Antirent War

Antirent War,

in U.S. history, tenant uprising in New York state. When Stephen Van Rensselaer, owner of Rensselaerswyck, died in 1839, his heirs attempted to collect unpaid rents. Tenants on the estate resisted, and an angry mob forcibly turned back a sheriff's posse that tried to evict them. Resistance to landlord authority quickly spread to landed estates throughout the Hudson valley; tenants disguised as Native Americans harassed landlord agents and sheriffs. When a deputy sheriff of Delaware co., N.Y., was killed (1845), Gov. Silas Wright declared a state of insurrection and called out the state militia. Armed resistance ended and the antirenters turned to politics. They helped elect a Whig, John Young, as governor of New York; the legislature passed ameliorative measures; and the 1846 state constitution outlawed future long-term leases. The Antirent War hastened the breaking up of the large landed estates as worried landlords began selling their holdings.


See E. P. Cheyney, The Anti-Rent Agitation in the State of New York, 1839–46 (1887); H. Christman, Tin Horns and Calico (1945, repr. 1961); D. M. Ellis, Landlords and Farmers in the Hudson-Mohawk Region, 1790–1850 (1946, repr. 1967).

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OCCUPYING today only a minor place in American history, the Antirent War of 1845-46 aroused bitter controversy at the time and is not without relevance as an early example of today's direct action with violent protests ranging from animal rights and GM research to global warming and international capitalism.
In Albany County, N.Y., the Antirent War, also known as the Helderberg War after the mountain group in the area, broke out when tenant farmers resisted the attempts of the descendants of Stephen Van Rensselaer to collect back rent.