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Shays' Rebellion

Nathan King


Shays' Rebellion reflects early America's continued disdain for taxes and the emerging debate over the expansion of the federal government. The rebellion partially grew out of a response to the lack of representation of western agrarian Massachusetts in the Constitution of 1780 and the extreme economic distress created by the American Revolution . In the aftermath of the war, Massachusetts veterans returned home to disturbing conditions. They were unpaid for their wartime service, their crops yielded little money, and they faced outrageous taxes. By 1786 the situation was out of control and elected officials were not offering any sign of relief for their constituents. Rural residents began gathering in taverns and citing their common grievances against the state government. In August 1786 a long list of resolutions, including the abolition of the Court of Common Pleas, the end of payments to the federal congress, and the issuance of new paper money, was sent to the state government in Boston. The conservative state government under Governor James Bowdoin gave no reply. The people were now determined to take action by force. They formed small groups called “Regulators” with the intention of stopping magistrate courts and land seizure. On August 29, 1,500 “Regulators” took control of the Northampton courthouse and prevented the Court of General Sessions from sitting. Within the next ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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