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Dr. David Ramsay
Father of American History

By Lee K. Ramsey

From the Ramsay Report June 2010

David Ramsay, son of Ulster Scot emigrants, James Ramsay and Jane Montgomery, was born 2 April 1749 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where his father was an obscure, backcountry farmer.

Known primary for his work in the field of medicine and as an American Revolutionary War patriot, David Ramsay is less known for his writings and contributions to American history. He was a 1765 graduate of Prince­ton, and prior to his graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1773, he supported himself as a teacher.

As a physician, Dr. Ramsay quickly established his practice in Charleston, S.C. where he served in the state legislature, and soon became a leading voice for Ameri­can independence.

His July 4, 1778 Independence Day oration at St. Michael's Church in Charleston is believed to the fist delivered in the United States. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress for two terms, 1782-178 and 1785-1786. During his last term he served as presi­dent pro tem in the absence of John Hancock.

During the Revolutionary War, Dr. Ramsay served as a field-surgeon, and when Charleston fell to the British in 1780, he was taken prisoner and held at St. Augustine, Florida for nearly a year. His home at 92 Broad St. in Charleston was occupied by the British and used as headquarters for the British junior officers.

During the war, Dr. Ramsay collected much material for its history, and among his voluminous writings came his History of the American Revolution (3 Vols.), which was the first comprehensive account of the Revolution, and also his History of the Revolution in South Carolina, as well as his biography on the Life of George Washington, and a History of South Caro­lina from its Settlement in 1670 to the Year 1808.

Following the Revolutionary War, Dr. Ramsay re-established his medical practice in Charleston, and was twice widowed before he married Martha Laurens (1759-1811), daughter of Henry Laurens, a merchant and rice planter, who had served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and a minister to Paris.

Dr. Ramsay brought to his marriage with Martha one son, John Witherspoon Ramsay (1783-1813), by his second wife, Frances Witherspoon (1759-1784), who died during childbirth.

Frances was the daughter of Dr. John Wither­spoon, (John Witherspoon was born at Gifford, a parish of Yester, at East Lothian, Scotland, as the eldest child of the Reverend James Alexander Witherspoon and Anne Walker, a descendant of John Welsh of Ayr and John Knox.He attended the Haddington Grammar School, and obtained a Master of Arts from the University of Edinburgh in 1739. He remained at the University to study divinity.) president of Princeton, 1768-1794, representa­tive for New Jersey, 1776-1782, and signer of the Decla­ration of Independence, making him the only clergy­man and college president to sign the Declaration of Independence. There were no children recorded from the marriage of Dr. Ramsay with his first wife, Sabina Ellis (1757-1776).

Dr. David Ramsay and Martha Laurens had met while Dr. Ramsay was attending to Martha's father during his last illness at Charleston. Martha's father never made a complete recovery from his incarceration in the Tower of London, after his capture at sea by the British in 1780.

Dr. David Ramsay and Martha Laurens married at Charleston 23 Jan 1787, and they had 11 children. Among Martha Laurens Ramsey's many talents, she was instrumental in preparing their sons for college, and assisted her husband with his literary work. Mar­tha Laurens Ramsay also maintained a personal diary, which provided a window into the many dimensions her life as a colonial American woman and which has been brought to light in Joanna Bowen Gillespie's book, The Life and Times of Martha Laurens Ramsay, 1759-1811.

In an ironic twist of fate some four years after Martha's death, Dr. David Ramsay was killed in Charleston 8 May 1815, when he was shot by a demented patient whom he had treated. Among his many contributions, Dr. David Ramsay was also instrumental in estab­lishing the Medical Society of South Carolina


The then current Earl acted a Signatory to the capitulation of Quebec to General Wolfe.


 Dean Ramsay Edward Ramsay, one of the more popular church figures in Edinburgh’s history, was born in Aberdeen In 1793. He spent much of his boyhood on his great-uncle’s Yorkshire estate and from 1806 attended the Cathedral Grammar School at Durham. Ramsay’s education continued at St John’s College, Cambridge, and in 1816, the same year that he gained his B.A., he was ordained as curate of Redden, Somerset. While a curate he spent much of his time studying botany, architecture and music. He was an accomplished flautist and, throughout his life he considered music to be amongst his chief interests.

In 1824, Ramsay moved to Edinburgh where he became curate of St George’s in York Place. This was followed in 1830 by his appointment as minister of St John’s. Princes Street, a position that he held until his death. In addition, he was made Dean of the Diocese of Edinburgh in 1841.

Dean Ramsay involved himself in a wide range of activities. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1828 and, although his only contribution to its proceedings was a memoir of his close friend Thomas Chalmers, he became Vice-President of the society in 1862. Ramsay was chief founder of the Scottish Episcopalian Church Society in 1838 and also helped set up Trinity College, Glenalmond, in 1846.

As a man of the church, Ramsay was notable for his unsectarlan outlook; he consistently advocated (with eventual success), the removal of the barriers separating the Scottish Episcopalian and English churches, and his theological sympathies lay with the evangelical movement, rather than with the high church. As a preacher he was both practical and eloquent.

Ramsay provided the best of company on social occasions. His endless fund of anecdotes formed the basis of the work that was to earn him his widest reputation, ‘Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character’, published in 1858. During his lifetime, that book ran to twenty-one editions.

‘The Dean’, as he was affectionately known, outlived his Canadian wife, Isabella, but his house In Ainslie Place continued to provide a home for her nephews and nieces, along with his brother, the retired Admiral Sir W. Ramsay. Dean Ramsay’s death in 1872 was greatly mourned; his congregation placed a commemorative tablet Inside St. John’s and his eight-metre high memorial cross was erected outside the church in 1879. It was designed by Rowand Anderson, and executed by Farmer and Brindley of London.


 American Revolution Patriot

William Ramsay and his wife Anne had eight children and probably occupied the house only a short time before moving into a larger home. Like so many of Alexandria's founders, Ramsay was a hardworking, resourceful Scotsman who became very involved in trade and civic affairs. He served as town trustee, census taker, postmaster, member of the Committee of Safety and, according to tradition, Colonel of the Militia Regiment. He was highly respected by his fellow citizens and received many honours during his lifetime. Anne McCarty Ramsay was also a patriot and is reported to have been praised by Thomas Jefferson for having raised over $75,000 in funds to support the American Revolution. When Ramsay died in 1785, his close personal friend George Washington walked in his funeral.


 9th Earl George Ramsay, succeeded him in the family titles and estates. Earl George was the school and college companion of Sir Walter Scott, who held him in high and affectionate esteem. On meeting with the Earl in the evening of life, after a long separation, Sir Walter mentions him as still being, and always having been, ‘the same manly and generous character, that all about him loved as the Lordie Ramsay of the Yard’ (the playground of the Edinburgh High School). 

The Earl served with great distinction in the West Indies, Holland, and Egypt, and in the Spanish Peninsula, where he commanded the Second Division of the British army; and at the battle of Waterloo. He attained the full rank of general, was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath, was one of the general officers who received the thanks of Parliament, and was created a British peer by the title of BARON DALHOUSIE OF DALHOUSIE CASTLE. 

In 1816 he was appointed to the government of Nova Scotia; and, in 1819, he succeeded the Duke of Richmond as Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of the forces in North America. He was Captain-General of the Royal Company of Archers, or Queen’s Body Guard in Scotland. 

The Earl died in 1838, in the sixty-eighth year of his age, universally regretted. Lord Ramsay’s eldest son, Charles, succeeded his grandfather as seventh Earl, in 1759. He attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the army, and died unmarried in 1764. His brother George, the eighth Earl, was twice elected one of the sixteen representative peers of Scotland, and held the office of Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Scottish Church for six years in succession (1777 - 1783). On the death of his uncle, William, Earl of Panmure, in 1782, the extensive estates of that nobleman William Ramsay. True to the hereditary instinct of the family, his third, fourth, and seventh sons entered the army, in which the two former attained the rank of lieutenant-general, and the last was a captain. The sixth son was in the naval service of the East India Company, and four of the grandsons of the eighth Earl entered the Indian army.

Earl George married, in 1805, Christian, the only child of Charles Broun, of Coalstoun, in East Lothian, the representative of a family, which had flourished in Scotland since the twelfth century. With this lady the Earl received a good estate and an heirloom besides, with which the welfare of the family was in old times supposed to be closely connected. This palladium was an enchanted pear, which came to the Brouns of Coalstoun through the marriage of the head of the family early in the sixteenth century to Jean Hay, daughter of the third Lord Yester, ancestor of the Marquis of Tweeddale. According to tradition, this pear had been invested with some invaluable properties by the famous wizard, Hugo de Gifford, of Yester, whose appearance is so vividly described in Sir Walter Scott’s poem of ‘Marmion.’

One of his daughters, it is said, was about to be married, and as the bridal party was proceeding to the church he halted beneath a pear-tree, and plucking one of the pears gave it to the bride, telling her that as long as that gift was kept good fortune would never desert her or her descendants.

This precious pear was given by the third Lord Yester to his daughter on her marriage to George Broun of Coalstoun, and at the same time he informed his son-in-law that, good as the lass might be, her tocher (dowry) was still better, for while she could only be of use in her own day and generation, the pear, so long as it continued in the family, would cause it to flourish till the end of time. This pear was accordingly preserved with great care in a silver case by the fortunate recipient and his descendants. About the beginning of the seventeenth century, however, it is said that the wife of one of the lairds, on becoming pregnant, felt a longing for the forbidden fruit and took a bite of it. According to another version of the story, it was a maiden lady of the family who out of curiosity chose to try her teeth upon the pear, and in consequence of the injury thus done to the palladium of the house, two of the best farms on the estate had soon afterwards to be sold. Another and more probable account of the incident in question, which is related by Crawford in his ‘Peerage,’ is that Lady Elizabeth Mackenzie, daughter of George, first Earl of Cromarty, on the night after her marriage to Sir George Broun, when she slept at Coalstoun, dreamt that she had eaten the pear. Her father-in-law regarded this dream as a bad omen, and expressed great fear that the new-married lady would be instrumental in the destruction of the house of Coalstoun. Her husband and she died in 1718, leaving an only daughter, who inherited the estate, and married George Brown, of Eastfield, while the Baronetcy descended to George Broun, of Thornydyke, male heir of the family. The pear has for generations been as hard as a stone, and is still in perfect preservation. It has been justly remarked that, apart from the superstition attached to it, this curious heirloom is certainly a most remarkable vegetable curiosity, having existed for upwards of five centuries. The heiress of the ‘Coalstoun pear,’ who died in 1839, bore Earl George three sons. The eldest died unmarried in 1832, at the age of twenty-six, the second in 1817, in his tenth year.

Sir Walter Scott stays at the Castle.


10th Earl James Ramsay born April 1812 Dalhousie Castle appointed Governor General of India at the age of 36 years, from 1847 to 1856 and was eventually made Marquis. He is accounted the creator both of the map of modern India, through his conquests and annexations of independent provinces, and of the centralised Indian state. So radical were Dalhousie's changes and so widespread the resentment they caused that his policies were frequently held responsible for the Indian Mutiny in 1857, one year after his retirement. Early career Dalhousie was the third son of George Ramsay, the 9th Earl of Dalhousie. His family had traditions of military and public service but, by the standards of the day, had not accumulated great wealth, and, consequently, Dalhousie was often troubled by financial worries. Small in stature, he also suffered from a number of physical infirmities. Throughout his life he derived energy and satisfaction from the thought that he was achieving public success in spite of private handicaps. After an undistinguished career as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford, he married Lady Susan Hay in 1836 and entered Parliament the following year. From 1843 he served as vice president, and from 1845 as president, of the Board of Trade in the Tory (conservative) ministry of Sir Robert Peel. In that office he handled a number of railroad problems and gained a reputation for administrative efficiency. He lost his post when Peel resigned in 1846. In the following year he accepted the new Whig ministry's offer of the governor-generalship of India, becoming the youngest man ever appointed to that post.

When Dalhousie arrived in India in January 1848, the country seemed peaceful. Only two years earlier, however, the army of the Punjab, an independent state founded by the religious and military sect of the Sikhs, had precipitated a war that the British had won only with great difficulty. The discipline and economy enforced by the new Sikh regime, sponsored by the British, aroused discontent, and in April 1848 a local rebellion broke out at Multan. This was the first serious problem faced by Dalhousie. Local officers urged immediate action, but he delayed, and Sikh disaffection spread throughout the Punjab. In November 1848 Dalhousie dispatched British troops, and, after several British victories, the Punjab was annexed in 1849.Dalhousie's critics maintained that he had allowed a local rebellion to grow into a national uprising so that he could annex the Punjab. But the commander in chief of the British army had warned him against precipitate action. Certainly, the steps Dalhousie eventually took were somewhat irregular; the uprising at Multan had been directed not against the British but against policies of the Sikh government. In any event, he was created marquis for his efforts. Brought to Britain the "Koh-I-Noor" whose name means "Mountain of Light", the most famous diamond in the World, strapped to his waist to ensure a safe passage. Mined in the l6th Century this 105.6-carat diamond is now the centrepiece of the Queen Mother’s state crown. Died only 48 years old in 1860 and is buried in the family vault in the nearby Cockpen Church. "No man ever gave his life to his Country, more completely or with more consuming devotion": Lord Curzon - British Government in India.  (worth a wee look)   Thanks to M Chadha Dalhousie India

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