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[James Glen], “A Description of South Carolina,” in Historical Collections of South Carolina …, ed. B. R. Carroll, 2 vols. (New York, 1836), II, 227, in T. H. Breen, Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 38-39.


In his analysis of pre-revolutionary purchasing habits, historian T. H. Breen found abundant evidence indicating increases in consumers’ purchasing, both in quantity and variety of goods. A sample of such testimony appears in this excerpt, regarding an account by South Carolina Governor James Glen in the 1740s. Glen was interested in detailing the contributions colonial consumers made to the British economy. Such purchasing practices, while beneficial to the mother country, could also be problematic.

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“…Glen censured a popular material culture. ‘I cannot help expressing my surprise and Concern,’ he wrote, ‘to Find that there are annually imported into this Province, considerable quantities of FineFlanders Laces, the Finest Dutch Linens, and French Cambricks, Chints, Hyson Tea, and other East India Goods, Silks, Gold and Silver Lace, &c.’ The locals in South Carolina were living beyond their means, and they were doing it in style.”


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