patroon (pətrōnˈ) [key] [Du., = patron or employer], in American history, the name given to a Dutch landowner in New Netherland who exerted manorial rights in colonial times. To encourage emigration of Dutch farmers to America, the Dutch West India Company, by a 1629 charter, granted large estates (16 mi/26 km of land along navigable rivers or 8 mi/13 km on each shore and extending inland as far as it proved convenient) to members of the company who would establish settlements of 50 persons within four years. These company members, called patroons, were granted many privileges that were feudal in nature—the right to hold land as a perpetual grant, the right to establish civil and criminal courts, and the right to appoint local officers. Settlers were exempt from public taxes for a decade, but they were specifically required to pay the patroon in money, goods, or services. Manufacturing was prohibited under heavy penalty, and commerce was restricted to a great extent. Before long several estates were established along the Delaware, Connecticut, and Hudson rivers. In 1640 the charter was revised by the Dutch West India Company; the size of the land grants was halved, manufacturing was permitted, and all Dutch inhabitants in good standing could obtain estates. Native American raids, mismanagement, and insufficient cooperation from the Dutch West India Company, however, caused the patroons to fail. The only patroonship that succeeded was Rensselaerswyck, a large estate on the Hudson, which remained in the hands of the Van Rensselaer family until the middle of the 19th cent. After New Netherland came under English control in 1664, the patroon system continued and underwent few changes until 1775, when patroons became proprietors of estates. Some characteristics of feudal tenure did remain, and this condition brought about increasing tension between landlord and tenant in New York state until the Antirent War (1839–46) brought about important modifications.
See S. G. Nissenson, Patroon's Domain (1937, repr. 1973).
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