The Year Was 1786

Shays RebellionThe year was 1786 and the American Revolution had been over for three years, but the new country was still on shaky legs. High land taxes, the return of war veterans to neglected farms with little or no money, and heavy debt left the fledgling nation in an economic depression. In New England, farmers, tired of seeing the property of family and friends sold off for fractions of their worth to pay off creditors and legal fees, were rebellious and civil war threatened the northeastern states.

In Massachusetts, the rebels, or “Regulators” as they called themselves, rallied around a thirty-nine-year-old farmer named Daniel Shays. A Revolutionary War hero, Shays and other veterans organized sympathizers into military units that were to march on the debtors’ courts, shutting them down. Politicians and merchants saw these actions as a threat to society and formed their own troops to stop Shays’ men and an early 1787 march on the government arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts, marked the beginning of the end of the rebellion. While 200 rebels were eventually indicted on charges of treason, nearly all of them were reprieved.

Shays Rebellion was a significant point of discussion at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and led to support of the Virginia Plan of Union, which did a better job of balancing state and federal power, as well as power among the states.

Image: Proclamation by the State of Pennsylvania offering reward for Daniel Shays and three other rebellion ringleaders. Signed by Benjamin Franklin. From the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry. Click on the image to enlarge it.

In other political news, the Virginia legislature passed a piece of legislation called the Ordinance of Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson, this legislation banned discrimination based on choice of religion and stated that no one could be forced to attend or support a church. The Ordinance of Religious Freedom would form the basis of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In Pennsylvania, October saw several days of heavy rain that flooded the Susquehanna in what became known as the “The Great Pumpkin Flood.” The floodwaters carried a great number of pumpkins from upstream, hence the name.
On the Pacific coast, Franciscan missionaries from Spain had begun establishing a series of missions along the coastline, beginning in 1769. In 1786, the tenth mission at Santa Barbara was founded and it would be the only California mission from the era that remains in Franciscan control to the present.

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One thought on “The Year Was 1786

  1. And in 1786 Texas, Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo), was 68 years old – over 50 years older than those Johnny-come-lately California missions.

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