WORCESTER COUNTY'S OLDEST NEWSPAPER
BARRE GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 19, 1987
Two Monuments, Two Opinions Explain the Shay's Army Defeat
by Ruth Bassingthwaite
The battle is over, the cannon gone, the uniforms and bayonets put away, but there are tangible remains of the 200th anniversary of Shays Rebellion, held in Petersham last Feb. 4.
Of course the T shirts will carry the message far and wide this summer and spoon collectors will someday be bargaining avidly for these special things, but there's something else, as well, which may be seen on the lawn of the Petersham Historical Society Building.
Alongside the very proper granite monument with bronze plaque, said to have been erected with "bankers money," appears another, certainly far from grand, but much more representative of the rebel cause.
This monument was brought to town by two teachers from the Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, Bill Schechter and Thom Thacker, after receiving permission from the society to do so.
Made of plywood with a simple plaque, the new monument tells a different view of the Shays Rebellion conflict, generally treated by all histories as a rebellion of lawless persons. In this, the year of the bicentennial of the constitution, Schechter and others feel that Shays and the poor farmers of Massachusetts got a raw deal in more than one way.
What about the "inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" promised in the declaration of Independence, said the monument makers. What is the proper role of government- to aid the impoverished or protect the privileged?
Schechter feels that his new monument pays tribute to Shays for raising these issues. "Our monument enshrines Shays as the hero, whose actions called back the first principles and highest ideals of the Revolution. We hope that now, 200 years after his defeat, Captain Shays can be said to have won this last battle in history."
To show the difference between the thoughts on the subject, here is the reading from the older monument:
"In this town on Sunday morning, February fourth, 1787, Daniel Shays and 150 of his followers, in rebellion against the commonwealth, were surprised and routed by GENERAL BENJAMIN LINCOLN in command of the Army of Massachusetts, after a night march from Hadley of thirty miles through snow in cold below zero.
"This victory for the forces of government influenced the Philadelphia Convention which three months later met and formed the Constitution of the United States.
"Obedience to law is true liberty."
The new monument relates the same facts, but an entirely different view and reads as follows:
"In this town on Sunday morning, February fourth, 1787, CAPTAIN DANIEL SHAYS and 150 of his followers who fought for the common people against the established powers and who tried to make real the vision of justice and equality embodied in our revolutionary declaration of independence, was surprised and routed, while enjoying the hospitality of Petersham, by General Benjamin Lincoln and an army financed by the wealthy merchants of Boston.
"True Liberty and Justice may require resistance to law."
The new monument came bearing a 13-star tiny flag and a sprig of hemlock, which was the badge of Shays' forces. As previously related in these pages, a ceremony was held Feb. 4 which was widely attended by the media and reported across the nation. The new monument is not planned to leave the far from permanent stand out to weather the elements all the time, but for the present, it's still there. What will be done with it will be settled later by the Historical Society. To have it outside changes have to be made.
THE PREVIOUS MONUMENT, left, which tells of the defeat of Captain Daniel Shay's Rebellion, has been criticized by some teachers from the Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School as sympathetic to the U. S. army, which defeated Shay's army in 1787. In response, the teachers erected their own monument beside the older one, which tells of the rebellion as being acceptable in light of achieving "true liberty and justice"- just the opposite of the older monument's message.