The greater part of Columbia
, and Albany counties
in the State of New York
belonged to manors, the grants of which had been made to “patroons” by the Dutch West India Company, and renewed by James H., the principal ones being Rensselaerswyck and Livingston Manor.
The tenants had deeds for their farms, but paid an annual rental instead of a principal sum. Dissatisfaction with this state of affairs had begun to show itself as early as 1790, and when, in 1839, Stephen Van Rensselaer
, who had allowed much of his rent to remain in arrears, died, the tenants refused to pay rents to his successor, disguised themselves as “Injuns,” and for ten years carried on a reign of terror that practically suspended the operation of law and the payment of rent in the entire district.
The attempt to serve process by military aid, the so-called Helderberg War, was unsuccessful.
In 1847 and 1849 the anti-renters showed a voting strength of 5,000, adopting a part of each party tickets.
In 1850 the legislature directed the attorney-general
to bring suit against Harmon Livingston
to try title.
The suit was decided in Livingston
's favor, November, 1850, but a compromise was effected, the owners selling the farms at fair rates, and the tenants paying for them.
Most of Rensselaerswyck was sold, and of Livingston Manor, which at one time contained 162,000 acres of choice farms, only a small portion now remains in the possession of the family.