August 29th, 1786: Shay’s Rebellion storms Northampton Courthouse and shuts the place down
If you ask someone to name one of the most important events in United States’s history, many would reply with the American Revolution. Without question, this drawn-out yet monumental fight between the colonies and their mother country (England) changed the course of history of the United States.
But were things all good once the US gained our independence in 1783? One Massachusetts upset revealed that not everything was sunshine and roses — not even close.
New England farmers weren’t happy customers
Following the end of the American Revolution, areas of coastal Massachusetts and along the Connecticut River Valley continued to thrive economically. Trade between England, the West Indies, and this area allowed the merchant class to consistently take control of the government.
Those hit the hardest were local farmers, who had to abide by strict currency and trade guidelines. This led many poor farmers to fall further into debt and many even lost their land. These citizens were at the breaking point, and one man decided to stand up for this undervalued population.
One revolutionary soldier was fed up
Sick and tired of watching his fellow citizens being mistreated by a greedy government, a man named Daniel Shays took to action. Like any good Revolutionary War veteran, Shays was more than willing to stand up for the well-being of his people.
Shays wasn’t alone. He gathered 4,000 other fed-up rebels in an attempt to overthrow the government of Massachusetts. This tension continued to build for a whopping six months, and on August 29th, 1786, Shays and the rebels stormed the Northhampton Courthouse. They wanted to prevent fellow citizens from being imprisoned due to unpaid debts. This became known as Shays’ Rebellion — a fitting name for one man’s massive uproar.
This lead to the entire courthouse being shut down. Although the rebellion wasn’t a success, this uprising influenced the way American government is run today.
Shays’s Rebellion sparked change that caught like wildfire
Shays’s rebels were obviously no match for government militia. Despite being outnumbered and defeated, these brave farmers still managed to completely transform the country’s newborn political climate.
This unappreciated yet mighty rebellion lead to the creation of the US Constitution in 1787, and it even persuaded George Washington to bail on his Virginia plantation to become the first President.
Daniel Shays didn’t exactly get to bask in his heroic glory. He fled to Vermont, New Hampshire, and then later settled in New York where he was eventually pardoned. He died in 1825 at the age of 78.
Standing up for the little guy never seemed so important — and for that, we salute you, Daniel Shays.