Episode 087: Sean Condon, Shays’ Rebellion


After achieving independence from Great Britain, the new United States and its member states had to pay war debts. As the national government lacked the power to tax its citizens, the problem of paying war debts fell to the states.

Many states tried to solve the post-war debt problem by paying state debts before national debts. But Massachusetts tried to pay both. Its strategy created hardship for many Bay Staters and ultimately sparked a rebellion.

Sean Condon, a Professor of History at Merrimack College, joins us to investigate the rebellion, which we remember today as Shays’ Rebellion.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Sean CondonIn this episode, we explore Shays’ Rebellion with Sean Condon, a Professor of History at Merrimack College and author of Shays’ Rebellion: Authority and Distress in Post-Revolutionary America.

During our investigation, Sean reveals what Massachusetts was like during the 1780s; The post-war currency problems that led Massachusetts to tax its citizens in hard currency; And, details about Shays’ Rebellion.

What You’ll Discover

  • Massachusetts during the 1780s
  • Details about the Massachusetts state constitution of 1780
  • Post-War for Independence currency problems
  • Specie and Massachusetts taxes
  • Eastern  vs. Western Massachusetts rivalry
  • Samuel Ely and his quest to close the Hampshire County courts
  • Function of Massachusetts county courts in 1780s
  • Massachusetts’ response to Ely’s attempt to close the courts
  • The county convention movement of 1786
  • The regulator movement of 1786
  • Daniel Shays
  • Government response to Shays' Rebellion
  • Whether the regulator movement created a civil war-like atmosphere in Massachusetts
  • Benjamin Lincoln and his role in suppressing the regulator movement
  • The showdown between the Massachusetts militia and the regulators in Petersham
  • How Massachusetts dealt with the regulators it captured
  • The role Shays' Rebellion played in the Constitutional Convention of 1787


Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if Shays’ Rebellion had not occurred? Would the Constitutional Convention of 1787 have happened? How would the farming of the new national government have been different?

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