« PreviousContinue »
time, into the possession, by inheritance, stipulating on their part to make an annuof a very large estate in lands. It was a al render of profits to the proprietor, in the large estate, counting it by the number shape of a certain amount of the products of acres comprised within its limits; for of agriculture and of their labor. As a it embraced a very large proportion of all general rule, the product of one acre of the territory now within the two counties the land, or, at most, of one acre and a of Albany and Rensselaer; but it was half, under tolerable cultivation, was suffithen, the larger part of it, an estate in the cient to discharge the annual dues on a wilderness, and productive only of a very farm of one hundred and sixty acres; and moderate income. The young proprietor, in all cases where the lands were new, no however, caused the wilderness to be pen- return whatever was demanded, or was etrated by his surveyors; and, within ten demandable, by the original proprietor, years from his majority, his lands, ar for the first seven years after the purranged into farms of convenient size, were chaser took possession. found, with the ownership in fee, except in Such, then, was the state of things in a comparatively few cases, in the hands what was called the Manor of Rensseof a body of substantial freeholders which laerwyck. Within ten years, or theremust have numbered not far from three abouts, of the time when the proprietor thousand. No other example can be came into full possession of his estate, found in the State, or perhaps in the then much of it in the wilderness, he had United States, of so large a tract of wild created a body of substantial freeholders, land brought, in so short a time, into ac three thousand in number we suppose, tual settlement and cultivation, under in- every one of whom was as good a voter dependent farmers, each one the owner of as himself for the highest offices in the the soil on which he bestowed his labor. State-and that, when none but freehold. But the original proprietor had not abso- ers could vote for such offices. But these lutely given away his inheritance. No- freeholders were not wholly free from body, it is presumed, at that day, expected debt. It would have been most extraoror wished him to do so. The settlers had dinary if they had been. When they wanted the lands, as the proprietor had took possession of these lands, they had wanted purchasers for them, but they not the means to pay for the first acre. were without the means of paying for The occupant became the owner, in fee, them; and they were estimated at that pe- of 160 acres of land ; and as land was not riod, as surveyed into farms, taking the common property like the air, or to be had whole tract together, at an average price only for the asking, it would seem to folof about three dollars an acre. The lands low of course that some sort of indebtedwere not to be had without some compen ness must have been contracted on account sation to the proprietor; and the question of so handsome a possession. He was was, on what terms might cultivators, who in possession, as proprietor, of a capital had nothing to pay, go into the possession in land, after seven years from the comof them? One arrangement might have mencement of his occupancey, which at been for them to come under obligations a moderate estimate, taking the average to pay for the soil, according to its valua- value throughout the tract, was not less tion, within some stipulated period, and than sixteen hundred dollars; and as yet in the mean time to pay an annual interest he had not paid, or been required to pay, on that amount, leaving the land with all one farthing on account of it to the origithe improvements they might put upon it nal owner. The foundation of this in the hands of the proprietor, or to stand amount of solid property was the land as a pledge for the payment. This was furnished by the owner, free of all charge one way often practiced in the country. for the space of seven years. On this land But there was another, namely, that the the settler had wrought, and out of it be purchasers, receiving free deeds of the had had his living, for seven years; when, soil, should undertake to make to the by means of his improvements, and the original proprietor a fixed and specific natural rise in the value of the land, by return of annual profits, equal to a very the progress of things in the
untry, he moderate interest on the estimated value had come to be the possessor and owner of of the soil at the time of the transfer. The this respectable amount of property. And latter mode of compensation was the one then it was, for the first time, that he was proposed, and agreed upon. They be held to any payment whatever on account came at once, by deeds of conveyance, of his land. Then, by the terms of his conthe owners of the soil in fee simple; they tract, a charge did accrue out of it to the
original proprietor. This charge, varying grounds of any opinion or belief they in different parts of the “Manor,” estimat- may entertain, or of any line of conduct ed in cash, was equal to an interest varying they may pursue. It is sufficient for from one and a quarter to something less them that they think and act as others do than two per cent. on the value of the farms around thein, and that they have the at the time when the charge began to be countenance of what seems to be public payable.
or popular opinion for the time. It is in The plain statement we have here made this way, we believe, that the idea of a shows, in general terms, the relationship general repudiation of debts, existing in established between the occupants and the form of rent charged on lands, so far owners of lands in the counties of Albany as such repudiation should be found and Rensselaer, and the original proprie practicable, came to be entertained and tor. They had their lands without any extensively propagated. There were payment of purchase-money in hand, and persons enough holding lands on this without any agreement even to pay a condition to make common cause, and principal sum for them. Instead of this, cover themselves under a public opinion they undertook to pay an annual rent; of their own. There were some thouand as they were perpetually exempt from sands of such occupying the lands of any obligation to pay a principal sum, Rensselaerwyck alone; for the number of this rent was to be perpetual. The im holders had become of late greatly multiportant fact that we have now to notice plied, without materially increasing the is, that, for six years past, throughout the quantity of land held in this manner. greater part of these two counties, where Indeed, a very large proportion of the lands are held in the manner we have de- whole country population of Albany and scribed, there has been a CONCERTED, Rensselaer counties had an interest, direct PRACTICAL REPUDIATION of these rents, or incidental, in the subject. It happen. and of the obligations, or contracts, under ed too, in this case, that one individual, which they are payable. This concerted or one family alone, stood in the relation action now embraces, and has for a con- of creditor, for the dues charged on the siderable period embraced, several other. Jands, to this large community of landcounties, where lands are held under the holders. Down to January, 1839, when like or analogous obligations.
Stephen Van Rensselaer died, they were It is not difficult to see how the design mutually debtors to one man. Since that of repudiation should come to be enter. period there have been two creditors for tained. If there had been a dozen or their rents instead of one, but only one a hundred landholders only, scattered in each county. Attention was thus through the county of Albany, having centered on an individual as the owner their lands charged in the manner we and receiver of these dues from so many bave stated, with the payment of rent debtors. This, of itself, was enough to to as many different landlords, and no create a bond of union and sympathy bemore cases of the sort were to be found tween the debtors. It was very natural in the State, there is not the slightest that even the best and most honest among reason to suppose that it would ever them should be led to compare their own have entered into the imagination of any personal condition with his. Thoughts one of them, that there was anything in of his extraordinary wealth would arise this particular form of indebtedness which and become the subject of remark. Enrequired him, or which left him at liberty, vious thoughts beget evil desires and to repudiate the debt if he could. But designs. In this condition of things, the sentiments and purposes which solitary worst spirits in the community are sure individuals dare not avow or entertain, to lead ; and it would soon come to be a on account of their profligacy or injus- common reflection and sentiment among tice, communities of men, composed of them,"Why, here is a gross disproportion just such individuals, will oftentimes in the distribution of wealth, and this boldly embrace. There seems to be must be all wrong if there be any virtue
thing so intrinsically base or wicked, or excelle in republican equality. that respectable and apparently well. This is tribute which we are paying; meaning persons may not be found to this man is a lordling in a republican encourage and support it, provided only country, and we are serfs!" From this to it have the sanction of numbers in its the cry of “ Down with the Rent,” was favor. Many, perhaps the majority of but a short step. Moreover, this course mankind, never look at all into the of events was materially helped forward
by the serious accumulation of indebted- summated. None pay but the few who ness upon the “ Manor,” which had been choose voluntarily to do so. suffered to grow up in the time of the late no doubt, many who choose to pay, but proprietor. A more amiable and excel- do not because they dare not. They are lent man has not lived in our time. Often threatened with personal injury and the did he resort to borrowing rather than destruction of their property, by their exact payment from debtors, who either neighbors, if they should do so. The neglected to come to him at all, or who law in this regard is powerless, and has came to him with plausible excuses for been so for the long period of time we delay. He would not run the slightest have mentioned. It an officer appears, hazard of acting oppressively towards the blast of a horn is sounded before him, any human being. But it is easy to see and prolonged, if need be, by innumerathat many would take advantage of this ble echoes, and he can find nobody whom lenity, dishonestly to withhold their dues, he wishes to see. Nearly the whole and of purpose to lead the way to a com- population in many towns are “Antimon resistance to the whole indebtedness. Renters.” Their names are signed to They knew that the difficulty of en articles of association. They make forcing collections would be greatly in regular and stated contributions, by a tax creased, and the motives to resistance of so much per acre on their lands, to a greatly strengthened. And so it has un common fund for the support of the Antidoubtedly turned out.
Rent cause. And large numbers among The first Anti-Rent outbreak-we mean them are regularly enlisted, organized of late years occurred in the county of and armed, ready to appear at any moAlbany. During the life-time of the late ment, disguised as Indian warriors, for proprietor, everything remained quiet. any desperate service to which they may A sense of gratitude for continual favors, be assigned. In the mean time this pracand a feeling, perhaps, that any outrage tical repudiation, supported by extensive committed towards him or his estate combinations, and backed by an armed would be resented by the common senti- force, has spread to other counties. In ment of the whole country, repressed any about fifteen or seventeen other counties open show of that bitter animosity which lands, to a greater or less extent, are has since been exhibited. Things were, held under grants which reserve rents, in no doubt, prepared and ripening for a many respects, not unlike those of Al. movement, and his death was the signal bany and Rensselaer; and in several of for action. The “ Manor” was immedi- these the like associations and organizaately alive with a general stir. Meetings tions, and the like practical repudiation, were held; committees were appointed; exist. In some of them the greatest outnegotiations were had, and high demands rages on the order and peace of society were made, which were rejected, it may have been perpetrated. The law and its be, in no very gracious temper. The ministers have been set at open defiance, breach widened. Attempts to enforce and murder has been committed—if that collections, or serve process, were met by should be called merely murder, where resistance. Outrages were committed on death is dealt by a volley in the broad the officers of the law. Combinations day, from a force numbering some hunwere effected by which all legal process dreds of men, in regular military array, was rendered wholly nugatory. • Posses” and organized and in the field avowedly to were called out which effected nothing. arrest and resist the course and adminisAnd then came the Helderberg War. tration of the law of the land and the Bodies of armed militia marched into the authority of government. It may be disaffected country--and marched back added that one county-Delaware—is again. The Legislature interfered, and declared, by a public proclamation of the commissioners were appointed by public Governor, to be at this moment in a state authority, to interpose between parties to of insurrection. private contracts, to effect a settlement. This, then, is a case of flagrant repuOf course, they effected nothing. The diation-attempted, and, as far as possipayment of rents throughout the whole ble, already consummated. And the “ Manor” was, in a great degree, suspend- combinations for this object, as we have ed, and so has remained to this day. Ever seen, are very extensive, and means have since the death of the late Mr. Van Rensse- been resorted to to make the object effeclaer, there has been, to a great extent, in all tual, which give it a very marked, this “ Manor,” a practical repudiation of aggravated and dangerous character. debts, in the shape of rents, actually con We do not suppose that all who are en
gaged in it, or who contribute to support ral counties, to resist, by force of arms, it by their means or influence, wish or all attempts to enforce the payment of intend that the cause of repudiation shall rent by legal process and authority, and be pushed so far as to wipe off, at once the execution of all criminal process and forever, every vestige of debt existing growing out of such resistance; and acin the shape of rent, and bring about a tual flagrant war, even to the shedding thorough and complete acquittance of all of blood, has been levied against the the debtors hy rce of this movement. State. A tragical affair, as our readers This is the purpose of some, no doubt; know, occurred in August last, at Andes, but many, we dare say, are willing to in Delaware, when an officer, by the see a compromise effected-of course, at name of Steele, was shot down in the the expense of the creditors. The object performance of his duty. A force, altoof many, no doubt, is to compel these gether, of 260 armed men, appeared on creditors to sacrifice a part of their dues, and near the ground on that occasion, in in order to secure the rest. Perhaps, the regular military array. This was not a most of the “ Anti-Renters” do not look demonstration got up merely for the case for a permanent result to their labors then in hand—the sale of property taken much beyond this. But, in the mean on a warrant of distress—and to end with time, repudiation is actually accom that case; it was only one act in an orplished, probably in eight cases out of ganized and systematic resistance to the ten, in some half-dozen counties of the process and authority of the law in every State where this kind of indebtedness case of the sort throughout the whole disexists. And if “ Anti-Renters” mean, in affected region. There were, at that the end, to be liberal enough to allow time, according to the Proclamation of their creditors to receive a part of their the Governor upon that event, a thoudues, still the mischief of repudiation is sand or more persons enrolled, and sworn, done. It is just as base an act of turpi- as “ Indians," within the single county tude, so far as principle is concerned, to of Delaware; while, of the force actually compel a creditor, by violence or intimi on the ground at Andes, a considerable dation, to give up a part of what is hon- portion had been drawn from two of the estly and fairly due to him on a legal adjoining counties. We are advised contract, as it would be to rob him of the officially, by the same respectable author. whole. The highwayman who divides ity, that combinations 10 resist, by with his victim on the road, after he force, the execution of both civil and gets him in his power, may be called a criminal process, have existed, for some generous fellow, but he is a robber ney. time, in several counties; that the asso. ertheless. Our admiration of his gene- ciations formed for this purpose have en. rosity, even, would be a good deal grafted upon their organization a force of abated if it should appear that he gave disguised, masked and armed men, subup part of his booty because he lacked ject to the orders and directions of the the physical ability to carry it all away. Officers of these associations, and by and If, indeed, it should turn out that the through which force, under the proteccontracts in this case are illegal, or that tion of its disguises and masks, the rethe debts are unconscientious, the moral sistance to the execution of legal pro. character of the transaction would cer cess is to be made ; that the avoued and tainly be changed. How that may be we declared object of the associations is to may understand better, perhaps, by and by. prevent by force the collection of rent;
But this is repudiation; and, as we that they have a regular tisc, to which have seen already, it is repudiation fixed contributions are statedly made ; with a high hand, and accompanied that the officers of the associations, and with manifold and outrageous crime. all the enlisted men, are sworn to be true Wanton violence offered to innocent and to this cause, and to keep each other's unoffending persons, destruction of pro- secrets; that magistrates, constables and perty, robbery, arson and murder, are supervisors have joined these combinaamong the offences committed in carrying tions; and that these organizations, it out.
And this is not all, or the worst. armed and unarmed, wherever they exist, The State has been attacked in its sove have and avow a common object, make reignty, and the foulest treason has been common cause, and act in entire concert committed. Extensive combinations have and coöperation. Here, then, is rebelbeen formed, embracing many thousands lion, wide-spread, and of desperate inof persons, and extending through seve tent. The object proposed is of a general
nature, and of great public concern; and veyances, Leases; to call the grantor, that object has been attempted in repeated a landlord ; and the grantees, Tenants. instances to be carried out by force—by Strictly, every one who holds land is a assemblages of armed men. Such insur- tenant; but the word, as popularly underrections are clearly treasonable under stood, is usually employed to designate the statutes of the State; “ they have a those who hold lands belonging to others, direct tendency to dissolve all the bonds under some agreement for the temporary of society, and to destroy all property, occupation. So the term landlord may and all government too, by numbers and mean any one of whom, or from whom, an armed force.”
lands are holden, or the title derived ; How this case—so extraordinary, so but it is usually applied, with us, to the degrading to the character of the State, owner of lands occupied, under agreeand so alarming-has been met and ment, by others. The word lease, in its treated by men and parties out of the appropriate meaning, is a contract of letcircle of Anti-Rent operations; what the ting, by the owner of lands, to another. public press has had to say about it; Now, we have already said that the and how it has been met and treated by occupants of these lands are freeholders; the public authorities; of these things and a freeholder is one who holds indewe may have occasion to speak further pendently of the will and caprice of a
At present, we must take some no. feudal lord or landlord, or anybody else. tice of the more prominent matters that But this term does not fully describe the have been put forth in various quarters tenure of these occupants; for an estate as justifying, if not a resort to extreme for life is a freehold, and it is, at the same measures, at least a strong feeling of dis- time, a leasehold and a limited estate. satisfaction and resentment, on the part The farmers of Albany and Rensselaer of those owning or holding lands subject have better estates than this. Theirs are to rent, towards their creditors, the estates of inheritance-estates in feeowners of these rents. It is said that estates to last forever. Their conveythere is something wrong in the relation ances are deeds of assurance, and they between these parties—something which run in this wise, namely: that Stephen ought not to be suffered in a free coun Van Rensselaer,“ by these presents, doth try-something degrading to the land- grant, bargain, sell, remise, release and holders, inconsistent with the spirit of confirm unto the said party of the second our institutions, and calling for the inter- part, and to his heirs and assigns, all ference of the public authorities. Op- that certain farm, piece or parcel of land,” pression is sometimes alleged in reference &c. - to have and to hold the said to the original contracts of sale and pur- farm, piece or parcel of land, unto the chase. They are spoken of as hard bar- said party of the second part, his heirs gains, oppressively insisted on and en and assigns, to the only proper use and forced. Doubts are expressed about the behoof of the said party of the second part, title to the lands; and complaints are his heirs and assigns, FOREVER.” This is made that the legal facilities for enforc- language, as every lawyer knows, which ing collections of rents are too great. has a strong legal significance. By it Let us see what foundation there is for every particle of interest which the grantor these allegations—how much of this had in the soil passed to the grantee. spirit of complaint is founded in just The grantee became the sole owner. considerations, how much in imaginary There was not only no present interest ills-how much of it is real, and how in the soil reserved to the grantor, but much is assumed for the occasion. there was no future or reversionary in
It is important, in the first place, that terest. There was a clean conveyance we should understand the true relation of the whole estate—of the whole prosubsisting between the parties to deeds perty. which convey lands in perpetuity, re It is true, that while the fee was grantserving annual rents; for this, we be- ed-by which we mean, according to the lieve, is the kind of conveyance most modern use of the term, the whole procomplained of—atany rate, it is that under perty of the soil—a certain annual profit which the lands in the quondam Manor or return from the land was reserved by of Rensselaerwyck” are principally held. the deed to the grantor, and stipulated to Be it remembered, that we are now look. be paid by the purchaser. This was an ing after the substance of things, and annuity, and was the consideration, or a names must not be suffered to mislead us. part of it, for the purchase. It was a It has been common to call these con- mode of paying for the fee, by paying for