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army as a surgeon, and he was present
with the Charleston Ancient Battalion of Artillery, at the seige of Savannah. Dr. Ramsay's career as a politician commenced with the war. His ardent mind could not remain inactive when the liberties of his country, and the happiness of man, were at stake. From the declaration of independence to the termination of the war, he was a member of the legislature of the state of South Carolina. For two years he had the honour of being one of the privy council, and, with two others of that body, was among those citizens of Charleston who were banished by the enemy to St. Augustine. While this transaction is justly regarded as disgraceful to the British, it was glorious for those who cheerfully submitted to exile, and all the horrors of a prison ship, rather than renounce their principles. Many still live who remember well the 17th of August, 1780. It was on the morning of the Lord's day, while the Christian patriot on his knees before his Maker was invoking the aid of heaven for his bleeding country, seeking consolation for himself, and in his petitions even remembering his enemies, that a band of armed men burst in upon him, dragged him from his habitation like a felon, and conveyed him to the prison ship—the tomb for living men. We shall not attempt to paint the scene which ensued when these political martyrs were to bid adieu to their relatives and friends, perhaps to meet them no more. A number of the most respectable citizens of Charleston, prisoners on parole, and entitled to protection by all the rules held sacred in civilized warfare, were seized at the same time, and consigned to exile. The sole reason alleged by the enemy for this outrage was, “that Lord Cornwallis had been highly incensed at the perfidious revolt of many of the inhabitants, and had been informed that several of the citizens of Charleston had promoted and fomented this spirit.” In consequence of an exchange of prisoners, Dr. Ramsay was sent back to the United States, after an absence of eleven months. He immediately took his seat as a member of the state legisla
ture, then convened at Jacksonborough. It was at this assembly that the various acts of confiscating the estates of the adherents to Great Britain, were passed. Dr. Ramsay being conciliatory in his disposition, tolerant and humane in his principles, and the friend of peace, although he well knew that the conduct of some of those who fell under the operation of these laws, merited all the severity that could be used toward them, yet he remembered also, that many others were acting from the honest dictates of conscience. He could not, therefore, approve of the confiscation acts, and he opposed them in every shape. While in this, we know that he differed from some of the best patriots of the day, yet we cannot but admire that magnanimous
'spirit which could thus forget all its re
cent wrongs, and refuse to be revenged. Dr. Ramsay continued to possess the undiminished confidence of his fellow citizens and was, in February, 1782, elected a member of the continental congress. In this body he was always conspicuous, and particularly exerted himself in procuring relief for the southern States, then overrun by the enemy. On the peace, he returned to Charleston, and recommenced the practice of his profession ; but he was not permitted long to remain in private life, and, in 1785, was again elected a member of congress from Charleston district. The celebrated John Hancock had been chosen president of that body, but being unable to attend from indisposition, Dr. Ramsay was elected president pro tempore, and continued for a whole year to discharge the important duties of that station, with much ability, industry, and impartiality. In 1786 he again returned to Charleston, and reëntered the walls of private life. In the state legislature, and in the continental congress, Dr. Ramsay was useful and influential; and, indeed, the success of every measure to which he was known to be opposed, was considered doubtful. He was a remark
ably fluent, rapid, and ready speaker; and though his manner was ungraceful, though he neglected all ornament, and never addressed himself to the imagination or the passions of his audience, yet his style was so simple and pure, his rea
sonings so cogent, his remarks so striking and original, and his conclusions resulted so clearly from his premises, that he seldom failed to convince. Through the whole course of his life he was assiduous in the practice of his profession. . Of his merits as a physician, the writer of this memoiris unqualified to judge. He knows that he was punctual and attentive at the chambers of the sick, and that his behaviour there was kind and encouraging; it was not his habit to despair of his patients, nor to permit them to despair of themselves. Whenever his services were required, he never hesitated to render them promptly, at every sacrifice of personal convenience and safety. In his medical principles, he was a rigid disciple of Rush, and his practice was remarkably bold. Instead of endeavouring to overcome diseases by repeated efforts, it was his aim to subdue them at once,by a single vigorous remedy. This mode of practice is probably well adapted to southern latitudes, where disease is so sudden in its approach and so rapid in its effects. In the treatment of the yellow fever, Dr. Ramsay is said to have been uncommonly successful, and it is well known that he effected several remarkable cures in cases of wounds, received from poisonous animals. Those who knew him best, and had the experience of his services in their families for fortytwo years, entertained the most exalted opinion of his professional merits. We proceed to consider Dr. Ramsay as an author. It is in this character he is best known and most distinguished.
His' reputation was not only well estab-.
lished in every part of the United States, but had extended to Europe. Few men in America have written more, and perhaps no one has written better. The citizens of the United States have long regarded him as the father of history in the new world, and he has always been ranked among those on whom America must depend for her literary character. He was admirably calculated by nature, education, and habit, to become the historian of his country. He possessed a memory so tenacious, that an impression once made on it could never be erased. The minutest circumstances of his early youth—facts and dates relative to every
Memoirs of Dr. Ramsay, the American Historian. 523
incident of his own life, and all public events, were indelibly engraven on his memory. He was, in truth, a living chronicle. His learning and uncommon industry eminently fitted him for the pursuits of a historian. He was above prejudice, and absolute master of passion. Who else could have dwelt upon the merits of the revolution, and “told an unvarnished tale” We may speak calmly of the times, that have long since passed by, and of events in which we have no concern; but when we speak of the times in which we live, or of events concerning which we can say with Æneas,
it is almost impossible to write or speak without prejudice; yet such was the noble victory obtained by the American historian over himself. “I declare,” says he, in the introduction of his first work, “that, embracing every opportunity of obtaining genuine information, I have sought for truth, and have asserted nothing but what I believe to be fact. If I should be mistaken, I will, on conviction, willingly retract it. During the whole course of my writing, I have carefully watched the workings of my mind, lest passion, prejudice, or a partyfeeling, should warp my judgment. I have endeavoured to impress on myself, how much more honourable it is to write impartially, for the good of posterity, than to condescend to be the apologist of a party. Notwithstanding this care to guard against partiality, I expect to be charged with it by both of the late contending parties. The suffering Americans, who have seen and felt the ravages and oppressions of the British army, will accuse me of too great moderation. Europeans, who have heard much of American cowardice, perfidy, and ingratitude, and more of British honour, clemency, and moderation, will probably condemn my work as the offspring of party zeal. I shall decline the fruitless attempt of aiming to please either, and instead thereof, follow the attractions of truth whithersoever she may lead.” From these resolutions the historian nover doparted.
From the beginning, to the close of war, Dr. Ramsay was carefully collecting materials for this work. After it was completed, it was submitted to the perusal of General Greene, who having given his assent to all the statements, made therein, the History of the Revolution in South Carolina was published in 1785. Its reputation soon spread throughout the United States, and it was translated into French, and read with great avidity in Europe.
It was ever the wish of Dr. Ramsay to render lasting services to his country; and, being well aware that a general history of the revolution would be more extensively useful than a work confined to the transactions of a particular state, want of materials alone prevented him in the first instance from undertaking the former in preference to the latter.— When, therefore, in the year 1785, he took his seat in congress, finding himself associated with many of the most distinguished heroes and statesmen of the revolution, and having free access to all the public records and documents that
would throw light on the events of the
war, he immediately commenced the History of the American Revolution. Notwithstanding his public duties, he found time sufficient to collect from the public offices, and from every living source, the materials for this valuable work. With Dr. Franklin and Dr. Witherspoon, both of them his intimate friends, he conferred freely, and gained much valuable information from them. Anxious to obtain every important fact, he also visited General Washington at Mount Vernon, and was readily furnished by him with all the information required, relative to the events in which that great man had been the chief actor. Dr. Ramsay thus possessed greater facilities for procuring materials for the History of the Revolution, than any other individual of the United States. He had been an eye-witness of many of its events, and was a conspicuous actor in its busy scenes; he was the friend of Washington, Franklin, Witherspoon, and a host of others, who were intimately acquainted with all the events of the war; and it may be said, with perfect truth, that no writer was ever more in
dustrious in colleeting facts, or more scrupulous in relating them. The History of the American Revolution was published in 1790, and was received with universal approbation. It is not necessary to analyze the character of a work that has stood the test of publie opinion, and passed through the crucible of criticism. If the demand of a book can be received as evidence of its
merits, perhaps this work must be ranked
above any of Dr. Ramsay's productions. The first edition was soon disposed of, a second was called for, and has been exhausted, and the book is now difficult to be procured. In 1801, Dr. Ramsay gave to the world his Life of Washington; as fine a piece of biography as can be found in any language. It will not sink in comparison with the best productions of ancient or modern times. Indeed, our biographer had one great advantage over all others—we mean the exalted and unrivalled character of his hero—a character “above all Greek, above all Roman fame.” In 1808, Dr. Ramsay published his History of South Carolina, in two vo
by the means of circular letters, addressed to intelligent gentlemen in every part of the state, the most correct information was obtained. Many important facts are thus preserved that must otherwise have been soon forgotten, and by this publication the author fully supported the reputation he had so justly acquired. The death of his wife in 1811, induced him to publish, a short time afterwards, the memoirs of her life. This interesting little volume, which, in addition to the Life of Mrs. Ramsay, contains some of the productions of her own pen, is very generally read, and has been extensively useful. If, in any instance, the virtues of individuals, whose sphere of action has been confined to private
life, ought to be held up to public view as an example for imitation, we hesitate not to say that the Christian world had a claim on the publication of Mrs. Ramsay's Life. She possessed, from nature, a supérior understanding; and education had added higher excellence to her native virtues; while her whole character was refined and exalted by the influence of Christianity. The experience of such a woman, whose principles had borne her triumphantly through all the trials and vicissitudes of life, will not be lost in the world.
In addition to the works already mentioned, Dr. Ramsay published “ An Oration on the acquisition of Louisiana,” “A Review of the improvements, progress, and state of medicine in the eighteenth century,” delivered on the first day of the new century; “A Medical Register for the year 1802,” “A Dissertation on the means of preserving health in Charleston,” “A Biographical Chart, on a new plan, to facilitate the study of History,” and an “Eulogium on Dr. Rush.” All these works have merit in their several departments; particularly the Review of the Eighteenth Century, which contains more medical information in a small space than can be found in any production of the kind. He had also committed to the press, a short time previous to his death, a Brief History of the Independent or Congre. gational Church in Charleston. To this church he had, from his youth, been strongly attached, and this little history was meant as a tribute of affection. A few weeks before the event which closed his useful life, he commenced collecting
materials for the life of General Andrew
Jackson, with which he intended to connect a particular account of the origin and progress of the Indian war, and of the state of society in Louisiana. This interesting work has gone with him to the tomb. The increasing demand for the History of the American Revolution induced the author, several years before his death to resolve to publish an improved edition of that work. In preparing this, it occurred to him that a history of the United States, from their first settlement, as English colonies, including as much
Memoirs of Dr. Ramsay, the American Historian. 525
of the revolution as is important to be known, brought down to the present day, would be more interesting to the public, as well as more extensively useful. After completing this up to the year 1808, he determined to publish it in connexion with his Universal History, hereafter to be mentioned. Had not death arrested his progress, he would have brought down this work to the end of the late war. While we deplore, however, an event that has deprived us of the intellectual feast which the history of the war of 1812, from the same able pen which detailed the events of our revolution, must have furnished, we may congratulate ourselves, that the History of the United States, to a very late period, was finished by Dr. Ramsay before his death, and will shortly be given to the world. But the last and greatest work of the American historian yet remains to be mentioned. He had, for upward of forty years, been preparing for the press a series of historical volumes which, when finished, were to bear the title of “Universal History Americanized, or a Historical View of the World from the earliest records to the 19th century, with a particular reference to the state of society, literature, religion, and form of government in the United States of America.” Thereputation of Dr. Ramsay throughout the United States is, perhaps, the best criterion of his merits as a writer; and still the value of his works, and particularly of his histories of the revolution, can scarcely be said to be properly appreciated by the public. They who acted well their parts on the glorious scenes of the revolution, could never forget any thing connected with it ; but those who have grown up since that event, and millions yet unborn, must owe an everlasting debt of gratitude to David Ramsay. Soon might the events of our revolution have been lost in the mists of time, and even the memory of our heroes would have gradually faded into oblivion; but in the “History of the Revolution” is found a monument to their memory, more beautiful than man could rear. There their names, their virtues, and their noble deeds, are
inscribed on tablets more durable than brass. Never can they be forgotten. The American historian has secured to them immortality of fame. In society he was a most agreeable companion; his memory was stored with an infinite fund of interesting or amusing anecdotes, which gave great sprightliness and zest to his conversation. He never assumed any superiority, over those with whom he conversed, and always took peculiar pleasure in the society of young men of intelligence or piety. His principles influenced all his actions. In every situation he preserved the most unruffled equanimity. He was a firm believer in the doctrine of the particular providence of the Deity, and hence, in a great measure, resulted his
* composure. Events that would ex
tremely disconcert almost every other man scarcely moved him at all. Those who witnessed his behaviour under some of the severest trials of life must be convinced that the sentiment, that “ God does all things well,” was deeply engraven on his heart. His life was a checkered scene, and presented frequent opportunities for the exercise of his principles. Three times was he called to mourn over the graves of his dearest earthly friends. No man ever began life with fairer prospects; not a cloud was to be seen in his horizon. Possessed of talents, reputation, fortune, and friends, he bid fair to pass his days in the sunshine of prosperity, and to have his evening gilded by the beams of happiness. But misfortune overtook him, and he was stripped of all his comforts. In old age, when the weary soul seeks repose, calamity came upon him, and was the constant inmate of his house. A son grown to manhood, who promised fair to imitate his father's virtues, was suddenly cut down. A tender and excellent wife, the mother of his eight surviving children, was torn from his embrace, and consigned to the tomb. As a husband, as a father, and in every domestic relation in life, he was alike exemplary. The closing scene of Dr. Ramsay's life was alone wanting to put a seal to his character. He fell by the hand of an assassin whom he never wronged, but whom, on the contrary,
he had humanely endeavoured to serve. If harmlessness of manners, suavity of temper, and peaceableness of deportment —if a heart glowing with benevolence, and a disposition to do good to all men, are characteristics that would promise to any one security, he had on all these grounds the least cause to apprehend or guard against hostility. The fatal wound was received in the open street, and at noon day, under circumstances of horror calculated to appal the stoutest heart; yet the unfortunate victim was calm and self possessed. The history of this mournful transaction is this: A man by the name of William Linnen, a taylor by trade, had been long remarked for singularity of conduct. Having been engaged in some lawsuits, he conceived that he had suffered injustice through the misconduct of his lawyer, the judges, and the jury. To obtain redress from these supposed injuries, he petitioned the legislature repeatedly, and actually walked the whole way to Washington on foot to endeavour to procure the impeachment of one of the judges of the supreme court. At last he became desperate, and was heard to declare, “that as the laws afforded him no protection, he meant to protect himself.” Soon after this he made an attempt upon the life of his attorney, and wounded him severely. For this offence he was thrown into prison. On being arraigned, it was represented to the court, that he was under the influence of mental derangement. Dr. Ramsay and Dr. Benjamin Simmons were appointed by the court to examine and report on his case. They concurred in opinion. that Linnen was deranged, and that it