Quick Facts About Shays' Rebellion
Started in 1786 as an insurrection of farmers in western Massachusetts against the state government.
Leader was Daniel Shays, a Revolutionary War veteran
Shays’ followers called themselves Shayites and Regulators
Shays and his followers were protesting ruinous property taxes that led to imprisonment of debtors, a wave of farm foreclosures, poll taxes that prevented poorer citizens from voting, unjust procedures of the Court of Common Pleas, costly law suits, the refusal of the government to issue paper money to relieve economic hardships, and an unstable monetary system made day-to-day life more difficult for many than it had been before independence.
Regulators acted to address their grievances by storming courthouses to halt the imprisonment of debtors.
Massachusetts’s Governor, James Bowdoin, quickly raised an army by private subscription of 4,400 militiamen under General Benjamin Lincoln to restore the courts and to protect the state.
The Rebellion reached its climax on January 25, 1787, when the militia intercepted and defeated Shays and nearly 1500 Regulators as they attempted to seize the federal arsenal in Springfield.
With the exception of a few small skirmishes, the Rebellion ended when the remainder of Shays’ followers were surprised and captured by the militia in Petersham, Massachusetts on February 3, 1787.
Most of the insurgents later took advantage of a general amnesty and surrendered.
Shays and a few other leaders escaped north to Vermont.
The Supreme Judicial Court sentenced fourteen of the rebellion’s leaders, including Shays, to death for treason. However, they were later pardoned by the newly-elected Governor John Hancock.
Only two men, John Bly and Charles Rose of Berkshire County, were hung (for banditry).
Shays was condemned to death on a charge of treason He petitioned for amnesty in February 1788, and was pardoned by John Hancock on June 13.
Shays’ moved to New York where he died, impoverished, on September 29, 1825.
Shays’ Rebellion is sometimes referred to as the Last Battle of the American Revolution.
The Rebellion underscored the position of those who argued that the federal government established by the Articles of Confederation was weak and ineffective.