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 to pay back loans with gold and silver? Some states passed ineffective debtor laws.
These economic issues and farmers' indebtedness led to Shays's Rebellion (1786–1787) in Massachusetts. Massachusetts did not issue enough paper money, and it demanded high taxes from its farmers. Farmers were enraged by the state government's favoritism toward business elites. Farmers in western Massachusetts revolted to prevent foreclosures on farms. Their leader, Daniel Shays, was a poor veteran of the Revolutionary War.
The revolt was quickly suppressed, but American leaders feared that similar incidents might happen elsewhere. Shays's Rebellion gave impetus to those who wanted to revise or replace the Articles of Confederation. In 1787, the Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia and ultimately produced the Constitution of the United States.