Gary Shattuck

Just because over two hundred years of history separates the present from the tumultuous times of post-Revolutionary War Massachusetts, the so-called Shays’s Rebellion, and volumes have been written about it during the interim does not mean that everything has been accurately portrayed. Sometimes it takes an outsider to ask a different kind of question to make the floodgates open and new facts spill out, allowing for past interpretations to be revisited. And that is what happens in Artful and Designing Men: The Trials of Job Shattuck and the Regulation of 1786-1787.

Job Shattuck was a highly regarded and successful farmer in Groton, Massachusetts throughout his life, serving his community in many different ways from constable to selectman. He was also a veteran of the Seven Years’ War and a commanding officer during the Revolution serving honorably during the Lexington Alarm, the Siege of Boston, and in the defense of the northern frontier at Mt. Independence and Ft. Ticonderoga. It was only upon the arrival of difficult economic times in the early 1780s that Shattuck became involved in the troubles his fellow farmers and neighbors were experiencing, leading them in demonstrations of civil disobedience during the so-called Groton Riots of 1781.

By 1786, Shattuck had become even more concerned in his neighbors’ plight and took more forceful action in participating in the closure of a Concord court. Following the issuance of a warrant for his arrest, he was tracked down by government troops and severely injured by a slashing saber. His removal from the rising conflict allowed for Daniel Shays to assume a leadership role, ending with his own defeat and flight from the state. For Shattuck, he was jailed, tried for high treason, convicted, sentenced to be hanged, and finally pardoned by Governor John Hancock on the very eve of the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

This book describes both the very difficult changes that came about with the arrival of freedoms never before experienced and their effect on the everyday New England farmer trying to negotiate them. It is a telling lesson in loyalty, comradeship, compassion, perseverance and sustained belief in the rightness of one’s actions.