Tensions reached a climax in the freezing winter of 1787, as Daniel Shays and 1,500 rebel soldiers stormed the federal arsenal in Springfield, Massachusetts. The rebels hoped to seize arms and ammunition and burn Boston to the ground. What they didn’t know was that a government army awaited them, setting off a dogged chase in the winter snow that lasted weeks.
The farmers’ revolt reverberated far beyond Massachusetts. Shays’s Rebellion stunned America’s political elite, even drawing a horrified George Washington out of retirement to return to public life. The uprising helped convince the nation’s power brokers to throw out the Articles of Confederation and devise a new Constitution. They were determined to create a strong federal government, one that they hoped could withstand domestic rebellion. But their efforts sparked a bitter dispute about the role of government in the new Republic.
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