chapter  8
Creating the Constitution
Pages 26

From the perspective of elitist republicans, Shays’s Rebellion and its aftermath epitomized the failure of government as it was practiced in the states. They felt that the popular discord in Massachusetts and other states was the result of excessively democratic governments. Congress, rendered weak by the Articles of Confederation, had lost much of its popular support since the conclusion of the War of Independence, and was largely impotent in remedying the situation. From his retirement at Mount Vernon, George Washington gave his assessment of recent events in a letter to Virginia Congressman Richard Henry Lee on October 31, 1786:

You talk, my good sir, of employing influence to appease the present tumults in Massachusetts. I know not where that influence is to be found, or, if attainable, that it would be proper remedy to the disorders. Influence is no government. Let us have one by which our lives, liberties, and properties will be secured, or let us know the worst at once. Under these impressions, my humble opinion is, that there is a call for decision. Know precisely what the insurgents aim at. If they have real grievances, redress them if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it in the present moment. If they have not, employ the force of government against them at once. If this is inadequate all will be convinced that the superstructure is bad, or wants support. To be more exposed in the eyes of the world, and more contemptible than we already are, is hardly possible.1