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Dates: August 1786 - June 1787

Location: Massachusetts

Causes:

-Weak economy.

-Unfair taxation.

-No government support

for veterans.

-Poor representation for

farmers.

-Farmers losing property for

debt payment.

Result: A call for a strong national

government with a national

constitution.


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Daniel Shays

Daniel Shays was a farmer from Massachusetts and a veteran of the Revolutionary War. After the war he found himself without money and in debt. He felt that the Massachusetts Constitution, that was adopted in 1780, was done by wealthy businessmen for the benefit of the wealthy. Shays felt inland farmers were not fairly treated when it came to paying taxes and having the right to vote. Farmers were losing their homes, farms and possessions because they could not pay their taxes. Some were actually thrown into prison, In 1786, Shays became the leader of a group of approximately 1000 men who were ready to take action. Shays led the fight against the court but after a short time they were forced to abandon the cause and Shays fled to Vermont where he was pardoned before he died the following year.

Background

The Revolutionary War had ended in 1783 leaving a post-war depression which hit veterans and farmers particularly hard. In the summer of 1786 an uprising began in Western Massachusetts. Harsh government policies and the lack of hard currency made it impossible for individuals to pay off their debts and tax obligations. European business partners to Massachusetts refused to extend lines of credit and insisted goods be paid for with hard currency which trickled down to local merchants.There was much resentment against the Boston legislature. The new Massachusetts constitution of 1780 had raised the property qualifications for voting. The reality was that no one could hold state office if they were not wealthy. Farmers and veterans began to lose their land and personal possessions due to being unable to pay their debts and taxes. Creditors obtained and enforced judgements against debtors. Protesters began to organize to shut down county courts to stop judicial hearings that were being held for tax and debt collection. The protesters became more determined after the arrests of some of their leaders. They began to organize an armed force to continue the fight. The rebellion made many realize the Articles of Confederation were in need of reform. The events of the rebellion are seen as having a direct effect on the formation of the new government that would result in the writing of the U.S. Constitution.


The Rebellion
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Map of troop movements


During the 1780s farmers in Massachusetts suffered from high debts as they tried to start new farms. The farmers petitioned to the state legislature to issue paper money, halt the foreclosure of mortgages on their property, and to stop the imprisonment for debt due tothe high land taxes they were unable to pay. Since the state did not respond to the economic crisis, local police officers arrested some farmers who were unable to pay for their debts. Many people of Massachusetts were upset with the unresponsiveness of the state legislature and organized a resistance in western Massachusetts. The way the resistance was organized was similar to the American Revolution, They held special meetings to agree on methods of protest. Soon rebels were closing courts, freeing the imprisoned debtors from jail and a full scale revolt was on its way. The revolt was lead by Daniel Shays who was a former captain in the Continental Army. The governor of Massachusetts, James Bowdoin, had to organize a military force that was funded by merchants to stop the rebels. Governor Bowdoin appointed General Benjamin Lincoln to command 4,400 men in order to force the rebels to surrender. Shays had one group east of Springfield near Palmer, Luke Day had forces across the CT river in West Springfield, and Eli Parsons had the third north at Chicopee on the planned attack day of January 25th. At the last minute, Luke Day sent word to Shays that Day would not be ready until the 26th. General Shepard, who had orders from governor Bowdoin to raise a militia of 1200 intercepted the message and knew the rebels would be weak from the west. The Rebel forces were overwhelmed and General William Shepard was able to stop the attack on the federal arsenal. General Lincoln began marching west from Worcester with 3000 men after the Springfield incident. Lincoln finally met up with the flee-ers as they fled to Petersham. There Lincoln was said to have captured 150 men. During this revolt 4 were killed and20 were wounded. Shays and other rebel leaders escaped to different states but were pardoned shortly after escaping to the north (New Hampshire and Vermont). The armed forces created by Bowdoin were able to stop the rebel movement in the winter of 1786-1787. People involved with the riot were charged with treason and aiding the British. Samuel Adams drew up the Riot Act and a resolution to suspend Habeas Corpus in order to keep protesters unlawfully in jail. Adams then proposed that a rebellion in a republic should result in an execution. Even though the rebellion was ended quickly, the discontent felt by the farmers felt by many others across the nation. Similar actions occurred on a smaller scale in Maine, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and other places. Shays’ Rebellion greatly alarmed politicians throughout the nation and the rebellion was cited as a justification for the the replacement of the Articles of Confederation.

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Shays Rebellion Monument

Effects
After the numerous attacks and attempts by the rebel forces, historians say the actions did have some effect on debates and rendered the reform of the Articles of Confederation inevitable and necessary. As General Lincoln arrived at Petersham, a rebel camp constructed in awe of the failed attempt on the Springfield Armory, the Massachusetts state legislature authorized a state of martial law. Martial law gave the governor broad powers to act against the rebels and grant state payment to reimburse private contributors such as General Lincoln and Benjamin Hamilton as well as merchants who had funded the militia. Subsequently, the Disqualification Act was passed through the legislature on February 12. This act forbade the rebels from taking legislative action and stated that no known rebels could hold any of numerous elected and appointed offices. Samuel Adams, after the arrest of many rebels, passed the Riot Act and another resolution to suspend habeas corpus to keep protesters unlawfully in jail. Adams also conspired on the idea that rebellious actions against a republic should warrant execution as an acceptable punishment. Several hundred rebel members were eventually indicted on charges related to the rebellious acts, many were charged with treason and aiding the British. Eighteen of the convicted men were sentenced to murder, but the majority were excused, pardoned, victorious on appeal, or had their sentences commuted. These rebellious actions also were said to have initially swayed anti-federalists to the strong-government side of the spectrum in the __Constitutional Convention__.


The Impact

Shays' Rebellion revealed the weakness of the central government. It was then clear that change was needed. The Articles Of Confederation did not establish a strong enough central government. Therefore at the constitutional convention of 1787 one of the major topics was the increase of power of the central government. The peopled feared more rebellions would come if the central government remained weak. Shays Rebellion showed the states the need for centralization.


Review Section
1.What factors lead to the revolt?
i. Wanted Paper Money
ii. They were being foreclosed on and lost their land
iii. Farmers being imprisoned because of debt
iv. Responsive State legislation
a. i,ii
b. ii,ii
c. i,ii,iii
d. i,ii,iii,iv
e. iii,iv

2. Why did the rebels want to shut down the courts first?
a. The courts were easy targets for the rebelsb. They wanted to free the imprisoned farmers so they can help the cause tooc. The courts held the most power in the State
d. It was the hardest target so if they were able to take over the courts they would be able to take over the State government.

3. Who was not ready to attack Springfield on January 25th?
a. Daniel Shays
b. Eli Parsons
c. General Shepard
d. Luke Day


4. Who led the federal raised militia into Petersham to put down the rebels?
a. George Washington
b. General Lincoln
c. Samuel Adams
d. Benjamin Franklin

5. What act forbade known riot participants from making legislation or taking elected or appointed office?
a. State of Martial Law
b. Ex-Post Facto Laws
c. Disqualification Act
d. Riot Act



Review Answers
1. c
2. b
3. d
4. b
5. c





Quick Notes

  1. Shay’s rebellion was an armed uprising that took place in central and western Massachusetts including new england farmers and merchants.
  2. Took place in 1786 and 1787.
  3. Named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War and one of the rebel leaders.
  4. Rebellion started on August 29, 1787.
  5. Alex: Causes
    1. financial dfficulties brought about by post-war economic depression,
    2. a credit squeeze caused by a lack of currency,
    3. harsh gov’t policies in 1787 to solve the state’s debt problems.
  6. War vets and protestors shut down county courts later in 1786 to stop judicial hearings for tax and debt collection.
  7. Protestors became radicals against the state government.
    1. after the arrest of some leaders, began to organize an armed force.
  8. An attempt to seize the Springfield armory in late January 1787 was stopped by a private army militia.
    1. 4 killed, 20 wounded.
  9. Main shay site force became scattered after a feb. 4, 1787 attack on their camp in Petersham, Massachusetts.
  10. scattered resistance until Sheffield incident in late Feb, 30 wounded; 1 of which was killed
  11. Shay participated in Northampton action, Shay took more of leadership role and attemted to orchaestrate the shutdown of The Supreme Judicial Court of Mass. of its meeting in Springfield Mass.
  12. People were charged with treason and aiding the British and Samuel Adams drew up the riot act and a resolution to suspend habeas corpus to keep protestors unlawfully in jail
  13. Adams proposed that rebellion in a republic should be a execution worthy offense.
  14. Shay had one group east of Springfield near Palmer, Luke Day had forces across the CT river in West Springfield, and Eli parsons had the third north at chicopee on the planned attack of January 25th,
  15. Last minute, Luke Day sent word to shay that Day wouldnot be ready until the 26th, general Shepard, who had orders from governor Bowdoin to reaise a militia of 1,200 militia(armory was federal), intercepted the message and knew the rebels would be weak from the west. Rebe forces were overwhelmed. Many fled
  16. General lincoln began marching west from worcester with 3000 men after springfield incident, Lincoln finally met up with the fleers as they fled to Petersham, Lincoln said he captured 150, historians say leadership of rebels fled to the north (New Hampshire and Vermont)
These conditions led to the first major armed rebellion in the post-Revolutionary United States.

Effects
    • attacks were said to have affected debates and rendered the reform of the Articles necessary
    • As lincoln arrived at petersham, state legislature passed a state of martial law, giving the governor broad powers to act against the rebels and authorized state payment to reimburse lincoln plus merchants who had funded the army.
    • Disqualification Act was to forbid legislative response from rebels, and outlined how no known rebels could hold a variety of elected and appointed offices.
    • Several hundred were eventually indicted on charges relating to the rebellion, 18 men convicted to death, most were excluded, pardoned, won appeal, had sentence commuted.
    • Vermont became the fourteenth state from its prior independent republic, who had been seeking statehood from New York’s claims and was known to have sheltered rebel leaders. Vermont was the 14th state.

  1. Some say that the rebellion had some effect, initially drew anti-federalists to the strong government side.People were charged with treason and aiding the British and Samuel Adams drew up the riot act and a resolution to suspend habeas corpus to keep protestors unlawfully in jail
  2. Adams proposed that rebellion in a republic should be a execution worthy offense




Bibliography:



_http://www.ushistory.org/us/15a.asp__

__http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0844765.html__

__http://www.history.com/topics/shays-rebellion__



Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States: 1492-present. New York: HarperCollins, 2003. Print.