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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In the Year of our LORD, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-Seven.

An ACT, describing the Disqualifications to which Persons shall be subjected, who have been, or may be guilty of Treason, or giving Aid or Support to the present REBELLION, and to whom a Pardon may be extended.

WHEREAS the General Court, at their present sessions, have "Resolved, That the Governour, be authorized and empowered, in the name of the General Court, to promise a pardon, under such disqualifications as should thereafter be provided, to such private soldiers and others, who might have acted in the capacity of non-commissioned officers, as had been, or were in arms against the Commonwealth, with such exceptions as he, or the General Officer, commanding the troops, might judge necessary: Provided, they should deliver up their arms, and take and subscribe the oath of allegiance to this Commonwealth, within such time as might be limited by his Excellency, for that purpose:"

And whereas it is fit and expedient, That the conditions and disqualifications upon which the pardon and indemnity to the offenders, aforesaid, should be offered and given, should, as soon as possible, be established and made known:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, That no pardon or indemnity, shall be promised as aforesaid by the Governour, by virtue of any act or resolve of the General Court, that has been or shall be passed, to any person or persons, who have acted in the capacity of non-commissioned officers or privates, or persons of any other description, who, since the first day of August, seventeen hundred and eighty-six, have been, now are, or may hereafter be in arms against the authority and Government of this Commonwealth, or who have given or may hereafter give them counsel, aid, comfort or support, voluntarily, with intent to encourage the opposition to Government, unless they shall on or before such time as the Governour shall limit for that purpose, deliver up their arms, and take and subscribe the oath of allegiance, before some Justice of the Peace, within some county of this Commonwealth; and no pardon or indemnity shall be offered or given by the Governour to any of the offenders aforesaid, who are not citizens of this State.

And be it further by the authority aforesaid, That to whomsoever of the offenders aforesaid, the Governour shall think fit, by virtue of any act or resolve of the General Court, to promise a pardon and indemnity, for the offences aforesaid, it shall be under the following restrictions, conditions and disqualifications, that is to say, That they shall keep the peace for the term of three years, from the time of passing this act, and that during that term of time, they shall not serve as Jurors, be eligible to any Town-Office, or any other Office under the Government of this Commonwealth, and shall be disqualified from holding or exercising the employments of School-Masters, Innkeepers or Retailers of spirituous liquors, or either of them, or giving their votes for the same term of time, for any officer, civil or military, within this Commonwealth, unless such persons, or any of them, shall after the first day of May, seventeen hundred and eighty-eight, exhibit plenary evidence of their having returned to their allegiance, and kept the peace, and that they possess an unequivocal attachment to the Government, as shall appear to the General Court a sufficient ground to discharge them, or any of them, from all or any part of the disqualification aforesaid.

Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That is shall be the duty of the Justice before whom any offender or offenders aforesaid may deliver up their arms, and take and subscribe the oath aforesaid, and he is accordingly directed, immediately on the expiration of the term to be limited by the Governour as aforesaid, to certify to the Clerks of the several towns, districts, and plantations, whereunto the offenders may belong, the names of all such who shall deliver up their arms and take the subscribe the oath aforesaid, and shall also, as soon as may be after the expiration of the said term, make a return to the Secretary of this Commonwealth, of the number of arms in his possession, and to whom they belong, and shall at the same time lodge with the Secretary, their original subscription to the oath of allegiance; and it shall be duty of the Justice to require such as shall take and subscribe the oath of allegiance, to subjoin to their names, their places of abode, and their additions, and if required, to give to each offender who shall deliver up his arms, and take and subscribe the oath aforesaid, a certificate of the same, under his seal; and he shall be intitled to ask and receive nine pence, of the offenders, for each certificate. And any Justice of the Peace to whom any arms may voluntarily be delivered as aforesaid, shall certify to the Major-General or commanding-officer of the division, in which the said Justice may live, the number of arms so delivered to him, and by whom they were delivered; and it shall be the duty of such Major-General or commanding-officer, to give such directions as he may think necessary, for the safe keeping such arms, in order that they may be returned to the person or persons who delivered the same, at the expiration of the said term of three years, in case such person or persons shall have complied with the conditions above-mentioned, and shall obtain an order for the re-delivery of such arms, from the Governour, who is hereby authorized and empowered to make such order, unless it appears to him, that the conditions aforesaid have not been complied with.

Be it further by the authority aforesaid, That if any offender or offenders aforesaid, who shall deliver up their arms and take and subscribe the oath of allegiance, as aforesaid, or to whom a pardon may be promised by virtue of any future act or resolve of the General Court, shall vote, or offer to vote in any town or other meeting, for any office, civil or military, within the Commonwealth, or shall make, forge, or alter any certificate of a Justice, of his having delivered up his arms, and taken the oath of allegiance as aforesaid, he shall forfeit all his right and interest in and to the pardon and indemnity which may be promised him, by virtue of the authority aforesaid, and be subject to the same pains and penalties, as if such promise had never been made.

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the Governour be, and he hereby is authorized and empowered, to promise a pardon of their past offences, unconditional, and without any disqualifications, to all such privates, as have borne arms against the Government of this Commonwealth, who afterwards voluntarily took up arms previously to the first day of February current, in support of the said Government, and to those, who agreeably to the proposals of General Lincoln, of the twenty-ninth and thirtieth of January last, voluntarily came in, surrendered their arms, and took and subscribed the oath of allegiance, within three days, from the said twenty-ninth day of January, any thing in this act to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided, that no pardon which shall be promised by the Governour, shall be construed to extend to indemnify any person or persons whatever, from any suits or prosecutions, to which they may be liable, for injuries done or committed, to the property or person, of any individual.

Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it is the duty of all officers civil and military, within this Commonwealth, to hold all offenders as aforesaid, who shall not ithin the term to be limited as aforesaid, deliver up their arms, and take and subscribe the oath of allegiance, as rebels and open enemies, and they are directed and required, to encounter, pursue, conquer, apprehend, and secure them, so that they may be brought to trial and punishment; and all the citizens of this Commonwealth are hereby required to aid and support the said officers, in the execution of their said duty.

And be it further enacted, That the Governour be, and he hereby is requested, to except out of the pardon he shall promise, by virtue of the resolve abovementioned all those who have been members of any General Court in this State, or of any State or county convention, or who may have been employed heretofore in any commissioned office civil or military, those, who after delivering up their arms, and taking the oath of allegiance during the present rebellion, have again taken and borne arms against the Government; those who have fired upon, or wounded any of the loyal subjects of this Commonwealth, those who have acted as Committees, Counsellors or advisers to the Rebels; and those, who in former years have been in arms against the Government, in the capacity of commissioned officers, and were afterwards pardoned and have been concerned in the present rebellion.

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the Clerks of the several towns, districts and plantations, be directed to read t his act at the opening of their annual meetings in March and April next.

In the HOUSE of REPRESPENTATIVES, February 16, 1787.

This Bill having had three several Readings, passed to be enacted.


In SENATE February 16, 1787.

This Bill having had three several Readings, passed to be enacted.

SAMUEL PHILLIP, jun. President.

By the Governour Approved,


A True copy. Attest

JOHN AVERY, jun, Secretary.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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This Disqualification Act was passed by the House and Senate of Massachusetts on February 16, 1787. It sets forth conditions for granting pardons to the men who participated in Shays' Rebellion on the side of the Regulators as privates or non-commissioned officers. The men were required to turn in their guns and take an oath of allegiance delivered by a Justice of the Peace. The Justice of the Peace was then required to relay the men's names to the clerks of their towns. The men were barred from serving as jurors, members of town or state government and certain professions for three years. They also lost their right to vote in town elections. The men would forfeit their pardons if they did not follow those rules. However, if they could prove their unfailing allegiance to the state on or after May 1, 1788, they would no longer be barred from being a juror, voting or being members of government or certain professions.


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Disqualification Act broadside issued by Gov. James Bowdoin during Shays' Rebellion

creator   James Bowdoin (1727-1790)
publisher   Commonwealth of Massachusetts
date   Feb 16, 1787
location   Boston, Massachusetts
height   13.0"
width   15.0"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Public Announcements/Broadside
accession #   #L07.050

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See Also...

Proclamation regarding Shays' Rebellion

Extract of a Letter regarding fate of the insurgents published in the Hamsphire Gazette

"Acts and Laws, Passed by the General Court of Massachusetts"

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