Daniel Shays was the symbolic leader of Shays' Rebellion, which was started as a protest by Massachusetts farmers against high taxes and prison sentences for debtors. Shays had been a captain in the Continental army prior to the American Revolution. In the autumn of 1786, a group of protesters known as the Regulators forced the closure of local courts in Springfield, Mass.
During this event, the Regulators also opened the prisons and released many farmers who had been sentenced for being unable to pay their debts. Soon after this event, Daniel Shays joined the group, which was subsequently defeated by troops from the Massachusetts militia in several small battles during the winter of 1786. Shays and many of the other rebels then fled to Rhode Island and eventually Vermont.
Throughout 1786 and 1787, the rebellion spread through South Carolina, Maine, Connecticut, New York and New Hampshire, but nowhere were the protests as strong as in Massachusetts. The Governor of Massachusetts, James Bowdoin, organized the state's militia and quickly crushed the rebellion, which also quickly died out in other states. Shays' Rebellion was the first serious rebellion following the American Revolution, although it never seriously affected the stability of the country.