Disparate Thoughts

I only take a few things seriously: hardcore music, poetry, radical activism, and allergy-free treats.
Ryan Harvey

—The Ballad of the Hudson Valley Rent Strikes

I haven’t been listening to this much lately, but it is definitely appropriate. It’s so powerful, passionate, and haunting. Up the punx!

It was the fall of 1839, the place was New York State 
In the Hudson River Valley, on the Rennselaer Estate 

A sheriff seeking rent pay was warned what he might find 
And there were tin horns blowing from the hillside 

What the shrieking of the horns meant the sheriff wasn’t sure 
But he was met with opposition stronger than he’d seen before 
As farmers dressed in calico came pouring out the woods 
The tenants then assembled there and stopped him where he stood 

He presented them with writs demanding back-rent pay 
They seized the writs and burned them and sent him on his way 
For so long they had they suffered and now they’d organized 
And there were tin horns blowing from the hillside 

Now this was not the first time that tensions rose like this 
Back in 1750 and again in 66 
They’d fought against patroonship against the landlord’s rule 
And this time they we’re ready for a battle 

Mass meetings of the tenants led to organized dissent 
That same December they came again collecting rent 
But what the sheriff and his posse of 500 didn’t know 
Was there we’re 2,400 in calico 

They were armed with clubs and pitchforks, assembled and arranged 
They sent the sheriff and his soldiers back the way they came 
They said the revolution was once again alive 
And there were tin horns blowing from the hillside 

The landlords owned the stores, the timber, all the houses too 
Put yourself in the picture and think what you would do 
He taxed you for your labor and he taxed you for your land 
Every farmer in the valley paid was his servant 

He was free to ride his horse and drink his wine and gather wealth 
So far from a misery he’d never know himself 
Over 80,000 people we’re impoverished by his greed 
While he was filling his life up with luxury 

Calico was chosen as the costume for the plan 
Paying tribute to the natives who’d driven from this land 
They agreed to take their power back, assembled by the cry 
Of tin horns blowing from the hillside 

In county after county, the movement spread and grew 
Til over 10,000 we’re prepared to see it through 
They tarred and feathered deputies and burned the landlords writs 
Direct action against the culprits 

By 1845 it was clear it wouldn’t last 
They introduced petitions but of course they didn’t pass 
After a farmer killed a deputy, the troops we’re ordered in 
Nearly 100 tenants we’re imprisoned 

They tried a few with murder, sentenced 2 more to be hanged 
Forced 2 to write letters urging others to disband 
It wasn’t long before the politicians slithered in 
Reduced the sentences to life in prison 

The next Governor elected pardoned those still locked away 
Passed some laws and made some speeches, but kept thing’s much the same 
They maintained domination of the many by the few 
Though some aspects we’re abolished and the owner-class grew 

They crushed them with their weapons then they crushed them with the law 
But if you listen closely you can here the tin horn’s call 
They can build the strongest shackles, but one day they will crack 
And as history repeats people learn from the past 

Yes there’s a warning in this story for the tyrants of today 
From Philly to Chiapas to Immokalee 
When the water starts to boil then the pot will overflow 

It won’t be long before you hear the tin horns blow” 

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  6. songsfortheliving said: oo0o the ryan harveyz
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This work by Sean Ahern is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.