from by David Rovics

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In the 1840's there was a massive rent strike in upstate New York, which ultimately transformed what had been feudal relations between tenants and incredibly rich landlords, called Patroons. Despite the success of this movement, however, not much has really changed in the long run. We need many more rent strike movements like that one!


The patroons came from Holland to America, became landlords where none had been before
Soon one man owned half a million acres on both sides of the Hudson River shore
He invited families to move in and give him thirty percent
Of everything they grew each year, this is how they'd pay the rent

His name was Rensselaer, he became one of the richest men on Earth
In today's terms ninety billion dollars is how much he'd be worth
All this for doing nothing but saying all of this was his
“I have the power of the state behind me and I'm in the landlord biz”

After two hundred years of this and one revolution won
Another Rennsalaer had another son
And this Rennsalaer was greedier than his ancestors dead and passed
It was now the 1840's and things started changing fast

It was the straw that broke the back, the bottle was uncorked
They started organizing meetings, the tenant farmers of New York
They found the strength of numbers, they found the power of suggestion
They found each other asking the same question

Who gave you the right to be a landlord, to live a life of ease while others toil
Who gave you the right to be a rich man, while the rest of us pay you so that we can work this soil

They vowed that they would stop the rent collection, they vowed they'd bring this madness to an end
And when one blew the tin horn of distress, they'd soon find they had a thousand friends
Dressed in calico skirts with masks upon their faces, on horseback, armed with knives and guns
They chanted and they yelled, they kept their farms, and they kept the sheriffs on the run

They asked...

The governor passed laws to try to stop them, but nothing could be done to break their will
And by 1848 the landlords buckled and sold their holdings to the farmers in the hills
Yes they overthrew this feudal system, but it's replaced now by speculators and banks
And you can still hear the homeless families asking of all the landed gentry in our ranks


from Into A Prism, released July 2, 2013




David Rovics Portland, Oregon

"Absolutely brilliant. David Rovics says exactly what needs to be said."
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