A People’s History of the United States
Shays Rebellion 1786
....In the western towns of Massachusetts there was resentment against the legislature in Boston. The new state
Constitution of 1780 had raised the property qualifications for voting. No one could hold state office without being quite
wealthy. Furthermore, the legislature was refusing to issue paper money, as had been done in some other states, like
Rhode Island, to make it easier for debt-ridden farmers to pay off their creditors. .
... conventions began to assemble in
some of the western counties to organize opposition to the legislature. At one of these, a man named Plough Jogger spoke
I have been greatly double fried, have been obliged to do more than my part in the war; been loaded with class
rates, town rates, province rates, Continental rates and all rates .
.. been pulled and hauled by sheriffs, constables
and collectors, and had my cattle sold for less than they were worth.
... . . . The great men are going to get all we
have and I think it is time for us to rise and put a stop to it, and have no more courts, nor sheriffs, nor collectors
. . .
The chairman of that meeting used his gavel to cut short the applause. He and others wanted to redress their grievances,
but peacefully, by petition to the General Court (the legislature) in Boston. However, before the scheduled meeting of the
General Court, there were going to he court proceedings in Hampshire County, in the towns of Northampton and
Springfield, to seize the cattle of farmers who hadn't paid their debts, to take away their land, now full of grain and reay
for harvest. And so, veterans of the Continental army, also aggrieved because they had been treated poorly on discharge –
given certificates for future redemption instead of immediate cash – began to organize the farmers into squads and
companies. One of these veterans was Luke Day, who arrived the morning of court with a fife-and-drum corps, still angry
with the memory of being locked up in debtors' prison in the heat of the previous summer. The sheriff looked to the local
militia to defend the court against these armed farmers. But most of the militia was with Luke Day.