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State of New York State History

Schuyler Owned People: Should Schuylerville Change Its Name?

Major General Philip Schuyler by J. Massey Rhind

“Reconsidering the Past, One Statue at a Time,’ was the front-page above-the-fold headline in The New York Times on June 17, 2020 (print). The article begins by noting the “boiling anger” that exploded after the murder of George Floyd. It has gone national. In religious terms, we are witnessing the attempt to purify America by cleansing it of all vestiges of its racist past.

Back on July 19, 2019 (online), Maureen Dowd, op-ed columnist for The New York Times wrote a piece entitled  “Spare Me the Purity Racket.” She wrote:

The progressives are the modern Puritans. The Massachusetts Bay Colony is alive and well on the Potomac and Twitter. They eviscerate their natural allies for not being pure enough while placing all their hopes in a color-inside-the-lines lifelong Republican prosecutor appointed by Ronald Reagan. The politics of purism makes people stupid. And nasty.

She was writing about the Mueller Report and had no idea about the world we are now living or what John Bolton would reveal. Still now as the purification of America is underway, it is worth considering what the end game is. How far will the cleansing go? Exactly what is at stake here?

Consider the situation in the Peoples Republic of Seattle. The President of the United States had called upon people to liberate their states (from Democratic governors). He operated under the naturally short-sighted thinking that only his people would do the liberating and not the other side. Welcome to the real world.One might think that the Seattle autonomous zone was about George Floyd. Perhaps it was at first but that is not how purification works. Moe’ Neyah Dene Holland, a Black Lives Matter activist in Seattle said:

We should focus on just this one thing first. The other things can follow suit. Because honestly, black men are dying and this is the thing we should be focusing on. 

The reference is to the expanded agenda of purification which had been identified. First, three demands were posted on a wall. Then five were posted on a fence. Then there were 39 online. That’s the way the purification process works. Where does it end?

NEXT CONFEDERATES

The next target for purification has been the Confederates. With police reform, there has been a legal process at the local, state, and federal level to pass new laws and make changes. The same has applied to Confederates regarding the naming of military bases, the removal of statues, and the changing of street names. But some people also have taken the purification process into their own hands and acted independently of the law. Statues have been toppled. That’s the way the purification process works.

NEXT COLUMBUS

At first glance, Columbus would seem to have nothing to do with George Floyd or police reform. You are wrong. Once it is started, purification just keeps going and going and going. Columbus like the Confederates already has been under attack. Cleansing actions have been undertaken in multiple states to remove the presence of Columbus. The current situation provided an opportunity to further act to purify the country.

Ironically, in the village where I live, the march on May 25 to protest police brutality began in Columbus Park. The park is located not that far from Columbus Ave. The march against police brutality stayed focused on the issue of the police. To the best of my knowledge there was no call to rename the park or the street on which Spanish-speaking people live. Nor has there been any indication of traumatized people stressed out for living with the Columbus name. At some point, these people are going to have to be educated in the steps required to purify the village of Columbus. The questions of racism and genocide will be raised time and time again until every statue, every street, every building has been purified of the Columbus name. That’s the way the purification process works.

As the ongoing situation in New Mexico demonstrates, people called Hispanic who are of Spanish, white, Caucasian descent have a non-politically correct view of he Spanish in the 1500s and 1600s just as Italians do of Columbus. Is there room in America for peoples who have different heroes?

NEXT SLAVEOWNERS 

Albany, N.Y. Mayor Kathy Sheehan has announced that the city will be taking down the statue of Philip Schuyler because he was a slave owner. Dr. Alice Green, Executive Director at the Center for Law and Justice, said: “He enslaved them, he devalued them, and the lesson for young people is that: Why are we glorifying people who treated us that way?”  An objection was raised by former state legislator and city historian Jack McEneny:  “Philip Schuyler is one of the people who… if we didn’t have him, we would’ve lost the battle of Saratoga.” In response, Dr. Alice Green, said: “I don’t believe in censorship. I do believe if somebody wants to glorify Philip Schuyler… they should, but not on my government property.”

There are other examples glorifying Philip Schuyler. One is the nearby Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site located on state government property and operated by the New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation. Another is the Schuyler House, Philip Schuyler’s country house, located near the Saratoga battlefield and owned and operated by the National Park Service on federal government property.  What is the basis for removing the statue but keeping state and federal ownership of his houses? Why should taxpayer money be used to support the homes of a slave owner? Shouldn’t these houses be privatized as Green suggested? One thing always leads to another. That’s the way the purification process works.

What about Schuylerville, the village where the Schuyler House is located? Shouldn’t its name be changed? Schuylerville has asked for the Schuyler statue to be relocated to it from Albany with the intention of displaying it at (or near) either of the federal sites. It has no intention of changing its name. As with the Americans of Spanish and Italian descent, the residents of the village have a non-politically correct perspective. Is there room in America for peoples who have different heroes?

What about the streets with the name of a slave owner? Just as the name “Columbus” must be purged as part of the purification process, so too must the names of all slave owners be eliminated from America’s streets and buildings. This process too is already underway especially at colleges where buildings have been renamed. However it has not yet been extended to the individual street names. Systemic racism means simply removing a statue is not enough. All vestiges of slavery need to be removed. Those street names after slave owners have to go if the municipalities and country are to be purified of the reminders of slavery. That’s the way the purification process works.

Do you think I am exaggerating? A reporter in Albany asked, do all the slave-owner named streets and parks have to go along with the Schuyler statue including those named after the founders of the city and the country.

Yes, said Derek Johnson, who is black and represents the South End on the Albany Common Council. “If we’re going to be consistent, all of them should be changed,” Johnson told [reporter Chris Churchill]. “Right is right.”

NEXT ALEXANDER HAMILTON

A bigger problem is Schuyler’s daughters. They appear in the musical Hamilton as one of them married Alexander Hamilton. The daughters were all beneficiaries of white privilege. What are they doing on Broadway in positive roles? Shouldn’t they be removed from the musical? If seeing a statue is traumatic what does that make seeing living examples of these daughters of white privilege singing and dancing before an appreciative audience? What does that make the people who pay to see them? “Who will the story?” the musical famously asks. The real story is one of slavery and not that of Hamilton’s immigration. That’s the way the purification process works.

NEXT THE FOUNDING FATHERS

Then what about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington who also appear in the musical. As Derek Johnson said, they all have to go  Imagine the trauma experienced by the black actors performing in the role of an author of the Declaration of Independence and the father of the country. Doesn’t that qualify as cruel and unusual punishment? Both founding fathers already have been under attack. Seventy-five-per-cent-white Sally Hemmings has become a cause célèbre as a black person in the life of Jefferson. Washington has been attacked for tracking Ona Judge Staines. How can the country be purified if slave owners are the people who founded it? They and the country they created have to go. That’s the way the purification process works.

NEXT JULY 4

The birthday of the slave country is July 4. The Declaration of Independence was written by people who owned people. The purification of the United States demands that the people be liberated from a country based on racism. Indeed, The New York Times received a Pulitzer Prize for showing that America is a slave-based country. The newspaper also identified the birthday of the new country to be created: 1619.

NEXT THE CONSTITUTION

Just as the birthday of the country needs to be changed, so too the governing document needs to be scrapped. It is the product of racist slave owners. The purification of the United States demands that the people be liberated from a governing document created by slave owners.

Systemic racism cannot be eliminated as long as the birthday and governing document of the country are based on racism. Instead of celebrating the 250th anniversary of the United States, the country needs to be cleansed of its sin. A new country based on 400 years should be created. Only then will the purification be completed. That’s the way the purification process works.

I am not saying this scenario will happen. I hope the readers of this blog understand that but based on past experience I know that many won’t. I am not saying that people in Politically Correct Command Central have a plan and are deploying the politically correct people (PCPs) to implement it. I am not saying there even is such a command center. I am not saying that the people protesting for police reform [a subject to be addressed in a future blog] aren’t patriotic Americans who want the country they love to live up to its ideals. I am saying the purification process described here is a logical conclusion to the forces that now have been unleashed. There really is no way to tell where this process will stop. We need a new national narrative for the 21st century.

19 thoughts on “Schuyler Owned People: Should Schuylerville Change Its Name?

  1. What an utterly disappointing article. As a historian, the difference between historical preservation vs. glorifying slave owners and white supremacists should be clear. If you cannot understand this, you are being willfully ignorant. Germany respectfully preserves the horrors of the Holocaust for future generations without building any monuments to Adolf Hitler. America, with the same odious history of captivity and genocide, can do the same. There is no progressive radical agenda. It is not “the way the purification process works”. It is just a new generation advocating for the confession of our country’s sins.

    1. Sorry you feel that way. Your points are well taken and would work well in an academic debate on the subject. Unfortunately, they have little to do with the facts on the ground. As people rally to both attack and defend statues, it is important to recognize what is actually happening and could happen. That’s why I wrote “I am not saying this scenario will happen. I hope the readers of this blog understand that but based on past experience I know that many won’t.”

  2. I did not like the tone and much of the substance of your most recent post, and I no longer wish to receive any more, nor will I donate to you again. I support the removal of Confederate statues. I support removing the Columbus statues and replacing them

    1. Sorry you feel that way. You actually have no idea what I think about Columbus and Confederate statues beyond perhaps that I don’t take a one-dimensional view of the issues. As people rally to both attack and defend statues, it is important to recognize what is actually happening and could happen which was the subject of the blog. That’s why I wrote “I am not saying this scenario will happen. I hope the readers of this blog understand that but based on past experience I know that many won’t.”

  3. A bit of a slipperly slope argument, perhaps.

    Schuyler’s not associated with the founding, incorporation or governance of the City of Albany as far as I know. He’s one notable Albany-born person among many. It has had nearly 100 years in front of city hall in a spot that has made pedestrian and vehicle traffic awkward for decades.

    The statue didn’t live up to its donor’s hope for it, that it would inspire more philanthropy, more public art. For whatever reason, it didn’t speak to people that way. One wonders what art (depicting a person, thing, event, idea, etc.) might have that effect, if any (though any new art should find a less obstructive location).

    Its removal to somewhere else in Albany wouldn’t mean he’s been erased. Schuyler Mansion isn’t a speechless object but a curated site that offers considerable historical context, so that’s substantially different. A young student could, conceivably, cite text from interpretive signs, tour guides, publications, lectures at or by SM, whereas a statue has relatively little instructional value.

    Mainly I’m struck by how little moving the statue will accomplish (aside from improving traffic). I think Sheehan’s main motivation for removing the statue is that it’s relatively easily accomplished, as opposed to reforming the police (which likely means taking on the police unions, lawsuits, etc.), increasing public services in areas where they have historically been lacking (potentially expensive), funding actual work by state committees on African-American New York history, etc. It’s more of a symbolic act than a substantive one, just like painting “Black Lives Matter” on the road. Statues don’t have lawyers to represent them.

    Along those lines (though not applicable to Schuyler):

    Why did the Confederate statues get deposed?

    Because they weren’t part of a Union!

    1. All your points are well taken. If we were having a “come let us reason together” discussion everything you said would make sense. But as you point there are other agendas involved and taking a symbolic action without thinking through the consequences better reflects what is happening. I doubt any thought went into the other “Schuyler” presences. My point was that it is a “slippery slope” as you note and once people take one step you never know what will happen next.

    1. In a political blog that I did not send to the history community, I made reference to a Twilight Zone episode and a Star Trek episode involving purification and sterilization gone awry. I deleted those episodes from the history blog. The moral of the tale is that sooner or later the people doing the purification become the ones who are purified. I think I should have included a reference to the English, French, and Russian revolutions. Maybe next time.

      Thanks for writing,

      Peter

  4. The question of when/where does the “purification” stop is a relevant one, though presently it seems like an act of deflection considering we are still in the early stages of this transformation, as you allude to in your 8:46 article. Thus, this article takes on an alarmist tone and direction. As the NYS Historian states, Germany respectfully handles their past with the Holocaust. The 21st century narrative is demanding our country to no longer allow American exceptionalism to blind us to our faults.

    Derek Johnson’s responses are logically consistent, but also reveals the limits of purely logically thinking; its perspective becomes rigid to maintain its vision. Alik Shahada once said, “We must avoid extremes or you risk becoming an extreme contradiction.”

    Columbus:

    There is no “purifying” the Americas of Columbus because an accurate representation of history can’t be told without him. The pertinent questions is, should we be learning/acknowledging his continental impact versus honoring him? I support education.

    When we erect a statue we should be asking ourselves what are we commemorating or honoring. Historian Bret Devereaux adds, we should also ask what values are we trying to convey.
    https://twitter.com/BretDevereaux/status/1271836260248715265

    1. Corey,

      You raise some thoughtful and thought provoking questions. Yes, we are at the beginning stages. Rather than an alarmist I would prefer to use the phrase “slippery slope” that another respondent used. My blog is based on a projection of where we are now but that does not mean the steps I mentioned are inevitable. I disagree with your comment about American exceptionalism because the issue here is more about who is an American, who is entitled the all the rights and responsibilities. In other words, does “We the People” really include all American citizens. We are not yet at a place where we can learn/acknowledge Columbus’s historical impact separate from demonizing him or enshrining him. Similarly, slavery, Confederates, and the Lost Cause are all part of American history. I don’t have an answer on how to present American history that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly without it becoming part of the culture war. If you have some ideas, I would be happy to share if you would like to do write a guest blog.

      For the record, I tend to oppose statues to individuals in part precisely because of the issues we are now going through. I do however support statues to concepts like the Statue of Liberty.

      Also for the record, there is an official New York State historian and that person was not the author of that comment.

      Thanks for writing.

      Peter

      1. Interestingly, you separate “We the People,” from American exceptionalism, though it seems the latter should be subsumed within the former. Who is an American is the binding thread woven throughout the history of our cultural identity. It is the question underlying identity politics and any study of American history. The rights and responsibilities, and its applicability to all Americans, historically has been the purview of Euro Americans. Which leaves the unspoken question, through whose perspective are we viewing history?

        Reconstruction and The Lost Cause are good examples representing the perspective of a nation who wanted to heal its divide, even to the extent of denial. Once the perspective of African American soldiers, its luminaries of the age and it’s citizens are included, the Lost Cause takes on a different meaning; illuminating the failures of Reconstruction and the lies and falsehoods of the Lost Cause.

        Unfortunately, once our thoughts are released into the public sphere, they are open to interpretation within the culture war. The best one can do is present history as accurately as possible, while representing relevant perspectives on the subject matter.

  5. Peter,

    Take it a step or two further, to Father Abraham, the founder of ALL THREE of the world’s leading religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Not only did Abraham own slaves, but Ishmael was the son of his “handmade” Hagar. Stop the insanity and simply teach history, not unlearn it. It happened. Let’s deal with it.

    bob

    1. Bob,

      I didn’t want to go back that far in time. Let’s keep the story in America and leave out slavery in Africa and the Bible. What I didn’t mention was the slave-owner names of people. Unfortunately we are far from a point where we can have a come let us reason together discussion about slavery.

      Peter

  6. Frankly, I don’t see where your political opinion and forecast of the
    future/fearmongering is necessary to further educate me on history.

    Using “politics” as defined here: the activities associated with the
    governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or
    conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve
    power. I think Maureen Dowd’s statement, “The politics of purism makes
    people stupid. And nasty.” would read just as well if you took out the
    word “purism.”

    1. We live in historic times. In a previous blog which I did not send to the history community 2020: The End of the 20th Century and the Beginning of the 21st, I wrote about exactly what the title says. Right now history organizations are actively calling upon people to document their experiences with Covid-19 and send to send the documentation to the organization. I would not be surprised to see something similar with the post-George-Floyd events. Many of the past events and people in history have now become part of current events and will lead to a rewriting of history.

      You are right about Dowd’s quotation.

      Thanks for writing,

      Peter

  7. The last email was more an angry rant against political correctness than fact. There were multiple typos. It incorrectly referred to the Seattle autonomous zone as ‘the Peoples Republic of Seattle’. I felt it was inappropriately invoking language of purif

    1. Rant is a word people use when they wished to voice objection to something but if they agreed they would cheer it on. I doubt if there were no typos you would have reacted differently. I did not refer to the autonomous zone incorrectly, I used the term I wanted to use. I wrote about the slippery slope that occurs once the first step is taken. It does include a lot of facts: the actual words people have used or actions they have taken. The rest is a legitimate logical sequence of events but not necessarily an inevitable one. That’s why I wrote “I am not saying this scenario will happen. I hope the readers of this blog understand that but based on past experience I know that many won’t.”

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