Primary Source Exercise

The new United States could be an unstable place during the years immediately following the revolutionary war. As you know, the first government under the Articles of Confederation granted more power to the individual states and less power to the federal government, a situation changed by the U.S. Constitution drafted in late 1787. Earlier that year, Shays Rebellion erupted in western Massachusetts. Americans throughout the various states heard the news of this “rebellion” and commented on it in private letters and public newspapers. Among those commenters was Mary Smith Cranch, the sister of Abigail Adams (wife of John Adams). Your primary source analysis has three parts and should be written in three short paragraphs:

Paragraph 1: What were the causes of Shays’ Rebellion? (You can find this information in American Yawp, Ch. 6, “Shays’ Rebellion.”)

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Paragraph 2: What is Mary Smith Cranch’s opinion of the rebellion? (See AY, Ch. 6, “Mary Smith Cranch Comments on Politics.” Specifically, see her letters to Abigail Adams dated Nov. 26 1786 and February 9, 1787.) Make sure to identify your source material if you quote from it.

Paragraph 3: You are the historian, so tell your reader what you find significant about Cranch’s expressed opinion and/or her writing of these letters. You might want to take into consider her class position (she’s wealthy), her gender, and/or her family’s relationship to the American Revolution (after all, she was the sister-in-law of John Adams, who co-authored the Declaration of Independence).

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