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Collection Reference Number GLC01478
From Archive Folder Documents Relating to 1786 
Title Benjamin Lincoln to George Washington concerning Shays' rebellion
Date 4 December 1786
Author Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810)  
Recipient Washington, George  
Document Type Correspondence; Military document
Content Description Refers to Washington's resignation as head of the Order of the Cincinnati. Describes a settlement he left after receiving a request to take command of the Massachusetts state militia, which was needed to suppress Shays' Rebellion. In response to a question from Washington, Lincoln discusses Shays' Rebellion in detail: the anger it is arousing, its causes, his expectation of bloodshed, the role of debt, and the rebellion's current advantages. Writes that "In Short the want of industry economy & common honesty Seem to be the causes of the present commotions." Includes a post script note dated 21 January 1787, updating the outdated information. Indicates that he has been appointed to command a militia of four thousand and is currently marching towards the counties of Worcester, Hampshire, and Berkshire. Also reports that Daniel Shays is said to be assembling forces and is planning to prevent (debtor's) court from sitting on 23 January 1787.
Subjects President  Fraternal Organization  Society of the Cincinnati  Revolutionary War  Continental Army  Militia  Shays' Rebellion  Rebellion  Finance  Mobs and Riots  Economics  Morality and Ethics  Judiciary  Military History  
People Lincoln, Benjamin (1733-1810)  Washington, George (1732-1799)  Shays, Daniel (1747-1825)  
Place written Hingham, Massachusetts
Theme Government & Politics; Agriculture; The Presidency; Law; Banking & Economics; Industry
Sub-collection The Gilder Lehrman Collection, 1493-1859
Additional Information At the outbreak of Shays' Rebellion, Lincoln had already retired from public life. Due to Lincoln's popularity in Western Massachusetts, governor Bowdoin appointed him commander of the Massachusetts militia to fight the insurgents led by Daniel Shays. On January 20, 1787, Lincoln and his militia marched towards Springfield to defend the courts and federal arsenal. Once he arrived, he was successful in breaking up the insurgents but was not able to negotiate for a complete surrender with Shays. On the night of February 3, 1787, in Petersham, Lincoln struck the insurgents in a surprise attack. The insurgents scattered into neighboring towns and the rebellion was over. Most of the rebels surrendered and were granted amnesty. Daniel Shays was sentenced to death for treason but was pardoned by the newly elected Governor John Hancock.
Copyright The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Module Settlement, Commerce, Revolution and Reform: 1493-1859
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