aniel Shays was a leader of the popular rebellion that took his name. He fought with distinction as a Captain in the Revolutionary War. General Lafayette presented him with a sword to honor his valor.
However, Daniel was also a relatively poor Scotch-Irish farmer very popular with his countrymen. He lived in Pelham, Massachusetts, and was a friend of several Crossetts living there. Jacob Crossett Sr. served under him in the war.
Following the end of the war, and before the ink was fairly dry on the treaty of peace, the various states set about governing and forming their own constitutions, laws, taxing procedures, and voting rights. Massachusetts developed a constitution and a legislature called the General Court. The system of federal , state, and local governments was to develop slowly, but at this time was in flux. Representation in the General Court was from every village and town. Small towns had one representative, larger towns had two and Boston had four. This caused a balance in favor of the larger population areas. Small frontier villages like Pelham could send a representative if they chose, but had to pay all their expenses.
The benefits of winning independence were not immediately seen in everyday life. Destruction was widespread, English markets were closed and there was a great lack of money. Small local farmers were accustomed to using things like livestock, butter, and cider (hard) as means of payment. The government now wanted to be paid in hard cash not hard cider. Creditors therefore demanded to be paid in cash as well. With a scarcity of coin or paper money, and the inability to pay in kind, people were forced to sell their property in order to pay their debts, leaving them destitute, as land values were driven down by readily available land. Efforts to appeal to the General Court were many and all failed to obtain relief for the small and frontier farmers. Since all the debt collection was conducted by courts, attempts were made to intimidate local judges and mobs had some small success in doing this. However, the government sent constables to protect the courts from violence since local militias often refused to fight their neighbors. Some small riots took place but were put down.
Into this recipe for rebellion must be added the ingredient that Massachusetts, unlike other states, had sent their constitution to the people for ratification. It therefore had the power of the people behind it. The small farmers were asking for widespread changes to be made to take their problems into account. This did not sit well with those not in their sympathy.
There are few pictures of Daniel Shays. This one is probably as good as any in capturing his appearance. He and several other former officers gathered six regiments of men in order to close the courts in Hampshire County and hold off attempts by the militia to open them. Governor Bowdoin feared a spreading rebellion and asked Congress for help. However, before that could be arranged, Massachusetts took action in its own behalf. The Governor appointed Major General Benjamin Lincoln to gather a number of reliable militia to put down the rebellion.
The rebellion had taken a violent turn as the rebels besieged the Springfield Arsenal defended by Major General William Shepard and 800 militia. This was not a man to be trifled with and in the ensuing skirmish three rebels were killed. Shay and his forces withdrew with Lincoln in hot pursuit. The rebels sought an amnesty without success. In the month of February, 1787 during a blinding snowstorm with snow knee deep General Lincoln marched his troops eighteen miles and totally surprised the rebel forces who surrendered en masse. Shays and some other leaders escaped into Vermont.
Several of the rebels were tried and sentenced to hang, but were later pardoned. All of the rebels who were captured were required to turn in their arms and sign a loyalty oath. Robert Crossett's name appears on that list along with many other Pelham residents. Men from surrounding towns like Shutesbury, Salem, and Greenfield were also involved and most took the oath. Ultimately, Daniel Shays and the other leaders were fully pardoned and returned to the good graces of the country. Shays ' wife received a pension for his war service. He had to sell the sword from Lafayette to buy food for his family.