Mixed Soil, 2015
The Anti-Rent Movement was a tenant farmers' movement from 1839 to 1852 that decisively influenced New York State politics in the 1840s and helped destroy the system of tenanted estates, replacing them with owner-operated farms. With 25,000-60,000 supporters, it was the most extensive farmers' movement in the United States before the Civil War and one of the most influential popular movements of the antebellum era.
The heyday of the antirenters' political power was also a moment of political frustration. The demands that the legislature granted were minor. Most legislators opposed the insurgents' main demand-a law allowing tenants to "plead title" when sued for unpaid rents-as violating the federal constitution and the rights of property. Moreover, the antirenters' electoral gains came just as the Indians were being crushed. When the Indians killed Deputy Sheriff Osman Steele at a distress sale in Andes (Delaware Co) in August 1845, Gov Silas Wright declared Delaware, Columbia, and Schoharie Cos in insurrection and called out the militia. Posses and the militia swept through Delaware and Columbia Cos, making mass arrests, intimidating antirenters, destroying property, and serving legal papers on tenants who boycotted rents. In the face of this repression, the Indians disbanded, leaving thousands of tenants vulnerable to eviction.
The antirent movement left a lasting impact on New York State's society and politics. The movement created bitter divisions between conservatives and reformers in both the Whig and Democratic Parties, contributing to the collapse of the Whig Party after 1852. Just as important, the antirenters influenced the policies and ideologies of the major political parties. More generally, political leaders came to oppose any set of class relations that smacked of deference, seemed to create permanent inequalities, or retarded the free exchange of land. Many endorsed a radically new state power, that of weakening or destroying systems of property and class relations that undermined freedom. In the mid-1850s, these innovations found their way into the ideology and platform of the Republican Party.
Courtesy of The Encyclopedia of New York State.