Shays' Rebellion, From Revolution to Constitution

For Teachers

A Note to Teachers About This Material

Study Guide

The Study Guide presents a broad overview of the historic event and can serve as a stand-alone lesson if time is short.


Each lesson begins with an Introduction and Guiding Concepts, followed by Preparing to Teach and Teaching the Lesson. At the end of each lesson is a list of Resources for further information and ideas. We encourage teachers to incorporate their own resources as well.

  1. Lesson 1: Prologue: A Revolutionary People
    In the years leading up to war and then independence, communities throughout Massachusetts experience turmoil and often violence as resistance to British government and authority intensifies.

  2. Lesson 2: War's End: Promises of the Revolution
    A fledgling new nation confronts serious problems and challenges in the aftermath of the war and in the midst of a sense of relief, pride and hope for freedom and prosperity.

  3. Lesson 3: Boom & Bust: Post-War America
    Pent-up demand, coupled with post-war optimism, fuels a sharp, initial upswing in retail activity in stores, followed by a severe recession that catches people off-guard and dashes their hopes for prosperity.

  4. Lesson 4: Petition & Protest: "our property is torn from us"
    While court closings are only one of several strategies Massachusetts citizens use to get the attention of the state Legislature, this form of protest has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of many state leaders.

  5. Lesson 5: A Bloody Encounter: "the body of the people assembled in arms"
    The rebellion at the Arsenal is the most violent clash in the series of confrontations between the Massachusetts government and its citizens.

  6. Lesson 6: Taking the Oath: Punishment & Appeasement
    The Massachusetts Legislature takes a carrot and stick approach to the rebellious acts—cracking down and also attempting to defuse the Regulation and neutralize the conditions that fueled it.

  7. Lesson 7: Making a Nation: The Philadelphia Convention
    While the insurrection in Massachusetts is just about over by the spring of 1787, it is very much present at the Constitutional Convention, playing a major role in strengthening the hand of those who favor a stronger central government.

  8. Lesson 8: Epilogue: Our Debt to Shays
    In the years following ratification of the new Constitution, the turmoil of the mid-1780s fades into memory and becomes known as "Shays' Rebellion."

Additional Resources