Early American Rebellion After Independence
After the American Revolution, there were a few patriots that continued to fight for freedom, even against their own newly formed government.
Shays’ Rebellion 1786-1787
Daniel Shays was one of the veteran leaders of this American armed uprising in Massachusetts. After the American Revolution many farmers, war veterans, and others fought against unfair taxes and debts imposed by the new American government. Their resistance was based on the very reasons for the War Against King George in the first place! Daniel Shays had been wounded in battle, left the military without pay, and came home to find himself in court for unpaid debts.
“I have been greatly abused, have been obliged to do more than my part in the war, been loaded with class rates, town rates, province rates, Continental rates and all rates … been pulled and hauled by sheriffs, constables and collectors, and had my cattle sold for less than they were worth … The great men are going to get all we have and I think it is time for us to rise and put a stop to it, and have no more courts, nor sheriffs, nor collectors nor lawyers.” – a farmer, Plough Jogger
These rebels were vanquished by a merchant “government” backed militia, and the survivors were forced to submit, and subjected to punishments. Of the thousands involved, only a few dozen were killed or wounded directly by the fighting. Years later Shays died in poor obscurity.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” – in response to Shays’ Rebellion, from a letter by Thomas Jefferson
“You talk, my good sir, of employing influence to appease the present tumults in Massachusetts. I know not where that influence is to be found, or, if attainable, that it would be a proper remedy for the disorders. Influence is not government. Let us have a government by which our lives, liberties, and properties will be secured, or let us know the worst at once.” – in response to Shays’ Rebellion, from a letter by George Washington to Henry Lee
Whiskey Rebellion 1791
George Washington followed through with his conviction of having a strong American Military to quell internal revolution to the new Government. From now on our Government had laws and support to attack enemies “foreign and domestic”.
In 1791 President George Washington led federal and state militia to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. Once again farmers were protesting taxes. Once again their right to bear arms in protest was met by the right of a military to bear arms on its own citizens.
Despite the fact that the Whiskey Rebellion was occurring in many states, the military action by George Washington killed the movement by threat of violence, without killing anyone. The early Republican Party under Jefferson was for farmers, and so the tax was later lifted (temporarily).