The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800

By Carol Sue Humphrey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8

Shays’s Rebellion, 1786–1787

Concernsover the stability of the national government increased during the 1780s. They crystallized into downright fear in the fall of 1786 because it seemed as if anarchy had taken over in Massachusetts. The growing concern over the future of the nation provided a perfect backdrop for Shays’s Rebellion. Fueled by economic problems, the revolt began as a minor conflict in Massachusetts but quickly developed into a national concern. Scarcity of money, intensified by a severe taxation and debt retirement program instituted by the state, created extreme hardships for debtors in rural Massachusetts. Trouble had been brewing throughout rural New England ever since the end of the war. Attempts to force favorable legislation out of state governments occurred in Connecticut and Vermont. In New Hampshire, a mob of disgruntled farmers held the state legislature prisoner for several hours. But the greatest unrest occurred in the frontier counties of western Massachusetts. Trying to stave off property seizures for unpaid taxes, residents met in county conventions in the summer and fall of 1786 to petition the Massachusetts general assembly for help. Failing to get a sympathetic hearing in Boston, the men rebelled. Led by Daniel Shays, an ex-Continental army captain, nearly 2,000 of them joined together in a makeshift army that closed the courts and prevented government officials from foreclosing on anyone’s property. Finally, in February 1787, the militia under General Benjamin Lincoln clashed with Shays’s men near Petersham, bringing an end to the rebellion.

Shays’s Rebellion sent shock waves throughout the country, producing anxiety over the nation’s future. People all over the nation saw these actions as signs of lawlessness and anarchy. Although order was eventually restored, many people expressed concern because the national government was unable to do anything to help restore order. As a result, the movement

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The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chronology of Events xix
  • Chapter 1 1
  • Chapter 2 33
  • Chapter 3 49
  • Chapter 4 67
  • Note 79
  • Chapter 5 81
  • Chapter 6 93
  • Chapter 7 105
  • Chapter 8 119
  • Chapter 9 127
  • Chapter 10 137
  • Chapter 11 161
  • Chapter 12 181
  • Chapter 13 189
  • Chapter 14 201
  • Note 210
  • Chapter 15 211
  • Chapter 16 223
  • Chapter 17 233
  • Chapter 18 243
  • Chapter 19 253
  • Chapter 20 263
  • Chapter 21 277
  • Chapter 22 295
  • Chapter 23 303
  • Chapter 24 313
  • Chapter 25 323
  • Notes 335
  • Chapter 26 337
  • Selected Bibliography 349
  • Index 353
  • About the Author 359
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