Talented minstrels beguiled us with the telling of our Anti-Rent War history
To the Editor:
The people behind the masterful talents brought forth by the Old Songs organization are to be grandly commended for their efforts to preserve, perform, and compose music that brings people together. A group of players and performers expertly entertained the New Scotland Historical Association and many others with a fascinating and well-thought-out presentation of the Anti-Rent Rebellion of New York entitled “Down With the Rent!”
We were regaled with the history of our region through music, song, and verse, much to our great amusement. If you know nothing or little of the struggle of Americans in our home of Albany County and this region of New York State, you must seek out this group from Old Songs Inc. and attend this extraordinary production.
They will tell you about how farmers within Rensselaerwyck were considered tenants and were not free to own land within the patroon’s considerable lands of the manor. This continued even after the War of Independence.
It is sad to know that one family was granted all rights to over 700,000 acres comprising all of Albany and Rensselaer counties, plus more. The settlers and their descendants who farmed that land for the Dutch patron had little opportunity to make land claims for themselves, even after the Dutch were defeated by the British in 1664 and the Dutch no longer ruled here.
But, as usual, deals were made, and the common man was left out, and held accountable to the patroon’s rents on land.
It is astonishing that Americans who had later fought for their independence from England continued to be pressured by rent-collectors even under our newly formed United States of America. How could Americans be held to agreements made with the Dutch decades and generations earlier, when those standards did not favor the common man, and reward his hard work with landownership?
The evening’s program was sponsored by the New Scotland Historical Association with hopes to raise membership. This was history made fun, and what better way to learn?
Given the local historical content of the performance and the enormous musical and vocal talents of the minstrels, everyone appeared to be quite beguiled to the point of responding with a standing ovation. The script made sense and flowed well; the music made the history it proclaimed easy to understand. The performance direction, sound, and props were handled with notable expertise. This is homegrown entertainment that should not be missed.
I want to thank all of the participants and promoters of this production for bringing it to the stage. The American history this performance portrays is often overlooked in our education system at a time and age that students can comprehend what actually happened to these so-called free Americans. When modern-day people actually comprehend the rise of the Anti-Rent Wars they are stunned that such injustices could be enacted upon the undefeatable American farmer.
Please support the efforts and musical performances of Old Songs; we are so lucky they reside in our community!
Timothy J. Albright