August 29, 1786 — Today marks the first day of a 10-month uprising called Shays’ Rebellion, the name given to a series of protests in 1786 and 1787 by American farmers against state and local enforcement of tax collections and judgments for debt.
Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays led four thousand rebels (called Shaysites) in rising up against perceived economic injustices by Massachusetts, and in a later attempt to capture the United States’ national weapons arsenal at the U.S. Armory at Springfield.
Although Shays’ Rebellion met with defeat militarily against a privately-raised militia, it prompted numerous national leaders (including George Washington, who came out of retirement to deal with issues raised by Shays’ Rebellion) to call for a stronger national government to suppress future rebellions, resulting in the U.S. Constitutional Convention and according to historian Leonard L. Richards, “fundamentally altering the course of U.S. history.”
Traditionally depicted as a revolt of poor farmers embittered by land seizures and bankruptcies, recent research into the lives of Shays Rebellion’s participants suggests that Shaysites came from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, and from different professions and states.
Research shows that the Shaysites’ grievances extended beyond the specifics of Massachusetts’ economic situation to issues like: rule by a faraway elite; cronyism and corruption in government; and regressive tax policy.
Words of Wisdom
By information from the General Court, they are determined to call all those who appeared to stop the Court to condign punishment. Therefore I request you to assemble your men together, to see that they are well armed and equipped with sixty rounds each man, and to be ready to turn out at a minute's warning: likewise to be properly organized with officers.