Van Rensselaer Manor Papers

The Manor Under English Rule

In 1664, the Dutch lost their holdings in North America to the English, who continued to recognize the validity of the Van Rensselaer claims. The change in government did not take away the existing feudal rights and privileges, except that patroons could no longer make laws or act as judges in court cases on their own lands. Rules governing the tenants' requirement to owe goods and services to the manor remained unchanged.

Patent of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck
Patent of the Manor
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In 1685, Royal Governor Thomas Dongan issued a patent for the "Manor of Rensselaerswyck" establishing the patroonship as a legal entity, describing its borders, and defining the special rights of its proprietor. The boundaries established here encompassed much of the land now situated in present-day Albany and Rensselaer Counties.  However, the patent also specifically excluded ". . . fort Albany and the Towne Albany" from the manor, setting the stage for Dongan's granting of the Albany city charter in July 1686.

This confirmation of title by Governor Dongan made Rensselaerswijck one of the great manorial estates that lined both sides of the Hudson River during the English Colonial era and well into the first century of the American Republic.  In addition, the patroon was granted the title "Lord of Manor" and given freedom from taxation.

Although a part of Albany County, from 1691 to 1775, Rensselaerswyck sent its own representative to the provincial Assembly. After the War for Independence, that seat was enveloped into Albany County.  Watervliet was made a separate district in 1788 and Bethlehem a town in 1793. The manor on the east side of the Hudson became part of newly created Rensselaer County in 1791.

Last Updated: December 6, 2010