Job Shattuck

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Perhaps the most famous image of Shays' Rebellion: "Regulators" Daniel Shays (left) and Job Shattuck (right), from a 1787 Boston Almanack woodcut, Artist unknown.

Job Shattuck (February 11, 1736 – January 13, 1819) was a British colonial soldier during the Seven Years' War and a member of the Massachusetts state militia during the American Revolutionary War. He first served with the British in the 1755 Battle of Fort Beauséjour. He was later active at the Siege of Boston in 1776 and then in preparing defenses at Mt. Independence and Ft. Ticonderoga later that year.

Following the cessation of the American Revolution Shattuck returned to Massachusetts where he was the largest landowner in the town of Groton. He was a key figure in the nation-defining 1786-87 farmer's revolt known as Shays' Rebellion, leading forces in direct action that shut down a state court in Concord. He was arrested in late 1786 on charges of treason, but was pardoned in 1787 by Governor John Hancock.

Early life in Groton and military service[edit]

Shattuck was born in the rural central Massachusetts town of Groton in 1736, not long after the final Indian raids and skirmishes that had so often embattled the town during its early colonial period. His family occupied a large tract of land in the northwest corner of town, much of the acreage fronting the banks of the Nashua River. He would eventually become, through ultimogeniture, and his own purchases, the largest landowner in Groton with an estate of approximately 500 acres. At 19 Shattuck joined the provincial militia as a private in Captain Ephraim Jones' company and took part in the campaign involving the removal of thousands of French settlers in Nova Scotia in 1755.

Two decades would pass before he again donned a uniform, this time eschewing the royal red coat of the British private for the homespun utilitarian attire of the colonial militiaman. He responded to the Lexington Alarm, arriving too late to participate, continued on to Cambridge for several days and then returned to Groton where he served on a town committee to assist the Boston poor that had evacuated that city upon the British return. He was part of a company of men that went to Boston in the fall of 1775 for a six-week period to provide necessary backup as Washington put the Continental Army into place. He returned to Groton, but then went back to Boston to participate in the siege. That summer of 1776 he led Groton men to Mt. Independence and Ft. Ticonderoga as part of the northern defense, returning to Groton in December 1776. He was promoted to the rank of captain by the provincial congress in 1776 and was also elected town selectman of Groton on three occasions during the war.

The 1781 Groton Riots[edit]

In October 1781, while serving as town selectman, Shattuck was one of eighteen men obstructing the tax collecting efforts of two constables on three separate occasions, a series of events called the "Groton Riots." In April 1782, he pled guilty to rioting and paid a fine of ten pounds. Notwithstanding, townspeople continued to elect him to various positions in local government and as its representative in negotiating benefits on the behalf of soldiers.

Shays' Rebellion[edit]

Crippled by debt in the aftermath of the revolution, the state of Massachusetts levied upon its towns and citizens tax burdens higher than had been in place during British rule. Those who suddenly found themselves in arrears to the state quickly discovered that their land, livelihood and possibly even their freedom were at stake. Many who could not assuage their debts faced the unpleasant prospect of serving time in a debtors' prison. The high tax burden, combined with the demand that it be paid in specie and the high-handed control of the government by merchant interests, transformed rural resentment into a full-blown agrarian revolt. The rebellion was waged primarily by debt-ridden western farmers and landowners who banded together and captured shire town courthouses in Massachusetts, closing them to all proceedings. Violence was threatened and enacted against many officials who would not stand down. On a national scale, the rebellion was viewed with intense interest by citizens and public officials of all of the confederated former colonies because it "tested the precarious institutions of the new republic." To officials in Boston, Job Shattuck became, perhaps even more than Daniel Shays, the leader of the agrarians in the western part of the state, a leading firebrand and empathetic advocate of the soldier–farmer who had risked life, limb, and land for the cause of the revolution only to return from the war to find injustice and foreclosure still looming.

Closure of the court at Concord and attempt at Cambridge[edit]

On a rainy September day in 1786, Shattuck led a mob of roughly 200 men and forcibly closed session at the Middlesex County Courthouse in Concord. A similar raid upon the courthouse in Cambridge was planned by the Shaysites for November, however officials in Boston acted before this could occur by issuing a warrant for the immediate arrest of Shattuck and four other conspirators.

As described in Artful and Designing Men, by Gary Shattuck, court documents reveal that Job Shattuck had been threatened with death by protestors from neighboring Worcester County if he did not participate in the Cambridge takeover.

Arrest and reprisals[edit]

Charged with treason, on November 30, 1786 Shattuck was harried across the Groton countryside by over 100 men, of which several were members of the Independent Corp of Cadets from Boston. After they violently searched his home and failed to find him (during which at least one member of Shattuck's family was injured), they were able to locate him on the banks of the Nashua River and took him into custody while inflicting a vicious slashing to his right leg with a sword (brandished by one of the cadets) just above the knee almost severing it. He was subsequently transported from Groton to Concord and then to Boston and placed into a debtor's cell at the town jail. Shattuck was later tried, convicted, sentenced to death by hanging in May 1787, but was pardoned by Governor John Hancock the following September.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Richards, Leonard L., Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolutions Last Battle
  • Shattuck, Gary, Artful and Designing Men: The Trials of Job Shattuck and the Regulation of 1786-1787
  • Szatmary, David, Shays' Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection