Date of Award
Ph.D. in History
Arch Dalrymple III Department of History
John R. Neff
This dissertation, which focuses on Georgia from 1848 until 1865, argues that a middle class formed in the state during the antebellum period. By the time secession occurred, the class coalesced around an ideology based upon modernization, industrialization, reform, occupation, politics, and northern influence. These factors led the doctors, lawyers, merchants, ministers, shopkeepers, and artisans who made up Georgia’s middle class to view themselves as different than Georgians above or below them on the economic scale. The feeling was often mutual, as the rich viethe middle class as a threat due to their income and education level while the poor were envious of the middle class. Many middle class occupations, especially merchants and shopkeepers, began to be seen as dangerous, greedy outliers in the southern community. The middle class, the negative view asserted, were more interested in money and did not harmonize in the otherwise virtuous, agrarian society. This study continues through the end of the Civil War and argues that the middle class in Georgia was a source of dissent and opposed secession and then the Confederacy. This is not to say that all middle class Georgians opposed secession or the war, but many middle class Georgians vehemently opposed secession and never accepted the Confederacy. Even if they did, many quickly turned their back once it was obvious the war was not going to be short and the Confederacy was taking away many civil liberties. These were not poor, mountain folk as many previous studies have identified those who dissented from the southern cause. Instead, these were successful, mostly urban men and women who felt the war would ruin them economically while at the same time the planters, who had become their political enemies, continued to dominate power in the state post-secession. All of these factors led many middle class Georgians to reject secession and the Confederacy. In turn, the antebellum middle class in Georgia laid the foundation for the post-war power structure and the rise of the southern middle class in the New South era.
Robinson, Thomas, "Identity, Dissent, and the Roots of Georgia’s Middle Class, 1848-1865" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1674.