A Brief History of Shays's Rebellion, 1786–87, armed insurrection by farmers in western Massachusetts against the state government.
Debt-ridden citizens, struck by the economic depression that followed the American Revolution, petitioned the state Senate to issue paper money and to halt foreclosure of mortgages on their property and their own imprisonment for debt due to high land taxes and inflation. Feelings were particularly high against the commercial interests who controlled the state Senate in Boston, and the lawyers who hastened the farmers' bankruptcy with their exorbitant fees for litigation.
When the state Senate failed to undertake reform, armed insurgents throughout Massachusetts - most especially in the Berkshire Hills and the Connecticut River Valley, under the leadership of Daniel Shays and others - began (Aug., 1786) forcibly to prevent the county courts from sitting to make judgments for debt. In September, they forced the state Supreme Court at Springfield to adjourn.
Early in 1787, Gov. James Bowdoin appointed Gen. Benjamin Lincoln to command 4,400 men against the rebels. Before these soldiers arrived at Springfield, Gen. William Shepard's soldiers had repulsed an attack by the rebels on the federal arsenal in Springfield. The rebels, losing four men killed, had dispersed, and Lincoln's troops pursued them to Petersham more than a week later where they were finally routed. Shays escaped to Vermont. Most of the leaders were pardoned and Shays was finally pardoned in June, 1788. The rebellion influenced Massachusetts's ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It also swept Bowdoin out of office and achieved some of its legislative goals.
See G. R. Minot, History of the Insurrections in Massachusetts in 1786 (1788, repr. 1971); R. J. Taylor, Western Massachusetts in the Revolution (1954, repr. 1967); M. L. Starkey, A Little Rebellion (1955); D. P. Szatmary, Shays' Rebellion (1980); L.L. Richards, Shays’s Rebellion (2002). Documents and history of the storming of Springfield Arsenal may be found on the WEB at www.nps.gov/spar