What social relationships existed between the popular mobility and the political elites in the revolutionary and potentially revolutionary British American colonies?

For those unfamiliar with 18th century social jargon, the mobility was what we know as "the mob," it was a new urban phenomena occurring in public spaces. It involved concerted drunken commoners engaging in politics of heckling, abuse, petty violence, execution spectating, public speaking, violent attacking of public voting. London returned radical commons members less due to voters visibly and publicly casting ballots, than to the mobility's intimidation of those few with a franchise to vote in the mobs interests. The mobility was popular: it was "the people," in the sense of the sans culottes and enrages and Roux and the Nore mutiny and the Boston mob. It preceded Peterloo, the charter, Jacksonian demos-cracy and "the working class" as a concept. In the United States it is most commonly (haha) associated with Boston and New York, where not only mob violence but the percolation of ideas in public space movement was of significance: business was conducted in the eyes of the public, before the people in the street. "The mobility" is a combination of riot, bazaar, street life, coffee shop, the stoop and if protesting actually mattered (because at the time it was generally illegal).

Please consider revolutionary, loyalist and indifferently aligned British Americans particularly. If particular schisms or qualifications of the elites or popular mobilities dictated their conducts this would be essential to the answer, geography, race, religion and generation of settlement seem potential? Were Whig and Tory mentalities of significance within the mobs?

I am less interested in the rural yeomanry, however so populist; as I am more interested in the general mobility of close settlement and towns or cities.

I am interested in both interpersonal interactions such as subordination and deference; as well as mass phenomena.

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    Please define "popular mobility". It is neither a common expression nor, apparently, Googlable. Sep 16, 2018 at 3:13

1 Answer 1


The most obvious cross-class social relationships of the late 18th century American Colonies were religion and Free Masonry.

The numerous small Protestant sects throughout the colonies, especially in New England, tended to ensure that the congregations were cross-class. In an age of small towns, little official planning, and many distinct churches, it was inevitable that congregations would be mostly multi-class.

Less well known is the strong thread of Free Masonry throughout the Revolution, with many of the Founding Fathers and original Congress Representatives being Masons. Although Paul Revere and William Dawes both set on a midnight ride out to raise the countryside, it is known today as Revere's ride because, through his extensive personal connections, many of them Masonic, he was much more efficient than Dawes at raising the alarm.

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