The outrageous American Revolution War left a lot of scars and bruises that had major affects on the country. On August 29, 1786 in Massachusetts, a rebellion broke out as one of the results that came after the war. This rebellion was led by a veteran from the American Revolutionary War, Daniel Shays, which was why this significant rebellion is called Shays’s Rebellion. The economic crisis that followed the war was a powerful start of Shays’s rebellion. The country itself was in a massive amount of debt and so did the people. Farmers did not have enough money to pay for their taxes, since the states called for heavy taxation so that the country would be out of debt as soon as possible. The consequence of taking away the farmers’ lands if they did not pay tax was applied.
Even though the people called for tax reduction, the government turned their backs and refused to do so. The people were extremely enraged and responded by protesting along with shutting down country courts so that the judicial could not call for any more tax collection. The climax of Shays’s rebellion arose when Shays and his men attacked Springfield, Massachusetts, which was the government’s site for federal arsenal. The mighty state militia fought Shays and his army of farmers back. Daniel Shays decided to escape afterwards, which was how the rebellion finally ended. This chaotic rebellion had a very affective aftermath. Shays’s rebellion’s significance is that it allowed leaders to meet, improved the Articles of Confederation, and paved the path to the successful constitution.
In 1786, the first constitutional convention, also known as the Annapolis Convention, was held before Shays’s rebellion to discuss about revising the Articles of Confederation. Political leaders were concerned about the country’s form of government, but there was no improvement in this convention. Therefore, Alexander Hamilton proposed for another constitutional convention in Philadelphia for the following year. Shays’s Rebellion occurred during the time between the first and second constitutional convention. It clearly pointed out and proved that the government was feeble, which made the political leaders more motivated in improving the Articles of Confederation. This powerful rebellion was effective to George Washing because it was the reason he decided to attend the convention. Robert Feer, the author of “Shays’s Rebellion and the Constitution: A Study in Causation” mentioned that, “If it can be shown that without Shays’s Rebellion Washington would not have attended the Convention or have lent his name to the Federalists on behalf of ratification, then the Rebellion did help to produce the Constitution.”(Feer 395)
Another important figure like James Madison was dragged in to the convention because he was also triggered by Shays’s Rebellion. This built the foundation to his idea of the Virginia Plan, which was proposed at the second constitutional convention. Feer mentioned Madison’s idea in his book, “The powers of the central government should be increased, not only to regulate commerce and to levy taxes, but to issue a uniform currency, to regulate weights and measures, and, he hinted, to suppress “internal contention” and to prevent the states from issuing paper money.” (Feer 398) Many leaders, not just only these two, were convinced by the rebellion and joined the convention to improve the weak constitution.
Radical debates were held all over Massachusetts to discuss about a better and stronger government for the country. A lot of people suggested that the government should be able to regulate currency to improve the economy and also suppress wild rebellions for placidity. The weak government, or the Federal Government had 3 branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The three branches work together through the system of checks and balances so that none of the branches could dominate the others. The power was very well balanced between the branches. This form of government was considered to be extremely weak because it had no rights to tax, which passed the rights to tax to the states. Taxation for each states is different, therefore some states would have to pay more than the others. This Federal Government’s rights dealt with war issues. They had the right to declare war, form treaties, borrow money, and much more. The second constitutional convention in the spring of 1787 was also called the Philadelphia Convention. Great leaders met and finalized a conclusion that a new federal government must be created.
A very significant plan proposed by James Madison, the Virginia Plan, had a huge effect on the new constitution. The Virginia Plan called for a government with two chambers, which were the Senate (the upper chamber) and the House of Representatives (the lower chamber). This particular plan had a problem with small states because they had less population, resulting in smaller number of seats in the house. The large states would have all the advantage in the house. John Dickinson, a lawyer and a politician, reproached Madison that, “You see the consequences of pushing things too far. Some of the members from the small States wish for two branches in the General Legislature and are friends to a good National Government; but we would sooner submit to a foreign power than … be deprived of an equality of suffrage in both branches of the Legislature, and thereby be thrown under the domination of the large States.” (Roche 814) Therefore, the New Jersey Plan was proposed to modify the Virginia Plan. It called for a single chamber and the equal opportunity in terms of representatives for both large and small states regarding their population sizes.
The two plans were merged together in the process called The Great Compromise. The final resolution was that there were two legislative body and both large and small states got equal amount of seats in the house. Shays’s rebellion allowed a new federal government to be accomplished, which framed most of today’s constitution. Finally, a completely strong and new constitution was created under the pressure after Shays’s Rebellion. The three branches worked together cooperatively to balance out their powers. The legislative branch had the power to tax, approve all of the presidential decisions, approve treaties, writes laws, and much more. The executive branch, or the president’s powers, had the right to propose laws, negotiate treaties, assign people to positions in the house, and veto bills. An example of how the systems of checks and balances work was that the executive branch was able to assign someone to a specific position, but the legislative branch must approve it before that person was officially given the position. The judicial branch was responsible for the court systems. This branch was in charged of making important decisions, review lower courts cases, and also declare something those two other branches’ decisions unconstitutional.
A strong and steady government was finally constructed after all the hard work of the powerful politicians. Shays’s Rebellion had influenced the leaders to come together and commit themselves in to improving the weak government, which finally produced a new and stable government. That particular government was extremely remarkable because it shaped today’s government, making The United States of America a very successful and powerful country. Rachel R. Parker, an author of many history books, mentioned, “The rebellion, however, introduced important new factors to the Convention’s discourse,”(Parker 96) to clarify how effective the rebellion was. But it is also safe to say that Shays’s Rebellion was not the only thing that contributed to the significant government, but it is considered to be one of the biggest causes. Shays’s rebellion also brought out the pride of nationalism in the political leaders because without the love and care they had for the country, they would never nominate themselves in to such huge responsibilities. Shays’s Rebellion will forever remain significant in American history.
Collins, Cheryl R. “Annapolis Convention.” Encyclopedia of the New American Nation. Ed. Paul Finkelman. Vol. 1. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 130-131. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 8 Dec. 2012. Dionisopoulos, P. Allan, and John Wyzalek. “Federal Government.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 341-343. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 8 Dec. 2012. Encyclopedia of American History: Revolution and New Nation, 1761 to 1812, Revised Edition (Volume III). New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2010. Feer, Robert A. “Shays’s Rebellion and the Constitution: A Study in Causation.” The New England Quarterly 42 (1969): 388-410. JSTOR. JSTOR. 8 Dec. 2012 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/363616>.
LEVY, LEONARD W. “Virginia Plan.” Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. Ed. Leonard W. Levy and Kenneth L. Karst. 2nd ed. Vol. 6. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000. 2800. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 8 Dec. 2012. Nash, Gary B. “Epilogue: Sparks from the Altar of ’76.” The unknown American Revolution: The unruly birth of democracy and the struggle
to create America. New York: Viking, 2005. 448. Parker, Rachel R. “Shays’ Rebellion: An Episode in American State-Making.” Sociological Perspectives 34 (1991): 95-113. JSTOR. JSTOR. 8 Dec. 2012 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1389145>. ROCHE, JOHN P. “Constitutional Convention of 1787.” Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. Ed. Leonard W. Levy and Kenneth L. Karst. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000. 517-523. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 8 Dec. 2012.