Shays' Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection

Shays' Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection

Shays' Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection

Shays' Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection

Excerpt

Shays' Rebellion has been a topic of historical debate for almost two hundred years. In 1788, a year after the insurrection had ended, George Richards Minot wrote The History of the Insurrections in Massachusetts. Trained in Boston as a lawyer, Minot served as clerk of the Massachusetts House during the Rebellion and personally deprecated Shaysite activity, calling for the punishment of leading rebels. "Daniel Shays's decapitation," he suggested on June 9, 1787, "would have dissolved a common tie, or prevented [the rebels] engrafting their several oppositions upon his: and so rendered their opinions harmless speculations."SUPSUP SUPSUP Minot carried his anti- Shaysism into his History, calling the troubles an "unfortunate rebellion" and castigating "those deluded citizens who were concerned in the insurrections or rebellion."SUPSUP SUPSUP

Concern for foreign opinion, however, moderated Minot's progovernment bias in his History. Writing at least partly "to preserve the reputation of my country" against European criticism, Minot sought to avoid the impression of fundamental differences between competing groups in Shays' Rebellion. Through such an approach, he wrote,

many misconceived ideas, tending to the discredit of the country, may be removed; and the public reputation vindicated; as the causes which led to the late national difficulties, when rightly understood, operate as an apology for them; and the manner in which these difficulties were suppressed, does honor to the government, and displays the strongest marks of reflection and wisdom in the people.SUPSUP SUPSUP

As a result, his treatment of the insurrection became an only . . .

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