The Anti-Rent Rebellion of 1765

Throughout the Colonial Era, the land east of the Hudson River was managed as a feudal system, in which large tracts of land were sold to wealthy aristocrats who then exacted rent from the peasants who worked the land. After the French-Indian War, disputes arose concerning the land in Dutchess County, and in 1765 the Wappinger Sachem Daniel Nimham brought suit in English Chancery court to recover land that Dutch landowner Arthur Philipse had appropriated from the Wappingers while they were away fighting in the French-Indian War. After Nimham’s suit was rejected, Philipse’s heirs began ejecting tenants from the land between Conneticut and the Hudson, and tenants, led by a farmer William Prendergast, opted to reinstate the dispossessed tenants, by force if necessary.

Prendergast’s army grew to 1,700 armed farmers before the army was brought into disperse the insurrection and arrest its leaders. In 1766 Prendergast was convicted of treason, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The tireless campaigning of his wife Mehitabel Wing ultimately secured Prendergast a pardon from George III.

The Pawling anti-rent rebellion would be only one of several such revolts against the feudal property leases held by New York landowners into the nineteenth century.