20 Times Americans Rebelled Against Their Government

Shays’ troops are repulsed from the armory at Springfield, Massachusetts in early 1787. Wikimedia Commons.

19. Following only a few years after achieving victory against the British, Shays’ Rebellion highlighted the fragility of the new nation and the inadequacies of the original constitutional settlement under the Articles of Confederation

Despite winning political independence via the American Revolutionary War, the economy of the former colonies had been left in ruin by the struggle. Many inhabitants of New England were farmers, dependent upon credit to pay down suppliers and reap future harvests. Unable to repay debts, land seizures became commonplace whilst European merchants ceased to offer credit or products to the Americas due to lack of payment. Worsening the situation, without a central currency or monetary policy, the poorly designed Congress of the Confederation was unable to pay off the nation’s debts or even afford to provide veterans their due wages.

Starting in August 1786, Daniel Shays, a veteran of Lexington, Bunker Hill, and Saratoga, begun organizing protests against perceived economic injustices. Rapidly escalating after Massachusetts authorities attempted to arrest the ringleaders, in January 1787 Shay led thousands of his followers to the Springfield Armory in an attempt to seize weapons for an uprising. Unable to afford a public army, a privately funded militia was instituted to rebuff the attack. Shocking the nation into action, the failed rebellion served as the catalyst for major political upheaval, leading to the creation of a new and more centralized state during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia the following year.