Shay’s Rebellion

In the newspapers, I was searching for news about Shay’s Rebellion. The Rebellion was a series of protests that happened throughout the colonies but was most prevalent in Massachusetts and New York. The protests were run by American farmers who were upset at the state and local government for their increase of tax collections and judgements for debt. The Rebellion is credited for being the reason for revising and updating the Articles of Confederation as well as shaping other things in the Constitution.

Many of the articles written about the Rebellion come from March of 1787, around four months befoe the end of the Rebellion. Also, many of the articles came from Massachusetts, but there were some from other areas of the country including South Carolina. One interesting things about the articles written about the Rebellion was that most of them were reprints of letters sent out by the people who were trying to stop the Rebellion. In the March 9th edition of the American Recorder, there were a series of letters from Royall Tyler. In the letters, Tyler describes the recent information his flank has received about the rebels location and their activities at those locations. In each of the letters, Tyler also writes the exact time they heard word of the rebels location. This shows how difficult communication was at the time. By the time he sent out his message, the rebels had moved and started causing havoc in another town.

The other articles written about the Rebellion follow this pattern. Most were written by people fighting against the protestors and they usually wrote the times for when they discovered things. The Boston Gazette publsihed a series of letters from commanding officer Benjamin Lincoln only three days after the article in the American Recorder. In his letters, Lincoln refers to Daniel Shay more than any of the other people do. He describes what he has seen so far in fighting the Rebellion and where the protestors have been moving to and what they have been doing. In one of his letters, Lincoln sends his thanks to the troops and the generals who have aided in the fight against the protestors. He tells the troops that he is thankful for their acts of patriotism and he writes to them saying he hopes they continue to have success and tells them he holds them in high respect.

Not all the newspapers were from Massachusetts as the Rebellion and its ideas had spred throughout the states. The State Gazette of South Carolina also reprinted letters from Lincoln in their March 12th edition of the newspaper. In these letters he does the same thing as he did in the Massachusetts published letters. He tells his reader of where the protestors are and what they are doing. However, in these accounts he gives a more detailed story of “Shay’s men”. He tells of how many of Shay’s men there were in each town and how they decided to take many different routes to get places. He also describes the different towns in Massachusetts who are either on Lincoln’s side or on the side of Shay. This was one of the first times it was depicted in print of there being more people on the side of the Rebellion. Most of the articles about the Rebellion were strictly by the people opposed to the protestors. It seems from this that there was more talk of siding with the Rebellion in areas not around where the fighting was taking place.

All of these accounts of Shay’s Rebellion point to how the Rebellion was depicted in the United States. From these articles, we can tell the Rebellion was treated as if it were a battle in a war. The sides were tailing each other and the high generals were boasting about how the fight was making their soldiers patriotic and heroric. The fact the news of the Rebellion had spread past where the fighting was taking place, shows how important the protests were to the country as a whole. It definetly proves the Rebellion was a big enogh event to have affected the whole country and to have made it so the ideas of the Rebellion were put into the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation.

American Recorder,  Boston Massachusetts, March 9, 1787.

The Boston Gazette, Boston Massachusetts, March 12, 1787.

State Gazette of South Carolina,  Charleston South Carolina, March 12, 1787.


One thought on “Shay’s Rebellion

  1. It sounds from your description like most of the coverage you found outside of Massachusetts was based on reprinted news from inside Massachusetts. Is that a fair assumption? Or did the newspapers in the rest of the United States offer any sort of commentary of their own?


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