Shays's Rebellion

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What was Shays's Rebellion and what effect did it have on the nation? 

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Murl Larson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Shays's Rebellion was a rebellion by Massachusetts farmers against taxation. The farmers, many of whom were Revolutionary War veterans who were not paid in full for their service, were afraid of losing their farms due to taxation and the subsequent market collapse that hit the United States after the American Revolution. The farmers rebelled by blocking judges from entering their courthouses and petitioning the government. Daniel Shays led the rebellion.

Shays's Rebellion proved that the federal government needed a way to provide for its soldiers' well-being and to create a stable system of taxation. Shays's Rebellion also proved that the Articles of Confederation, while theoretically sound in terms of providing freedom to the states, were unworkable when it came to creating a national government. The rebellion was one of the factors that led to the creation of a Constitution for the United States. It demonstrated the need for a national government that would be stable enough to pay for its defense in time of war so that farmers who fought to defend the country would not be poor after the war was over.

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Ben Orn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Shays's Rebellion (1786–87) was a protest and revolt against Massachusetts. The event produced few casualties, but it was significant. Daniel Shays, a former Revolutionary War soldier, was a prominent leader of the revolt.

The revolt was carried out for economic reasons. The farmers of Massachusetts, most of whom were veterans, were indebted. Also, the state was increasing taxes; thus, the farmers faced arrest and foreclosure.

Opposition to the state was peaceful, in the beginning. The farmers sent a list of grievances to the state government. They also began to physically block judges from entering courthouses to prevent foreclosures.

Although there was some sympathy for the farmers' plight, key people wanted to crush the incipient revolt. One of these people was Samuel Adams. Another enemy of the farmers was Governor James Bowdoin.

General Benjamin Lincoln led a force of 4,400 men that crushed the revolt; a few rebels were killed. Shays and some other rebels escaped to Vermont. Eventually, Shays and almost all of the rebels were eventually pardoned.

Shays's Rebellion was a minor revolt, but it was important. It convinced many people that the Articles of Confederation were inadequate. Therefore, Shays's rebellion gave impetus to those leaders who wanted a new constitution for the United States.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Shays’ Rebellion was an uprising carried out by farmers in Massachusetts in 1786 and 1787.  The main effect that it had on our country was that it caused the calling of the Constitutional Convention.  The men who attended this convention wrote the US Constitution.  Thus, Shays’ Rebellion led rather directly to the writing of the Constitution.

Shays’ Rebellion happened because farmers were facing major economic problems.  They could not get enough money to pay their taxes or their debts.  Because they could not pay, many of them were having their land taken away from them.  Farmers, many of whom were veterans of the Revolutionary War, felt that they were being treated unfairly and they rebelled.  They were trying to stop the courts from functioning so their land could not be taken away.

Shays’ Rebellion was suppressed, but it worried many American elites.  They felt that it was one more piece of evidence showing that a new system of government was needed.  They wanted a form of government in which the national government had more power. Because of this, they called the Constitutional Convention, which ended up writing a new constitution for the US. 

We can say, then, that Shays’ Rebellion was a rebellion by farmers in Massachusetts that led to the writing of our Constitution.

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