The Wider World - A Bloody Encounter

Reporting a Bloody Encounter

image: Portrait of Abigail Adams

Writing from France, Abigail Adams expressed dismay and contempt for the Regulators and their cause. Abigail Adams
Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

As disorder and unrest intensified in Massachusetts, observers at home and abroad wondered whether the fledgling republics would survive. The stakes were high; Massachusetts and the other new states were under tremendous pressure to demonstrate to the world that they could maintain stable, fiscally responsible governments. Now, all eyes turned to the United States Arsenal at Springfield, where a state militia opened fire on fellow citizens. Friends and foes of the United States followed the unfolding drama. Many concluded that not even Massachusetts' admired constitution, written by none other than John Adams, could stem the descent into chaos and civil war. John's own wife, Abigail, wrote from France of "[i]gnorant, restless desperadoes without conscience or principles" leading "a deluded multitude" in arms against the government of her native state. (1) With mingled alarm and contempt, David Daggett of Connecticut declared that the Massachusetts government was "almost prostrated by a despicable banditti." Could the complete collapse of all the newly United States be far off if, as Daggett admitted, "Thus have arisen contention and civil discord in every state in the union"? Tench Coxe of Pennsylvania spoke for many when he lamented in 1787 the "want of public credit and the disorders" of the state governments. Such conditions, he warned, "if not remedied, must destroy our property, liberties and peace." (2)