J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Reconsidering the Massachusetts Regulators

The kind folks at M.I.T. Press Journals alerted me to material on their website related to Robert A. Gross’s article “A Yankee Rebellion?: The Regulators, New England, and the New Nation,” from the March 2009 issue of the New England Quarterly.

From this page one can download:

  • a PDF file of the article itself.
  • a podcast conversation between Bob Gross and William M. Fowler, chair of the N.E.Q.’s board. (I couldn’t download the MP3 file with Firefox, but could with Safari.)
The abstract for the article says:
Was Shays’s Rebellion a sign of a general crisis of self-government in the new nation, or was it a peculiarly Yankee affair? This essay suggests that wrenching changes, growing out of the Revolution in Massachusetts, turned a conflict over taxes common to all the states into a unique and short-lived political upheaval.
As the article’s subtitle shows, historians seem to be paying more attention to how the western Massachusetts farmers called themselves “Regulators,” tying their movement into the pre-Revolutionary uprising in western North Carolina. They also saw themselves as continuing the Revolutionary struggle itself; they had first closed their county courts in 1774 to protest the Massachusetts Government Act. Their opponents, including the Boston financial elite and the Federalists who responded with a new Constitution, had reasons to portray the “Shaysites” as isolated debtors, outside the American mainstream.

Bob Gross is the author of The Minutemen and Their World, a now-classic study of Concord society in the decades leading up to the shooting there on 19 Apr 1775. Bill Fowler is the author of several books on the Revolutionary period, including a short biography of Samuel Adams that I blame for getting me interested in this field.

[Thanks to the Boston 1775 readers who alerted me to the technical problems in today’s entry while I was out.]

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