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Daniel Shays's Honorable Rebellion: An American Story

Daniel Shays's Honorable Rebellion: An American Story

by Daniel Bullen
Daniel Shays's Honorable Rebellion: An American Story

Daniel Shays's Honorable Rebellion: An American Story

by Daniel Bullen


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On January 25, 1787, in Springfield, Massachusetts, militia Major General William Shepard ordered his cannon to fire grapeshot at a peaceful demonstration of 1,200 farmers approaching the federal arsenal. The shots killed four and wounded twenty, marking the climax of five months of civil disobedience in Massachusetts, where farmers challenged the state’s authority to seize their farms for flagrantly unjust taxes. Government leaders and influential merchants painted these protests as a violent attempt to overthrow the state, in hopes of garnering support for strengthening the federal government in a Constitutional Convention. As a result, the protests have been hidden for more than two hundred years under the misleading title, “Shays’s Rebellion, the armed uprising that led to the Constitution.” But this widely accepted narrative is just a legend: the “rebellion” was almost entirely nonviolent, and retired Revolutionary War hero Daniel Shays was only one of many leaders. 
    Daniel Shays’s Honorable Rebellion: An American Story by Daniel Bullen tells the history of the crisis from the protesters’ perspective. Through five months of nonviolent protests, the farmers kept courts throughout Massachusetts from hearing foreclosures, facing down threats from the government, which escalated to the point that Governor James Bowdoin ultimately sent an army to arrest them. Even so, the people won reforms in an electoral landslide. 
    Thomas Jefferson called these protests an honorable rebellion, and hoped that Americans would never let twenty years pass without such a campaign, to rein in powerful interests. This riveting and meticulously researched narrative shows that Shays and his fellow protesters were hardly a dangerous rabble, but rather a proud people who banded together peaceably, risking their lives for justice in a quintessentially American story. 

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594163654
Publisher: Westholme Publishing
Publication date: 11/11/2021
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 430,216
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

DANIEL BULLEN earned a PhD in American literature from New York University. He is the author of The Dangers of Passion: The Transcendental Friendship of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller and The Love Lives of the Artists: Five Stories of Creative Intimacy. He lives in western Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Timeline xi

Preface xvii

Introduction xxi

Prelude: January 25, 1787 3

1 The Crisis Begins 11

2 The Commonwealth Compounds the Problems 22

3 The Farmers Organize Their First Protest 49

4 A Middle Path 65

5 The Government Swings into Action 92

6 Confronting the Courts 110

7 Blood in the Snow 118

8 Shoring Up Support 128

9 "Murder, Murder" 138

10 Retreat into the Cold 157

11 The Force Dissolves 179

12 Refugees and Settlers 200

13 Starting Anew 209

14 New Life, Old Life 221

Epilogue: Reverberations and Echoes 225

Notes 235

Bibliography 265

Acknowledgments 274

Index 277

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