The Fall of the House of Van Rensselaer, 1819–1839

Reeve Huston

in Land and Freedom

Published in print October 2000 | ISBN: 9780195136005
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848782 | DOI:
The Fall of the House of Van Rensselaer, 1819–1839

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The panic of 1819 threw Stephen Van Rensselaer's finances into shambles. In that year, he withdrew as the principal benefactor of the Rensselaer School and began a new campaign to press tenants to pay their back rents. Van Rensselaer's agents combed the estate, pressuring tenants to pay their debts, promising lenience if they paid, and threatening lawsuits if they did not. Although Van Rensselaer had made similar threats and promises of lenience since the 1790s, the context of his demands had changed. His campaign for payment came during the depression of 1819–23, when merchants and other creditors were also pressing tenants to repay their debts. By 1821, the price of wheat had dropped, compelling most tenants to pay between two and three times the amount of produce that they had originally owed. Van Rensselaer's demands thus saddled the most indebted tenants with a crushing burden.

Keywords: Stephen Van Rensselaer; Rensselaer School; tenants; rents; depression; merchants; creditors; debts

Chapter.  4560 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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