To encourage agricultural settlement in New Netherland, the Dutch West India Company issued a Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions on June 7, 1629 to encourage the agricultural settlement of New Netherland. All stockholders in the Company were authorized to buy land from the Native Americans and set up patroonships that replicated the feudal lordships of Europe. Each stockholder who wished to become a patroon was required to settle the land he purchased by bringing to the colony at least fifty people over fifteen years of age. Patroonships could be set up in any part of New Netherland except Manhattan, and could have a frontage of sixteen miles on one bank or eight miles on each bank of any navigable river. The estate could extend “so far into the country as the situation of the occupiers would permit.”
The patroons had full title to the land and their power over their settlers was almost unlimited. Without the patroon’s written consent, no settler could leave the patroonship until a stipulated number of years had been served. The charter promised the tenants exemption from all taxation for ten years and that the Company would provide “as many blacks (slaves) as they conveniently could” to work the farms.
The patroons were empowered to set up courts of civil and criminal jurisdiction. In all cases affecting life and limb, and in suits where the sum in litigation exceeded twenty dollars, an appeal lay to the Director and Council at Fort Amsterdam.
Although several patroonships were set up under the 1629 charter (Swanendael, Pavonia, Staten Island and Rensselaerwyck), all failed before, during or shortly after Kieft’s Indian War with the exception of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer’s patroonship in Rensselaerswyck which lasted into the middle of the 19th century. The patroonship system and the crushing burden it imposed on the farmers working the land led to the New York anti-rent cases in the 18th and 19th centuries.