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Anti-Rent War


ANTI-RENT WAR. Centered in the Catskill counties of New York state, the Anti-Rent War of 1839–1846 was a rebellion against the old patroon system of estate landownership. Protest took the form of harassment of rent collectors by farmers disguised as "Indians," who shot seized livestock and broke up rent sales. In 1845, however, protesters killed a deputy sheriff, prompting a sheriff's posse, reinforced by state militia, to begin wreaking havoc in Delaware County while searching for the killers. Ninety-four anti-rent men were arrested and indicted for murder, while 148 were charged with other crimes, including arson, theft, and rioting.

However, this heavy-handed reaction against a system largely obsolete outside New York drew great sympathy for the anti-renters, and in the 1845 New York elections, a governor gained office on the promise of pardoning all the anti-renters, reforming the land system, and beginning the practice of electing the New York attorney general, all of which were done by 1846.


Christman, Henry. Tin Horns and Calico: A Decisive Episode in the Emergence of Democracy. Cornwallville, N.Y.: Hope Farm Press, 1975.

Huston, Reeve. Land and Freedom: Rural Society, Popular Protest, and Party Politics in Antebellum New York. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Margaret D.Sankey

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