Shays's Rebellion Questions and Answers

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Why did Daniel Shays rebel?

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Shays rebelled because, like his fellow farmers, he was fed up with high taxes and an unresponsive government. As the U.S. forged forward as an independent nation after the Revolutionary War, many farmers faced steep debt as they established their operations. Several states either forgave debts or printed more money (or both) as a way to help farmers get started. But not Massachusetts. Instead, the government seized land and jailed indebted farmers. Moreover, Massachusetts charged higher taxes than other states.

The farmers responded much as U.S. colonists did when protesting British taxes they felt unfair, by organizing meetings and plotting strategy. In autumn of 1876, they banded together to physically force the closure of courts (so they couldn't try and imprison indebted farmers) and to free some farmers already in jail for debt. Shays, an ex-army captain in the Revolutionary War, is credited with leading the first armed rebellion in the nascent nation, though in reality he was one of several rebellion leaders.

Shays's rebellion ended after skirmishes with U.S. troops and a private army hired by Massachusetts governor James Bowdoin. In January 1787, a group of rebels led by Shays tried to raid the Springfield arsenal. They were met by the troops Bowdoin hired, who repelled the attack and sent Shays's men scattering. Though the rebellion was squashed, it fueled arguments for a national constitution, which was ratified in the summer of 1788.

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Shays’ Rebellion, led by Daniel Shays, took place in 1786–1787 in central and western Massachusetts. The farmers were suffering and were having a hard time paying their debts. As a result, they were losing their farms or being put in jail. They wanted the government of Massachusetts to take actions that would help those in debt. These actions could have included forgiving the debt and printing more money. When these actions did not occur, a rebellion began. The farmers believed that taxes were too high and that the government was not being responsive to their needs.

The rebellion had several actions. The rebels forced the courts to close. They also freed some people who were jailed because they did not pay their debts. The governor of Massachusetts eventually organized a military force that crushed the rebels and ended the rebellion.

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