Ramsay and Cooper
Ramsay and Cooper: Advocates for the Constitution
Susan Hoffius, MS
Curator, Waring Historical Library
The Medical University of South Carolina traces its history back to 1824, when it opened its doors to the first group of medical students. The establishment of the Medical College of South Carolina (as it was then known) could not have happened without the influence of two of South Carolina's most ardent medical educators, David Ramsay and Thomas Cooper.
In addition to the arena of medical education, Ramsay and Cooper engaged in the crafting and critiquing of America's newly formed government. This exhibit explores two publications by Ramsay and Cooper which record each man's observations on liberty and the responsibility of government to the people.
These items are available for research study at the Waring Historical Library.
Born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on April 2, 1749, Dr. David Ramsay received his education at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and the College of Philadelphia where he received his degree as a Doctor of Medicine in 1780. He began his practice of medicine in Charleston, S.C. in 1773 and was active in professional and civic endeavors.
Dr. Ramsay was one of the most vocal advocates for medical education in America and in the South. His writings to noted physician Benjamin Rush extol the necessity of "home-grown" doctors to fill the growing demand in South Carolina and elsewhere. Dr. Ramsay was among the founding members of the Medical Society of South Carolina, which sought and received a charter from the South Carolina legislature to establish a medical college in the state. In 1824 the Medical College of South Carolina began the education of doctors.
In addition to being a prominent physician, David Ramsay was a fervent patriot, orator and public servant in the cause of American independence. He served on the Charleston Council of Safety, the state legislature of South Carolina and its Privy Council, as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1782) and as a member of the United States Congress (1785). In this tract, An address to the freemen of South Carolina, on the subject of the federal constitution, proposed by the convention, which met in Philadelphia, May, 1787, Ramsay enumerates the reasons his fellow South Carolinians should ratify the Constitution.
In a country like our's [sic], abounding with free men all of one rank, where property is equally diffused, where estates are held in fee simple, the press free, and the means of information common, tyranny cannot reasonably find admission under any form of government; but its admission is next to impossible under one where the people are the source of all power, and elect either mediately [sic] by their representatives, or immediately by themselves the whole of their rulers.
Examine the new constitution with candor and liberality. Indulge no narrow prejudices to the disadvantage of your brethren of the other states; consider the people of all thirteen states, as a band of brethren, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, inhabiting on undivided country, and designed by heaven to be one people.
On the whole, if the proposed constitution be not calculated to better your country, and to secure to you the blessings for which you have so successfully contended, reject it; but if it be an improvement on the present confederation, and contains within itself the principles of farther improvement suited to future circumstances, join the mighty current of federalism, and give it your hearty support. You were among the first states that formed an independent constitution; be not among the last in accepting and ratifying the proposed plan of federal government; it is your sheet anchor; and without it independence may prove a curse.
From An address to the freemen of South Carolina, on the subject of the federal constitution, proposed by the convention, which met in Philadelphia, May, 1787. Charleston, printed by Bowen and Co., No. 31, Bay. Written by Dr. David Ramsay, member of the Continental Congress and of the South Carolina state convention which ratified the constitution.
Image of Thomas Cooper from oil painting by Charles Wilson Peale, 1819. Courtesy of the College of Physicians, Philadelphia.
Thomas Cooper was born in Westminster, England on October 22, 1757. He spent his early years in England and France before landing in the northeastern colonies. In 1817 he received an honorary M.D. from the University of New York. Dr. Cooper arrived in South Carolina in 1819 to teach chemistry, geology and mineralogy at the South Carolina College (now University of South Carolina). He became the president of the school in 1821, stepping down in 1833.
While Ramsay supported medical education for the people of South Carolina, Cooper advocated the creation of a medical college in South Carolina. This advice was taken by the Medical Society of South Carolina, which sought and received a charter from the South Carolina legislature to establish a medical college in 1823. The Medical College of South Carolina opened in Charleston the next year.
Cooper published, Some information respecting America, collected by Thomas Cooper, late of Manchester. London: J. Johnson, in St. Paul's Church Yard, 1794. In it he records his observations of America, its geography, industry, society and government.
The views of the government of the United States appear by it declarations, and by the strongest presumptive proofs, to be the maintenance of peace, liberty and safety.
There is little fault to find with the government of America, either in principle or in practice: we have very few taxes to pay, and those are of acknowledged necessity, and moderate in amount: we have no animosities about religion; it is a subject about which no questions are asked: we have few respecting political men or political measures: the present irritation of men's minds in Great Britain, and the discordant state of society on political accounts, is not known there. The government is the government of the people, and for the people.
Some information respecting America, collected by Thomas Cooper, late of Manchester. London: J. Johnson, in St. Paul's Church Yard, 1794.
Unless noted, all text and images Courtesy of the Waring Historical Library, MUSC.