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This Day in Boston History

August 29th, 1786

Shays' Rebellion Begins
Shays Revellion
On this day farmers seeking relief from strict debt laws in Massachusetts began a revolution. Wearing the same uniforms they had fought the British in, they occupied the Court of Common Pleas at Northampton, and soon courts in Worcester, Concord, Taunton, and Great Barrington.

Governor James Bowdoin assembled 4,400 militiamen to engage 2,000 farmers. For five months the rebels were at large, until the decisive conflict Petersham on February 3rd broke the rebellion.

Fourteen of the insurrection's leaders were sentenced to hang for treason. Most were later pardoned by the newly elected Governor John Hancock. Shays Rebellion is considered a primary reason why the founding fathers went on to establish a strong central government in the U.S. Constitution.


England's Prime Minister never expected this tea tax to cause an outcry, let alone revolution. In 1767, England reduced its property taxes at home. To balance the national budget they needed to find a mechanism for the American colonies to pay for the expense of stationing officials in them. The officials would generate their own revenue by collecting taxes on all imported goods, and once paid affixing stamps on them. This Stamp Tax generated more in the way of protests and smuggling than added revenue.

Religion. Politics. Rebellion. Boston’s pedigree was forged back in England in the midst of religious dissension, where Puritans and Pilgrims sought religious reform, and Cavaliers and Roundheads vied for political power. The question isn't where did Boston get its name – but how.

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