Shays’s Rebellion in the Berkshires: Enduring Legacies and Questions

The Great Barrington Historical Society, in collaboration with Saint James Place, presents the second talk in its Saturday afternoon lecture series “Rebels with a Cause” on October 5th at 2 PM at Saint James Place on Main Street in Great Barrington.

“Shays’s Rebellion in the Berkshires: Enduring Legacies and Questions” will examine the uprising named for one of its prominent leaders, Daniel Shays, who lived for a time in Great Barrington. John “Sean” Condon, Professor of History at Merrimack College, will describe the role Massachusetts tax and debt collection policies played in precipitating the revolt; the disproportionate impact those policies had on rural farmers; and the benefits that many felt accrued to merchant and ruling classes who supported these policies. He will explore how Shays’s Rebellion influenced the division of power between state and federal governments set out by the US Constitution, and how, in many ways, it shaped the form of public protests today.

“Part of what I find so compelling about Shays’s Rebellion is the way that a broad sense of shared purpose in Massachusetts during the Revolutionary war gave way so quickly to division and conflict even as independence was won. By reexamining this historical conflict and its uneasy resolution, we can reconsider the ways that Americans have tried to balance individual rights and freedoms with social order, and we can reflect upon the roles and responsibilities of citizens and political authorities in our own time of deep division,” notes Dr. Condon.

Dr. Condon is the author of “Shays’s Rebellion: Authority and Distress in Post-Revolutionary America” (John Hopkins Press, 2015). A social and cultural historian of Revolutionary America, he is currently working on a history of labor in the Early Modern Atlantic World.

“Rebels with a Cause,” the theme of this 2019 series, examines the research and interpretation of historical events and provides more in-depth discussion and understanding of events and people whose stories continue to resonate today.

The final lecture in the series is a program on Laura Secord on November 2nd.

The talks will take place in the Great Hall of Saint James Place at 352 Main Street in Great Barrington. This former Episcopal Church, built in 1857, was completely renovated and opened to the public in 2017. Saint James Place is a state-of-the-art performing arts center and home to non-profit arts organizations and the People’s Pantry. Free parking is available across the street at Berkshire Community College South.

In addition to the lecture, the program includes a guided tour of the Saint James Place Sanctuary and Parish House. Saint James Place is handicap accessible.
For tickets ($20 per lecture), please call 413-591-8702. Tickets may also be purchased at Eventbrite,, or by mailing a check payable to Great Barrington Historical Society with “Rebels with a Cause” in memo line to:
Great Barrington Historical Society
P.O. Box 1106
Great Barrington, MA 01230

Tickets may also be purchased at the door for $20 but seating is limited. The Great Barrington Historical Society is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, and promoting the history and culture of Great Barrington for the benefit of its residents and visitors. The Society seeks to advance an appreciation of historical events, and of residents who played major roles in national, international, and Town history.