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Robert H. Pruyn

robert pruyn of the camp santanoni main lodge, robert pruyn
Robert Hewson Pruyn February 14, 1815 – February 26, 1882 was an American lawyer, militia general, diplomat, and politician from Albany, New York


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Political, military, and diplomatic service
  • 3 Later career
  • 4 Death and burial
  • 5 Family
  • 6 Electoral history
  • 7 Notes
  • 8 References
    • 81 Further reading
  • 9 External links

Early lifeedit

Pruyn was born in Albany, New York on February 14, 1815, the son of Casparus F and Ann Hewson Pruyn The Pruyn pronounced "Prine" family of Albany, New York was one of the oldest and most esteemed Dutch families in New York, and at the time of Robert's birth there, had resided in Albany for over two centuries1 Pruyn graduated from The Albany Academy, and received Bachelor of Arts 1833 and Master of Arts 1836 degrees from Rutgers University He studied law with Abraham Van Vechten, was admitted to the bar, and practiced in Albany2

Political, military, and diplomatic serviceedit

Pruyn served as Albany's corporation counsel and was a member of the city council Active in the state militia, he was named Judge Advocate General in 1841, serving until 1846, and again in 185134

A political ally and close friend to William Henry Seward, he was a Whig member of the New York State Assembly Albany Co, 3rd D in 1848, 1849, 1850, 1851, 1852 and 18545 On January 30, 1850, after Speaker Noble S Elderkin left the Assembly to stay at home with his wife who was terminally ill, Pruyn was elected Speaker pro tempore2 He was again Speaker in 18546 Governor Myron Clark appointed him Adjutant General of the New York National Guard, replacing John Watts de Peyster in 1855, who was allowed to hand pick his successor378 He achieved the rank of Brigadier General of the militia9

At the personal request of Seward, who was then Secretary of State, President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Minister to Japan in 1861, and he served in that capacity until 1865, when he returned to New York101112 Japan–United States relations had only recently been established with the visits by Commodore Perry in 1852 to 185410

Pruyn's crowning achievement was the successful negotiation following the Shimonoseki bombardment13 He was considered highly successful in his dealings with the Shogun101415 He also signed an agreement to allow shipwrecked Japanese sailors to be repatriated10

Later careeredit

He was awarded an LL D from Williams College in 1865 and served on the board of trustees2 He went on to become President of the National Commercial Bank and Trust of Albany, and was one of the founders of Albany Law School16

In 1866, he was the Conservative Union candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York17

Death and burialedit

He died suddenly in 1882 in Albany18 His remains are interred at Albany Rural Cemetery1920


In 1841, Pruyn married Jane Ann Lansing, a daughter of Gerrit Y Lansing Their son Robert C Pruyn was a prominent banker and leader of the American toy industry21

Electoral historyedit

1866 General election results
Governor candidate Running Mate Party Popular Vote
Reuben E Fenton Stewart L Woodford Republican 366,315 5096%
John Thompson Hoffman Robert H Pruyn Conservative Union 352,526 4904%


  1. ^ "A Guide to the Pruyn Family Papers, 1679-1978" Albany Institute of History & Art Retrieved March 14, 2007
  2. ^ a b c "Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs: Pruyn" Schenectady County Public Library Retrieved March 14, 2008
  3. ^ a b Allaben, p 205
  4. ^ Seward, p 535
  5. ^ Treat, p 193
  6. ^ Findling, p 427
  7. ^ Allaben, p 304
  8. ^ The New York Almanac and Yearly Record Mason Brothers: New York, 1857
  9. ^ Hutchins, p 400
  10. ^ a b c d Jean S Olton, "Robert Hewson Pruyn: Enjoy to Japan 1862-1865," Town of Colonie, New York November 1990
  11. ^ Treat, p 194
  12. ^ "ARRIVAL OF HON ROBERT H PRUYN" New York Times December 14, 1865
  13. ^ Shavit, p 406
  14. ^ Stern, p 159
  15. ^ Johnson & Howard, p 424
  16. ^ "The History of Albany Law School" Albany Law School Retrieved March 14, 2008
  17. ^ The Conservative Union state convention opens in NYT on September 11, 1866
  18. ^ "THE HON ROBERT H PRUYN DEAD" New York Times February 27, 1882
  19. ^ Political Graveyard, Pruyn, Robert Hewson 1815-1882 — also known as Robert H Pruyn
  20. ^ Robert H Pruyn at Find a Grave
  21. ^ "The embossing company" toyhistorycom Retrieved March 14, 2008


  • Allaben, Frank John Watts de Peyster Frank Allaben Genealogical Company: New York, 1908 ISBN 1-4021-4454-7
  • Findling, John Dictionary of American Diplomatic History Greenwood Press: Westport, 1989 ISBN 0-313-26024-9
  • Hutchins, SC Civil List and Forms of Government of the Colony State of New York Weed, Parsons & Co: Albany, 1870
  • Johnson, Rossiter, and Brown, John Howard The twentieth-century biographical dictionary of notable Americans The Biographical Society: Boston 1904
  • Shavit, David The United States in Asia: A Historical Dictionary Greenwood Press: Westport 1990 ISBN 0-313-26788-X
  • Seward, Frederick W Autobiography of William H Seward, from 1801 to 1834 D Appleton: New York 1877
  • Stern, Philip Van Doren When the Guns Roared: World Aspects of the American Civil War Doubleday: New York, 1965
  • Treat, Payson Jackson The Early Diplomatic Relations Between the United States and Japan, 1853-1865 The Johns Hopkins Press: Baltimore, 1917 ISBN 0-548-59476-7

Further readingedit

  • American Council of Learned Societies "Dictionary of American Biography" Charles Scribner's Sons: New York 1959
  • Lee, Edwin B "Robert H Pruyn in Japan, 1862-1865" New York History 66 1985 pp 123-39
  • Robert H Pruyn Papers, Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, NY
  • "Friend's of Pruyn House web site "

External linksedit

  • Political Graveyard, Pruyn, Robert Hewson 1815-1882
  • Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States
  • Pruyn House, Diane Morgan Curator 207 Old Niskayuna Road PO Box 212 Newtonville, NY 12128
New York Assembly
Preceded by
new district
New York State Assembly
Albany County, 3rd District

Succeeded by
Alexander Davidson
Political offices
Preceded by
Noble S Elderkin
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Succeeded by
Ferral C Dininny
Preceded by
William H Ludlow
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Succeeded by
DeWitt Clinton Littlejohn
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Townsend Harris
US Minister to Japan
Succeeded by
Chauncey Depew

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