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Poster announcing an Anti-Rent meeting in the town of Nassau

The Anti-Rent War (also known as the Helderberg War) was a tenants' revolt in upstate New York during the early 19th century, beginning with the death of Stephen Van Rensselaer III in 1839.

There is also the 1766 Anti-Rent war of Dutchess County which was provoked by similar land-title problems.

Van Rensselaer, who has been described as "[having] ... proved a lenient and benevolent landowner" was the patroon of the region at the time, and was a direct descendant of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, the first patroon of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck. The patroons owned all the land on which the tenants in the Hudson Valley lived, and used feudal leases to maintain control of the region.

Before the Revolutionary War, the patroons acted as feudal lords, with the right to make laws. The Anti-Rent War led to the creation of the Antirenter Party which had a strong influence on New York State politics from 1846 to 1851.

The first mass meeting of tenant farmers leading to the Anti-Rent War was held in Berne, New York on July 4, 1839. In January, 1845 one hundred and fifty delegates from eleven counties assembled in St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Berne to call for political action to redress their grievances.[1]

Trials of leaders of the revolt for riot, conspiracy and robbery were held in 1845. Participants as counsel in the trials included Ambrose L. Jordan, as leading counsel for the defense and John Van Buren, the state attorney general, personally conducted the prosecution. At the first trial the jury came to no conclusion. During a re-trial in September 1845, the two leading counsels started a fist-fight in open court. Both were sentenced by the presiding judge, Justice John W. Edmonds, to "solitary confinement in the county jail for 24 hours." At the conclusion of the trial, one defendant, Smith A. Boughton, was sentenced to life imprisonment, but after the election of John Young, who had the support of the Anti-Renters, Broughton was pardoned.

See also

{Rebels of the North, How Land Policy Caused the Civil War}By Grant Langdon ISBN-13:978-0-9790860. Traces land ownership conflict on Livingston Manor and Rensselaer Manor that started in the 1750s. The proprietors held the title of Lord of the Manor under English law. The Boston Bay Colony set up townships on the two manors in May of 1755. The border between the two colonies was not established until 1757.The protest continued and Sheriff Hogeboom was killed trying to sell livestock to satisfy rent in Hillsdale in 1791. The movement grew after the death of Steven Van Rensselaer in 1839. After a protest organised by the Taconic Mutual Association in Copake in 1844 Dr. Smith Boughton was arrested. His arrest caused a state of emergency being declared in the City of Hudson and the calling out of the state militia to protect the city. When a harsh sentence was handed down it led to the establishment of the Anti Rent Party that changed the political landscape in New York. The anti-renters influenced the election of Lincoln, who backed a Homestead Act.


  1. ^ Christman, Henry. Tin Horns and Calico, a Decisive Episode in the Emergence of Democracy. ISBN 0-685-61130-2. 

Further reading

  • "New York's Anti-rent War 1845-1846," Contemporary Review, June 2002 by Eric Ford
  • Henry Christman, Tin Horns and Calico, a Decisive Episode in the Emergence of Democracy (1978) ISBN 0-685-61130-2
  • Dorothy Kubik, A Free Soil - A Free People: The Anti-Rent War in Delaware County, New York (1997) ISBN 0-935796-86-X
  • Charles W. McCurdy, The Anti-Rent Era in New York Law and Politics, 1839-1865 (2001) ISBN 0-8078-2590-5
  • Candace Christiansen, Calico and Tin Horns (1992) ISBN 0-8037-1179-4


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