A stirring tale of the antirent agitation in the Catskills, Hudson Valley and up-state New York in the 1840?s.
?As the somewhat cryptic title suggests, this book is concerned primarily with one aspect of a many-sided theme in the economic and social history of New York state, and it deals with that topic in its final stage of popular protest and legal liquidation. During the first two centuries of New York's history the dominant form of landholding in the Hudson Valley was the large estate occupied by tenants on the quasi-feudal terms of annual rentals in kind or equivalent cash and the reservation of rights to share in land sales. Inaugurated by the Dutch and continued under English rule, this system of landholding was extended and reinvigorated after the Revolution in the guise of a permanent leasehold, mainly devised by Alexander Hamilton, the brother-in-law of Stephen Van Rensselaer, the last of the patroons and the principal landlord in the state.
The rising tide of political democracy, coupled with economic distress and the accumulation of arrears, produced an inevitable popular reaction against the burdens of tenancy. The spark of revolt was struck in 1839, on the death of Stephen Van Rensselaer, when his heirs attempted to collect arrears by legal process. The result was an antirent agitation between 1839 and 1845, which flared up into sporadic violence and resistance to the sheriffs of several upstate counties by bands of farmers, summoned to the call of tin horns and disguised in calico robes and Indian masks. This in turn provoked collision with the state authorities upholding law and order.?-Journal of Economic History