Daniel Shays' Rebellion

Daniel Shays' Rebellion

Daniel Shays was a Continental Army veteran who came home from the war to what he (and many of his friends) felt were unfair taxes.  They decided to do something about it.

Continental Soldier

Daniel Shays was a common farmer at the outbreak of the American Revolution.  

When the call went out to defend Massachusetts from the British, Shays felt it his duty to respond.  He was one of the militiamen who left home to fight in the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Shays continued to fight for the Patriot Cause for the next five years, including seeing action in the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Battle of Saratoga.  He received a sword for his service from General Lafayette.

Eventually, Shays would be wounded in battle.  After this, he resigned from the Continental Army and returned home.

A New Oppression

Daniel Shays was shocked to find that he was called into court upon his return. 

He was being forced to repay debts he incurred while at war.  Since he had not been working his farm, and had not been paid by the Continental Army, he had no money to his name.  Despite selling his prized sword, Shays could still not pay off his debts.

Daniel soon realized that many of the poorer farmers and veterans from western Massachusetts were in the same situation.  They petitioned the state government for assistance but were given no help.  One of the main demands they had were to print paper money, which would cause inflation and make debt payment possible.

Instead, the State Legislature, led by Governor James Bowdoin, raised property taxes to pay off their war debt.  To Shays and his cohorts this was precisely the type of unfair taxation they just rebelled against Britain over.


Daniel Shays was one of many men who organized militias to stop the Massachusetts government from ignoring their pleas.

Across the State, militias surrounded courthouses and ceased their proceedings.  

Shays led one of three groups who attacked the federal armory in Springfield.  This attack was rebuffed (mostly due to intercepted communications) and the rebels fled north.  

Major General Benjamin Lincoln then attacked the men during their retreat.  Shays was able to escape to the Vermont woods.  

Daniel Shays was one of eighteen men convicted of treason.  He stayed in Vermont for about a year until, like many of the rebels, he was given a pardon.

Upon his return to Massachusetts he was infamously known as a traitor.  Although he loved his State, he soon left for good.

Shays settled in western New York, never to return home.


Truthfully, it is a bit of a surprise this rebellion is named for Daniel Shays.  He was one of many leaders and many sources say he was not at the head of the movement.

Shays' Rebellion happened in the months before the Constitutional Convention.  While it is debatable what effect this Rebellion had on the Constitution, it is no secret that many of the Founding Fathers wanted a strong federal government to suppress this type of rebellion.  Although most of them wanted a republic, they were afraid of 'mob rule.'  They believed if the government could not firmly control the people, it would lead to anarchy.


How do you think Shays' Rebellion effected the U.S. Constitution.  Please leave us a comment with your thoughts.  

Check out one of these books for more on Shays' Rebellion from our affiliate Amazon:


Robert Treat Paine - Upholding the Rule of Law

Robert Treat Paine - Upholding the Rule of Law

The Two Sick Thomas Lynchs

The Two Sick Thomas Lynchs