The Other McCain

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No Heroes for You, Whitey: Albany, N.Y., Has ‘Cancelled’ Gen. Philip Schuyler

Posted on | June 11, 2023 | Comments Off on No Heroes for You, Whitey: Albany, N.Y., Has ‘Cancelled’ Gen. Philip Schuyler

Decades have now passed since left-wing activists started a ruckus about the Confederate flag that had long flown over the South Carolina statehouse. It occurred to me at the time that, if the flag couldn’t be flown there — where the South Carolina convention had voted to secede from the Union, thus precipitating the war — then it must eventually be banned everywhere, and once all the Confederate flags were gone, then what? Such movements do not simply stop once their initial demand has been granted; every concession to such radicals will only incite them to make new demands. It’s like Hitler — give him the Sudetenland today, and he’ll take the rest of Czechoslovakia a few months later, then invade Poland next year. Appeasement is never successful when dealing with totalitarian aggressors, and perhaps you don’t wish to think of the advocates of “civil rights” as totalitarians, but do we invoke Godwin’s Law if we notice how, just like Hitler, they can never be appeased?

At any rate, when the quarrel over the flag in South Carolina first started making national headlines, several defenders of Southern heritage prophesied that anyone who imagined that the demands would stop with Confederate symbols was sadly deluded. Those prophecies have been amply vindicated in recent years, especially during the George Floyd BLM/Antifa riots of 2020, which saw the toppling or desecration of statues coast to coast. Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, Junipero Serra — the iconoclastic mob attacked monuments to all kinds of historic figures who never had anything to do with the Confederacy. And now, they’ve come for Revolutionary War heroes:

The statue of General Philip Schuyler that stood in front of Albany City Hall for nearly a century is gone. The city moved it to storage early Saturday morning—which was about much more than what first meets the eye.
“We’re happy that the statue has finally come down,” said Dr. Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice. “I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, but at least it’s not in a public space.”
Green has been pushing city leaders to take down the statue for years. She said it was a constant reminder of what General Schuyler did to her ancestors.
“He robbed them of their humanity, their dignity, and their labor,” said Green. “Labor that brought him money.”

We shall get to the matter of Doctor Green and her ancestors momentarily, but first let us address the question: Who was Philip Schuyler and why was he honored in Albany, New York?

Philip John Schuyler was born on November 20, 1733, in Albany, New York, to Cornelia Van Cortlandt (1698–1762) and Johannes (“John”) Schuyler Jr. (1697–1741), the third generation of the Dutch Schuyler family in America. His maternal grandfather was Stephanus Van Cortlandt, the 17th Mayor of New York City. . . .
[I]n 1755 during the French and Indian War, [Schuyler] raised a provincial company, and was commissioned as its captain by his cousin, Lieutenant Governor James Delancey. In 1756, he accompanied British officer Colonel John Bradstreet to Oswego, where he gained experience as a quartermaster, which ended when the outpost fell to the French. Schuyler took part in the battles of Lake George, Oswego River, Carillon and Fort Frontenac. . . .
Schuyler became colonel and commander of a militia district regiment in 1767. In 1768, he served as a member of the New York Assembly.
Schuyler was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and served until he was appointed a major general of the Continental Army in June. General Schuyler took command of the Northern Department and planned the Invasion of Quebec. . . .

Schuyler was blamed for the fall of Fort Ticonderoga, but was vindicated by a court martial, and played a key role in the American victory at Saratoga, where British General Burgoyne’s entire army was captured, and thus persuaded France to officially enter the War on the American side. The site of the battle is now called Schuylerville, which ought to convince anyone of how highly esteemed the general and his family were in upstate New York. Speaking of General Schuyler’s family, his kinship to the Van Cortlandt and Delancey families has already been noted, and he married a daughter of the Van Rensselaer family, who were arguably the most prominent of the Old Dutch settlers of New York. His wife was also a cousin of the Livingstons of New Jersey, so that the couple’s numerous children were connected to some of the most illustrious families in the American colonies. Their second-oldest daughter, Elizabeth Schuyler, married a young military officer.

You may have heard of him, or seen his picture on a $10 bill.

Despite his subsequent accomplishments, in his wedding to Philip Schuyler’s daughter, Alexander Hamilton very much married up, considering the prominence of both sides of her family. As further proof of how highly Philip Schuyler was esteemed:

He was a member of the New York State Senate from 1780 to 1784, and at the same time New York State Surveyor General from 1781 to 1784. Afterwards he returned to the State Senate from 1786 to 1790, where he actively supported the adoption of the United States Constitution.
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. After losing his bid for re-election in 1791 to Aaron Burr, he returned to the State Senate from 1792 to 1797. In 1797, he 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.

This was why the citizens of Albany were once proud to erect a public statue honoring their native son, and as for how and why it was decided to dishonor Schuyler, well, the 1790 Census found 21,193 slaves in the state of New York, of which 3,722 were in Albany County, “the most of any county in the state at the time.” The Dutch patroons who settled the Hudson River valley were substantially reliant on slave labor and, the 1790 census showed, Philip Schuyler “owned 13 slaves at his South End mansion in 1790 and another four slaves worked on his farm in Saratoga County.” To which any sensible person might respond, “And . . . ?”

In historical context, there is nothing remarkable or controversial about Schuyler’s status as a slaveowner. If one studies slavery from a global and historical perspective, the idea of a transtemporal collective grievance — an idea Thomas Sowell addresses in The Quest for Cosmic Justice — is simply absurd. To carry around permanent grudges over the practices of antiquity is a foolish posture. Believing ourselves to be the beneficiaries of progress, ought we not rather be grateful for that progress than to spend our time endlessly rehearsing a vengeful script about how oppressed our ancestors might have been? What possible benefit do black people in Albany, New York, derive from dishonoring Philip Schuyler? How does removing his statue make their lives better? And what did General Schuyler have to do with George Floyd’s death?

There were riots in Albany in the summer of 2020, and the city’s liberal mayor decided now was the time for an empty and futile gesture:

Mayor Kathy Sheehan has ordered city workers to remove the statue honoring Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler from in front of City Hall. . . .
Scores of community members have reached out to my office requesting the removal of the statue of former slave owner Gen. Philip Schuyler and I thank those residents for making their voices heard,” she said in a statement.
The statue will not come down immediately. Sheehan’s executive order directs the Department of General Services to take steps to remove the statue as soon as possible, including an engineering study to determine the statue’s structural integrity. The statue will not be destroyed, instead it will go toward a museum or other institution, according to a news release.
City Auditor Dorcey Applyrs said the statue’s removal doesn’t eliminate any institutionalized racism but it a symbolic acknowledgement by the city that slavery was wrong.
‘The removal of this statue also acknowledges the horrific and negative implications of slavery and its impact on the lives of black Americans in the city of Albany every day,” she said.

The one thing missing from this? Logic. How is it that the death of George Floyd (in Minnesota, where slavery was never legal) should cause riots in Albany, New York, thus requiring removal of the statue of a Revolutionary War general who has been dead more than 200 years? Whence the need for “symbolic acknowledgement” of the “horrific . . . implications of slavery” in upstate New York? One might wonder why “scores of community members” would have “reached out” to the mayor, but their motive is irrelevant to the real question, i.e., exactly how do these “community members” benefit from the statue’s removal? The rhetoric about slavery’s “impact on the lives of black Americans in the city of Albany every day” seems to imply some logical connection between the statue and the aforesaid “impact,” but I’ll be darned if I can figure out what that connection might be. Imagine yourself presented with a choice: Would you like a nice cold beer? Or would you instead prefer “symbolic acknowledgement” of some injustice that your remote ancestors may have experienced 200 years ago? Give me that cold beer, pal.

What seems to be going on in this kind of “social justice” transaction — the unspoken implication of the “symbolic acknowledgement” — is that (a) the condition of black people in 21st-century America is presumed to be one of misery and hardship, which (b) is so deep and pervasive as to require a Grand Unifying Theory of Oppression to explain it, and therefore (c) The Horrific Implications of Slavery are summoned forth as the ultimate cause of black misery, and thus (d) tear down that statue!

One might write 10,000 words explaining what’s wrong with this line of thought, but why bother? It’s not about logic, it’s about feelings — irrational sentiments which are immune to argument. And now, as promised earlier, we return to Doctor Green who, since the mid-1980s, has been working her social-justice hustle through the tax-exempt nonprofit Center for Law and Justice.

Doctor Green has “several degrees from SUNY Albany . . . [which] include a bachelor’s in African-American studies, master’s degrees in education, social welfare and criminal justice, and a doctorate in criminal justice.” According to WTEN-TV, Doctor Green viewed the statue at City Hall as “a constant reminder of what General Schuyler did to her ancestors.”

Except he had nothing to do with her ancestors. Doctor Green was born in South Carolina. Her family later moved to upstate New York. So whoever enslaved Doctor Green’s ancestors, it wasn’t General Schuyler.

Facts, logic — these are the weapons of white supremacy! Whereas social justice relies on “symbolic acknowledgement,” but speaking for myself, I’d still rather have a cold beer. Perhaps you feel the same.




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