In his 2003 article, entitled “The Articles and the Constitution: Similar in Nature, Different in Design,” author John A. Altman examines the role that the Articles of the Confederation played in Shay’s Rebellion. As Altman compares and contrasts the Articles and the Constitution throughout his essay, he discusses how the rebellion was not only predicated upon the “weaknesses of the Articles” but also, how it exposed those weaknesses and “sent a message to the country that the new national government was incapable”. The article is featured in Pennsylvania Legacies, a scholarly journal published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Altman, “assistant professor of political science at York College of Pennsylvania” (Altman 20), directly addresses his audience — “students of history” (20) — within his article, with the explicit purpose of discussing the transition from the Articles to the Constitution as a direct consequence of Shay’s Rebellion.

Altman’s essay helps us to see that the rebellion was an uprising that resulted from the nation’s financial difficulties and the government’s inability to correct the economic problems instigated by the laws set forth in the Articles of the Confederation. The armed rebellion, which consisted of “angry” farmers and war veterans, took place in Massachusetts in 1786-1787 (Altman 21), demanded reform of the Articles, paving the way for a new social contract. Thus, the Constitution that continues to define American rights and responsibilities to this day was born. Altman’s essay helps us to see the important roles American civilians have in affecting political change, as they did in the 18th century when the lawmakers were eventually forced to recognize and address the concerns and needs of the American people. As history reveals, the people, who fought to reform the problems caused (or ignored) by the Articles, were correct in demanding a reformation to America’s social contract with its people.

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