Daniel Shays Rebellion

Essay by vsbraunUniversity, Bachelor'sA, February 2003

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Shay's Rebellion

Shays' Rebellion was the clash between farmers and merchants that tested the uncertain institutions of the new republic. It threatened to plunge the United States into a civil war. The rebellion arose in Massachusetts in 1786, and soon spread to other states (CFR). It is noted to be a key focal point for the reconstruction of the Articles of Confederation.

The Rebellion started with petitions to the government for paper currency, lower taxes, and judicial reform. Merchants wanted to lessen the circulation of continental currency to keep its value and not make it lose any more of it's worth. The farmers of the region wished for more bills to be produced. The farmers were Revolutionary War veterans and were paid with continental currency, and they wanted more currency to be produced so they could pay off debts on their farms. When this failed, the farmers took more drastic measures.

Many wealthy citizens had loaned large amounts of money to the state during the war. With the war over they wanted to be paid back, the state in debt of course had no funds. So the legislature raised taxes to get Massachusetts to pay off its debt and ensure they would be paid back quickly. Even if farmers had a fair amount of continental currency, little of it was honored at face value. Merchants and other men wanted currencies with gold backing. However, sentiment was particularly high against the commercial interests who controlled the state senate in Boston, and the lawyers who hastened the farmer's bankruptcy by their overpriced fees for litigation. Most though could not pay their taxes, their farms were repossessed, and the farmers personal belongings were all put up on auction. Of course, the only people with the capital to buy these were the wealthy; they...