Several years after the bicentennial of Shays’s Rebellion and five hundred miles or so southwest of the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts, I continue to owe outstanding debts to numerous individuals who have contributed their energies and talents to the publication of this volume.
The first payments should be made to the individuals who welcomed and supported the idea of a bicentennial tribute to Shays’s Rebellion. Donald Friary of Historic Deerfield backed the original plan. Ritchie Garrison, Bob Wilson, Kevin Sweeney, and Mary Metcalf were splendid compatriots in organizing the conference. President Peter Pouncey of Amherst College gave warm encouragement to the effort, as did my colleagues in the American Studies Department, who collaborated in teaching a course on “Shays’s Rebellion and the Making of the Constitution” in 1986 and 1987. Students and faculty in that course were active participants in the conference. So, too, were the dozen hardened but still enthusiastic veterans of a summer institute on this subject, sponsored by the Five College–Western Massachusetts Partnership for the Schools. All of these students and colleagues helped to shape my thinking about the events in western Massachusetts during 1786–87 and the larger social and political crisis they dramatized for the new republic. I am particularly grateful to Hugh Hawkins, N. Gordon Levin, Mary Alice Wilson, and to the students in my sections of American Studies II.
To the scholars who have patiently awaited the appearance of this work, I am immensely grateful. They have been obliged to show greater forbearance than Daniel Shays back in 1787, as he vainly awaited the arrival of Captain Luke Day with his troops for the assault on the federal armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. Despite his promise, Day and his men never showed; Daniel Shays led the march into disaster and into history on his own. At times, in preparing this manuscript for publication, I have anticipated the ignominy of Luke Day, ready in arms but not in action. My rescuers have been many. Fritz Allis of the Colonial Society deserves enormous credit for sustaining this project. His good cheer, wise counsel, and unstinting enthusiasm, kept up amidst severe trials of his own, have inspired my own morale. Steve Nissenbaum, as always, heard me out and read my drafts with his shrewd sense of argument and language. John Brooke, Richard Brown, Steve Innes, Steve Marini, and Alan Taylor persuaded a reluctant author to sharpen his statement and condense his prose.
Several assistants were indispensable to the production of the book. In Amherst, Kathryn Abbott, a graduate student in history at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, gathered an essential bibliography. A year and a half later, two graduate students in American Studies at William and Mary made possible the final delivery of the manuscript. Kimberly Lankford performed necessary copyediting; Phyllis Hunter researched and discovered the illustrations. In the process, I gained enormous respect for their several skills and their common dedication to scholarship.
Ann Gross kept faith with this project in Amherst, Williamsburg, and numerous other venues; my debts to her as sympathetic listener, critical editor, and emotional ally are now over a quarter century old and will never be repaid. Matthew and Stevie Gross, skeptical teenagers, harbored more doubts; Nellie Gross at age eight showed none. Her trust is as yet unchallenged by experience. To all of them and to the members of their rising generation, I am pleased to present this volume, in hopes that they may sustain together the struggle for social justice and the quest for historical truth.
Robert A. Gross
College of William and Mary