[New York State Anti-Rent War Antecedents] 1786 Lease on Mortgage, Indenture between Samuel Herrick and Robert G. Livingston of New York.
To Have and Have Not
Gilbert Livingston understood the system well. His grandfather was Robert Livingston the Elder, the first Lord of Livingston Manor, and one of the wealthiest man alive in seventeenth-century New York. The Livingstons had massive land holdings.
This mortgage lease agreement for land in Dutchess County concerned New York merchant Samuel Herrick (1757–1824) and Robert Gilbert Livingston (1712–1789), his “tenant.” Livingston, a New York City merchant, and a former Loyalist, was to pay Herrick “the rent of one pepper corn,” a nominal amount.
Livington also paid the modest sum of “five shillings current Money of the State of New York” to Herrick. The payment was made “before the ensealing and delivery of these presents [the agreement]” noting that Herrick “doth grant bargain sell and demise” to Livingston Lot No. 32, a 145-acre tract in Amenia precinct, Dutchess County.
Herrick’s agreement is a mortgage by demise, a temporary transfer of the land, a common tactic used by land owners in the Hudson River valley and the Catskills in the years following the American Revolution when the region’s population soared.
Herrick’s relationship to Livingston is unclear, but this agreement (concealing the true value of the land—worth much more than a peppercorn) suggests one tactic used by land owners and speculators to buy up land and to then maintain a feudal-like control of the land’s produce. As landlords, they would often collect “rent” in the form of taking a share of the farmer’s produce.
When the descendants of these upstate New York land moguls became pressed for cash in 1839–1845, they began to demand cash payments. This led to a tenants’ revolt known as the Anti-Rent War and a demand for land reform. An Antirenter Party was formed and influenced New York politics in the years after the Anti-Rent War.
The mortgage also has the autograph of jurist James Kent (1763-1847) who served as the first professor of law at Columbia College. He was New York State’s Chief Justice between 1804 to 1814.
Description: [New York State Anti-Rent War Antecedents] 1786 Lease on Mortgage, Indenture between Samuel Herrick and Robert G. Livingston of New York.
New York State. August 9, 1786. Bifolium, 2½ manuscript pages. Scattered stains; very good.