While this seizure of land was going on in New Netherlands, vast areas in New England were passing suddenly into the hands of a few men. These areas sometimes comprised what are now entire States, and were often palpably obtained by fraud, collusion, trickery or favoritism. The Puritan influx into Massachusetts was an admixture of different occupations. Some were traders or merchants; others were mechanics. By far the largest portion were cultivators of the soil whom economic pressure not less than religious persecution had driven from England. To these land was a paramount consideration.

Describing how the English tiller had been expropriated from the soil Wallace says: „The ingenuity of lawyers and direct landlord legislation steadily increased the powers of great landowners and encroached upon the rights of the people, till at length the monstrous doctrine arose that a landless Englishman has no right whatever to enjoyment even of the unenclosed commons and heaths and the mountain and forest wastes of his native country, but is everywhere in the eye of the law a trespasser whenever he ventures off a public road or pathway.”[9] By the sixteenth century the English peasantry had been evicted even from the commons, which were turned into sheep walks by the impoverished barons to make money from the Flemish wool market. The land at home wrenched from them, the poor English immigrants ardently expected that in America land would be plentiful. They were bitterly disappointed. The various English companies, chartered by royal command with all-inclusive powers, despite the frequent opposition of Parliament, held the trade and land of the greater part of the colonies as a rigid monopoly. In the case of the New England Company severe punishment was threatened to all who should encroach upon its rights. It also was freed from payment for twenty-one years and was relieved from taxes forever.


The New England colonies were carved out into a few colossal private estates. The example of the British nobility was emulated; but the chartered companies did not have to resort to the adroit, disingenuous, subterranean methods which the English land magnates used in perpetuating their seizure, as so graphically described by S. W. Thackery in his work, „The Land and the Community”. The land in New England was taken over boldly and arbitrarily by the directors of the Plymouth Company, the most powerful of all the companies which exploited New England. The handful of men who participated in this division, sustained with a high hand their claims and pretensions, and augmented and fortified them by every device. Quite regardless of who the changing monarch was, or what country ruled, these colonial magnates generally contrived to keep the power strong in their own hands. There might be a superficial show of changed conditions, an apparent infusion of democracy, but, in reality, the substance remained the same.

This was nowhere more lucidly or strikingly illustrated than after New Netherlands passed into the control of the English and was renamed New York. Laws were decreed which seemed to bear the impress of justice and democracy. Monopoly was abolished, every man was given the much-prized right of trading in furs and pelts, and the burgher right was extended and its acquisition made easier.

However well-intentioned these altered laws were, they turned out to be shallow delusions. Under English rule, the gifts of vast estates in New York were even greater than under Dutch rule and beyond doubt were granted corruptly or by favoritism. Miles upon miles of land in New York which had not been preëmpted were brazenly given away by the royal Governor Fletcher for bribes; and it was suspected, although not clearly proved, that he trafficked in estates in Pennsylvania during the time when, by royal order, he supplanted William Penn in the government of that province. From the evidence which has come down it would appear that any one who offered Fletcher his price could be transformed into a great vested land owner. But still the people imagined that they had a real democratic government. Had not England established representative assemblies? These, with certain restrictions, alone had the power of law-making for the provinces. These representative bodies were supposed to rest upon the vote of the people, which vote, however, was determined by a strict property qualification.


What really happened was that, apparently deprived of direct feudal power, the landed interests had no difficulty in retaining their law-making ascendancy by getting control of the various provincial assemblies. Bodies supposedly representative of the whole people were, in fact, composed of great landowners, of a quota of merchants who were subservient to the landowners, and a sprinkling of farmers. In Virginia this state was long-continuing, while in New York province it became such an intolerable abuse and resulted in such oppressions to the body of the people, that on Sept. 20, 1764, Lieutenant-Governor Cadwallader Colden, writing from New York to the Lords of Trade at London, strongly expostulated. He described how the land magnates had devised to set themselves up as the law-making class. Three of the large land grants contained provisions guaranteeing to each owner the privilege of sending a representative to the General Assembly. These landed proprietors, therefore, became hereditary legislators. „The owners of other great Patents,” Colden continued, „being men of the greatest opulence in the several American counties where these Tracts are, have sufficient influence to be perpetually elected for those counties. The General Assembly, then, of this Province consists of the owners of these extravagant Grants, the merchants of New York, the principal of them strongly connected with the owners of these Great Tracts by Family interest, and of Common Farmers, which last are men easily deluded and led away with popular arguments of Liberty and Privileges. The Proprietors of the great tracts are not only freed from the quit rents which the other landholders in the Provinces pay, but by their influences in the Assembly are freed from every other public Tax on their lands.”[10]

What Colden wrote of the landed class of New York was substantially true of all the other provinces. The small, powerful clique of great landowners had cunningly taken over to themselves the functions of government and diverted them to their own ends. First the land was seized and then it was declared exempt of taxation.

Inevitably there was but one sequel. Everywhere, but especially so in New York and Virginia, the landed proprietors became richer and more arrogant, while poverty, even in new country with extraordinary resources, took root and continued to grow. The burden of taxation fell entirely upon the farming and laboring classes; although the merchants were nominally taxed they easily shifted their obligations upon those two classes by indirect means of trade. Usurious loans and mortgages became prevalent.

It was now seen what meaningless tinsel the unrestricted right to trade in furs was. To get the furs access to the land was necessary; and the land was monopolized. In the South, where tobacco and corn were the important staples, the worker was likewise denied the soil except as a laborer or tenant, and in Massachusetts colony, where fortunes were being made from timber, furs and fisheries, the poor man had practically no chance against the superior advantages of the landed and privileged class. These conditions led to severe reprisals. Several uprisings in New York, Bacon’s rebellion in Virginia, after the restoration of Charles II, when that king granted large tracts of land belonging to the colony to his favorites, and subsequently, in 1734, a ferment in Georgia, even under the mild proprietary rule of the philanthropist Oglethorpe, were all really outbursts of popular discontent largely against the oppressive form in which land was held and against discriminative taxation, although each uprising had its local issues differing from those elsewhere.

In this conflict between landed class and people, the only hope of the mass of the people lay in getting the favorable attention of royal governors. At least one of these considered earnestly and conscientiously the grave existing abuses and responded to popular protest which had become bitter.


This official was the Earl of Bellomont. Scarcely had he arrived after his appointment as Captain-General and Governor of Massachusetts Bay, New York and other provinces, when he was made acquainted with the widespread discontent. The landed magnates had not only created an abysmal difference between themselves and the masses in possessions and privileges, but also in dress and air, founded upon strict distinctions in law. The landed aristocrat with his laces and ruffles, his silks and his gold and silver ornaments and his expensive tableware, his consciously superior air and tone of grandiose authority, was far removed in established position from the mechanic or the laborer with his coarse clothes and mean habitation. Laws were long in force in various provinces which prohibited the common people from wearing gold and silver lace, silks and ornaments. Bellomont noted the sense of deep injustice smouldering in the minds of the people and set out to confiscate the great estates, particularly, as he set forth, as many of them had been obtained by bribery.

It was with amazement that Bellomont learned that one man, Colonel Samuel Allen, claimed to own the whole of what is now the state of New Hampshire. When, in 1635, the Plymouth Colony was about to surrender its charter, its directors apportioned their territory to themselves individually. New Hampshire went by lot to Captain John Mason who, some years before, had obtained a patent to the same area from the company. Charles I had confirmed the company’s action. After Mason’s death, his claims were bought up by Allen for about $1,250. Mason, however, left an heir and protracted litigation followed. In the meantime, settlers taking advantage of these conflicting claims, proceeded to spread over New Hampshire and hew the forests for cleared agricultural land. Allen managed to get himself appointed governor of New Hampshire in 1692 and declared the whole province his personal property and threatened to oust the settlers as trespassers unless they came to terms. There was imminent danger of an uprising of the settlers, who failed to see why the land upon which they had spent labor did not belong to them. Bellomont investigated; and in communication, dated June 22, 1700, to the Lords of Trade, denounced Allen’s title as defective and insufficient, and brought out the charge that Allen had tried to get his confirmation of his, Allen’s, claims by means of a heavy bribe.


„There was an offer made me,” Bellomont wrote, „of £10,000 in money, but I thank God I had not the least tempting thought to accept of the offer and I hope nothing in this world will ever be able to attempt me to betray England in the least degree. This offer was made me three or four times.” Bellomont added: „I will make it appear that the lands and woods claimed by Colonel Allen are much more valuable than ten of the biggest estates in England, and I will rate those ten estates at £300,000 a piece, one with another, which is three millions. By his own confession to me at Pescattaway last summer, he valued the Quit Rents of his lands (as he calls ’em) at £22,000 per annum at 3d per acre of 6d in the pound of all improv’d Rents; then I leave your lordships to judge what an immense estate the improv’d rents must be, which (if his title be allowed) he has as good a right to the forementioned Quit Rents. And all this besides the Woods which I believe he might very well value at half the worth of the lands. There never was, I believe, since the world began so great a bargain as Allen has had of Mason, if it be allowed to stand good, that all this vast estate I have been naming should be purchased for a poor £250 and that a desperate debt, too, as Col. Allen thought. He pretends to a great part of this province as far Westward as Cape St. Ann, which is said to take in 17 of the best towns in this province next to Boston, the best improved land, and, (I think Col. Allen told me) 8 or 900,000 acres of their land. If Col. Allen shall at any time go about to make a forcible entry on these lands he pretends to (for, to be sure, the people will never turn tenants to him willingly) the present occupants will resist him by any force he shall bring and the Province will be put to a combustion and what may be the course I dread to think.”…[11]

But the persistent Allen did not establish his claim. Several times he lost in the litigation, the last time in 1715. His death was followed by his son’s death; and after sixty years of fierce animosities and litigation, the whole contention was allowed to lapse. Says Lodge: „His heirs were minors who did not push the controversy, and the claim soon sank out of sight to the great relief of the New Hampshire people, whose right to their homes had so long been in question.”[12]

Similarly, another area, the entirety of what is now the State of Maine, went to the individual ownership of Sir Fernandino Gorges, the same who had betrayed Essex to Queen Elizabeth and who had received rich rewards for his treachery.[13] The domain descended to his grandson, Fernando Gorges, who, on March 13, 1677, sold it by deed to John Usher, a Boston merchant, for £1,250. The ominous dissatisfaction of the New Hampshire and other settlers with the monopolization of land was not slighted by the English government; at the very time Usher bought Maine the government was on the point of doing the same thing and opening the land for settlement. Usher at once gave a deed of the province to the governor and company of Massachusetts, of which colony and later, State, it remained a part until its creation as a State in 1820.[14]

These were two notable instances of vast land grants which reverted to the people. In most of the colonies the popular outcry for free access to the land was not so effective. In Pennsylvania, after the government was restored to Penn, and in part of New Jersey conditions were more favorable to the settlers. In those colonies corrupt usurpations of the land were comparatively few, although the proprietary families continued to hold extensive tracts. Penn’s sons by his second wife, for instance, became men of great wealth.[15] The pacific and conciliatory Quaker faith operated as a check on any local extraordinary misuse of power. Unfortunately for historical accuracy and penetration, there is an obscurity as to the intimate circumstances under which many of the large private estates in the South were obtained. The general facts as to their grants, of course, are well known, but the same specific, underlying details, such as may be disinterred from Bellomont’s correspondence, are lacking. In New York, at least, and presumably during Fletcher’s sway of government in Pennsylvania, great land grants went for bribes. This is definitely brought out in Bellomont’s official communications.


Fletcher, it would seem, had carried on a brisk traffic in creating by a stroke of the quill powerfully rich families by simply granting them domains in return for bribes.

Captain John R. N. Evans had been in command of the royal warship Richmond. An estate was his fervent ambition. Fletcher’s mandate gave him a grant of land running forty miles one way, and thirty another, on the west bank of the Hudson. Beginning at the south line of the present town of New Paltry, Ulster County, it included the southern tier of the now existing towns in that picturesque county, two-thirds of the fertile undulations of Orange County and a part of the present town of Haverstraw. It is related of this area, that there was „but one house on it, or rather a hut, where a poor man lives.” Notwithstanding this lone, solitary subject, Evans saw great trading and seignorial possibilities in his tract. And what did he pay for this immense stretch of territory? A very modest bribe; common report had it that he gave Fletcher £100 for the grant.[16]

Nicholas Bayard, of whom it is told that he was a handy go-between in arranging with the sea pirates the price that they should pay for Fletcher’s protection, was another favored personage. Bayard was the recipient of a grant forty miles long and thirty broad on both sides of Schoharie Creek. Col. William Smith’s prize was a grant from Fletcher of an estate fifty miles in length on Nassau – now Long Island. According to Bellomont, Smith got this land „arbitrarily and by strong hand.” Smith was in collusion with Fletcher, and moreover, was chief justice of the province, „a place of great awe as well as authority.” This judicial land wrester forced the town of Southampton to accept the insignificant sum of £10 for the greater part of forty miles of beach – a singularly profitable transaction for Smith, who cleared in one year £500, the proceeds of whales taken there, as he admitted to Bellomont.[17] Henry Beekman, the astute and smooth founder of a rich and powerful family, was made a magnate of the first importance by a grant from Fletcher of a tract sixteen miles in length in Dutchess County, and also of another estate running twenty miles along the Hudson and eight miles inland. This estate he valued at £5,000.[18] Likewise Peter Schuyler, Godfrey Dellius and their associates had conjointly secured by Fletcher’s patent, a grant fifty miles long in the romantic Mohawk Valley – a grant which „the Mohawk Indians have often complained of”. Upon this estate they placed a value of £25,000. This was a towering fortune for the period; in its actual command of labor, necessities, comforts and luxuries it ranked as a power of transcending importance.

These were some of the big estates created by „Colonel Fletcher’s intolerable corrupt selling away the lands of this Province,” as Bellomont termed it in his communication to the Lords of Trade of Nov. 28, 1700. Fletcher, it was set forth, profited richly by these corrupt grants. He got in bribes, it was charged, at least £4,000.[19] But Fletcher was not the only corrupt official. In his interesting work on the times,[20] George W. Schuyler presents what is an undoubtedly accurate description of how Robert Livingston, progenitor of a rich and potent family which for generations exercised a profound influence in politics and other public affairs, contrived to get together an estate which soon ranked as the second largest in New York state and as one of the greatest in the colonies.

Livingston was the younger son of a poor exiled clergyman. In currying favor with one official after another he was unscrupulous, dexterous and adaptable. He invariably changed his politics with the change of administration. In less than a year after his arrival he was appointed to an office which yielded him a good income. This office he held for nearly half a century, and simultaneously was the incumbent of other lucrative posts. Offices were created by Governor Dongan apparently for his sole benefit. His passion was to get together an estate which would equal the largest. Extremely penurious, he loaned money at frightfully usurious rates and hounded his victims without a vestige of sympathy.[21] As a trader and government contractor he made enormous profits; such was his cohesive collusion with high officials that competitors found it impossible to outdo him. A current saying of him was that he made a fortune by „pinching the bellies of the soldiers” – that is, as an army contractor who defrauded in quantity and quality of supplies. By a multitude of underhand and ignoble artifices he finally found himself the lord of a manor sixteen miles long and twenty-four broad. On this estate he built flour and saw mills, a bakery and a brewery. In his advanced old age he exhibited great piety but held on grimly to every shilling that he could and as long as he could. When he died about 1728 – the exact date is unknown – at the age of 74 years, he left an estate which was considered of such colossal value that its true value was concealed for fear of further enraging the discontented people.


The seizure of these vast estates and the arbitrary exclusion of the many from the land produced a combustible situation. An instantaneous and distinct cleavage of class divisions was the result. Intrenched in their possessions the landed class looked down with haughty disdain upon the farming and laboring classes. On the other hand, the farm laborer with his sixteen hours work a day for a forty-cent wage, the carpenter straining for his fifty-two cents a day, the shoemaker drudging for his seventy-three cents a day and the blacksmith for his seventy cents,[22] thought over this injustice as they bent over their tasks. They could sweat through their lifetime at honest labor, producing something of value and yet be a constant prey to poverty while a few men, by means of bribes, had possessed themselves of estates worth tens of thousands of pounds and had preëmpted great stretches of the available lands.

In consulting extant historical works it is noticeable that they give but the merest shadowy glimpse of this intense bitterness of what were called the lower classes, and of the incessant struggle now raging, now smouldering, between the landed aristocracy and the common people. Contrary to the roseate descriptions often given of the independent position of the settlers at that time, it was a time when the use and misuse of law brought about sharp divisions of class lines which arose from artificially created inequalities, economically and politically. With the great landed estates came tenantry, wage slavery and chattel slavery, the one condition the natural generator of the others.

The rebellious tendency of the poor colonists against becoming tenants, and the usurpation of the land, were clearly brought out by Bellomont in a letter written on Nov. 28, 1700, to the Lords of Trade. He complained that „people are so cramped here for want of land that several families within my own knowledge and observation are remov’d to the new country (a name they give to Pennsylvania and the Jerseys) for, to use Mr. Graham’s expression to me, and that often repeated, too, what man will be such a fool as to become a base tenant to Mr. Dellius, Colonel Schuyler, Mr. Livingston (and so he ran through the whole role of our mighty landgraves) when for crossing Hudson’s River that man can, for a song, purchase a good freehold in the Jerseys.”

If the immigrant happened to be able to muster a sufficient sum he could, indeed, become an independent agriculturist in New Jersey and in parts of Pennsylvania and provide himself with the tools of trade. But many immigrants landed with empty pockets and became laborers dependent upon the favor of the landed proprietors. As for the artisans – the carpenters, masons, tailors, blacksmiths – they either kept to the cities and towns where their trade principally lay, or bonded themselves to the lords of the manors.


Bellomont fully understood the serious evils which had been injected into the body politic and strongly applied himself to the task of confiscating the great estates. One of his first proposals was to urge upon the Lords of Trade the restriction of all governors throughout the colonies from granting more than a thousand acres to any man without leave from the king, and putting a quit rent of half a crown on every hundred acres, this sum to go to the royal treasury. This suggestion was not acted upon. He next attacked the assembly of New York and called upon it to annul the great grants. In doing this he found that the most powerful members of the assembly were themselves the great land owners and were putting obstacle after obstacle in his path. After great exertions he finally prevailed upon the assembly to vacate at least two of the grants, those to Evans and Bayard. The assembly did this probably as a sop to Bellomont and to public opinion, and because Evans and Bayard had lesser influence than the other landed functionaries. But the owners of the other estates tenaciously held them intact. The people regarded Bellomont as a sincere and ardent reformer, but the landed men and their following abused him as a meddler and destructionist. Despairing of getting a self-interested assembly to act, Bellomont appealed to the Lords of Trade:

„If your Lordships mean I shall go on to break the rest of the extravagant grants of land by Colonel Fletcher or other governors, by act of assembly, I shall stand in need of a peremptory order from the King so to do.”[23] A month later he insisted to his superiors at home that if they intended that the corrupt and extravagant grants should be confiscated – „(which I will be bold to say by all the rules of reason and justice ought to be done) I believe it must be done by act of Parliament in England, for I am a little jealous I shall not have strength enough in the assembly of New York to break them.” The majority of this body, he pointed out, were landed men, and when their own interest was touched, they declined to act contrary to it. Unless, added Bellomont, „the power of our Palatines, Smith, Livingston, the Phillips, father and son[24] – and six or seven more were reduced … the country is ruined.”[25]

Despite some occasional breaches in its intrenchments, the landocracy continued to rule everywhere with a high hand, its power, as a whole, unbroken.


A glancing picture of one of these landed proprietors will show the manner in which they lived and what was then accounted their luxury. As one of the „foremost men of his day,” in the colonies Colonel Smith lived in befitting style. This stern, bushy-eyed man who robbed the community of a vast tract of land and who, as chief justice, was inflexibly severe in dealing punishment to petty criminals and ever vigilant in upholding the rights of property, was lord of the Manor of St. George, Suffolk County. The finest silks and lace covered his judicial person. His embroidered belts, costing £110, at once attested his great wealth and high station. He had the extraordinary number of one hundred and four silver buttons to adorn his clothing. When he walked a heavy silver-headed cane supported him, and he rode on a fancy velvet saddle. His three swords were of the finest make; occasionally he affected a Turkish scimeter. Few watches in the colonies could compare with his massive silver watch. His table was embellished with heavy silver plate, valued at £150, on which his coat-of-arms was engraved. Twelve negro slaves responded to his nod; he had a large corps of bounded apprentices and dependant laborers. His mansion looked down on twenty acres of wheat and twenty of corn; and as for his horses and cattle they were the envy of the country. In his last year thirty horses were his, fourteen oxen, sixty steers, forty-eight cows and two bulls.[26] He lived high, drank, swore, cheated – and administered justice.

One of the best and most intimate descriptions of a somewhat contemporaneous landed magnate in the South is that given of Robert Carter, a Virginia planter, by Philip Vickers Fithian,[27] a tutor in Carter’s family. Carter came to his estate from his grandfather, whose land and other possessions were looked upon as so extensive that he was called „King” Carter.

Robert Carter luxuriated in Nomini Hall, a great colonial mansion in Westmoreland County. It was built between 1725 and 1732 of brick covered with strong mortar, which imparted a perfectly white exterior, and was seventy-six feet long and forty wide. The interior was one of unusual splendor for the time, such as only the very rich could afford. There were eight large rooms, one of which was a ball-room thirty feet long. Carter spent most of his leisure hours cultivating the study of law and of music; his library contained 1,500 volumes and he had a varied assortment of musical instruments. He was the owner of 60,000 acres of land spread over almost every county of Virginia, and he was the master of six hundred negro slaves. The greater part of a prosperous iron-works near Baltimore was owned by him, and near his mansion he built a flour mill equipped to turn out 25,000 bushels of wheat a year. Carter was not only one of the big planters but one of the big capitalists of the age; all that he had to do was to exercise a general supervision; his overseers saw to the running of his various industries. Like the other large landholders he was one of the active governing class; as a member of the Provincial Council he had great influence in the making of laws. He was a thorough gentleman, we are told, and took good care of his slaves and of his white laborers who were grouped in workhouses and little cottages within range of his mansion. Within his domain he exercised a sort of benevolent despotism. He was one of the first few to see that chattel slavery could not compete in efficiency with white labor, and he reckoned that more money could be made from the white laborer, for whom no responsibility of shelter, clothing, food and attendance had to be assumed than from the negro slave, whose sickness, disability or death entailed direct financial loss. Before his death he emancipated a number of his slaves. This, in brief, is the rather flattering depiction of one of the conspicuously rich planters of the South.


Land continued to be the chief source of the wealth of the rich until after the Revolution. The discriminative laws enacted by England had held down the progress of the trading class; these laws overthrown, the traders rose rapidly from a subordinate position to the supreme class in point of wealth.

No close research into pre-Revolutionary currents and movements is necessary to understand that the Revolution was brought about by the dissatisfied trading class as the only means of securing absolute freedom of trade. Notwithstanding the view often presented that it was an altruistic movement for the freedom of man, it was essentially an economic struggle fathered by the trading class and by a part of the landed interests. Admixed was a sincere aim to establish free political conditions. This, however, was not an aim for the benefit of all classes, but merely one for the better interests of the propertied class. The poverty-stricken soldiers who fought for their cause found after the war that the machinery of government was devised to shut out manhood suffrage and keep the power intact in the hands of the rich. Had it not been for radicals such as Jefferson, Paine and others it is doubtful whether such concessions as were made to the people would have been made. The long struggle in various States for manhood suffrage sufficiently attests the deliberate aim of the propertied interests to concentrate in their own hands, and in that of a following favorable to them, the voting power of the Government and of the States.

With the success of the Revolution, the trading class bounded to the first rank. Entail and primogeniture were abolished and the great estates gradually melted away. For more than a century and a half the landed interests had dominated the social and political arena. As an acknowledged, continuous organization they ceased to exist. Great estates no longer passed unimpaired from generation to generation, surviving as a distinct entity throughout all changes. They perforce were partitioned among all the children; and through the vicissitudes of subsequent years, passed bit by bit into many hands. Altered laws caused a gradual disintegration in the case of individual holdings, but brought no change in instances of corporate ownership. The Trinity Corporation of New York City, for example, has held on to the vast estate which it was given before the Revolution except such parts as it voluntarily has sold.


The individual magnate, however, had no choice. He could no longer entail his estates. Thus, estates which were very large before the Revolution, and which were regarded with astonishment, ceased to exist. The landed interests, however, remained paramount for several decades after the Revolution by reason of the acceleration which long possession and its profits had given them. Washington’s fortune, amounting at his death, to $530,000, was one of the largest in the country and consisted mainly of land. He owned 9,744 acres, valued at $10 an acre, on the Ohio River in Virginia, 3,075 acres, worth $200,000, on the Great Kenawa, and also land elsewhere in Virginia and in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, the City of Washington and other places.[28] About half a century later it was only by persistent gatherings of public contributions that his very home was saved to the nation, so had his estate become divided and run down. After a long career, Benjamin Franklin acquired what was considered a large fortune. But it did not come from manufacture or invention, which he did so much to encourage, but from land. His estate in 1788, two years before his death, was estimated to be worth $150,000, mostly in land.[29] By the opening decades of the nineteenth century few of the great estates in New York remained. One of the last of the patroons was Stephen Van Rensselaer, who died at the age of 75 on Jan. 26, 1839, leaving ten children. Up to this time the manor had devolved upon the eldest son. Although it had been diminished somewhat by various cessions, it was still of great extent. The property was divided among the ten children, and, according to Schuyler, „In less than fifty years after his death, the seven hundred thousand acres originally in the manor were in the hands of strangers.”[30]

Long before old Van Rensselaer passed away he had seen the rise and growth of the trading and manufacturing class and a new form of landed aristocracy, and he observed with a haughty bitterness how in point of wealth and power they far overshadowed the well-nigh defunct old feudal aristocracy. A few hundred thousand dollars no longer was the summit of a great fortune; the age of the millionaire had come. The lordly, leisurely environment of the old landed class had been supplanted by feverish trading and industrial activity which imposed upon society its own newer standards, doctrines and ideals and made them uppermost factors.


[9] „Land Nationalization,”:122-125.

[10] Colonial Documents, vii:654-655.

[11] Colonial Documents, iv:673-674.

[12] „A Short History of the English Colonies in America”:402.

[13] Yet, this fortune seeker, who had incurred the contempt of every noble English mind, is described by one of the class of power-worshipping historians as follows: „Fame and wealth, so often the idols of Superior Intellect, were the prominent objects of this aspiring man.” – Williamson’s „History of Maine,” 1:305.

[14] The Public Domain: Its History, etc.:38.

[15] Pennsylvania: Colony and Commonwealth:66, 84, etc. Their claim to inherit proprietary rights was bought at the time of the Revolutionary War by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for £130,000 sterling or about $580,000.

[16] Colonial Documents, iv:463.

[17] Ibid.:535.

[18] Ibid.:39.

[19] Colonial Documents, iv:528. One of Bellomont’s chief complaints was that the landgraves monopolized the timber supply. He recommended the passage of a law vesting in the King the right to all trees such as were fit for masts of ships or for other use in building ships of war.

[20] „Colonial New York,” 1:285-286.

[21] According to Reynolds’s „Albany Chronicles,” Livingston was in collusion with Captain Kidd, the sea pirate. Reynolds also tells that Livingston loaned money at ten per cent.

[22] Wright’s „Industrial Evolution in the United States”; see also his article „Wages” in Johnson’s Encyclopædia. The New York Colonial Documents relate that in 1699 in the three provinces of Bellomont’s jurisdiction, „the laboring man received three shillings a day, which was considered dear,” iv:588.

[23] Colonial Documents, iv:533-554.

[24] Frederick and his son Adolphus. Frederick was the employer of the pirate, Captain Samuel Burgess of New York, who at first was sent out by Phillips to Madagascar to trade with the pirates and who then turned pirate himself. From the first voyage Phillips and Burgess cleared together £5,000, the proceeds of trade and slaves. The second voyage yielded £10,000 and three hundred slaves. Burgess married a relative of Phillips and continued piracy, but was caught and imprisoned in Newgate. Phillips spent great sums of money to save him and succeeded. Burgess resumed piracy and met death from poisoning in Africa while engaged in carrying off slaves. – „The Lives and Bloody Exploits of the Most Noted Pirates”:177-183. This work was a serious study of the different sea pirates.

[25] Colonial Docs, iv:533-534. On November 27, 1700, Bellomont wrote to the Lords of the Treasury: „I can supply the King and all his dominions with naval stores (except flax and hemp) from this province and New Hampshire, but then your Lordships and the rest of the Ministers must break through Coll. Fletcher’s most corrupt grants of all the lands and woods of this province which I think is the most impudent villainy I ever heard or read of any man,” iv:780.

[26] This is the inventory given in „Abstracts of Wills,” 1:323.

[27] „Journal and Letters,” 1767-1774.

[28] Sparks’ „Life of Washington,” Appendix, ix:557-559.

[29] Bigelow’s „Life of Franklin,” iii:470.

[30] „Colonial New York,” 1:232.

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