1786 Shay’s Rebellion and Votes

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Map Code: Ax00567

Ex-Revolutionary soldier and Massachusetts farmer, Daniel Shay, led a rebellion that began on 29 August 1786 against the high poll tax imposed by the new government on everyone, regardless of income. The tax was to pay for economic damage caused by the war. Non-payers had their land sold at auction and many were sent to debtors’ prison. Farmers in Massachusetts felt very aggrieved as the post-war economic decline meant they could not sell their harvests or pay their taxes. Shay was elected to local office and, in 1786, led a protest army of several hundred men to the Supreme Court in Springfield, Massachusetts. Massachusetts cancelled the tax in October 1786. This populist rebellion had a domino effect, with farmers protesting in Maine and New Hampshire. The last rebel attack was on 27 February 1787. The rebellions created Federalist pressure for stronger central government, which would prevent states, such as Massachusetts, from acting unilaterally.

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