Philip Schuyler and the birth of Union


By Jessica Doran

The history of Union is often referenced in discussion and various other outlets on our campus. But one major person who was an important factor in the creation and development of our school was Philip J. Schuyler. Schuyler was born in Albany to a third generation Dutch family. He was educated at the Van Cortlandt estate in New Rochelle, New York, and then joined the British forces during the French and Indian war.

This may seem to be an interesting life path for a man who eventually came to create our school, but the time was one of great turmoil and change for New York State and our nation. Schuyler began his political career as a member of the New York Assembly. During this time his views came to be more opposed to the colonial government.

Schuyler was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775, and became a major war hero during the American Revolution. 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.

At the same time, Union was the result of a popular movement reflecting the new democracy that was coming to be, and expressing the faith that the people of Schenectady had for our new-found “America.” The college was named ‘Union’ to show the true support of all involved in the development and creation of the school and the nature of the times.

Knowing this puts the plan and direction of our school into perspective. It adds such a special aspect to Union as one entity, but also as a representation of a greater body of our nation that was still in its infant days.

Schuyler Mansion, built in 1762, was home to Schuyler for quite some time. He and his wife, Catharine Van Rensselaer, descended from affluent and powerful Dutch families. Together they raised eight children in this home. The Georgian structure, reflecting Schuyler’s English tastes—was built on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River.

In addition to guided tours, there are also various special events that go on at the house. For example, this weekend, Sunday November 4, there will be a fall concert: Musicians of Ma’alwyck. “Musicians will present Schuyler in London,  a program of music popular in London during Philips Schuyler’s 1761-1762 journey on behalf of Colonel John Bradstreet.”

Schuyler also had a country house in Saratoga that has been restored. It is the third of four sites that make up Saratoga National Park, eight miles north of the Saratoga Battlefield. It is open for tours during the summer season.

Not only is the history that surrounds us everyday amazing on the campus, but there is also a rich history all around us in Schenectady and even in Albany.



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