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Insurrection in Mas
1786. This year is rendered memorable by an insurrection in Massachusetts. sachusetts. A heavy debt, lying on the state, with a similar
burden on almost every corporation within it; a relaxation of manners, and a free use of foreign luxuries; a decay of trade and manufactures, with a scarcity of money; and, above all, the debts due from individuals to each other, were the primary causes of this dangerous sedition. Heavy taxes, necessarily imposed at this time, were the immediate excitement to discontent and insurgency. On the 22d of August, a convention of delegates from 50 towns in the county of Hampshire met at Hatfield, and voted a great number of articles as grievances and “unnecessary burdens now lying on the people ;” and gave directions for transmitting these proceedings to the convention of Worcester, and to the county of Berkshire. Very soon after, a number of insurgents, supposed to be nearly 1500, assembled under arms at Northampton ; took possession of the court house; and effectu
ally prevented the sitting of the courts of common pleas and Sept. 2.
general sessions of the peace. The governor issued a proclaProclama
mation calling on the officers and citizens of the commonwealth to suppress such treasonable proceedings ; but it had little effect. The counties of Worcester, Middlesex, Bristol, and Berkshire, were set in a flame. In the week succeeding the proclamation, a body of more than 300 insurgents posted themselves at the court house in Worcester, and obliged the courts of common pleas and general sessions to adjourn. Insurgents in Middlesex county prevented the courts from sitting at Concord. In the county of Bristol, the malcontents assembled to prevent the sitting of the courts at Taunton; but the people, to the number of 300, appearing in arms under major general Cobb, counteracted their designs.
On the 23d of November, a convention of delegates from several towns in the county of Worcester sent out an address to the people. An attempt was at length made to prevent the sitting of the supreme judicial court, by a number of insurgents headed by Daniel Shays, who had been a captain in the continental army, but had resigned his commission. The general court, at
Cotton Mather, who was the son of Increase, who was a son of Richard, the first minister of Dorchester. The portraits of each of these four ministers were lately in the possession of Mrs. Crocker, a daughter of Dr. Samuel Mather, in Boston ; but are now in an apartment of the edifice of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester.-Beside sermons and essays, Dr. S. Mather published the Life of his Father, and an Apology for the liberties of the Churches in New England.
this distressing period, passed three laws for easing the burdens 1786. of the people : an act for collecting the back taxes in specific articles; an act for making real and personal estate a tender in discharge of executions and actions commenced at law; and an act for rendering law processes less expensive. They provided for the apprehending and trial of dangerous persons; but at the same time tendered pardon to all the insurgents. These lenient measures of government were ascribed, not to clemency, but to weakness or timidity. The judicial courts being adjourned by the legislature to the 26th of December, to sit at Springfield; Shays with about 300 malcontents marched into that town to oppose the administration of justice, and took possession of the court house. A committee was appointed to wait on the court with an order, couched in the humble form of a petition, requiring them not to proceed on business; and both parties retired.
The disposition to insurgency was not confined to Massachu- Insurrecsetts. On the 20th of September, about 200 men, armed in tion in
"Hampshire different modes, surrounded the general assembly of New Hampshire convened at Exeter, and held the whole body prisoners several hours; but the citizens, appearing in arms, crushed the insurrection there in its infancy. The object of the insurgents was, to force the legislature into a paper money system, agreeably to a petition which had been previously preferred by a convention of delegates from about thirty towns in that state. The president, in a cool and deliberate speech, explained to the insurgents the reasons for which the assembly had rejected the petition ; exposed the weakness and injustice of their request; said, if it were ever so proper, and the whole body of the people were in favour of it, yet the legislature ought not to comply with it, while surrounded by an armed force; and declared, that no consideration of personal danger would ever compel the legislature to violate the rights of their constituents. When his speech was finished, the drum beat to arms; as many as had guns were ordered to load them with balls ; sentries were placed at the doors; and death was threatened to any person who should attempt to escape until their demands were granted. This insult to the legislature was beheld in silence until the dust of the evening, when some of the inhabitants of Exeter beat a drum at a distance, and others cried, “ Huzza for government ! Bring up the artillery." The sound of these words struck the mob with an instant panic, and they scattered in every direction. They collected the next day ; but the president, having called out the force of the state, soon dispersed them. Some were taken prisoners. Eight were arraigned at the superior court on an indictment for treason; but no one suffered capital punishment.
1786. « The whole opposition was completely subdued; wavering
minds became settled ; converts were made to the side of government; and the system of knavery received a deep wound,
from which it has not since recovered.”] Proposal of A proposal was made by the assembly of Virginia for a conVirginia for vention, to consist of committees from all the states, to take into convention, consideration the commerce and trade of the continent, and to
agree upon some general plan, or to delegate power to congress to legislate on the subject. Committees from some of the states met at Annapolis in September ; but only five states being represented in this meeting, no plan was adopted for the regulation of the commerce of the country. It was recommended by them, however, that there should be a convention at Philadelphia in May of the following year, to be composed of delegates from all the states, for the purpose of revising the confederation, and giving power to congress sufficient for adopting and enforcing all such regulations as should be necessary for the credit, respecta
bility, and prosperity of the country.2 Treaty with The same commissioners who had recently made a treaty
with the Cherokees at Keowee, concluded a treaty at the same place, and of the same purport, with the chiefs of the Choctaw
nation on the 3d of January. Mass. act An act was passed by the legislature of Massachusetts for
establishing a mint for the coinage of gold, silver, and copper. Portland Portland, in the District of Maine, was incorporated. HarrisHarrisburg. burg, in Pennsylvania, was founded. N. York. The number of inhabitants in the state of New York was
238,897.3 Charles riv- Charles river bridge, connecting Boston with Charlestown, er bridge
eo was opened for passengers on the 19th of June. S. Carolina The legislature of South Carolina, premising the continuing act for re- the seat of government in the city of Charleston was producmoving the seat of gov. tive of many inconveniences and great expense to the citizens of ernment. the state, passed an act, to appoint commissioners to purchase
land for the purpose of building a town, and for removing to it the seat of government. The town was to be called and known by the name of Columbia. A company was incorporated by
for a mint.
1 Belknap, Hist. N. Hampshire, ii. c. 27.
2 Bradford, Mass. ii. 253." The motion for the first meeting was made by the
the same legislature, for the inland navigation from the Santee 1786. river to the Cooper.
The Connecticut Society of Arts was instituted. The Massa- Societies. chusetts Congregational Charitable Society, and the Scotch Charitable Society, were incorporated. A Universal church was founded at Boston. The Philadelphia Dispensary was established. Lord Dorchester (Sir Guy Carleton) arrived at Quebec, with Lord Dor.
chester gov. the commission of captain general and governor of Quebec, of Quebec. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and their dependencies, and the
Nova Scotia a foundland as experienced
A violent tornado was experienced at Woodstock, in Con- Tornado. necticut, on the 23d of August.3
Printing was begun at Lexington, in Kentucky.
N. Greene. died at his seat near Savannah, aged 47 years.
1787. The insurgents in Massachusetts continuing to assemble, and Insurrecto endeavour to impede the measures of government by an
* tion in Mas
sachusetts armed force; a body of troops, to the amount of above 4000, continues.
1 Drayton, S. Car. 155–157. Grimké, Laws of S. Car. The Santee Canal was first passed by a boat in 1800.
The act authorizes to direct the funds which charity had placed or should place in their hands; and requires that “the annual income thereof shall be applied to the support of such widows and children of deceased congregational ministers, who have been, or shall be, settled within this commonwealth, and of the widows and children of the president and professors of the University in Cambridge, as in the opinion of the said corporation shall be proper objects of the charity." The origin of this Society may be traced to the year 1692, from which time the congregational ministers of Massachusetts held an annual Convention on the next day after the General Election. Account of Mass. Cong. Char. Society. Hist. Convention of Congregational Ministers.
3 About five o'clock, P. M. a very dark cloud appeared in the west, moving with great velocity in an easterly direction; and an uncommon darkness with a violent tempest and tornado succeeded. More than 100 buildings were either unroofed, shattered or destroyed, and an immense number of forest trees laid
4 Congress resolved, That a monument be erected to the memory of Nathaniel Greene, esquire, at the seat of the federal government, with the following inscription :
“ Sacred to the memory of Nathaniel Greene, esquire, a native of the state of Rhode Island, who died on the 19th of June, 1786, late major-general in the service of the United States, and commander of their army in the southern department. The United States in Congress assembled, in honour of his patriotism, valour, and ability, have erected this monument.”
5 It was advised by the Council, that 700 men should be raised from the county of Suffolk, 500 from Essex, 800 from Middlesex, 1200 from Hampshire, and 1200 from Worcester; the whole amounting to 4400 rank and file. Two companies of artillery were ordered to be be detached from Suffolk, and two from Middlesex. The whole were to be raised for thirty days, unless sooner discharged. VOL. II.
1787. was ordered out to support the judicial courts, and suppress the
insurrection. The command of this respectable force was given by the governor to major general Lincoln, “whose reputation and mildness of temper rendered him doubly capacitated for so delicate and important a trust.” The army reached Worcester on the 22d of January; and the judicial courts sat there without interruption. Previous to the marching of the troops from Roxbury, orders had been given to general Shepard to take possession of the post at Springfield, where was a continental arsenal. Here he accordingly collected about 900 men, who were afterward re-enforced with the addition of nearly 300 of the Hampshire militia. To this post the insurgents directed their first attention, from a hope of carrying it before the arrival of general Lincoln. About four o'clock in the afternoon of the 25th of January, general Shepard perceived Shays advancing on the Boston road toward the arsenal, with his troops, which amounted to 1100 men, in open column. The general sent one of his aids with two other gentlemen, several times, to know the intention of the enemy, and to warn them of their danger. Their answer purported, that they would have the barracks; and they immediately marched forward within 250 yards of the arsenal. A message was again sent to inform them, that the militia were posted there by order of the governor, and of congress; and that, if they approached near, they would be fired on. “That,"
said one of the leaders, “ is all we want;" and they advanced Jan. 25. 100 yards farther. General Shepard now gave orders to fire;
but he ordered the two first shot to be directed over their heads. the insur- This discharge quickening, instead of retarding their approach,
the artillery was levelled against the centre of their column. A cry of murder instantly rose from the rear of the insurgents, and their whole body was thrown into total confusion. Shays attempted to display his column, but in vain. His troops retreated precipitately to Ludlow, about ten miles, leaving three of
their men dead, and one wounded, on the field. They take The main body of the insurgents took post at Pelham ; from post at Pel- which place, on the 13th of January, their officers addressed a
petition to the general court. On the 3d of February, while a conference was holding between one of their leaders and an officer of the army, the insurgents withdrew from Pelham to Petersham. General Lincoln, who was then at Hadley, receiv
ard fires on
1 At this time about 400 of the insurgents were assembled at West Springfield, under the command of Luke Day, who was to have cooperated with Shays on the 25th, but found reasons for assigning another day for the attack, and failed in the cooperation. Beside these and the 1100 with Shays, a party of about 400 from the county of Berkshire, under the command of Eli Parsons, was stationed in the north parish of Springfield.