Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




John Selby


This study analyzes the political activities of workmen in Norfolk, Alexandria, and Charleston in the years 1763-1800. British historians, in particular, E. P. Thompson, have discovered radical agitation on the part of artisans and laborers in Great Britain between 1790 and 1832. A similar rise in class consciousness has been documented on northern urban centers at the time of the Revolution.;Socially and politically Norfolk, Alexandria, and Charleston were quite different; yet in each the mechanics did develop some class consciousness and realization of their political worth. The artisans of Charleston united in opposition to British measures in the years before the Revolution and as a result gained political strength for workers unprecedented in South Carolina politics. Political consciousness developed among Norfolk artisans when they worked together after the Revolution to demand a more republican form of local government. Alexandria mechanics experienced political unity in the shadow of national partisan divisions which enhanced their local influence in the 1790s.;Despite attaining some degree of class consciousness the mechanics in these three southern cities were different from the politically and economically oppressed laborers of Britain during the Industrial Revolution. The artisans of the South were mostly middle class, nestled between the laborers, many of whom were enslaved, and the wealthy planters and merchants. Diversity in craft, economic standing and ethnicity played a hand in weakening the artisans' unity, but their relatively limited political success in provincial and national politics in contrast to local was a function of the mechanics' hesitancy to challenge those above them. In all three cities the strides the artisans made politically by 1800 were impressive, but in each instance they had yet to achieve the permanent coalescence of a conscious social class.



© The Author