Shays's Rebellion

Also found in: Legal.

Shays's Rebellion,

1786–87, armed insurrection by farmers in W Massachusetts against the state government. Debt-ridden farmers, struck by the economic depression that followed the American Revolution, petitioned the state senate to issue paper money and to halt foreclosure of mortgages on their property and their own imprisonment for debt as a result of high land taxes. Sentiment was particularly high against the commercial interests who controlled the state senate in Boston, and the lawyers who hastened the farmers' bankruptcy by their exorbitant fees for litigation. When the state senate failed to undertake reform, armed insurgents in the Berkshire Hills and the Connecticut valley, under the leadership of Daniel Shays and others, began (Aug., 1786) forcibly to prevent the county courts from sitting to make judgments for debt. In September they forced the state supreme court at Springfield to adjourn. Early in 1787, Gov. James Bowdoin appointed Gen. Benjamin Lincoln to command 4,400 men against the rebels. Before these troops arrived at Springfield, Gen. William Shepard's soldiers there had repelled an attack on the federal arsenal. The rebels, losing several men, had dispersed, and Lincoln's troops pursued them to Petersham, where they were finally routed. Shays escaped to Vermont. Most of the leaders were pardoned almost immediately, and Shays was finally pardoned in June, 1788. The rebellion influenced Massachusetts's ratification of the U.S. Constitution; it also swept Bowdoin out of office and achieved some of its legislative goals.


See G. R. Minot, History of the Insurrections in Massachusetts in 1786 (1788, repr. 1971); R. J. Taylor, Western Massachusetts in the Revolution (1954, repr. 1967); M. L. Starkey, A Little Rebellion (1955); D. P. Szatmary, Shays' Rebellion (1980).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Signer overemphasizes the impact of Shays's Rebellion in Massachusetts on Madison.
Shays's Rebellion: Authority and Distress in Post-Revolutionary America
Besides, Washington was as personally content as he was disturbed by Shays's Rebellion and the ongoing risk of losing the west.
Jill Lepore dismisses Shays's Rebellion in a single sentence, describing it as "an armed uprising by farmers from Massachusetts struggling to stay free of debtors' prison." But the historian Leonard Richards has destroyed that old view of the 1780s rebellion, proving that few debtors joined its ranks.
In this paper I am particularly interested in exploring the role of metaphors in Chavez's political discourse, the complexities of the counterrevolutionary discourse of Shays's Rebellion, and the supporting ideological framework of power.
Bentley also denounced Shays's Rebellion as a lawless and sinful "war against society," and he lectured his congregants that "our social happiness will ever be commensurate with our submission to the established authority" (60).
Another variation on the theme of rebellion occurs in Crazy Bet's tale of Lucy Willet, a widow who has died of grief after her lover's murder during Shays's rebellion. In a lengthy historical note appended to her text, Sedgwick recounts the 1786 uprising in which insurgents led by Revolutionary Captain Daniel Shays took up arms in western Massachusetts, killing bystanders before seeing their rebellion crushed by the Continental Army.
America is a nation born out of a tax revolt, with an anti-statist strain that extends from Shays's Rebellion to Proposition 13.
Discussion: In order to investigate George Washington's concerns about the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and the revolt known as Shays's Rebellion, divide the class into six groups of students, and ask each group to read and highlight key passages from excerpts of one of six documents:
In his excellent "The Federalist Reaction to Shays's Rebellion," Stephen E.
Another could follow a working-class mug who fights in the Revolutionary Army and, after the war, joins Shays's Rebellion. One installment may focus on a young woman who organizes the Lowell mill girls and then becomes an antislavery and feminist activist.
Patterson, The Federal Reaction to Shays's Rebellion, in Robert A.