After the American Revolution the nation suffered unsettled economic conditions and a severe depression. Paper money was in circulation, but little of it was honored at face value. Most of those who were harmed by the depression were property-less and thus unable to vote. In Massachusetts the "sound money" merchants and bankers men controlled the government. The quarrel grew until thousands of men in the western counties of Massachusetts rose in armed revolt. They were led by Daniel Shays (1747-1825), a captain during the American Revolution. Shays' Rebellion lasted from August 1786 to February 1787.
The agitators objected to heavy land and poll taxes, the high cost of lawsuits, high salaries of state officials, oppressive court decisions, and dictatorial rulings of the state senate. In Northampton on August 29 the mob succeeded in keeping the courts closed so debtors could not be tried and put into prison. Fearful of being tried for treason for this action, Shays and his men broke up the state Supreme Court session at Springfield the following month. The revolt took a more serious turn when Shays and a force of 1,200 men returned to Springfield in January to capture the arsenal. Action by the national government prevented the attack on January 25. Most of the insurgents were captured in early February, ending the rebellion. The leaders were condemned to death for treason but were later pardoned. Shays himself later received a war pension for his service in the American Revolution.
Shays' Rebellion was one of several disturbances in different states. It hastened the movement for a federal government strong enough "to ensure domestic tranquility," as stated in the preamble to the Constitution, which established the United States. And this Constitution broughtthe first use by the new federal government of its constitutional power to uphold the government of each state, as the Whiskey Rebellion broke out.
Western Pennsylvania had a history of wanting to be separate. As early as 1775 the Transylvanians petitioned the Continental Congress to be recognized as the fourteenth colony. In 1776 the people in the region claimed by both Pennsylvania and Virginia, announced that they were the new state of West Sylvania. They said that "no country or people can be either rich, flourishing, happy or free . . . whilst annexed to or dependent on any province, whose seat of government is . . . four or five hundred miles distant, and separated by a vast, extensive and almost impassible tract of mountains . . ."
On January 15, 1788, Lord Dorchester, the governor-general of Canada, sentJohn Connolly (previously in charge of Ft. Pitt) to Western Pa. to talk to General John Neville, General Samuel Parsons and other Pittsburghers sympathetic to the British cause to determine the likelihood of the West separating from the East. After receiving the report Dorchester then send a letter to Lord Sydney advising him to aid the West in separating from the Union.
Indians led by the Britishraided the Pennsylvania areas west of the mountains. The United States sent two major military expeditions against the eastern Indians. The first, in 1790, was led by General Josiah Harmer and the second, in 1791, was led by General Arthur St. Clair. Both expeditions were defeated by the Indians! It wasn't until 1794 that General Anthony Wayne defeated the British at Fallen Timbers and the British actually withdrew from the region, giving up on any hope of claim to the areas west of the