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This article documents the character and development of the government in eighteenth-century Charleston, South Carolina. It argues that urban authority played a very important role in articulating the relationship between citizens and the state across the colonial, revolutionary, and early national eras. Two characteristics of this emerging authority are especially noteworthy. First, there were strong connections between governing practices in British cities and in Charleston. Efforts to order the South Carolina town were underpinned by an ideology of “internal police” that was increasingly shaping the government of towns across the British Atlantic world. Second, recognizing the importance of this doctrine relocates its origins firmly to the prerevolutionary urban environment, whereas historians had previously traced its roots to the revolutionary era.