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8. Debtors' Rebellion Although we aren't warm toward debtors, neither do we collectors have any feelings of fellowship toward the lenders who make our.
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The political leaders in Massachusetts, though, didn't seem to care, says Daniel Klinghard, author of "The Nationalization of American Political Parties, That's when Daniel Shays entered the picture. The Massachusetts farmer had fought in the Revolutionary War, only to return home and find himself -- like many fellow citizens -- facing foreclosure.

The Federal Union

He decided to fight back. In , he raised a private citizens' army called the "Shaysites. Adams got his wish. The rebel army was routed by a state militia, and some of its leaders were hanged. Shays was arrested and later pardoned. His uprising, though, helped settle a paralyzing political question, Klinghard says. The country was stuck between two competing views of government. Federalists such as Alexander Hamilton wanted a strong national government and president. Anti-federalists such as Thomas Jefferson wanted more state power.

Those competing views of government are being played out in Washington today. The political leaders negotiating the debt crisis face the same question that Shays' Rebellion provoked: How big should the federal government be and how much power should it have?

Archival Resources

Shays' Rebellion frightened so many of the nation's leaders that they opted for robust national government. They met a year after the rebellion and drafted the Constitution, which gave the federal government and president more powers -- including the ability to quash "domestic disturbances. Shays' Rebellion followed a script that would be repeated in American history, especially during the lead-up to the Civil War.


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President Barack Obama and others issue warnings about not kicking the debt issue down the road. Their predecessors in the 18th and 19th centuries passed the issue of slavery down to one another like it was a dinner bill no one wanted to pay. They compromised so much that it took the Civil War to abolish slavery, says Klinghard, a political science professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.

Correspondence During the Rebellion

Shays' Rebellion also offers another lesson for today's debt ceiling standoff, historians say. Forget all that talk about reaching across the aisle: Politicians operate like a pride of lions, and there can only be one alpha leader. George Washington fulfilled that role after Shays' Rebellion. He abandoned retirement to become the nation's first president. His stature ensured that the president wouldn't be a token figure who deferred to state's powers. Other periods of dangerous political gridlock in American history were resolved by alpha presidents, who had to possess a ruthless, and even deceitful, side, some historians say.

He's now known as the magnanimous president with the grandfatherly smile. He forgave personal insults and reached out to his enemies. Yet Lincoln was also a political version of a cage fighter -- he could fight dirty, says Striner, the Washington College historian who has also written a book on Lincoln, "Father Abraham. Lincoln had long wanted to abolish slavery before he became president. These questions were strategically ignored by America's political elite as they met to create a stronger national government.

The finances of the Continental Congress had been so tenuous that they could barely pay themselves. By the end of the Revolutionary War, many soldiers had not been paid in years. Instead they were presented with bonds, promising future redemption. Individual states, including Massachusetts, duplicated this practice for their regiments. As time went on, most of these bonds were not redeemed. Those soldiers who hadn't sold them to speculators -- for pennies on the dollar -- were left holding them in frustration. Only a few states had managed to make significant payments, and the national debt had barely been dented.

At the same time, many merchants and businessmen who had played a much smaller role in the struggle seemed to be relatively prosperous in the s. It sowed much ill will for the new Confederation that in so many states, those had sacrificed the most for the American Revolution had the least to show for it. The state government of Massachusetts was dominated by coastal merchants. For many decades they had been the most prominent and prosperous citizens, giving cities like Boston their importance and providing the economic base of the region.

Naturally, the political system was set up to ensure their dominance. The farmers in other parts of the state did not send enough representatives to state government to effectively promote their agenda. In addition, minimum property and wealth requirements for voting and holding office disfranchised many of them.


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  8. Times were hard in first years of independence. For the merchants of New England their former trading partner, Great Britain, was now hostile. Consequently, overseas businesses now required payment in gold and did not extend credit. This credit crunch worked its way through the rest of the Massachusetts economy. In the realm of business, merchants demanded payment in gold from farmers and small businessmen elsewhere in the state.

    Since most farmers were of modest means, and usually in debt themselves, they rarely had gold on hand. In the realm of taxes, the state began to require payment in hard currency as well. The change was particularly pronounced when John Hancock was replaced as Governor by James Bowdoin , who was the favored candidate of the Massachusetts elite. He supported their attempts to recover debt and taxes only in the form of gold. John Hancock, on the other hand, had allowed payment with paper currency as well. In addition to taxes on property, there were acrimonious disputes over taxes in place to support the Congregational Church.

    The itinerant tax collectors were despised in much of the state. Their presence would be one of the biggest causes of Shays' Rebellion.

    What happened to those who couldn't afford to pay their debts in gold? Has the student loan market become a bubble? That's a fair question, said Barmak Nassirian , director of federal relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. In his mids, Claude Richardson returned to college in the hopes of finding himself a new career. He said the education at both schools proved disappointing, and he never found a job in his field of study, information technology.

    Instead, the year-old man works 60 hours a week as a driver for a transportation company. He can't remember the last time he took a vacation. He doesn't pay for cable, since he has no free time to relax in front of a television. He has defaulted multiple times.

    The student loan default rate more than doubled between and , according to Education Department data.


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    6. Forty percent of student borrowers are expected to default on their loans by , according to the Brookings Institute. In a recent study, two researchers sought to understand why the student loan default rate has risen so sharply. Half of the uptick, they found, could be explained by the simultaneous rise in nontraditional students, like Richardson — or those who attended for-profit institutions. Many for-profit colleges have come under scrutiny for their high costs and poor outcomes, and half of their student loan borrowers default.

      The share of nontraditional students rose by 17 percent from to Meanwhile, the percentage of federal financial aid going to for-profit colleges nearly doubled between and Today, these schools take in around 15 percent of the government's financial aid, down from a high of 19 percent. The Obama administration cracked down on for-profit schools, but the Education Department under President Donald Trump has taken a friendlier approach. The current administration's proposals include making it harder for former students who claim they've been defrauded by their schools to get their debt canceled and relaxing the standards for-profit schools must meet to keep their federal funding.

      More from Personal Finance These are the ways student loans stop people from buying a house Student loan nightmare: Some borrowers have to start over People with massive student debt hope Trump will let them declare bankruptcy. Schools of questionable quality are hardly the only problem driving the rise in defaults. Also to blame is an unfortunate confluence of rising tuition and wage stagnation, said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of SavingForCollege. As a result, more families take on loans to cover the bills. She tried to make those payments, but with entry level salaries it was difficult.

      She repeatedly postponed the loan payments, causing the balance to grow even more, thanks to interest.

      Shays' Rebellion of Causes and Effects

      She eventually stopped paying her private loans. The year-old woman fears the government will soon garnish a portion of her Social Security. She says the whole ordeal has left her disillusioned with the country. Many student loan borrowers today express resentment and distrust toward their lenders and the companies that administer federal loan programs. A recent government report found that some schools hire companies that don't present student loan borrowers with their best options.

      Meanwhile, one of the largest student loan servicers — Navient , is being sued by five states and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for allegedly misleading borrowers. The bureau accuses Navient of steering struggling borrowers toward multiple postponements of their loans instead of into income-driven repayment plans, which cap monthly payments at a percentage of the borrower's income. Navient disputes all allegations. National Consumer Law Center's Yu said the distrust borrowers express is often well-founded.

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      She studied sociology at the University of Texas at San Antonio and now is a government property manager.