The patroons were established by the Dutch in and around New York State, wheich they settled beginning around 1630. A patroon was granted absolute dominion over a large tract of land; the position was much like that of medieval feudal lords. Their status changed, of course, over the years; I am not quite clear what remained of their lord-like status in the early 19th century, but they constituted, for America at the time, an abnormally wealthy group of families, and their tenants were still considered in some degree to be treated like serfs.

In 1839, around the time of the death of the "good patroon", Stephen Van Rensselaer, an anti-rent movement began, which grew into a covert war, against the collection of rents by the patroons. This war plagued Governor Wm. H. Seward in 1841 and 42; and Seward tried to placate both sides. In 1845, Governer Wright called for the suppression of the rebellion.

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