Removal of the Philip Schuyler statue

gift from George Hawley

One of the big local stories recently was the removal of the Philip Schuyler statue from the front of Albany City Hall early Saturday morning, June 10.

If you know who Philip Schuyler was, one or more of three things are likely. 1) You are or were from New York State’s Capital District, 2) you are a Revolutionary War buff, and/or 3) you are deeply familiar with the Broadway musical Hamilton.

Schuyler was given the rank of major general on June 19, 1775. “This made him third in command under George Washington and commander of the Northern Department of the Continental Army. But his military prowess was, at best, a mixed bag.

From Wikipedia: “He planned the Continental Army’s 1775 Invasion of Quebec, but poor health forced him to delegate command of the invasion to Richard Montgomery. He prepared the Continental Army’s defense of the 1777 Saratoga campaign.

“When General Arthur St. Clair Stir abandoned Fort Ticonderoga in July, the Congress replaced Schuyler with General Horatio Gates.” Schuyler helped the army from his mansion in Albany by forwarding supplies and encouraging reinforcements northward.


Gates “accused Schuyler of dereliction of duty. In 1778, Schuyler and St. Clair faced a court of inquiry over the loss of Ticonderoga, and both were acquitted. Schuyler resigned from the Continental Army in 1779.”

His second child, Elizabeth, married Alexander Hamilton, the future Secretary of the Treasury, in 1780.

Schuyler served as a New York State Senate member from 1780 to 1784, 1786 to 1790, and 1792 to 1797. He was New York State Surveyor General from 1781 to 1784. “In 1789, he was elected a U.S. Senator from New York to the First United States Congress, serving from July 27, 1789, to March 3, 1791.” He lost his bid for re-election to Aaron Burr but “was selected again to the U.S. Senate and served in the 5th United States Congress from March 4, 1797, until his resignation because of ill health on January 3, 1798.”

He died in 1804, the same year Alexander Hamilton was killed.


The New York Almanack tells more of the story.

“Philip Schuyler and his family, like many New Yorkers in the Colonial and Early Republic years, relied upon the enslavement of men, women, and children of African descent as a basis of their wealth. Enslaved people cleared land, harvested trees, planted and harvested crops, fished, tended livestock, cooked, cleaned, served food and drink, and a myriad of other tasks.

“As Philip Schuyler developed his inheritance starting in the 1760s, he also used enslaved people in his industrial developments, including sawmills, a grist mill, and a linen mill. Between the Saratoga Estate and the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, there were typically 2-3 dozen enslaved people at any one time. Schuyler reported 14 enslaved people at the Saratoga Estate to the first federal census in 1790.”

The statue

A bronze statue by sculptor J. Massey Rhind of Major General Philip Schuyler was erected outside Albany City Hall, dedicated on June 25, 1925. It is “approximately 114 in. tall and has a diameter of 65 in. The statue rests on a marble base which is approximately 87 in. tall and has a diameter of 115 in.” George C. Hawley presented it “in loving memory” of his wife, Theodora M. Hawley.

Interestingly, there was a push to move the statue before. “It has long been criticized for its placement in the middle of a busy intersection.  Seventy years ago, a plan to relocate the statue ‘where the public could have a chance to admire, without dangerous jaywalking’ was ‘meeting with favor among influential persons,’ according to a report in the June 1, 1952 Albany Times Union.”  This assessment continued to be true until the day it was removed. I never read the inscription because I was too busy ensuring I wasn’t killed by an automobile.

Changes in attitudes

In June 2020, Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan, who is white, first called for its removal “in the wake of reforms following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.” It wasn’t until March 2023 that she announced it would be taken down in weeks.

As it turns out, it was relatively easily moved because it “was not anchored to the plinth, and only gravity has kept it in place.” Fortunately, no one tried to topple the statue. “It likely would have taken as little as a pick-up truck and a strong enough chain or strap placed around the top of the statue to topple it.”

There is a vigorous debate about where the statue should be relocated. One suggestion is “the Schuyler Mansion, located in Albany’s South End. The Mansion, built for Schuyler in 1763, was where he and his wife, Catharine Van Rensselaer, raised eight children.

“Another option, raised by colonial historians, who generally support the statue being moved, is Saratoga National Historical Park. The park, managed by the National Park Service, preserves the site of the Battles of Saratoga, the first significant American military victory of the American Revolutionary War. “

A time capsule!

The removal of the statue revealed a time capsule. “Letters, an atlas, medals, and a 48-star American flag were among the contents.  A  sealed deed signed by  George Hawley… directs the contents be given to the current mayor to placed “‘in the custody of a historical society of the city of Albany which in his best judgement shall be best fitted to use and preserve the same.’”

“’To be placed by him’ — how cute,’” Kathy Sheehan said.

Several people, some of whom I know, believe the removal is “treasonous” and  “obliterating Albany’s history.”  Nope, I don’t buy it. Ultimately, I’m happy it’s being moved, less for historical reasons and more for the safety of pedestrians and for the sake of the statue itself.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “Removal of the Philip Schuyler statue”

  1. I don’t really understand the “obliterating history” argument about statues. It’s not destroying primary sources, historic sites, it things that are actually historical. They are just hunks of metal almost always erected well after the fact.

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