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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials: Shays's Rebellion

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

In 1786, a group of indebted farmers from western Massachusetts led by Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays led an uprising in the hopes of shutting down courts and stopping judgments against debtors. Shays and his rebels are eventually defeated, but the incident shed light on the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation government, leading ultimately to the US Constitution.

A depiction of Shays's Rebellion. Part of the Qwiz5 series by Qwiz Quizbowl Camp, written to help quiz bowl teams power more tossups!

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer more tossups. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at its five most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on Shays’s Rebellion.


James Bowdoin was the Governor of Massachusetts during Shays’s Rebellion. He directed the military response to the rebellion. His handling of the crisis eventually led to his losing reelection to John Hancock.


Benjamin Lincoln led the militia that fought against Daniel Shays. He had earlier served as Secretary of War under the Articles of Confederation.


The goal of the rebellion led by Daniel Shays, Luke Day and Job Shattuck was to take the US Armory at Springfield. The armory was defended by militia commander William Shepard.


After being repelled at the Springfield Armory, the Regulators (as the Shaysites referred to themselves) fled to Petersham. At Petersham, they suffered their final defeat in a driving snowstorm at the hands of Benjamin Lincoln’s militia. After the rebellion, most of those captured at Petersham were spared, but two rebels, John Bly and Charles Rose were hanged for their involvement.


Shays’s Rebellion exposed the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation preceded the US Constitution and generally created a government with limited federal power. Federalists were able to use Shays’s Rebellion to call for replacing the Articles by showing the danger of a weak federal government.


Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:

* George Washington discusses Shays’s Rebellion

* Here’s an article about Shays’s Rebellion from American Heritage

* The podcast Ben Franklin’s World did an episode about Shays’s Rebellion

* An interesting animated depiction of Shays’s Rebellion:


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