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Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle Paperback – August 5, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0812218701 ISBN-10: 0812218701
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A carefully argued and spiritedly told account."—Boston Globe



"Serves a valuable purpose by fleshing out a crucial period when the fate of the American democratic experiment hung in the balance."—American History



"Recommended for all library collections at every level."—Choice

About the Author

Leonard L. Richards is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author of numerous books, including The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780-1860 and The Life and Times of Congressman John Quincy Adams, a finalist in 1987 for the Pulitzer Prize for biography.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (August 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812218701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812218701
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #666,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Howard Schulman on May 13, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richards' book on the Shays's Rebellion (or the "Regulation", as the rebels referred to it) is absolutely first rate. Six stars!

During the course of other research in the Massachusetts state archives, Richards came across a list of 4000 people who, upon participating in and losing the Shays Rebellion, had signed an oath of loyalty to the state of Massachusetts in order to be given clemency. Apparently, this list was in barely legible handwriting and had never been translated. The amazing breakthrough came when Richards decided to take this list, decipher the names, and find out who all the participants were, person by person. What he produces is a tremendously revealing and much more accurate account of the rebellion.

Through what must have been months of painstaking, dogged research Richards attempts to prove that we, today, have many misconceptions about the rebellion. Particularly, Richards makes a point that the rebels were more upset by very understandable abuses by the Boston-centered Massachusetts state government than by poverty. He also shows that the most important factor in recruiting rebels was their clan association. People joined almost exclusively as part of a clan, and this explains why some towns had widespread participation and others had minimal. He does a great job of fleshing out who the leaders and opponents were. A true local history project.

Richards also does a nice job of relating how the rebellion fit in with the national movement to form a stronger union among the states. This occurred in Philadelphia the next year at the Constitutional Convention. The rebellion played a very important part in our history that many today do not fully appreciate, and Richards does a fantastic job of putting it all together.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Monty Rainey VINE VOICE on March 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Do you hold dear, the Constitution of the United States? If you do, then you can thank the farmers involved in the Shay's Rebellion. This pivotal piece of early American history has been revisited by Professor Leonard L. Richards of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in his book SHAY'S REBELLION: THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONS FINAL BATTLE, and has brilliantly clarified some of the misconceptions revolving around the event, particularly its cause.

In previous popular belief, it has been widely held that the farmers revolted due to their being dragged into a global market, which forced them into debt. This rather simplistic view misses many crucial elements, to which Dr. Richards superbly lends enlightment. The principle causes ran much deeper than that. Primarily, the farmers were being overtaxed and forced to pay creditors at the benefit of Revolutionary War bondholders, who were typically, either members of the Massachusetts Legislature or closely related to someone who was.

Ultimately, their revolt ended up helping in the ratification of the Constitution that we enjoy today. Richard's book also gives a slant contrary to popular thought, that the farmers of the Shay's Rebellion did in fact gain victory. Though they opposed the Constitution and their rebellion was squashed, it did result in substantial tax relief from the legislature.

I was also delighted to find a cameo appearance in the book of Mumbet, aka Elizabeth Freeman, the slave who sued for her freedom. Upon the outcome of her successful lawsuit, all slaves in Massachusetts were emancipated. Her story appears in Richard's book for her part in protecting from the Regulators, the valuables of Theodore Sedgwick, for whom she worked and had also served as her legal counsel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Matt Richards on June 30, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a great story about the battle for power between the wealthy elite and the 'middle class' after the American Revolution, and the role that the Constitutional Congress played.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you want a clear understanding of the transition between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, this is the book to read. It is historical revisionism at its finest.

We were told in school that Shays's Rebellion was a sign of a government too weak to govern, thus the push by the country's leaders to modify the Articles. But the details don't support this interpretation. The "poor farmers" in rural Massachusetts were protesting a rogue state government. Many of them were veterans of the war, often leaders in their communities. Shays himself, though not rich, owned a 100 acres of land. But the nationalists knew how to exploit a crisis. They convinced George Washington the rebellion was a sign the country was falling apart and got him to serve as president of the Constitutional Convention, giving it a prestige it didn't deserve. And instead of modifying the Articles they came up with a document that nationalists, progressives, and today's neocons have robbed of all meaning. For the government, just about anything goes.

The Constitutional Convention was a coup d'etat.

I cannot recommend this book too highly.
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By Michael J on April 19, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richards is one of the nation's premier historians of collective violence. This work draws on his love of western Massachusetts as well as meticulous research.
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