How significant was Shays's Rebellion of 1786?

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larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A more nearly correct answer would be that Shay's Rebellion was a clear and compelling indication that the Confederation government under which the U.S. was operating simply did not work. The end result is that the leaders of the nation concluded that a strong central government was needed. George Washington commented that

We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our Confederation.

The Confederation government had been created with the purpose of avoiding a strong central government. However, with the end of the Revolutionary war, the several states no longer had a common goal, and looked increasingly to their own interests. Shay's Rebellion, which was short lived and quickly quelled, led to an increasing fear that a second revolution might be at hand. The great fear was that with no strong central government, anarchy might result. Shays rebellion was feared to be the opening salvo of that second revolution with more to inevitably follow.

Some, such as Thomas Jefferson, believed the rebellion to be a healthy exercise of political rights. Jefferson commented in a letter to James Madison:

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.

Most statesmen of the day disagreed with Jefferson and saw the rebellion as the onset of anarchy. They believed that the rebellion evidenced the need for a "more perfect union."

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Shays's Rebellion was extremely significant.  It was a major factor in frightening the elites of the early US into doing away with the more democratic Articles of Confederation and coming up with the new, more republican Constitution.

The rebellion made the elites fear that the masses of people had too much power and were set to take more power still.  This worried them because they believed that the masses would force governments to implement policies that would be bad for the country.  Because they believed this, they pushed for the creation of a new constitution that would take power from the people and put it more securely in the hands of the elite.

Shays's Rebellion is extremely significant because it heightened these fears and led to the creation of the Constitution.

maria-vivanco's profile pic

maria-vivanco | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Shays rebellion was significant because it made the elites realize that the states had too much power and the central government didn't have enough power which led to revisions of the articles of confederation which led to the constitutioN.

Yojana_Thapa's profile pic

Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Shay's Rebellion:

  • Sparked by the frustrations of Massachusetts farmers who were losing their farms because they could not pay debts in hard currency
  • Was provoked by foreclosures on the mortgages of backcountry farmers
  • An armed group of poor rebel farmers led by Daniel Shay in response to crushing debt and taxes


  • Convinced many Americas of the need for a stronger central government
samjazael123's profile pic

samjazael123 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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It was the first time americans actually banded together to end government greed. To be exact it is all due to the raising of taxes and the taking away of peoples homes. "It would later be a precursor to create the homestead act." which only little by little fixed the problem. Though today the home owning process has changed since that time, I know that the rise of capatalism was a huge mistake as it began during the civilwar, yet the corruption started after president Abe Lincoln. Capitalism is a step the government created to make sure people didn't rebell against government. Though I think it just made things worse. Shays rebellion was a huge success, yet it also created bigger problems. Especially a question to the Elite. My belief is that Shays rebellion was not so successful after all as it only furthered the progress of the elite which made the government less favorable for the meek. Shays rebellion created nothing, but big government. I am not a conservative, but capitalism does need to go or at least changed to suit the meek.

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