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struggle, he was a decided and active friend of his country, and of freedom; and was one of the earliest and most zealous advocates of American independence. His ardent imagination led him to anticipate the most delightful results, from the natural progress of the human mind, when it should be freed from the shackles imposed on it by the oppressions, the forms, and the corruptions of monarchy and aristocracy.
On the 4th of July, 1778, he was appointed to deliver an oration before the inhabitants of Charleston. The event of the contest was yet doubtful ; some dark and portentous clouds still hung about our political horizon, threatening, in gloomy terror, to blast the hopes of the patriot; the opinions of many were poised between the settled advantages of a mo. narchical government, and the untried blessings of a republic. But the mind of David Ramsay was never known to waver; and in this oration, the first ever delivered in the United States on the anniversary of American independence, he boldly declares, that “our present form of government is
every way preferable to the royal one we have lately re. • nounced.” In establishing this position, he takes a glowing
view of the natural tendency of republican forms of government, to promote knowledge ; to call into exercise the active energies of the human soul; to bring forward modest merit; to destroy lạxury, and establish simplicity in the manners and habits of the people ; and, finally to promote the cause of virtue and religion.
In every period of the war, Dr. Ramsay wrote and spoke boldly, and constantly; and by his personal exertions in the legislature, and in the field, was very serviceable to the cause of American liberty. The fugitive pieces written by him, from the commencement of that struggle, were not thought by himself of sufficient importance to be preserved; yet it is well known to his cotemporaries, that on political topics, no man wrote more or better than Dr. Ramsay, in all the public journals of the day.*
• A political piece, written by him at this period, entitled “A Sermon on Tea,” has been mentioned with great commendation, and excited much attention at the time. It abounded with the finest strokes of satire. The text
For a short period, he was with the army as a surgeon, and he was present with the Charleston Ancient Battalion of Artillery, at the siege 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 government, 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
is taken from the epistle of Paul 10 the Colossians, 2d chapter, 21st verse : “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” The whole discourse was a happy ap.. peal to the feelings of a people who associated with the use of tea the idea of every evil. The writer very ludicrously represents lord North holding forth chains and halters in one hand, and in the other a cup of tea, while the genius of America exclaims, with a warning voice, “ touch not, taste not, handle not; for in the day that thou drinkest thereof, thou shalt surely die."
Dr. Ramsay was, in his youth, much distinguished for wit and humour. liis cotemporaries at the College of Philadelphia well remember that an ora. tion, which he there delivered in public, on the comparative state of the ancient and modern practice of physic, was replete with humorous observations, on the former, much pungent satire on quackery, and several touches of the purest attic wit. We mention this, because, in the latter periods of his life, it was only from some occasional remark, in his moments of relaxation, that we could discover this original trait in Ramsay's character.
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 legislature, then convened at Jacksonborough. It was at this assembly that the various acts, 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 recent 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 re-entered the walks 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 remarkably 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 reasoning so cogent, his remarks so striking and original, and his conclusions resulted so clearly from his premises, that he seldom failed to con vince.
He was so ready to impart to others his extensive knowledge on all subjects, that whenever consultation became necessary, his opinion and advice were looked for as a matter of course, and it was always given with great brevity and perspicuity. Thus he became the most active member of every association, public or private, to which he was attached.
In general politics, he was thoroughly and truly a republican. Through the course of a long life, his principles suffered no change-he died in those of his youth. With mere party politics he had little to do. He bore enmity to no man, because he differed from him in opinion. Always disposed to believe his opponents to be the friends of their country, he endeavoured, by his language and example, to allay party feeling, and to teach all his fellow-citizens to regard themselves as members of the same great family.
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 memoir is 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
overy 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 forty-two years, entertained the most exalted opinion of his professional merits.
His widely-extended reputation naturally induced many strangers who visited Charleston, in search of health, to place themselves under his care; and they always found in him the hospitable friend, as well as the attentive physician.
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 established 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 incident of his own life, and all public events, were indelibly engraven on his memory. He was, in truth, a living chronicle.*
* We could adduce several instances of Dr. Ramsay's singular strength of memory. One will suffice. The writer of this article had the honour of an intimate acquaintance with him. He well remembers being present, when an intelligent stranger mentioned the name of a clergyman, of whose congremo VOL. I.