Shays's Rebellion

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

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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 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.

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Shays’s Rebellion was a rebellion among farmers in Massachusetts that began in 1786. The rebellion is important because it is seen as one of the major factors that led to the writing of the new Constitution.

When the United States first became independent, its constitution was called the Articles of Confederation. This constitution set up a government in which the states had essentially all of the power and the federal government had very little. During that time, the economy of the US was not very strong. The weakness of the US economy led to a situation in which many farmers ended up in debt. As their debts got bigger, their creditors (usually rich bankers from the cities) tried to get back the money they had lent by foreclosing on the farmers. In Massachusetts, this process caused farmers, led by Daniel Shays, to rebel.

This rebellion, along with other factors, helped to persuade rich Americans that a new constitution was needed. They were afraid that the state governments were being dominated by poorer people who would institute bad policies such as the debt forgiveness that Shays and his people wanted. They wanted a stronger national government and one that would be more insulated from the desires of the masses.

This is why Shays’s Rebellion ended up being very important. It scared American elites enough that they pushed for a new constitution. That is how we ended up with the Constitution that we now have.

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How significant was Shays's Rebellion?

Historians typically say that Shays's Rebellion was extremely significant.  Its importance comes from the fact that it helped lead to the creation of the Constitution.

Shays's Rebellion was seen by many of the American elite of the time as a sign that the country was too democratic.  They felt that the rebellion showed that the non-rich were too demanding and were trying to force the state governments to create policies that were damaging to the country as a whole.  Because of this, many of the elites wanted to create a new constitution that would set up a much stronger federal government while taking power away from the states.  This is, of course, what happened later in the very same year that Shays's Rebellion occurred.

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