Peter Philip Schuyler (1657-1724) [Section 29]

Militia Colonel, Governor of New York, the first mayor of Albany

Peter Schuyler, destined to be both Governor of New York and Mayor of Albany, belonged to one of the most prominent families in the Dutch settlements of modern New York and New Jersey. His father Philip Pieterse Schuyler was the founder of the clan; he had settled in Beverwyck in 1650. Philip had a total of ten children, and their marriages and social relations with the van Cortlandts, van Rensselaers, Livingstons and others knit them deeply into ¬¬¬the Anglo-Dutch elite of our area. In 1651 Peter Stuyvesant in effect declared Beverwyck’s independence from the Patroonship, and Peter Schuyler was born in the new “municipality” (as we would call it) in 1657. He would have grown up in the Schuyler house on the southeast corner of State and Pearl Streets, a house that survived into the era of photography.

The British took over New Netherland in 1664. In 1686 Governor Dongan granted Albany – as it was called by then – its Charter. The previous year Dongan had appointed Peter Schuyler to the rank of lieutenant in the militia, and Peter became Albany’s first Mayor in July 1686, a position he was the hold for eight years. During that time he was also active in military and provincial affairs.

Schuyler rose to the rank of Colonel in the militia. King William’s War broke out in 1688. This was an early phase in the North American theater of a decades-long, world-wide struggle between England and France. Due to its northerly position in the English colonies Albany was frequently embroiled in conflicts between the Europeans’ Colonial and Native American proxies. In August 1689, shortly after the declaration of war in fact – though official news had not reached them – English-sponsored Iroquois from northern New York raided Lachine, which today lies with the city of Montreal. In retaliation, the Governor of New France launched the raid that was to result in the Schenectady Massacre of February 8, 1690. This occurred on Peter Stuyvesant’s watch. The target of the raid was initially Albany, but after a grueling march through February snow the Canadians judged that Albany was too well defended, for which Schuyler may be given credit. They turned their attention to Schenectady and the result was the massacre. In August of 1690, Peter’s brother Johannes led a raid on La Prairie, and the following August Peter Schuyler himself led a larger raid on French settlers south of Montreal. Many Albany Mayors have served honorably in the armed forces, but this may be the only time a sitting Mayor personally led troops into battle.

The epochal democratic change in British politics known as the Glorious Revolution (1688-89), led to something of a political vacuum in the Province of New York. There followed the brief democratic takeover of New York City known – by its enemies –as Leisler’s Rebellion. Like most of the entrenched elite of our area, Schuyler opposed it.

In addition to military and city affairs, Schuyler was also appointed to Executive Committee of the Province of New York. He served twice as Acting Governor, briefly in 1709, and again in 1719-1720.

In 1710 Schuyler undertook a remarkable project, aimed at simultaneously cementing alliances with the Native Americans, impressing them with English power, and asking the Crown for more resources. He took five native American leaders (“sachems”) to London to meet Queen Anne. One of them died en route. The “Four Indian Kings” created a sensation in England, and each of them sat, or rather, stood for individual portraits.

The figure shows the only Mahican in the group, “Eto Oh Koam.” The others were all Iroquois. One wonders what these hereditary enemies talked about on the long voyage. The “kings” were given the red-carpet treatment. They saw the sights, including the Tower of London, and gave their presumably well rehearsed speeches pledging undying loyalty, repudiating the French, and asking for more money.

Peter Schuyler married twice, having a total of eight children. He died in Albany in 1724. His remains were transferred to the Church Grounds in Albany Rural.