When Did We Stop Judging History by the Context of Its Creation?

What is an inheritance?

For some, it is a legacy, something you leave behind that speaks to the life you led. For others, it is the epitome of the ‘dash’ between the day you were born, and the day you died.

While an inheritance tells the world that you left something behind- the legacy is what you leave. It is what or who you truly are.

On Saturday June 10th, after nearly 100 years, the Nine-foot statue of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Philip Schuyler was removed. By most accounts, Gen. Schuyler’s story is iconic- the type of stuff that legends are made of.

This from Exhibitions.nysm:

“In 1755, Philip was commissioned a Captain and empowered to raise a militia company that would build fortifications north of Albany. In 1756, he accompanied Bradstreet to Oswego where he learned the business of military supply and also experienced disillusionment when that outpost fell to the French.

Back home in Albany, in 1756 Schuyler was elected to the common council as assistant alderman for the first ward and was able to obtain the contract to operate the ferry that connected Albany with Greenbush. He also held a provincial appointment as commissioner of the excise (import tax) and procured supplies and provisions for Bradstreet as well.

Philip Schuyler returned to active service. As an officer in the British supply train, he took part in the attack on Ticonderoga and in Bradstreet’s capture of Fort Frontenac. Stationed for the most part at Albany, he served in Bradstreet’s quartermaster’s department for the remainder of the war.

By 1761, Schuyler began gathering resources that enabled him to build his own landed estate south of the Beaverkill that became Schuyler Mansion. But in March, Schuyler went to England to broker settlement of Bradstreet’s quartermaster’s accounts leaving his mentor with the Schuyler family and in charge of the actual construction of his new home. When he returned to Albany at the end of 1762, he found John Bradstreet living with his family in his new Georgian mansion.

Philip Schuyler was elected to the New York General Assembly in 1768. He served until that colonial body disbanded and was replaced by an extra-legal Provincial Congress in 1775. It was in the Assembly that Philip Schuyler began to emerge as a leader of the opposition to post-war British restrictions and strictures.

During that time, his business involved the harvesting of farm and forest products on his extensive Hudson Valley estates and shipping them to New York on his own sloops and schooner. Trading on his inherited real estate and family credit, by the eve of the Revolution, the forty-three-year-old American had emerged as one of the wealthiest landholders in the region. However, his success rested on already functional estates that needed more independent access to markets and resources to develop further. Thus, he had little trouble supporting the resistance activities that eventually made colonists into revolutionaries!

In June 1775, Schuyler was appointed one of the four Major Generals of the Continental army by the Continental Congress. He served until he was replaced in 1777 and finally resigned his commission in April 1779. He then returned to the Continental Congress.” ..and he had slaves. In fact, he was the largest slaveowner in Albany.

That alone was the basis for removing the statue.

By most accounts, the “slaves” were treated well and considered more like skilled labor-not property, working alongside whites as well to accomplish the tasks. Nevertheless, regardless of the life of service he otherwise led, the statue was removed. What about his legacy? What about the life that exemplified selflessness? What makes one worthy of having a statue?

What about those undeserving of honor?

  •  George Floyd’s life was spent terrorizing his neighborhood, in and out prison cells for possession, aggravated assault, including holding a gun against a pregnant women’s abdomen- yet his statue remains.
  • Che Guevara was a racist mass murderer, putting gay people in labor camps, and desired to destroy New York City with atomic bombs was quoted to say “The victory of socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims” -his statue still remains.
  • Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood had well-known affiliations with the Klu Klux Klan, supported the Nazis’ forced sterilization programs, not to mention her Eugenics campaigns that resulted in the murders of millions of the unborn-yet, her statue in the Smithsonian still remains.
  • LGBTQ icon Harvey Milk’s legacy is that of a pedophile who enjoyed sex with underage boys and had a “relationship” with a 16-year-old who looked to Milk as a father figure- yet his statue in San Francisco still remains.
  • The late Democratic Senator Robert Byrd while still a celebrated icon in the Democratic party was once an “exalted cyclops” in the Ku Klux Klan, voting vehemently against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, along with the confirmations of African American Supreme Court justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, yet his statue-in the U.S. Capitol still remains.

Despite the many walks of life and varied backgrounds, all these individuals (including Gen. Schuyler) have one thing in common. Their life was their legacy. Yet, for all the General’s accolades and accomplishments, his ‘sins’ such as they were, will forever be the ‘scarlet letter’ to his legacy.

While many choose to ignore details of the lives and legends of heroes they ravage, those whose existence was spent leaving a trail shattered innocence, murder and molestation in their wake, continue to be honored with unblemished records. With dictators like Volodymyr Zelenskyy and “climate activist’ Greta Thunberg appearing as “Time’s Person of The Year (respectively), the next individual worthy of “honor” is in question. One thing is for certain-the selection won’t be based on merit.

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