Lesson 7: Daniel Shays and the
2 class periods (85 minutes each)
|Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and
After the costly Revolutionary War, the Articles of Confederation
provided for each state to fight its own wars, issue its own money,
and raise and collect taxes. In 1783, after eight years of fighting,
the government of "laws not kings" was in jeopardy. The
merchants who had contributed significant financial support to the
war effort were being pressured to pay their English creditors.
In turn, these same merchants were pressuring the government to
repay its debt to them, rather than face financial ruin. Consequently,
to do so, the legislature levied taxes against its citizens.
The Revolutionary War had been fought to underscore
the rights of individual sovereignty. The farmers of Western Massachusetts
were accustomed to rallying against perceived injustices by mob
rule, hence the Rebellion. Although the Rebellion was grounded in
economics, it has been seen as a catalyst in the formation of a
constitution that provided for our present federal government, clearly
outlining the powers of both the state and the national government
and the rights of the individual.
Teacher Background Essay: Rebellious Farmers
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|Intended Learning Outcomes
Students will understand:
- Economic events and the reaction of the citizenry
brought important changes that impacted the formation of the United
Students will be able to:
- Contrast the diverse views of Connecticut
River Valley people in the years before, during, and after the
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|In Preparation for Teaching
1. Read Teacher Background Essay: Rebellious Farmers
Further Background Reading:
Grosse, Robert, ed. In Debt to Shays. Charlottesville:
Virginia UP, 1986.
Hull, Mary. Shays' Rebellion and the Constitution.
Berkley Heights, New Jersey: Enslow, 2000.
Nobles, Gregory. "The Politics of Patriarchy
in Shay's Rebellion: The Case of Henry McCulloch." Families
and Children: Dublin Seminar Series, Boston University, 1985.
Primary and Secondary Sources:
Unless otherwise noted, all can be found on the American Centuries website.
- Video : A Little Rebellion Now and Then.
Los Angeles, CA: Churchill Films, 1986. (not on website)
- Timeline showing the chronology of the Revolutionary
- Justin Hitchcock's story of Daniel Shays
- Training Day notification to Consider Dickinson
- Daniel Shays' Inventory
- Blank Map of Massachusetts (not on website)
- Oath of Allegiance, February 27, 1787
- The Massachusetts Constitution
- The United States Constitution
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||Materials in Context
Class Period 1: The Rebellion
- Introduce the video, A Little Rebellion
Now and Then, by asking student to note three threads
that need to be understood to discuss this event: 1) The
social classes and the economic interests of those classes
that were involved; 2) The geography of the region, and
3) The political issues that are at stake.
- Watch the video, A Little Rebellion
Now and Then.
- Discuss the main ideas of the film.
When reviewing the "main points" of the story with the teacher,
use a map and add to the time line.
Invite students to divide into groups and
read the following:
- Justin Hitchcock's account of Daniel
- Sheldon's "Joseph Stabbings -- A Pioneer
of the outbreak of the Revolution" and the Oath of Allegiance,
February 27, 1787
- Shays' inventory to conclude his story.
Listen to the reporting out of the groups
and continue the discussion.
Assignment: What others were saying...
Select one quotation and write a response
to the speaker.
"For God's sake, tell me what
is the cause of all of these commotions?" -- George
Washington (from his home in Mount Vernon)
"Ignorant, restless desperadoes,
without conscience or principles. Have led a deluded multitude
to follow their standard under the pretense of grievances
which have no existence but in their imaginations."
"The wisest and most vigorous measures (must be used
) to quell and suppress" the revolt. -- Abigail
Adams (from Paris)
"The evils we experience flow
from the excess of democracy." -- Elbridge Gerry,
Massachusetts delegate to the Constitutional Convention.
"What country can preserve its
liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time
that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? What
signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of
liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood
of patriots and tyrants. It is the natural manure."
-- Thomas Jefferson (from Paris)
Class Period 2: Making the connection to
the Constitution... Constitutional Convention, 1787.
- Invite the students to review the Shays
event in terms of the governance, social and economic conditions
that it reveals.
- Using a timeline, include dates for
- The Revolutionary War (from beginning
- The Writing of the Massachusetts
- The Constitutional Convention
- The Inauguration of George Washington
- As a class, read the preamble to the
Massachusetts Constitution, noting its provisions for a
two-house legislature. Note that the constitution provides
for a bill of rights, for education, and that all men are
- Referencing the film, A Little Rebellion
Now and Then, note that Shays' Rebellion influenced
the addition in the constitution of the provision for the
national government to call up troops to protect the common
good (hence the phrase Commander-in-Chief) and that the
nation should now be able to levy taxes.
- Compare the structure -- the length,
organization, and basic components -- of the Massachusetts
Constitution and the United States Constitution. Are there
Summarize the importance of Shays' Rebellion
to the emerging nation.
Justin Hitchcock's story of Daniel Shays
Daniel Shays' Inventory
Oath of Allegiance, February 27, 1787
The Massachusetts Constitution
The United States Constitution
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For first assignment:
Written response to one of the quotations.
For second assignment: The written summary of
the importance of the Shays' event.
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