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The Anti-Rent Era in New York
 Law and Politics, 1839-1865

by Charles W. McCurdy

Hardcover, 408 pages, 6-1/8 x 9-1/4, 4 maps, notes, index
Published Spring/Summer 2001
University of North Carolina Press 

From the publisher:
A compelling blend of legal and political history, this book chronicles the largest tenant rebellion in U.S. history. From its beginning in the rural villages of eastern New York in 1839 until its collapse in 1865, the Anti-Rent movement impelled the state's governors, legislators, judges, and journalists, as well as delegates to New York's bellwether constitutional convention of 1846, to wrestle with two difficult problems of social policy. One was how to put down violent tenant resistance to the enforcement of landlord property and contract rights. The second was how to abolish the archaic form of land tenure at the root of the rent strike.

Charles McCurdy considers the public debate on these questions from a fresh perspective. Instead of treating law and politics as dependent variables--as mirrors of social interests or accelerators of social change--he highlights the manifold ways in which law and politics shaped both the pattern of Anti-Rent violence and the drive for land reform. In the process, he provides a major reinterpretation of the ideas and institutions that diminished the promise of American democracy in the supposed "golden age" of American law and politics.

About the author
Charles W. McCurdy is professor of history and law at the University of Virginia.


1. Governor Seward and the Manor of Rensselaerwyck
            A Whig in the State House
            The Patroon's Domain
            The Helderberg War
            Land Law and the Law of the Land

2. Whig Reconnaissance
            Public Purposes in Party Dialogue
            The Wheaton Bill
            Land Reform and Whig Constitutionalism
            The Making of the Manor Commission

3. The Politics of Evasion
            Portents of Failure
            The Debacle in Albany
            Anti-Rent Revived
            The Compromise of 1841

4. The Trouble with Democrats
            Whig "Fallacies"—Democratic Solutions
            Bargain Theory in the Jacksonian Persuasion
            Debtors and Tenants before the Legislature
            Anti-Rent Transformed

5. Depression-Era Constitutionalism
            Tightening the Right-Remedy Distinction
            Due Process and the Eminent Domain Power
            Judicial Review in a Democracy
            The Logic of Constitutional Reform

6. Signs of War
            Petitions and Partisanship
            Land Reform and Democratic Constitutionalism
            Texas and the Reorientation of Parties
            The Luxuriation of Anti-Rent

7. Resistance and Reform
            The Election of 1844
            Mixed Reactions

8. Political Crossroads
            The Washington-Albany Connection
            Dilemmas for the Democracy
            Land Reform and Constitutional Reform
            Partisan Mediators of Anti-Rent Decisions

9. A Cacophony of Voices
            The "New Constitution"
            The Rout of the "Indians"
            Whig Recriminations
            The No-Compromise Persuasion

10. Democratic Futility
            Land Reform at the Shrine of Party
            Political Fratricide
            The Anti-Rent Measures
            A Sinking Ship

11. Whig Resolution
            Anti-Rent and the Balance of Power
            A Troublesome Constituency
            Antislavery and Anti-Rent
            Dead Ends

12. Enmeshed in Law
            Lawyers in Charge
            The Failed Compromise of 1850
            Division and Decline
            The Lease in Fee Besieged
            Perpetual Rent

13. The End of an Era
            The Anti-Rent Act of 1860


1. Ballots at Whig State Convention, September 1846
2. Election Returns, November 1846

1. Hudson River Valley Manors and Patents, c. 1750
2. Albany and Rensselaer Counties in 1839
3. West Side Organizing Drive of 1844
4. East Side Organizing Drive of 1844

Book condition:
This is a new "remainder" book. A remainder is a book that may have been unsold by the publisher, or it may have been an "unsold" return from a bookstore. It may have minor shelf wear on the cover, or other mild imperfection. We do not ship books with major damage. No remainder mark.

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