Shays’ Rebellion: Shaping the Constitution - Part Three
Conventions where formed and town hall meetings held in attempts to find peaceful solutions. “Firm instructions were sent...to have the courts suspend judgments on debtors until more hard money was available,” says Stearns. The spokesmen for the conventions and meetings also asked to allow “personal property [to be] a legal satisfaction of a claim, or to issue paper money and make it legally acceptable for payments of debt and taxes,” Stearns continues (11).
This first of several civil disobediences shocked many a man, including the state Governor James Bowdoin. He proclaimed the act treasonable and ordered the leaders to be seized and tried. In his exasperation, however, he made several mistakes. The biggest being that many of the protesters were the very militia he ordered into action against the insurgents.
When this was realized, he called upon the Federal Government to help squash the rebellion. Congress, who had only seven hundred soldiers at its disposal, authorized the call for a new militia and appropriated $530,000 for it. Since they had no funds to pay for this new army, they requested the states to send in just portions. Twelve of the states refused. Only Virginia promised to support congress in this endeavor.
However, the problems exposed in the Articles of Confederation by congress’ lack of authority showed the inherent weakness of the document. Edmund Lindop in Birth of the Constitution remarks:
With a convention already planned to discuss the Articles and its problems, those wanting a change went on the offensive.