Shays’s rebellion & the march on springfield arsenal simulation



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Divide the class into three groups: those elected to the legislature [to make the rules about money]; those who can also vote; and those who can’t vote. (Place on the chalkboard or overhead projector the rules if possible.) The rules are that those with eighteen (18) or more silver Dollars can be elected to the five (5) seats in the legislature to the make the rules about money. Those students with twelve (12) of more silver Dollars get to vote for those in the legislature. Anyone with fewer than twelve (12) silver Dollars doesn’t get to vote. Ten (10) paper Continental Dollars are worth a minimum of one (1) silver Dollar, however.
Taxes are collected every few minutes, or at whatever rate is convenient, at least four times before elections in the amount of one silver Dollar from everyone who has money unless the legislature decides differently. Paper Continental Dollars may be sold by anyone with such paper Dollars in exchange for silver Dollars at this point. This goes to the legislature to distribute as they vote which may be simply redistribution among themselves. The teacher will time this. After each four rounds of taxes, elections are held to the legislature. With each election, each student gets one silver Dollar from the teacher in annual income. This cycle repeats any number of times until the simulation is complete. Failure to pay taxes lands the player in Debtors Prison without income.
The Legislature meets apart from the other players and are told privately by the teacher that, though ten paper Continental Dollars may be purchased from anyone who wishes to sell paper Continental Dollars for one silver Dollar, the legislature may vote laws making the value of the paper Continental Dollar worth as much as silver Dollars – an especially likely scenario as the wealthy players accumulate paper Continental Dollars. The legislature may also change the taxation rate. The legislature meets apart from the other groups and tries not to be overheard. The legislator who has the most money gets to have four votes to every other legislator’s single vote.
All players can influence the legislature in two ways: by petition and by revolution. Tell those students not in the legislature that they may not verbally communicate to the legislature. They must petition in writing only. Petitions are written letters to the legislature requesting a change of the rules. Any group of players can do this. The legislature, however, may ignore any and all such petitions. Revolution is different and occurs when the Springfield Arsenal containing muskets and cannons is seized. (The Springfield Arsenal may be represented by a specific area of the room or field containing some symbolic muskets, etc.) The Arsenal may be seized when at least half of the players gather there. Successful revolution returns all the players to the amount of silver and paper Continental dollars they started the game with or, if the teacher desires, all Dollars may be redistributed among the players in whatever portion desired. Revolution ends the game or the teacher can choose to end it at any point otherwise. Occasionally revolution is averted by a responsive Legislature – but not often!

ENDING: At this time, when either the Legislature responds positively to the Petitions or Revolution occurs, the simulation is declared over and the students are reminded it was ONLY a game. Start the debriefing. It must happen now when emotions are at their summit. Make a list of actions, reactions, what was fair, what was unfair.
The time needed to complete the game is set to meet your needs, but the debriefing is critical and must take place immediately at the end of the game. For example, each member of one of the three groups will explain why they did what they did. If you wish, the time can be left unannounced and the teacher can stop the game when the "mood" is right.




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