The story of the Shays Rebellion begins in outrage, as Governor Bowdoin and the merchant elites in Boston pass steep taxes and austerity measures that drive farmers off their land starting in the spring of 1786. The farmers resent the crushing taxes that blatantly favor the rich. Shays organized meetings, and like their revolutionary forefathers, wrote petitions that beg for reforms. But their pleas were ignored. Over a six month period, civilians opted for more direct action to close the courts that had been seizing their land. Out of this rebellion came a stronger federal government and the Bill of Rights to protect citizens from this new powerful entity. This remarkable story of how Shays mobilized the populous appeals to a wide modern political spectrum; from supporters of the left and the right, each of whom see themselves in the tradition of Daniel Shays’ righteous, restrained protestors.
Daniel Bullen was born and raised in the New York City suburbs. He took an interdisciplinary B.A. in Classics and English at Union College (1994), and a Ph.D. in nineteenth-century American literature at NYU (2003). He lives in Florence, MA, near where the Shays protests took place.