What were some of the benefits that Americans experienced when they fought for, and achieved their independence? American congressman, historian and physician David Ramsay noted these benefits in Volume 3 of his work, History of the United States.
Of Ramsay it is noted, “Biographical memoir of David Ramsay, M.D., from the Analectic magazine”, by R.Y. Hayne (1791-1839): “We proceed to consider Dr. Ramsay as an author. It is in this character he is best known and most distinguished. His reputation was not only well established in every part of the United States, but had extended to Europe. Few men in America have written more, and perhaps no one has written better. The citizens of the United States have long regarded him as the father of history in the New World: and he has always been ranked among those on whom America must depend for her literary character. He was admirably calculated by nature, education, and habit, to become the historian of his country. He possessed a memory so tenacious, that an impression once made on it could never be erased. The minutest circumstances of his early youth, facts and dates relative to every incident of his own life, and all public events, were indelibly engraven on his memory. He was, in truth, a living chronicle.” Published in History of the United States, from their first settlement as English colonies, in 1607, to the year 1808, or, the thirty-third of their Sovereignity and Independence. 2nd edition, revised and corrected. Volume 1 of 3, 1816, p. xiii.
Here are Ramsay’s observations on the benefits of Independence:
The American revolution, on the one hand, gave birth to great vices; but, on the other, it called forth many virtues, and gave occasion for the display of abilities which, but for that event, would have been lost to the world.
When the war began, the Americans were a mass of husbandmen, merchants, mechanics, and fishermen; hut the necessities of the country gave a spring to the active powers of the inhabitants, and set them on thinking, speaking, and acting, in a line far beyond that to which they had been accustomed. The difference between nations is not so much owing to nature, as to education and circumstances. While the Americans were guided by the leading strings of the mother country, they had no scope nor encouragement for exertion. All the departments of government were established and executed for them; but not by them. In the years 1775 and 1776, the country was suddenly thrown into a situation, that needed the abilities of all its sons. These generally took their places, each according to the bent of his inclination. As they severally pursued their objects with ardour, a vast expansion of the human mind speedily followed. This displayed itself in a variety of ways. It was found, that the talents for great stations did not differ in kind, but only in degree, from those which were necessary for the proper discharge of the ordinary business of civil society, in the bustle that was occasioned by the war, few instances could be produced of any persons who made a figure, or who rendered essential services, but from among those, who had given specimens of similar talents in their respective professions. Those, who, from indolence or dissipation, had been of little service to the community in time of peace, were found equally unserviceable in war.
A few young men were exceptions to this general rule. Some of these, who had indulged in youthful follies, broke off from their vicious courses, and, on the pressing call of their country, became useful servants of the public : but the great bulk of those, who were the active instruments of carrying on the revolution, were self-made, industrious men. Those, who, by their own exertions, had established, or laid a foundation for establishing personal independence, were most generally trusted, and most successfully employed, in establishing that of their country. In these times of action, classical education was found of less service than good natural parts, guided by common sense, and sound judgment.
Several names of individuals could be mentioned, who, without the knowledge of any other language than their mother tongue, wrote, not only accurately, but elegantly, on public business. It seemed as if the war not only required, but created talents. Men, whose minds were warmed with the love of liberty, and whose abilities were improved by daily exercise, and sharpened with a laudable ambition, to serve their distressed country, spoke, wrote, and acted, with an energy far surpassing all expectations, which could be reasonably founded on their previous acquirements.
The Americans knew but little of one another, previously to the revolution. Trade and business had made the inhabitants of the seaports acquainted with each other; but the bulk of the people, in the interior country, were unacquainted with their fellow citizens. A continental army, and congress, composed of men from all the states, by freely mixing together, were assimilated into one mass. Individuals of both, mingling with the citizens, disseminated principles of union among them. Local prejudices abated. By frequent collision asperities were worn off; and a foundation was laid for the establishment of a nation, out of discordant materials. Intermarriages between men and women, of different states, were much more common than before the war, and became an additional cement to the union. Unreasonable jealousies had existed between the inhabitants of the eastern and of the southern states; but on becoming better acquainted with each other, these in a great measure, subsided.
A wiser policy prevailed. Men of liberal minds led the way, in discouraging local distinctions; and the great body of the people, as soon as reason got the better of prejudice, found that their best interests would be most effectually promoted, by such practices and sentiments as were favourable to union. Religious bigotry had broken in upon the peace of various sects, before the American war. This was kept up by partial establishments, and by a dread that the church of England, through the power of the mother country, would be made to triumph over ail other denominations. These apprehensions were done away by the revolution. The different sects, having nothing to fear from each other, dismissed all religious controversy. A proposal for introducing bishops into America, before the war, had kindled a flame among the dissenters; but the revolution was no sooner accomplished, than a scheme for that purpose was perfected, with the consent and approbation of all those sects, who had previously opposed it.
Though schools and colleges were generally shut up during the war, yet many of the arts and sciences were promoted by it. The geography of the United States, before the revolution, was but little known ; but the marches of armies, and the operations of war, gave birth to many geographical inquiries and discoveries, which otherwise would not have been made. A passionate fondness for studies of this kind, and the growing importance of the country, excited one of its sons, the Reverend Dr. Morse, to travel through every state of the Union, and amass a fund of topographical knowledge, far exceeding anything heretofore communicated to the public. The necessity of the states led to the study of tactics, fortification, gunnery, and a variety of other arts connected with war, and diffused a knowledge of them among a peaceable people, who would otherwise have had no inducement to study them.
Surgery was one of the arts which was promoted by the war. From the want of hospitals and other aids, the medical men of America had few opportunities of perfecting themselves in this art, the thorough knowledge of which can only be acquired, by practice and observation. The melancholy events of battles gave the American students an opportunity of seeing and learning more in one day, than they could have acquired in years of peace. It was in the hospitals of the United States, that Dr. Rush first discovered the method of curing the lock jaw, by bark and wine, added to other invigorating remedies; which has since been adopted with success in Europe, as well as in the United States.
The science of government has been more generally diffused among the Americans, by means of the revolution. The policy of Great Britain, in throwing them out of her protection, induced a necessity of establishing independent constitutions. This led to reading and reasoning on the subject. The many errors, at first committed by inexperienced statesmen, have been a practical comment on the folly of unbalanced constitutions, and injudicious laws.
When Great Britain first began her encroachments on the colonies, there were a few natives of America, who had distinguished themselves as speakers or writers; but the controversy between the two countries multiplied their number.
The stamp act, which was to have taken place, in 1765, employed the pens and tongues of many of the colonists, and, by repeated exercise, improved their ability to serve their country. The duties imposed, in 1767, called forth the pen of John Dickinson, who, in a series of letters, signed a Pennsylvania Farmer, may be said to have sown the seeds of the revolution. For, being universally read by the colonists, they universally enlightened them, on the dangerous consequences, likely to result from their being taxed, by the parliament of Great Britain.
In establishing American independence, the pen and the press had merit equal to that of the sword. As the war was the people’s war, and was carried on without funds, the exertions of the army would have been insufficient to effect the revolution, unless the great body of the people had been prepared for it, and afterwards kept in a constant disposition to oppose Great Britain. To rouse and unite the inhabitants, and to persuade them to patience for several years, under present sufferings, with the hope of obtaining remote advantages for their posterity, was a work of difficulty. This was effected, in a great measure, by the tongues and pens of the well informed citizens ; and on it depended the success of military operations.
To enumerate the names of all those who were successful labourers, in this arduous business, is impossible. The following list contains, in nearly alphabetical order, the names of the most distinguished writers, in favour of the rights of America.
John Adams, and Samuel Adams, of Boston; Richard Bland, of Virginia; John Dickinson, of Pennsylvania; Daniel Dulany, of Annapolis; William Henry Drayton, of South Carolina; Dr. Franklin, of Philadelphia; John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, of New York ; Thomas Jefferson, and Arthur Lee, of Virginia; Jonathan Lyman, of Connecticut; Governor Livingston, of New Jersey; Dr. May hew, and James Otis, of Boston ; Thomas Paine, Dr. Rush, Charles Thompson, and James Wilson, of Philadelphia; William Tennent, of South Carolina; Josiah Quincy, and Dr. Warren, of Boston. These and many others laboured in enlightening their countrymen, on the subject of their political interests, and in animating them to a proper line of conduct, in defence of their liberties. To these individuals may be added, the great body of the clergy, especially in New England. The printers of newspapers had also much merit in the same way. Particularly Edes and Gill, of Boston; Holt, of New York; Bradford, of Philadelphia; and Timothy, of South Carolina.
The early attention which had been paid to literature in New England was, also, eminently conducive to the success of the Americans, in resisting Great Britain. The university of Cambridge was founded as early as 1636, and Yale college in 1700. It has been computed, that, in the year the Boston port act was passed, there were, in the four eastern colonies, upwards of two thousand graduates of those colleges, dispersed through their several towns; many of whom were able to influence and direct the great body of the people, to a proper line of conduct. The colleges to the southward of New England, except that of William and Mary in Virginia, were but of modern date; but they had been of a standing sufficiently long, to have trained, for public service, a considerable number of the youth of the country. The college of New Jersey, which was incorporated about twenty-eight years before the revolution, had, in that time, educated upwards of three hundred persons, who, with a few exceptions, were active and useful friends of independence. From the influence which knowledge had in securing and preserving the liberties of America, the present generation may trace the wise policy of their fathers, in erecting schools and colleges. They may also learn, that it is their duty to found more, and support all such institutions. Without the advantages derived from these lights of this new world, the United States would probably have fallen in their unequal contest with Great Britain. Union, which was essential to the success of their resistance, could scarcely have taken place, in the measures adopted by an ignorant multitude. Much less, could wisdom in council, unity in system, or perseverance in the prosecution of a long and self-denying war, be expected from an uninformed people. It is a well-known fact, that persons unfriendly to the revolution, were always most numerous in those parts of the United States, which had either never been illuminated, or but faintly warmed by the rays of science. The uninformed, and the misinformed, constituted a great proportion of those Americans, who preferred the leading strings of the parent state, though encroaching on their liberties, to a government of their own countrymen and fellow citizens.
As literature had, in the first instance, favoured the revolution, so, in its turn, the revolution promoted literature. The study of eloquence, and of the belles lettres, was more successfully prosecuted in America, after the disputes between Great Britain and her colonies began to be serious, than it had ever been before. The various orations, addresses, letters, dissertations, and other literary performances, which the war made necessary, called forth abilities where they were, and excited the rising generation to study arts, which brought with them their own reward. Many incidents afforded materials for the favourites of the muses, to display their talents. Even burlesquing royal proclamations, by parodies, and doggerel poetry, had great effects on the minds of the people. A celebrated historian has remarked, that the song of Lillibullero forwarded the revolution of 1688, in England. Similar productions produced similar effects in America. Francis Hopkinson rendered essential service to his country, by turning the artillery of wit and ridicule on the enemy. Philip Freneau laboured successfully in the same way. Royal proclamations and other productions, which issued from royal printing presses, were, by the help of a warm imagination, arrayed in such dresses as rendered them truly ridiculous. Trumbull, with a vein of original Hudibrastic humour, diverted his countrymen so much, with the follies of their enemies, that, for a time, they forgot the calamities of war. Humphries twined the literary with the military laurel, by superadding the fame of an elegant poet, to that of an accomplished officer. Barlow increased the fame of his country, and of the distinguished actors in the revolution, by the bold design of an epic poem, ably executed, on the idea, that Columbus foresaw, in vision, the great scenes that were to be transacted on the theatre of that new world, which he had discovered. Dwight struck out in the same line, and, at an early period of life, finished an elegant work, entitled The Conquest of Canaan, on a plan which had been rarely attempted.
The principles of their mother tongue were first unfolded to the Americans, since the revolution, by their countryman Webster. Pursuing an unbeaten track, he has made discoveries, in the genius and construction of the English language, which had escaped the researches of preceding philologists. These and a group of other literary characters have been brought into view by the revolution. It is remarkable, that of these, Connecticut has produced an unusual proportion. In that truly republican state, everything conspires to adorn human nature with its highest honours.
From the later periods of the revolution, till the present time, schools, colleges, societies, and institutions for promoting literature, arts, manufacturers, agriculture, and for extending human happiness, have been increased, far beyond any thing that ever took place before the declaration of independence. Every state in the union has done more or less in this way; but Pennsylvania has done the most. The following institutions have been very lately founded in that state, and most of them in the time of the war, or since the peace. An university in the city of Philadelphia; a college of physicians in the same place; Dickinson college, at Carlisle; Franklin college, at Lancaster; the Protestant Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia; academies at York-town, at Germantown, at Pittsburg, and Washington; and an academy in Philadelphia for young ladies; societies for promoting political inquiries; for the medical relief of the poor, under the title of the Philadelphia Dispensary; for promoting the abolition of slavery, and the relief of free negroes, unlawfully held in bondage; for propagating the gospel among the Indians, under the direction of the United Brethren; for the encouragement of manufactures, and the useful arts; for alleviating the miseries of prisons. Such have been some of the beneficial effects, resulting from that expansion of the human mind, produced by the revolution; but these have not been without alloy.
History of the United States, from their first settlement as English colonies, in 1607, to the year 1808, or the thirty-third of their sovereignty and independence
by Ramsay, David, 1749-1815; Smith, Samuel Stanhope, 1750-1819; Hayne, Robert Young, 1791-1839. Volume 3. Publisher Philadelphia, Pub. by M. Carey, for the sole benefit of the heirs of the author