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The History of the American Revolution

In Two Volumes

David Ramsay

Publication Year: 2012

David Ramsay's premier work of American historiography is now available for the first time in a well-edited reprint. Lester Cohen's foreword is an invaluable guide.

—Arthur H. Shaffer, University of Missouri

David Ramsay's History of the American Revolution appeared in 1789 during an enthusiastic celebration of nationhood. It is the first American national history written by an American revolutionary and printed in America. Ramsay, a well-known Federalist, was an active participant in many of the events of the period and a member of the Continental Congress from South Carolina.

Ramsay discusses the events and ideas of the American Revolution (from the outbreak of turbulence in the 1760s to the onset of Washington's administration) and makes an ardent Federalist defense of the Constitution of 1787.

Based on the original and authorized 1789 version, this is the first new modern edition of the work.

Lester H. Cohen taught history and American Studies at Purdue University.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-xii

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pp. xiii-xxxii

DAVID RAMSAY'S The History of the American Revolution appeared in 1789, during an enthusiastic celebration of American nationhood. "Nationhood," moreover, was beginning to take on new cultural and intellectual connotations. The United States had declared its political independence more than a decade earlier, and a rising group of...


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pp. xxxiii-xxxvii

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Editor's Note

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pp. xxxix-xli

THIS EDITION OF RAMSAY's The History of the American Revolution is the first to reprint the original 1789 edition printed by R. Aitken and Son in Philadelphia. That was the only edition that Ramsay actually authorized. The others, including the popular London edition of 1793, printed by John Stockdale, were pirated before the promulgation of effective copyright laws. ...

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Preface [to the first edition]

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pp. xliii-xliv

THE MATERIALS FOR the following sheets were collected in the year 1782, 1783, 1785, and 1786; in which years, as a member of Congress, I had access to all the official papers of the United States. Every letter written to Congress by General Washington, from the day he took the command of the American army till he resigned it, was carefully perused, and it's contents noted. The same was done...

The History of the American Revolution Volume I

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Chapter I. Of the Settlement of the English Colonies, and of the political Condition of their Inhabitants.

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pp. 3-40

THE EXTENSIVE CONTINENT which is now called America, was three hundred years ago unknown to three quarters of the globe. The efforts of Europe during the fifteenth century to find a new path to the rich countries of the East, brought on the discovery of a new world in the West. Christopher Columbus acquired this distinguished honor in the year 1492, but a later navigator Americus Vespucius...

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Chapter II. The Origin of the disputes between Great-Britain and her Colonies, in the Year 1764, and its progress till 1773.

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pp. 41-87

FROM THE FIRST SETTLEMENT of English America, till the close of the war of 1755, the conduct of Great-Britain towards her colonies, affords an useful lesson to those who are disposed to colonisation. From that era, it is equally worthy of the attention of those who wish for the reduction of great empires to small ones. In the first period, Great-Britain regarded the provinces as instruments of commerce. ...

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Chapter III. Tea is sent by the East India Company to America, and is refused, or destroyed, by the Colonists. Boston port act, &c.

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pp. 88-103

IN THE YEAR 1773, commenced a new era of the American controversy. To understand this in its origin, it is necessary to recur to the period, when the solitary duty on tea, was excepted from the partial repeal of the revenue act of 1767. When the duties which had been laid on glass, paper and painters colours, were taken off, a [95] respectable minority in parliament contended, that the duty on tea...

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Chapter IV. Proceedings of the Colonies in 1774, in consequence of the Boston Port Act, &viz.

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pp. 104-135

THE WINTER WHICH FOLLOWED the destruction of the tea in Boston, was an anxious one to those of the [112] colonists who were given to reflection. Many conjectures were formed about the line of conduct, Great-Britain would probably adopt, for the support of her dignity. The fears of the most timid were more than realized by the...

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Chapter V. Transactions in Great-Britain, in consequence of the proceedings of Congress, in 1774.

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pp. 136-159

SOME TIME BEFORE THE PROCEEDINGS of Congress reached England, it was justly apprehended that a non- importation agreement would be one of the measures they would adopt. The ministry apprehending that this event, by distressing the trading and manufacturing towns, might influence votes against the court, in the election of a new parliament, which was of course to come on in the...

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Appendix No. I. Some special transactions of Dr. Franklin in London, in behalf of America.

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pp. 160-169

WHILE THE BREACH BETWEEN Great-Britain and the colonies was daily increasing, the enlightened and liberal, who loved peace, and the extension of human happiness, saw with regret the approaching horrors of a civil war, and wished to avert them. With these views Dr. Fothergill, Mr. David Barclay and Dr. Franklin, held sundry conferences in London on American affairs. The two former were...

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Chapter VI. Consequences in America, resulting from the preceding transactions of Parliament; and of the commencement of Hostilities.

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pp. 170-191

THE YEAR 1774 TERMINATED IN AMERICA, with an expectation that a few months would bring them a redress of their grievances; but the probability of that event [183] daily diminished. The colonists had indulged themselves in an expectation that the people of Great-Britain, from a consideration of the dangers and difficulties of a war with their colonies, would in their election have preferred those who...

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Chapter VII. The second Congress meets and organises a regular Continental Army - makes sundry public addresses, and petitions the King, &c. Transactions in Massachusetts.

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pp. 192-209

IT HAS ALREADY BEEN MENTIONED, that Congress previous to its dissolution, on the 26th of October, 1774, recommended to the colonies, to chuse members for another to meet on the tenth of May 177 5, unless the redress of their grievances was previously obtained. A circular letter had been addressed by lord Dartmouth, to the [207] several colonial governors, requesting their interference to prevent...

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Chapter VIII. Ticonderoga taken, and Canada invaded.

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pp. 210-227

IT EARLY OCCURRED TO MANY, that if the sword decided the controversy between Great-Britain and her colonies, the possession of Ticonderoga would be essential to the security of the latter. Situated on a promontary, formed at the junction of the waters of lake George and lake Champlain, it is the key of all communication between New-York and Canada. Messrs. Deane, Wooster, Parsons...

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Chapter IX. Transactions in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and the general state of Public Affairs in the Colonies.

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pp. 228-240

IT HAS ALREADY BEEN MENTIONED, that the colonists from the rising of Congress in October 1774, and particularly after the Lexington battle, were attentive to the training their militia, and making the necessary preparations for their defence. The effects of their arrangements, for this purpose, varied with circumstances. Where there were no royal troops, and where ordinary prudence...

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Chapter X. Transactions in Massachusetts, and Evacuation of Boston.

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pp. 241-248

As THE YEAR 1775 DREW NEAR TO A CLOSE, the friends of Congress were embarrassed with a new difficulty. Their army was temporary, and only engaged to serve out the year. The object for which they had taken up arms was not yet obtained. Every reason which had previously induced the provinces to embody a military...

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Chapter XI. Transactions in Canada.

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pp. 249-262

THE TIDE OF GOOD FORTUNE which in the autumn of 1775 flowed in upon general Montgomery, induced Congress to reinforce the army under his command. Chamblee, St. Johns , and Montreal having surrendered to the Americans, a fair prospect opened of expelling the British from Canada, and of annexing that province to the united...

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Chapter XII. The Proceedings of Parliament, against the Colonies, 1775-6. Operations in South-Carolina, New-York, and New-Jersey.

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pp. 263-310

THE OPERATIONS CARRIED ON AGAINST the united colonies, in the year 1775, were adapted to cases of criminal combination among subjects not in arms. The military arrangements for that year, were therefore made on the idea of a trifling addition to a peace establishment. [280] It was either not known, that a majority of the Americans...

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Chapter XIII. Of Independence, State Constitutions, and the Confederation.

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pp. 311-334

IN FORMER AGES it was common for a part of a community to migrate, and erect themselves into an independent society. Since the earth has been more fully peopled, and especially since the principles of Union have been better understood, a different policy has prevailed. A fondness for planting colonies has, for three preceding...

The History of the American Revolution Volume II

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Chapter XIV. The Campaign of 1777, in the Middle States.

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pp. 337-358

SOON AFTER THE DECLARATION of Independence, the authority of Congress was obtained for raising an army, that would be more permanent than the temporary levies, which they had previously brought into the field. It was at first proposed to recruit, for the indefinite term of the war, but it being found on experiment that the...

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Chapter XV. The Northern Campaign of 1777.

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pp. 359-390

TO EFFECT A FREE COMMUNICATION between New-York and Canada, and to maintain the navigation of the intermediate lakes, was a principal object with the British, for the campaign of 1777 . The Americans presuming on this, had been early attentive to their security, in that quarter. They had resolved to construct a fort on Mount Independence, which is an eminence adjoining the strait on...

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Chapter XVI. The Alliance between France and the United States. The Campaign of 1778.

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pp. 391-428

SOON AFTER INTELLIGENCE OF THE CAPTURE of Burgoyne's army reached Europe, the court of France concluded at Paris, treaties of alliance and commerce with the United States. The circumstances which led to this great event, deserve to be particularly unfolded. The colonists having taken up arms, uninfluenced by the enemies of...

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Chapter XVII. Campaign of 1779.

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pp. 429-451

THROUGHOUT THE YEAR 1779, the British seem to have aimed at little more, in the States to the northward of Carolina, than distress and depredation. Having publicly announced their resolution of making "The colonies of as little avail as possible to their new connections," they planned sundry expeditions, on this principle. One of these consisting of both a naval and land force, was...

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Appendix No. II. Of Continental Paper Currency.

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pp. 452-462

IN THE MODERN MODE OF MAKING WAR, money is not less essential, than valour in the field, or wisdom in the cabinet. The deepest purse decides the fate of contending nations, as often as the longest sword. It early occurred to the founders of the American empire, that the established revenues of Great Britain, must eventually overbalance the sudden and impetuous sallies of men contending...

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Chapter XVIII. Of Indians, and Expeditions into the Indian Country.

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pp. 463-475

WHEN THE ENGLISH COLONIES were first planted in North America, the country was inhabited by numerous tribes of Indians, who principally supported [137] themselves by the spontaneous productions of nature. The arts and arms of Europeans soon gave them an ascendency over such untutored savages. Had the latter understood their interest, and been guided by a spirit of union, they would soon...

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Chapter XIX. Campaign of 1780 in the Southern States.

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pp. 476-503

THE SUCCESSFUL DEFENCE OF SAVANNAH, together with the subsequent departure of Count D'Estaing from the coast of the United States, soon dissipated all apprehensions, previously entertained for the safety of New-York. These circumstances pointed out to Sir Henry Clinton, the propriety of renewing offensive operations. ...

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Chapter XX. Campaign of 1780, in the Northern States.

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pp. 504-525

WHILE THE WAR RAGED in South-Carolina, the campaign of 1780, in the northern States was barren of important events. At the close of the preceding campaign, the American northern army took post at Morristown and built themselves huts, agreeably to the practice which had been first introduced at Valley-Forge. This position was well calculated to cover the country from the excursions of the...

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Chapter XXI. Foreign Affairs, connected with the American Revolution 1780, 1781.

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pp. 526-538

THAT SPARK WHICH WAS FIRST KINDLED at Boston, gradually expanded itself till sundry of the nations of Europe were involved in its wide spreading flame. France, Spain and Holland were in the years 1778, 1779 and 1780 successively drawn in for a share of the general calamity. These events had so direct an influence on the American war, that a short recapitulation of them becomes necessary. ...

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Chapter XXII. The revolt of the Pennsylvania line; of part of the Jersey troops; distresses of the American army; Arnold's invasion of Virginia.

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pp. 539-548

THOUGH GENERAL ARNOLD'S ADDRESS to his countrymen produced no effect, in detaching the soldiery of America from the unproductive service of Congress, their steadiness could not be accounted for, from any melioration of their circumstances. They still remained without pay, and without such cloathing as the season...

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Chapter XXIII. Campaign of 1781. Operations in the two Carolinas and Georgia.

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pp. 549-572

THE SUCCESSES WHICH, with a few checks, followed the British arms since they had reduced Savannah and Charleston, encouraged them to pursue their object by advancing from south to north. A vigorous invasion of North-Carolina was therefore projected, for the business of the winter which followed Gen. Gates' defeat. The Americans were sensible of the necessity of reinforcing, and...

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Chapter XXIV. Campaign of 1781. Operations in Virfinia: Cornwallis captured: New-London destroyed.

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pp. 573-597

IT HAS ALREADY BEEN MENTIONED that lord Cornwallis, soon after the battle of Guildford, marched to Wilmington in NorthCarolina. When he had completed that march, various plans of operation were presented to his view. It was said in favour of his proceeding southwardly, that the country between Wilmington and...

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Appendix No. III. Of the treatment of prisoners, and of the distresses of the Inhabitants.

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pp. 598-606

MANY CIRCUMSTANCES OCCURRED to make the American war particularly calamitous. It was originally a civil war in the estimation of both parties, and a rebellion to its termination, in the opinion of one of them. Unfortunately for mankind doubts have been entertained of the obligatory force of the law of nations in such cases. ...

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Chapter XXVI. Campaign of 1782. Foreign events and negotiations. peace 1782.

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pp. 607-624

AFTER THE CAPTURE OF LORD CORNWALLIS, General Washington, with the greatest part of his force returned to the vicinity of New-York. He was in no condition to attempt the reduction of that post, and the royal army had good reasons for not urging hostilities without their lines. An obstruction of the communication between...

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Appendix No. IV. The State of parties; the advantages and disadvantages of the Revolution; its influence on the minds an dmorals of the Citizens.

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pp. 625-638

PREVIOUS TO THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION . the inhabitants of the British colonies were universally loyal. That three millions of such subjects should break through all former attachments, and unanimously adopt new ones, could not reasonably be expected. The revolution had its enemies, as well as its friends, in every period of...

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Chapter XXVII. The discharge of the American army: The evacuation of New-York: The resignation of General Washington: Arrangements of Congress for the disposing of their Wastern territory, and paying their debts: The distresses of the States after the Pea

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pp. 639-667

WHILE THE CITIZENS OF THE United States were anticipating the blessings of peace, their army which had successfully stemmed the tide of British victories, was unrewarded for its services. The States which had been rescued by their exertions from slavery, were in no condition to pay them their stipulated due. To dismiss officers and...


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pp. 668-673


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pp. 675-701

Publication Information

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pp. 706

E-ISBN-13: 9781614878568
E-ISBN-10: 1614878560
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865970816

Page Count: 755
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: None