Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PRUYN, John Van Schaick Lansing, lawyer, born in Albany, New York, 22 June, 1811 ; died in Clifton Springs, New York, 21 November, 1877. He was graduated at Albany academy in 1826, became a student in the office of James King, and was admitted to the bar in 1832. At once he took high rank in his profession as one of the attorneys in the once-celebrated James will case. In 1835 he became a director of the Mohawk and Hudson railroad and its counsel, and in 1853, when the railroads between Albany and Buffalo were united, forming the present New York Central, tie conducted the proceedings and drew up the consolidation agreement, in some respects the most important business instrument that was ever executed in the state of New York. He was associated in the Hudson river bridge case, finally arguing it alone, was sole trustee of the estate of Harmanns Bleecker, and was the financial officer of the Sault Ste. Marie canal, which he carried through many difficulties. In 1861 he was elected state senator as a Democrat, having accepted the nomination on condition that no money should be used in the election. At the close of his term he gave the year's salary to the poor of Albany. He was a new capitol commissioner from 1865 till 1870, and in 1869 laid the first stone of the new building. He was a member of congress in 1863-'5 and 1867-'9, serving upon several important committees, and as a regent of the Smithsonian institution. At the first election of General Grant to the presidency he was one of the tellers of the house of representatives and suggested such legislation as would have remedies the existing difficulties in counting the presidential vote. He was a regent of the University of the state of New York for thirty-three years, during the last fifteen of which he was chancellor. The establishment of the university convocation and the regents' examinations were largely if not almost wholly due to his efforts. The regents are trustees of the State museum of natural history and the State library, and the present value of these collections is largely owing to Mr. Pruyn's personal interest and supervision. Mr. Pruyn was also president of the board of trustees of St. Stephen's college, Annandale, of the State board of charities, of the State survey, and of the Albany institute. He was also a member of various historical and other societies, and of the Association for the codification of the law of nations. Mr. Pruyn received the degree of M.A. from Rutgers in 1835, and from Union college in 1845, and that of LB. D. in 1852, from the University of Rochester. --His cousin, Robert Hewson, diplomatist, born in Albany, New York, 14 February, 1815: died in Albany, New York, 26 February, 1882, was graduated at Rutgers in 1833, studied law with Abraham Van Vechten, and in 1836 was admitted to the bar. He was corporation counsel of Albany, a member of the city government, and in 1855 became adjutant-general of the state. He was a Whig in politics, and served in the assembly in 1848-'50, and again in 1854, when he was elected speaker, it is said that no appeal was made from any of his rulings in the chair. In 1861 he was appointed by President Lincoln United States minister to Japan as successor to Townsend Harris. As there were then no telegraphic facilities, months often elapsed before the minister could receive his instructions, and when they did arrive they were frequently inapplicable, circumstances having changed. Our vessels of war then in Japanese waters were placed at the disposal of the minister with instructions prescribed by the United States government. In 1863 Mr. Pruyn took the ground that he should regard the tycoon to be the real ruler of Japan, as otherwise foreign intercourse could never be guaranteed unless treaties were ratified by the mikado. Two naval expeditions were undertaken against the transgressing daimio of Chosu, whose vessels had fired on the American merchant steamer "Pembroke." In the first the United States man-of-war " Wyoming," Commander McDougall, sank the brig " Laurick " and blew up the steamer "Lancefield," at the same time running the gauntlet of shore batteries of eighty guns in the Straits of Simonisaki. In the second expedition the forces of Great Britain, France, and Holland (the daimio having previously fired upon the French and English vessels) took part, the United States being represented by the chartered steamer" Takiang," having on board a part of the crew and guns of the " Jamestown," which had been left. at Yokohama for the defence of that place. The allies demolished the fortifications of Chosu and captured the guns. Although it was questioned, this proceeding postponed the dethronement of the tycoon for several years, and enabled him to observe his treaty stipulations which he had not been able to do, owing to the hostility of the daimio of Chosu. An indemnity was paid by Japan and intercourse was guaranteed. Mr. Pruyn played an important part in securing" American rights in the East. Mr. Pruyn's last public post was that of presiding officer of the State constitutional convention of 1872. For the last years of his life he was not greatly identified with public affairs, but was deeply interested in various enterprises, and at the time of his death was president of the National commercial bank of Albany. He was a trustee of Rutgers college, to which he gave $10,000, and was president of the board of directors of the Dudley observatory. He received the degree of M. A. from Rutgers in 1836, and in 1865 that of LL. D. from Williams.
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