Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

For his trilogy, The Littlepage Manuscripts, James Fenimore Cooper took his cue from a contemporary controversy which had its roots in the eighteenth century. Centered in north-central New York state, the Anti-Rent movement, as the controversy was called, stemmed from a conflict between the feudal-agrarian practices established by eighteenth century landowners and perpetuated by their heirs, on the one hand, and the democratic-industrial demands of tenants on the other. The issue was joined in the early 1840’s when landowners refused tenants’ requests to abolish feudal rents required in perpetuity. A tenants’ rebellion, the Anti-Rent War, was put down by troops; but in 1846, the new state constitution prohibited landlords from imposing perpetual dues or services when selling or leasing land.

Cooper’s trilogy, published in 1845 and 1846 at the culmination of the controversy, traces three generations of a landowning family, the Littlepages, from the eighteenth century Cornelius Littlepage in SATANSTOE, through Mordaunt Littlepage of THE CHAINBEARER, to the nineteenth century Hugh Littlepage of THE REDSKINS. The first of these novels focuses on the Littlepage estate at Satanstoe in Westchester County, New York, and the last, on the Littlepage confrontation with Anti-Rent agitators disguised as Indians. The second novel suggests by its title that attention will center on the Dutchman Andries Coejemans, called Chainbearer....

(The entire section is 504 words.)