David Ramsay - American History's First American Historian

David Ramsay - American History's First American Historian

David Ramsay was the first American Revolutionary to write history book about the American Revolution.

David Ramsay

David Ramsay was an American physician who doctored many of the Founders from Charleston, South Carolina.

The second of his three wives was daughter of Declaration signer John Witherspoon, and the third and longest surviving was Martha Laurens whose father, Henry, and brother, John, were also important Revolutionaries.

Due to these associations, David enthusiastically joined the Patriot Cause.


David Ramsay spent the entire duration of the American Revolutionary War as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

He also served as a Surgeon during the invasion of Charleston. This battle was a great loss to the Continental Army, during which David was taken prisoner.

After almost a year in Florida, Ramsay was release from captivity. He was summarily elected to the Congress of the Confederation.

Chairman of the United States

Ramsay went on to serve in the Confederation Congress for four years.

During his last term, John Hancock did not attend. David was chosen to serve as Chairman in Hancock’s stead, making him one of the select few pre-Constitution Presidents of the United States.

After his term in the Continental Congress, Ramsay returned home and spent several years as President of the State Senate.

American Historian

During his time in Congress, David Ramsay began a long career as one of the first American Historians, by which I mean, an American who studied American history.

He wrote a two-volume publication about the American Revolution in South Carolina before the Constitution was even written and another book about the Revolution during George Washington’s first year as President.

Within twenty years he had written more books about the history of the United States and South Carolina as well as publishing one of the earliest biographies of Washington.


David Ramsay, always a practicing physician, was asked by the city of Charleston to examine William Linnen, a man who continuously attempted to sue people.

Ramsay decided the man was mentally unstable and he should not be allowed to go free. Linnen was kept in prison for some time but when he was finally released, he wanted revenge.

Linnen shot Ramsay twice on the streets of Charleston. Ramsay was taken home and placed on his deathbed.

According to Robert Hayne, a future Governor of South Carolina, David declared to the crowd which brought him home:

“I call on all here present to bear witness, that I consider the unfortunate perpetrator of this deed a lunatic, and free from guilt."

Ramsay, a man clearly ahead of his time in understanding mental illness, died two days later from his wounds.

To learn about other Founders who were murdered, check out our articles on John Adam Treutlen and George Wythe.

To read further about the trials of Continental POWs from Charleston, pick up a copy of ‘Relieve Us of This Burthen’ from the affiliate Amazon link below.

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