Robert H. Pruyn

This article is about Robert H. Pruyn (1815-1882). For his son, Robert C. (1847-1934), see Robert C. Pruyn.
Robert H. Pruyn

Robert H. Pruyn, circa 1865
Born (1815-02-14)February 14, 1815
Albany, New York, US
Died February 26, 1882(1882-02-26) (aged 67)
Albany, New York, US
Occupation Politician, lawyer, diplomat

Robert Hewson Pruyn (February 14, 1815 – February 26, 1882) was an American lawyer, militia general, diplomat, and politician from Albany, New York.

Political, military, and diplomatic service

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 centuries.[1] 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 Albany.[2] 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 1851.[3][4]

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 1854.[5] 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 tempore.[2] He was again Speaker in 1854.[6] 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 successor.[3][7][8] He achieved the rank of Brigadier General of the militia.[9]

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 York.[10][11][12] Japan–United States relations had only recently been established with the visits by Commodore Perry in 1852 to 1854.[10]

Pruyn's crowning achievement was the successful negotiation following the Shimonoseki bombardment.[13] He was considered highly successful in his dealings with the Shogun.[10][14][15] He also signed an agreement to allow shipwrecked Japanese sailors to be repatriated.[10]

He was awarded an LL. D. from Williams College in 1865 and served on the board of trustees.[2] He went on to become President of the National Commercial Bank and Trust of Albany, and was one of the founders of Albany Law School.[16]

In 1866, he was the Conservative Union candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York.[17]

His son, Robert C. Pruyn, was prominent banker and one of the most influential leaders of the American toy industry.[18]

He died suddenly in 1882 in Albany.[19] His remains are interred at Albany Rural Cemetery.[20][21]

Electoral history

1866 General election results
Governor candidate Running Mate Party Popular Vote
Reuben E. Fenton Stewart L. Woodford Republican 366,315 (50.96%)
John Thompson Hoffman Robert H. Pruyn Conservative Union 352,526 (49.04%)



Further reading

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
U.S. Minister to Japan
Succeeded by
Chauncey Depew
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