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bands of the demoralized insurgents preyed on the country. Some of the rebels were intent on continuing the struggle, and Eli Parsons, deploring that he had not "the tongue of a ready writer," begged them not to give up and “see and hear of the yeomanry of this Commonwealth being parched, and cut to pieces by the cruel and merciless tools of tyrannical power.” But before spring the insurgents either were safe at home trying to look as if they had spent a placid winter in the quiet of their own chimney-corners, or had retreated across the border into neighboring states.
Thanks to the firm hand of James Bowdoin, to whose dignity, steadfastness, and right-mindedness much praise is due, the insurrection was at length suppressed. But let us not suppose that the peo ple of Massachusetts, startled by grim-visaged war, hastened to pay honor to the man who had done so much to save and redeem the state. On the contrary, at the next election Bowdoin was badly defeated and John Hancock, a popular favorite, who loved nothing better than sunning himself in the smiles of the crowd, was elected governor. As a final outcome the rebels were not punished, and even Shays was allowed to retire into merited obscurity. Shays had not proved a successful leader; but probably Napoleon himself would have been at a loss to lead such a rabble of independent spirits. In later years he told of asking a man to stand guard. "No, I won't," was the response. “Let that man; he is not so sick as I
1 Minot, Hist. of Insur. in Mass., 146, 147.
While the rebellion was in progress Congress had begun to raise troops, ostensibly to quell the Indians on the frontier, really to assist Massachusetts if necessary. But though “not only bound by the confederation and good faith, but strongly prompted by friendship, affection, and sound policy,” to help the troubled state, and though the arsenal at Springfield was the property of the Confederation, Congress did not dare say that the troops were to be used to restore order and support government in Massachusetts. Moreover, in reaching its conclusion to raise troops, Congress thought it wise to inscribe on its secret journals the statement that it
would not hazard the perilous step of putting arms into the hands of men whose fidelity must in some degree depend on the faithful payment of their wages, had not they the fullest confidence ... of the most liberal exertions of the money holders in the state of Massachusetts and the other states in filling the loans authorized by the resolve of this date."?! Here, certainly, was the faintest shadow of selfrespecting government-afraid to let it be known that it intended to protect its own property or assist in suppressing rebellion, afraid also to put
1 Lincoln, Hist. of Worcester, 371.
• Secret Journals of Congress, I., 267 et seq., October 21, 1786; see also Elliot, Debates, I., 94, 95.
arms in the hands of men lest the soldiers turn upon it and demand their pay. It dared to take the step of calling for troops only because it had been assured that“money holders would take up a loan of $500,000 at six per cent., for the payment of which it pledged the hoped-for returns from a new requisition on the states.
Shays's rebellion merits attention, not because it was the only evidence of social disturbance, but because it was the conspicuous uprising that startled the thoughtful men of every state and made them wonder what the end of their great war for independence might prove to be. “There are combustibles in every State," wrote Washington, “which a spark might set fire to." 1 “I feel,” he declared, “... infinitely more than I can express to you, for the disorders, which have arisen in these States. Good God! Who, besides a Tory, could have foreseen, or a Briton predicted them?” The rebellion, therefore, by disclosing the danger, helped to bring about a reaction, strengthen the hands of the conservatives, discredit extreme democratic tendencies, and aid the men that were seeking to give vigor to the Union. The reaction immensely helped the establishment of new institutions and the creation of a government capable of insuring “domestic tranquillity.”
The paper - money craze, the tender - acts providing that produce rather than money could be offered in payment of debts, the opposition to Congressional authority, the restlessness and uneasiness in the land, the mobs and riotings, the desire of the poor to enjoy the goods of the rich, the notion that debts should be cancelled, were all a part of the war which did not lose its momentum at Yorktown. Its impulse as a social upheaval, as an expression of individualistic sentiment, went on. And here again we see, too, not only the philosophy that had been shouted by orators from the housetops, but the results of an early idealism from which the cooler heads were now turning away, the notion that men would naturally be good and would instinctively be law-abiding, that government was needed only for occasional restraint. But all these mishaps were bringing men to their senses. “We find that we are men," wrote Knox,“ —actual men, possessing all the turbulent passions belonging to that animal, and that we must have a government proper and adequate for him.” 1
1 Washington, Writings (Ford's ed.), XI., 103, 104.
PROPOSALS TO ALTER THE ARTICLES OF
"HE year 1786 was, as we have already seen, one
of discouragement. The country was filled with the discontented, who had succeeded in the majority of states in getting possession of the government. The dangerous restlessness of the people, the absurd extravagances of Rhode Island, and, above all, the insurrection in Massachusetts cast deep gloom over conservative men. Congress, begging for power and money, placed solemnly before the people their choice of life or death as a nation; but there was no indication of willingness on the part of the states to give up money to save the country from disgrace.
Everywhere there was great cause for despondency: disorder within the states, plots and threatenings on the border, loud laments over commercial distress and heavy taxes, and, worst of all, a reckless disregard of political obligations. But in this year of despair there were some men who still worked for real government, and we may now turn our attention to the efforts to amend the Articles of