Philip John Schuyler

The American Revolutionary War general Philip John Schuyler (1733-1804) was a leader in the political and commercial life of his state and nation.

Philip Schuyler was born in Albany, N. Y., on Nov. 11, 1733, into an old, aristocratic Dutch family, one of the colony's largest landholders. He received an excellent education. After commanding a company of New York militia in the French and Indian War, he managed the large estate left him by his father in the Mohawk and Hudson River valleys.

At the same time, Schuyler was active in supporting the colonial cause in the controversy with Great Britain. He argued the colonial position in the provincial Assembly in 1768 and went to the Second Continental Congress in May 1775 as delegate from New York. There he served with George Washington on a committee to make rules and regulations for the army. In June 1775, shortly after the Revolution began, Congress appointed him a major general, one of four to serve under Washington.

Schuyler's assignment was to command the Northern Department (consisting of New York) and to prepare an attack on Canada. After raising and supplying an army and strengthening Ticonderoga and Crown Point on the route north, he was forced by ill health to turn over command of the troops to Gen. Richard Montgomery. The attack failed, and Schuyler was given much of the blame. He had, actually, delayed too long in ordering the army to get under way and had been too slow and deliberate in executing his plan, but the true cause of the defeat lay in factors beyond his control. He also made some bad decisions during the course of the campaign of British general John Burgoyne in northern New York in 1777; one of these contributed to the loss of Ft. Ticonderoga, an American stronghold. Accusations of incompetence were leveled against him, along with a rumor of intrigue with the enemy. In 1778 Schuyler demanded a court-martial to air the charges. He was acquitted that October but felt it best to resign his commission.

After leaving the army, Schuyler was active in politics, holding office continually until 1798, when illness forced his permanent retirement. He served as state senator for 13 years and for 3 years as U.S. senator from New York under the new Federal Constitution, in whose creation he had played a leading role with his son-in-law, Alexander Hamilton. Schuyler died in Albany on Nov. 18, 1804.

Further Reading on Philip John Schuyler

The best biography of Schuyler is Benson J. Lossing, The Life and Times of Philip Schuyler (2 vols., 1872-1873). Bayard Tuckerman, Life of General Philip Schuyler (1903), is good for Schuyler's military phase. For special aspects of Schuyler's life see George W. Schuyler, Colonial New York: Philip Schuyler and His Family (2 vols., 1885), and Don R. Gerlach, Philip Schuyler and the American Revolution in New York, 1733-1777 (1964).

Additional Biography Sources

Taormina, Francis R., Philip Schuyler: who he was, what he did, Schenectady, N.Y.: F.R. Taormina, 1992.