Shays's Rebellion Questions and Answers

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What was Shays's Rebellion and why was it important?

Shays's Rebellion was a revolt led by Daniel Shays in Massachusetts over the issue of the foreclosure of farms due to economic issues in the state and nationwide. The Rebellion was important because it contributed to the writing of the new Constitution, by causing elites to fear similar uprisings in the future.

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America achieved its independence from England in 1783 after the end of the Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Although the war had been won, the new nation faced enormous challenges. At the time, the thirteen states were governed by the ineffectual Articles of Confederation. That government could not, for example, effectively manage myriad diplomatic issues with Britain and Spain.

The nation also had serious economic problems at this time. Trade with Britain and its colonies in the West Indies was cut off. States had assumed debts during the long war. There were serious disagreements on economic policy and disputes between states over trade and tariffs. There were also economic disputes within states between relatively prosperous businessmen and poorer farmers. Currency was a problem—should more paper money be printed? Rhode Island printed too much money, and creditors responded by leaving the state because they did not want to paid in worthless paper currency. Should debtors be forced...

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aelfraed | Student

The Shays rebellion was an armed opposition to the government raising taxes and foreclosing on people. Foreclosing allowed the taking of what the farmer owned and selling it for what hard currency could be gotten, which wasn't a lot since there was so little circulating. Deadbeats, one might be tempted to say. Actually, there was an economic downturn after the war which is not unusual and both people and government needed money to pay debts. During the War, governments had paid their soldiers in scrip, which was a promissory note, not actual cash as we think of it today. When the soldiers went to spend it, they found that it had lost value. Not only that but speculators who bought scrip for discounted prices demanded full price from the government in hard cash, gold and silver coin, so that they could pay their taxes and buy whatever else they needed. Farmers could grow what they needed but city dwellers had to have money. Not like today where everybody shops at Wal Mart. The wealthy controlled government and could have things their way, whereas the farmers of western Massachusetts were hard pressed to afford sending a representative all the way to Boston. The other colonies had the same problems but handled them differently. Out of this, a need for strong central government was recognized. Footnote: The second amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms was not simply for the purpose of defending against government, but of supporting it against insurgency since the rebels had come close to capturing the arsenal at Springfield.

Yojana_Thapa | Student

Shay's Rebellion was sparked by the frustrations of Massachusetts farmers who were losing their farms because they could not pay debts in hard currency. It 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. It is significant because it convinced many Americas of the need for a stronger central government.

michuraisin | Student

As the name suggests, Shays' Rebellion was a rebellion led by Daniel Shay, who was an ex-soldier in Massachusetts. Began in 1786, it was an uprising of popular support  from farmers against a conservative Massachusetts that wanted to increase what were already some of the highest taxes in the colonies. Led by Shays, band of farmers began marching in the western part of the state, forcing the closure of courts. The march was eventually crushed by mass militia, though the rebellion was accompanied by small disturbances in other states.

The importance of the rebellion was that, due to its publicity, it was basically propaganda for a strong central government. There was a call for a help to the central government to stop the rebellion, but the government said they had no resources. Their ineffectiveness  showed the weakness of the Articles of Confederation, help leading to a new convention being called to come up with a completely new constitution, which is the one we have now. The rebellion also allowed Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to persuade George Washington to lend his prestige to the government.