Last week, students in Mr. Bowman’s AP U.S. History (APUSH) classes debated whether or not a portion of US Route 202 in Pelham, Massachusetts, should be named after Daniel Shays.
An officer in the Continental Army from 1775-1780, Shays fought in several American Revolutionary battles. He then served the town of Pelham by holding various town offices while eking out a living on his farm.
After the Revolution, America found itself in massive debt, causing state governments to raise taxes and demand that citizens pay them in hard currency. Many farmers had little cash, so their properties were seized, and some were imprisoned. Led by Shays and other dissidents from 1786-1787, rural citizens petitioned the state legislature, protested outside courthouses, and eventually stormed the federal armory in Springfield, MA. This later became known as Shays Rebellion.
The rebels were eventually defeated, but their actions made it clear that the first written constitution of the United States, known as the Articles of Confederation, was not working. This led to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, where George Washington was elected as our nation’s first president, the Constitution of the United States was written, and a strong federal government was established.
APUSH students who debated in favor of naming the highway after Shays argued that he deserved the honor because he spoke out against government corruption. Opposing APUSH students argued that he does not deserve the honor because his motives were selfish.