Shay's Rebellion

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Daniel Post-Jacobs
Shay’s Rebellion Essay

Regarding Shay’s Rebellion, Thomas Jefferson and John Hamilton would both have been against it albeit for different reasons. Jefferson would oppose the rebellion because of his faith in popular-rule. Hamilton, a strong believer in an elitist-government, would have opposed the rebellion simply because he would not have thought that the Shaysites were any different from the rest of the public who are uninformed and prone to acting out of their own passions.

Jefferson had utter faith in the ability of the public and by extension their elected leaders. Jefferson is quoted as having said, “I have such reliance on the good sense of the body of the people and the honesty of their leaders.” Jefferson truly believed that the government was “honest” and as such would have opposed Shay’s Rebellion on the basis that the elected-officials had the best overall intentions for the state of Massachusetts. Although Jefferson might have sympathized with the rural farmers and soldiers who made up much of the rebellion, his “great confidence in the common sense of mankind in general,” would have led him to the conclusion that the state legislature was not at fault and did not warrant a rebellion.

Hamilton would also have opposed the rebellion, but for very different reasons than Jefferson. Hamilton believed that the upper-class ought to have a stake in the government, as they did during Shay’s Rebellion. “Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the government…as they cannot receive any advantage by a change, they therefore will ever maintain good government.” Hamilton would have argued that the elite legislature in Massachusetts was in fact acting in the best interest of the state as they “cannot receive any advantage,” and as such there was no need to rebel. Hamilton’s trust in the upper-class, and general distrust of the mass of the people, meant that he would have certainly been opposed to the rebellion....
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