Shay’s Rebellion; A Turning Point



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A turning point to find a new constitution occurred in 1786. Shay’s Rebellion was over property and other taxes on farmers in Western Massachusetts. It was caused by Recession; a slowed down economy.  The city merchants and bankers in the East of the state needed a way to make money and so they taxed the raw agricultural products of the West.  The recession grew worse and many found it impossible to pay their debts. Many that could not pay lost their farms.  By this point farmers were angry and wanted to march. Daniel Shays, Captain of the western farmer’s army, emerged as the Rebellion’s leaders; eventually the rebellion was named after him.

Even though the rebellion was put down it was a turning point to the weaknesses of the confederation and many wanted a new constitution. National government could not force the states to obey its law and states made laws that some found to be unfair. They had the lack of strong and steady leadership. The National government had no power to raise money to pay for action. They wanted printed money which led to inflation.  Inflation is when the value of money goes down and the prices rise or get “inflated”.

The issue of taxes has remained throughout US History.

There are differences between the 1786 Shays Rebellion  and the 1791 Whiskey Rebellion. The Shay and Whiskey rebellions were both armed rebellions over taxes.  The Whiskey Rebellion started in 1791 and took place in Pittsburgh. George Washington was the president that acted quickly to enforce the tax on whiskey and put down the rebellion. George Washington treated the rebellion and led a militia in order to put down the rebellion in Pittsburgh. Washington’s  reaction to the rebellion showed how much more effective the new US  Federal Constitution was compared to the old. The Shay’s Rebellion occurred while the US was governed by the Articles of Confederation. States would choose whether or not they would contribute to the collective defense. Massachusetts had a very difficult time getting assistance from bordering states.


In October of 1794 is when the Whiskey Rebellion in PA. was ended Washington grouped some fifteen thousand troops and personally led them to the area of rebellion. After they met with no resistance, Washington turned the command over to the governor of Pennsylvania. The militia men cleansed the countryside and captured a dozen farmers, who they took back to Philadelphia. Two were convicted of treason and sentenced to die, but President Washington pardoned them. This ended the only serious challenge to federal authority.