In the United States, a patroon
; from Dutch patroon
) was a landholder with manorial rights to large tracts of land in the 17th century Dutch colony
of New Netherland on the east coast
of North America. Through the Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions of 1629, the Dutch West India Company first started to grant this title and land to some of its invested members. These inducements to foster colonization and settlement (also known as the "Rights and Exemptions") are the basis for the patroon system
. In 1775, at the outbreak of the American Revolution
, primogeniture and feudal tenure were abolished and thus patroons and manors evolved into simply large estates subject to division and leases.
The deeded tracts were called patroonships
and could span 16 miles in length on one side of a major river, or 8 miles if spanning both sides. In 1640 the charter was revised to cut
new plot sizes in half, and to allow any Dutch American in good standing
to purchase an estate. The title of patroon came with powerful rights and privileges. A patroon could create civil and criminal courts, appoint local officials and hold land in perpetuity
. In return, he was required by the Dutch West India Company to - sources vary - establish a settlement of at least 50 families within four years on the land, or "ship fifty colonists to it within four year". As tenants working for the patroon, these first settlers were relieved of the duty of public taxes for ten years, but were required to pay rent to the patroon. A patroonship sometimes had its own village and other infrastructure, including churches.
After the English takeover of New Netherland in 1664, the system continued with the granting of large tracts known as manors, and sometimes referred to as patroonships.