view of such passages of Scripture, as my conscience obliges me to; neither do I think myself in any ways bound in conscience to become an informer against my country, nor any individuals in it, but to act a contrary part, and to be subject to all the laws that are made that are not contrary to the laws of my Maker. And it never was known that any of those that was really governed by the plain, simple Scriptures, that they were bad members of society. They are no busybodies in other men' s matters, nor will they be stirring up the people, nor be dangerous persons to go at large. And no States have any just reason to fear any hurt from those few, poor, foolish, low-spirited mortals, for they are so foolish as never to expect any thing great will be their lot in this world, whatever revolutions may take place; but they are assured, whatever may be the lot of others by revolutions, they are to be the undermost of all, and to be counted the filth and offscouring of all things in this world; and their only hope is to be at the time when the grand revolution will take place, when He who was crucified in weakness, who has testified that He will come again in the clouds of Heaven, and every eye shall see Him, &c.

But concerning the present state of matters; whenever it shall appear to my conscience that a change of 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 do what I can for its support with cheerfulness; and how near such a change is I cannot tell, or if it will ever be, time alone will bring forth. But if the Court wants to know if I will sign such a declaration for them as signed for the King, I answer, I will with cheerfulness, when it shall appear to my conscience that the power is of God. In this I mean to give my simple meaning without evasion; and so I did before, not expecting the frown of the Court for dealing in the simplicity of my conscience, and by that cast into prison. But by some it is said that I chose to go to prison, which is utterly false; but this I say: it is much better to be in prison, if enlargement is not to be obtained on no other conditions than making shipwreck of a good conscience. But I hope the Court, will see that no good can come in the end from putting me in prison, and thereby keep me from supporting myself and, family, and the discharging my just debts, which, in my view, is wicked and unreasonable; and all that know the true state of this matter, will give a true verdict, however I may be dealt with, for I know I am in the power of the Court. But the Scriptures countenance me in speaking with plainness; but surely a prison never made any one that was taught to fear the God who speaketh in the Scriptures, to depart from that which he could not with a good conscience; but, like the true gold, lose nothing by being tried in the fire. But I have the greatest reason to fear that in the end I shall prove reprobate silver; but I know not on what principle of equity any court under Heaven can keep me in prison. But if my understanding the Scriptures in a different view from any of my countrymen, make any of my countrymen enemies to me, I am forbidden by the Scriptures to be an enemy to any one of them, but am commanded


to pray for them that hate, despitefully use, and persecute me, and pray for my country, and seek its peace and good, which I am bound in conscience to do.

I am, with due submission, gentlemen, your humble servant,


Boston Gaol, August 29, 1776.