The Causes of Shays's Rebellion
by Daniel Gray, 1786
Daniel Gray, as chairman of a committee of rebels protesting the Massachusetts
debtors' plight, wrote an address to the people of Hampshire County. In the
address, which is reprinted here, Gray enumerated the causes for the riots
that were staged under the leadership of Daniel Shays.
George R. Minot, The History of the Insurrections in Massachusetts
in the Year 1786 and the Rebellion Consequent Thereon, 2nd edition, Boston, 1810, pp.
We have thought proper to inform you of some of the principal causes of the
late risings of the people and also of their present movements, viz.:
- The present expensive mode of collecting debts, which by reason of the great
scarcity of cash will of necessity fill our jails with unhappy debtors, and
thereby a reputable body of people rendered incapable of being serviceable
either to themselves or the community.
- The monies raised by impost and excise being appropriated to discharge the
interest of governmental securities, and not the foreign debt, when these
securities are not subject to taxation.
- A suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, by which those persons who have
stepped forth to assert and maintain the rights of the people are liable
to be taken and conveyed even to the most distant part of the commonwealth,
and thereby subjected to an unjust punishment.
- The unlimited power granted to justices of the peace, and sheriffs, deputy
sheriffs, and constables by the Riot Act, indemnifying them to the prosecution
thereof; when perhaps wholly actuated from a principle of revenge, hatred,
Furthermore, be assured that this body, now at arms, depise the idea of being
instigated by British emissaries, which is so strenuously propagated by the
enemies of our liberties; and also wish the most proper and speedy measures
may be taken to discharge both our foreign and domestic debt.
To cite this page:
Daniel Gray " The Causes of Shays's Rebellion," Annals of American
[Accessed October 2, 2007].
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