Shays' Rebellion

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Perhaps the most famous image of Shays' Rebellion: "Regulators" Daniel Shays (left) and Job Shattuck (right), from a 1787 Boston Almanack woodcut, artist unknown.

Shays' Rebellion was a rebellion in central and western Massachusetts (mainly Springfield) from 1786 to 1787. The rebellion is named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolution who led the rebels, also known as "Shaysites" or "Regulators". Most of the Shaysites were poor farmers angered by their debt and taxes. They couldn't pay their taxes, and they were afraid of going to jail or having their homes taken away from them.

They attempted to stop the courts from taking property from indebted farmers by forcing the closure of courts in western Massachusetts. The participants in Shays' Rebellion believed they were acting in the spirit of the Revolution and modeled their tactics after the crowd activities of the 1760s and 1770s, using "liberty poles" and "liberty trees" to symbolize their cause.[1]

The rebellion started on August 29, 1786, and by January 1787, over 1000 Shaysites had been arrested. A militia that had been raised as a private army defeated an attack on the federal Springfield Armory by the main Shaysite force on February 3, 1787. Shays' Rebellion produced fears that the Revolution’s democratic impulse had gotten out of hand. Over time, the farmers grew into armies, controlled by Daniel Shays and his men, as they tried to take back their rights.

References[change | edit source]

  1. Foner, Eric. (2006) Give Me Liberty! An American History. (New York: W.W Norton & Company)., pp. 218-219