Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Duke of Stockbridge - A Romance of Shay's Rebellion

The Duke of Stockbridge by Edward Bellamy (a Socialist) and Joseph Shiffman, was a story or "Romance" of Shays' Rebellion, published in 1900 (although published serially in 1879).  [See my June 2006 post about Shays Rebellion at "Detour Through History"]

"...when he (Mr. Bellamy) undertook to write a romance of his native Berkshire Hills he chose not unnaturally the episode of the revolt of the debtor farmers in 1786 against their harsh creditors and the oppressive State government."  A New York Times review of the novel can be found here

Shays Rebellion participants were intent upon storming the Springfield [Mass.] Armory.  According to this site, the problem arose from the "mercantile elite" of Eastern Massachusetts, ...who "demanded hard currency to pay foreign creditors."

Did Shays Rebellion scare leaders into supporting a strong central government?  Apparently Madison was persuaded.

From Gazetteer of Berkshire county, Massachusetts, 1725-1885:

 "There have been eight executions in the county [Berkshire Co., Mass.] for capital offences, as follows: John Bly and Charles Rose, December 6, 1787, for burglary committed in Lanesboro, under pretense of getting supplies for men engaged in Shays Insurrection;....".  This source stated that "John Bly and Charles Rose, (two of the leaders of the rebellion) were hanged for treason."  Another source stated that .."800 rebels were captured, 18 were sentenced to death and two were actually put to death."

Although Shays' Rebellion is of historical importance, the historical characters in The Duke of Stockbridge who were descended from William Backus, as am I, are of particular interest to me.  I love it when genealogical material can be mined in fiction.


 It is true that Squire Jahleel Woodbridge is even more brilliantly descended, counting two colonial governors and numerous divines among his ancestry, not to speak of a rumored kinship with the English noble family of Northumberland. But instead of tending to a profitless rivalry the respective claims of the Edwardses and the Woodbridges to distinction have happily been merged by the marriage of Jahleel Woodbridge and Lucy Edwards, the sister of Squire Timothy, so that in all social and political matters, the two families are closely allied. [Duke of Stockbridge - DOS]

In the west half of the store building, Squire Edwards lives with his family, including, besides his wife and children, the remnants of his father's family and that of his sister, the widowed Mrs. President Burr. Young Aaron Burr* was there, for a while after his graduation at Princeton, and during the intervals of his arduous theological studies with Dr. Bellamy at Bethlehem. Perchance there are heart-sore maidens in the village, who, to their sorrow, could give more particular information of the exploits of the seductive Aaron at this period, than I am able to. [DOS]

*Aaron Burr, though not a Backus descendant, had Backus cousins.  Aaron Burr was also descended from Agnes Harris, widow of William Spencer, through her 2nd husband, William Edwards.  William Spencer was my Gerrard Spencer's brother (Gerrard's daughter, Sarah, married Stephen Backus). 

Another "Backus" descendant is Sarah Palin.

Factoid:  Francis Bellamy, the author Edward's cousin, wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance.

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