Philip John Schuyler (November 20, 1733 – November 18, 1804) was a general in the American Revolution and a United States Senator from New York. He is usually known as Philip Schuyler, while his son is usually known as Philip J. Schuyler.
Philip Schuyler was born in Albany, New York, on November 20, 1733, to John (Johannes) Schuyler, Jr. (1697–1741), third generation of the Dutch family in America, and Cornelia Van Cortlandt (1698–1762).
Prior to his father’s death, on the eve of his eighth birthday, Schuyler attended the public school at Albany. Afterward, he was educated by tutors at the Van Cortlandt family estate at New Rochelle. He joined the British forces in 1755 during the French and Indian War, raised a company, and was commissioned as its Captain by his cousin, Lt. Governor James Delancey. Later in that war, he served as a quartermaster, purchasing supplies and organizing equipment.
From 1761 to 1762, Schuyler made a trip to England to settle accounts from his work as quartermaster. During this time his home in Albany, later called Schuyler Mansion, was built. His country estate at Saratoga (which is now Schuylerville, New York) was also begun. After the war he also expanded his estate at Saratoga, expanding his holdings to tens of thousands of acres, adding slaves, tenant farmers, a store, mills for flour, flax, and lumber. His flax mill for the making of linen was the first one in America. He built several schooners on the Hudson River, and named the first Saratoga.
Schuyler began his political career as a member of the New York Assembly in 1768, and served in that body until 1775. During this time his views came to be more opposed to the colonial government. He was particularly outspoken in matters of trade and currency. He was also made a Colonel in the militia for his support of governor Henry Moore.
Schuyler’s house during the Revolution in Schuylerville
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 Canada (1775). His poor health required him to place Richard Montgomery in command of the invasion.
As department commanding General, he was active in preparing a defense against the Saratoga Campaign, part of the “Three Pronged Attack” strategy of the British to cut the American Colonies in two by invading and occupying New York State in 1777. In the summer of that year General John Burgoyne marched his British army south from Quebec over the valleys of Lakes Champlain and George. On the way he invested the small Colonial garrison occupying Fort Ticonderoga at the nexus of the two lakes. When General St. Clair surrendered Fort Ticonderoga in July, the Congress replaced Schuyler with General Horatio Gates, who had accused Schuyler of dereliction of duty.
Letter from Philip Schuyler to Israel Shreve, 1776
The British offensive was eventually stopped by Continental Army then under the command of Gates and Benedict Arnold in the Battle of Saratoga. That victory, the first wholesale defeat of a large British force, marked a turning point in the revolution, for it convinced France to enter the war on the American’s side. When Schuyler demanded a court martial to answer Gates’ charges, he was vindicated but resigned from the army on April 19, 1779. He then served in two more sessions of the Continental Congress in 1779 and 1780.
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 4, 1791. After losing his bid for re-election in 1791, he returned to the State Senate from 1792 to 1797. In 1797, he was elected 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.