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Shays's Rebellion

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• George Washington
Benjamin Lincoln
Revolutionary War
The Constitution
Articles of Confederation


Definition: Movement by New England farmers desperate to be paid for the service in the Revolutionary War. Farmer Daniel Shays took charge of the group and led an attack on a federal arsenal in Springfield, Massachusetts, in January 1787. Federal troops under Revolutionary War General Benjamin Lincoln came from Boston. Four men were killed and 20 wounded. Shays disappeared into the wilds of Vermont, not yet a state. Other men were arrested and imprisoned. Soon after, John Hancock was elected governor of Massachusetts. Hancock quieted everything down.

Shays's Rebellion illustrated two things:

  • The national government under the Articles of Confederation was powerless to raise money to pay back the debt or pay back the soldiers because each law had to be approved by every single state. Just one state's saying no meant that a bill was defeated.
  • Out of all this came a general agreement that a stronger federal government was needed. Later in 1787, the Constitution became a reality.

Related Resources:
The New Nation
Find out more about the period between the signing of the Constitution and the year 1800.

Elsewhere on the Web:
More on Shays's Rebellion
Learn more about this famous uprising.

Shays's Rebellion: Test for America
How did the young America do in the face of this rebellion? Find out here.

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