David Ramsay (April 2, 1749 – May 8, 1815) was an American physician and historian from Charleston, South Carolina. He served as a South Carolina delegate to the Continental Congress in 1782–1783 and again in 1785–1786.
The son of an Irish emigrant, he was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He graduated at Princeton University in 1765, received his bachelor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 1773, and settled as a physician at Charleston, South Carolina, where he had a large practice.
During the American Revolutionary War he served as a field-surgeon (1780–1781), and from 1776 to 1783 he was a member of the South Carolina legislature. Having acted as one of the council of safety at Charleston, he was, on the capture of that city in 1780. seized by the British as a hostage, and for nearly a year was kept in confinement at St. Augustine, Florida. From 1782 to 1786 he served in the Continental Congress, and from 1801 to 1815 in the state Senate, of which he was long president.
In his own day, Ramsay was better known as a historian and author than as a politician. In 1785 he published in two volumes History of the Revolution of South Carolina, in 1789 in two volumes History of the American Revolution, in 1807 a Life of Washington, and in 1809 in two volumes a History of South Carolina. Ramsay was also the author of several minor works, including a memoir (1812) of his third wife Martha Laurens Ramsay, a well-educated woman who had served as a political hostess for her father, Henry Laurens, during the 1780s.
He died at Charleston on May 8, 1815 from a wound inflicted by a lunatic. His History of the United States in three volumes was published posthumously in 1816–1817, and forms the first three volumes of his Universal History Americanized, published in twelve volumes in 1819.
His brother was Congressman Nathaniel Ramsey, a brother-in-law of Charles Wilson Peale. Ramsay married three times. He was the son in law of John Witherspoon and Henry Laurens, and thus was also related (by marriage) to South Carolina Governor Charles Pinckney, Ralph Izard, John Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, Daniel Huger & Lewis Morris.
Shaffer, Arthur. To Be an American: David Ramsay and the Making of the American Consciousness. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991.
- biographic sketch at U.S. Congress website
Ramsay, David, The History of the American Revolution, Ed. and Ann. by Lester H. Cohen (2 vols) Liberty Classics, 1990 (modern reprinting of the orig. 1789 edition).
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopędia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain
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