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. 82–83.


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, and envy.

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 History.
[Accessed October 2, 2007].

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