Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Route 202: Road to revolution

If you’ve had the chance to wander out of Amherst for a short trip into the rural Massachusetts countryside, then you may have bumped into Route 202. Many students take this road into campus when they take Route 2 in from the Boston area, as it provides the most direct link to campus coming from that direction.

I’m not sure how many people take much stock in the official names given to highways, but on signs in several locations you may have noticed that Route 202 is designated as the Daniel Shays Highway. But who is Shays, and what is his connection to this area?

A trip back to high school history class is revealing. Shays should have been briefly covered as part of the discussion on the early American republic. Shays was from this very part of Massachusetts, not too far from the University of Massachusetts. He is identified with Shays’ Rebellion.

As a backdrop, the American Revolution brought out certain ideals among the population, many of these ideals had been part of colonial culture even prior to the revolution. In addition to this, the new country had a lot of debt to repay. This played out locally, with the Boston area elite being put in the position of the repayment of various war debts. These elites pushed this burden down the line onto their tenants, which included many western Mass. citizens, and many of these citizens were veterans of the Revolutionary War. Shays was one of these citizens and veterans. When many of his fellow citizens lost their property to pay their landlords, he saw this as inconsistent with revolutionary ideals.

Shays was in effect the leader of a second revolution. However, this revolution pitted two classes of individuals against one another. Shays’ revolution alarmed the elite who felt that the American Revolution had unleashed a massive mob mentality that would end up destroying the very republic they created.

Shays and his followers made attacks on various government buildings in the area, but perhaps one of the most dramatic was their attack on the new armory in Springfield. Ultimately, the attack by Shays’ forces was defeated, but left an enduring legacy that we still hear about today.

The Springfield Armory is today preserved as a national park close to downtown Springfield. George Washington selected this site based on its easy access to the Connecticut River. The armory continued to serve for almost 200 years after Shays’ Rebellion, and many people familiar with guns still recognize the Springfield name as being consistent with good quality.

The legacy Shays indirectly brought to the United States is the Constitution. When the elites were worried that ordinary citizens might take the ideals of the revolution too far, they wanted to strengthen the powers of the new national government. This accelerated discussions that lead to the abandonment of the Articles of Confederation and the institution of the United States Constitution.

Ideals always exist in the subjective mind of the observer. It is easy to have an idea in our own mind, but communicating it effectively is a difficult process. Even if an idea is communicated well, it can be interpreted different ways. In the case of Shays’ Rebellion, we see there is not always a consistent manner of interpretation across all people.

While the path taken by Shays’ Rebellion may have culminated in Springfield, Route 202 only gets to Holyoke before heading west towards Westfield. However, in the areas where Route 202 does pass lies some of the places where the revolutionary fervor held its strongest sway, and where citizens thought it fit to fight for what they interpreted to the be the ideals of the American Revolution. Many even say that this fervor lives on across our campus to this day.

Eric Magazu is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at [email protected].


Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *