Edward had written his book in 1879 and it was serialized at that time.
Edward waited until 1898 (shortly before Edward's death) to have it published
in full book form. Edward's widow agreed to let Francis edit it and he
also wrote the introduction to the book and the book was published by Silver,
Burdett & Co., where Francis worked as an editor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BssWWZ3XEe4
"The Duke of Stockbridge" is set during Shays' Rebellion (1786-87) in
western Massachusetts, what is now the resort of Stockbridge. When Edward
wrote this romance, he chose the episode of the revolt of the debtor-farmers
in 1786 against the harsh creditors and oppressive government. That
revolt helped scare the leaders of the thirteen colonies into supporting
a strong central government seen in the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Edward's
book is sometimes designated as the most authoritative piece of fiction
written about this rebellion.
The hero, Captain Daniel Shays, an ex-Revolutionary officer, and the majority
of men in his rebel ranks were revolutionary soldiers who were nearly all
impoverished through their Revolutionary War services and were considered
rabble rousers by merchants and lawyers.
The Massachusetts' taxes were so heavy that the annual tax per farmer or
mechanic was more money than the average farmer or mechanic made in over a
year. A profitable business for the local lawyers was the foreclosing on
the farmers' or mechanics' property and filling the jails with those who
could not pay their debts. The exasperated Revolutionary war veteran emptied
the jails of their friends and neighbors and demanded financial relief. The
rebellion was put down by the Massachusetts's government with only a small
loss of life but it scared the ruling classes in the State.
The novel portrays Revolutionary War veterans who believe that they have
traded rule by a king for rule by the rich.
General historical information about Shays' Rebellion:
The American Revolution ended in 1783, but the young republic it created
faced a difficult time. Nowhere was this more evident than to the farmers
of Western Massachusetts. A severe economic depression forced people unable
to pay their debts first into court, then into jail. These troubles were
viewed as arising from the mercantile elite of Eastern Massachusetts, especially
Boston, who demanded hard currency to pay foreign creditors. The farmers
of Western Massachusetts, after years of frustration, reacted with an armed
uprising that lasted for six months at the end of 1786 and start of 1787.
The Rebellion started with petitions to the government for paper currency,
lower taxes, and judicial reform. When this failed, the farmers took more
drastic measures. The first target of the Rebellion was the Court of Common
Pleas at Northampton, which an armed body of farmers kept from sitting on
August 29th. Similar groups of insurgents stormed the courts at Worcester,
Concord, Taunton, and Great Barrington in the following weeks. They hoped
to prevent further trials and imprisonment of debtors.
The man who rose to lead the insurgents was Captain Daniel Shays (1747?-1825),
a veteran of the Revolution and a farmer from Pelham. The Supreme Judicial
Court had indicted eleven other leaders for sedition, more would follow.
Shays and 1,500 followers, many wearing their old Continental Army uniforms
with a sprig of hemlock in their hats, occupied the Springfield Courthouse
from September 25th to 28th, preventing the Supreme Judicial Court from sitting.
Governor James Bowdoin assembled 4,400 militiamen under the command of General
Benjamin Lincoln to defend the courts and protect the Commonwealth.
Shays and the others insurgents chose the Federal Arsenal in Springfield
to be the next target. General Lincoln marched to defend the debtor court
in Worcester on January 20th. Shays, with 2,000 farmers behind him, assaulted
the arsenal on January 25, 1787. General William Shepard successfully defended
the arsenal with 1,200 local militiamen. The rebels suffered four dead and
twenty wounded in the attack.
General Lincoln soon arrived in Springfield and quickly chased Shays'
army into the neighboring towns. The insurgents were taken completely by
surprise on the morning of February 3rd in Petersham. General Lincoln had
marched his troops through a snowstorm the previous night. The farmers scattered,
and the rebellion was ended. Most of the insurgents took advantage of a general
amnesty and surrendered. Shays and a few other leaders escaped for a while.
The Supreme Judicial Court soon sentenced fourteen of the rebellion's
leaders, including Shays, to death for treason. They were later pardoned
by the newly elected Governor John Hancock. Only two men, John Bly and Charles
Rose of Berkshire County, were hung for their part in the Rebellion. A new
Massachusetts Legislature in Boston began to undertake the slow work of
That summer, the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia created
a stronger central government. Shays' Rebellion is considered the one
of the leading causes in the formation of the United States Constitution.