Shays' Rebellion had its origins in 1780, when Massachusetts
passed its state constitution. Among the poor and middle class population, it found few friends. Many of the poor and middle class were veterans of the Continental Army who were still awaiting bonuses promised to them for their enlistment. When they learned that they were now barred from holding office and voting, the seeds of the rebellion were planted. As the economy of Massachusetts worsened, many of them had their farms seized in order to pay off debts. When the local sherriff's looked to the militia to defend the debt courts from the farmers, many of the militia sided with the farmer.
Enter one army veteran by the name of Daniel Shays. With about 700 farmers and other working class types, they marched on Springfield and paraded around the town voicing their frustrations. Samuel Adams, the one time radical for the Revolution, drew up the Riot Acts which permitted authorities to jail anyone without a trial. To paraphrase Samuel Adams - a rebellion against a monarch was one thing, but against a republic it is a crime punishable by death.
Shays soon had about a thousand men under arms and was marching on Boston. General Benjamin Lincoln, who was one of George Washington's war commanders then brought out an army paid for the the merchant citizenry of Boston. Gunfire and artillery fire ensued and there was some casualties on both side. Shays army scattered and Lincoln's army pursued but refrained from attacking when they knew that victory was ensured. A harsh winter took its toll on Shays's army and they soon deserted. Some of the rebels were caught, tried and hanged, other were pardoned. Shay's himself took off for Vermont where was captured and subsequently pardoned. He died in poverty in 1788.
Interesting footnote - Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris said of the uprising. "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing....God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."