The recent decision by Kathy Sheehan, the Democratic Mayor of Albany, to have the statue of John Philip Schuyler consigned to oblivion has Mary Grabar disconcerted. Schuyler (1733-1804) was one of the richest men of the province of New York. He fought in the Continental Army, rising to the rank of general; supported the ratification of the Constitution; served in the United States Senate; and was the father-in-law to Alexander Hamilton.
A Scottish immigrant immortalized Schuyler in 1925 in an imposing bronze statue that sat on a pedestal outside Albany City Hall. Sheehan, acting under pressure from activist groups, made the decision to remove it because despite all his accomplishments, he committed the eighteenth-century “crime” of slaveholding. (Where in the world of the eighteenth century, we might ask, was slaveholding not a crime?)
Mayor Sheehan does not impress Dr. Grabar, Resident Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), for her powers of critical thinking. To compensate for the banishment of the statue to Never Never Land, she has a novel suggestion in the June 21st issue of The Epoch Times. Why not erect a statue to George Schuyler, a great-grandson of one of John Philip Schuyler’s slaves? His life’s story, truth be told, merits considerable attention.
George Schuyler starred as a columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the most widely read black newspapers in the United States during the interwar period. During this period, he had an epiphany and moved from the political left to the political right. As Dr. Grabar points out, George Schuyler “had many firsts,” and “[b]y 1933, Schuyler was writing ‘the most discussed column in Negro America.’” He kept company with H. L. Mencken, Susan La Follette, and James Buckley, among others.
Dr. Grabar is working on an intellectual biography of Schuyler. She sees him as a great American. But he has largely disappeared from the post-modern memory of white and black Americans. “A George S. Schuyler statue,” she submits, “would fulfill Mayor Sheehan’s [explicitly] racial criterion and give long-overdue recognition to a great American.”