Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and Shays Rebellion

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  • 0:05 Articles of Confederation
  • 0:27 Growing Debt
  • 1:48 Shays' Rebellion
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clint Hughes

Clint has taught History, Government, Speech Communications, and Drama. He has his master's degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

The Articles of Confederation were too weak to create an effective government for the new nation. In this lesson, discover how Shays' Rebellion proved that the national government needed to strengthen.

The Articles of Confederation

America's first founding document, which went into effect in the 1780s, had no power to tax, could not enforce laws and could not maintain a standing army. Under the articles, all power rested with the states, so the national government had no authority to accomplish anything.

Growing National Debt

A large monetary debt was owed to Spain and France after the war.
Debt to Spain France

During the Revolution, men were off fighting for the new nation. Many of them had to take out loans to keep their farms going in their absence. After the war, the creditors wanted their money. Sometimes the states backed the debtors and ordered the creditors to forgive the debts. But, sometimes they backed the creditors and the peoples' farms - their homes - were foreclosed. Many men were put in debtor prison until family members could come up with the money to get them out.

The new nation was in a horrible crisis with inflation. The war had been financed by loans from Spain and France. The money had to be repaid, but because of the Revolution, a lot of business was lost from the former colonies. Trade with the British West Indies was gone. The new government asked the states for more money, but they said no.

The answer was to print more money, but of course, that never works. It made the money less and less valuable. So now the people had fistfuls of worthless money. So now you have all of these farmers, who had fought in the Revolution, unable to keep their farms. Now they cannot feed their family and they have no property, which at that time meant in most states they could not vote.

Shays' Rebellion

Daniel Shays led the rebellion against farm foreclosures.
Daniel Shays Picture

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