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LAURENS, Henry (1724-1792)

LAURENS, HENRY, a Delegate from South Carolina; born in Charleston, S.C., March 6, 1724; received his early education in Charleston; went to England in 1744 to acquire a business education; upon his return to the United States in 1747 engaged in mercantile pursuits; served as lieutenant colonel in a campaign against the Cherokee Indians 1757-1761; member of the commons house of assembly in 1757 and reelected to every session, with one exception, until the Revolution; declined appointment to King's Council in Carolina in 1764 and 1768; member of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pa., 1772-1792; was in Europe from 1771 until December 11, 1774, where he placed his sons in school; returned to Charleston, S.C., in the latter year; member of the First Provincial Congress January 9, 1775; President of the Provincial Congress in June 1775; also president of the general committee and of the first council of safety in 1775; member of the Second Provincial Congress from November 1775 to March 1776 and president of the second council of safety in 1775 and 1776; Vice President of South Carolina from March 1776 to June 27, 1777; elected as a Delegate to the Continental Congress January 10, 1777, and served until 1780; served as President of the Congress from November 1, 1777, to December 9, 1778; elected Minister to Holland by the Continental Congress on October 21, 1779, and sailed for his post early in 1780; was captured on the voyage and held a prisoner in the Tower of London for fifteen months; released on December 31, 1781, in exchange for Lord Cornwallis; appointed one of the peace commissioners and signed the preliminary treaty of Paris on November 30, 1782; returned to the United States on August 3, 1784, and retired to his plantation, ``Mepkin,'' on the Cooper River, near Charleston, S.C.; subsequently elected to the Continental Congress, to the state legislature, and in 1787 to the Federal Constitutional Convention, all of which offices he declined; continued as a planter until his death at ``Mepkin,'' near Charleston, S.C., December 8, 1792; the remains were cremated and his ashes interred on his estate, ``Mepkin,'' at the confluence east-west branches Cooper River, Berkeley County, S.C.

South Carolina Historical Society
Charleston, SC
Papers: 1747-1860, 8 linear feet.
The papers of Henry Laurens consist of correspondence, congressional and military records, and other items. Included are the papers of John Laurens (1754-1782) and William Thompson (1736-1781) and the correspondence of James Laurens (1728-1784), the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), and William Piercy. Business correspondence includes a letter book (1755-1757) of Austin & Laurens and concerns trade in slaves, rice, indigo, and other commerce. Other letter books contain correspondence regarding financial, business, and plantation affairs, family estate matters, politics, travels, the education of Henry Laurens's son John, and personal and family matters. Also included is a volume (1759-1763) containing invoices for rice, indigo, deer skins, lumber, and other goods, with the names of ships and their destinations. Papers (1775-1776) pertaining to Henry Laurens's activities in the Provincial Congress of South Carolina include a journal of the Council of Safety of the Provincial Congress; receipts; military rosters and paybills; and correspondence of the Council of Safety and the Committee of Intelligence. Papers pertaining to Henry Laurens's service in the U.S. Continental Congress include correspondence; minutes, journals, resolves, memorials, and reports of the Congress and its committees; speeches and other material (1777-1779) pertaining to the Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw Indians, mostly in East Florida; reports on military conditions, engagements, losses, and prisoners; and notes on debates. A letter book (1782-1783) includes correspondence of Henry Laurens in England and France regarding treaty negotiations with Great Britain. Other letter books concern Henry Laurens's imprisonment in England, diplomatic efforts, and the Treaty of Paris. Other items include an account book (1772-1779) of James Laurens, brother of Henry Laurens; an essay (1763) by Henry Laurens written under the pseudonym "Philoteles"; estate accounts of George Whitefield (handled by Henry Laurens for the Countess of Huntingdon); a "waste book" (1749-1751) containing accounts of business transactions to be transferred later to formal accounts; and legal documents and other material (1840-1860) regarding a dispute involving the estate of Eliza Laurens Toomer, one of Henry Laurens's heirs. Access to the original papers is restricted. Researchers must use microfilm copies.

American Philosophical Society Library
Philadelphia, PA
Microfilm: 1747-1882, 19 microfilm reels.
The microfilm includes the papers of Henry Laurens. The original papers are housed at the South Carolina Historical Society.

Papers: In the Richard Gimbel Collection of Thomas Paine Papers, 1692-1921, approximately 176 items.
Subjects include Henry Laurens.

Papers: In the Charles Wilson Peale Letterbooks, 1767-1827, 18 volumes.
Subjects include Henry Laurens.

College of Charleston
Special Collections
Charleston, SC
Papers: 1766-1773, 1 volume.
The volume contains business and personal accounts (1766 Sept.-1767 Dec., 1768 Feb.-1773 May, 1773 Aug.-Sept.) for Henry Laurens. Accounts are with individuals and companies for goods (primarily general merchandise) and services (including commissions). Several include the sale of individual slaves. A number of entries are for New Hope, Mepkin, Broton [Broughton] Island, Wambaw, and Wright's Savannah plantations. Other accounts include expenses for improvements made to brick tenements, and an Ansonborough house and lot. One personal entry is for "my arrears & fines in full" for the Charlestown Library Society. A microfilm copy is available in repository.

Columbia University
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
New York, NY
Microfilm: In the Alfred C. Berol Collection of American Revolutionary Letters and Documents, 1650-1830, 1 microfilm reel.
The papers include a group of sixteen letters of Henry Laurens, the South Carolina planter, and his son, John Laurens, among which is a magnificent "manumission letter" written by Henry Laurens to his son on 14 August 1776, barely a month after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Connecticut Historical Society
Hartford, CT
Papers: In the Silas Deane Papers, 1740-1842, 7 linear feet.
Other authors include Henry Laurens.

Copley Press
J.S. Copley Library
La Jolla, CA
Papers: 1777, 1 page.
A commission by Congress appointing Andrew Irvine a Captain in the Seventh Pennsylvania Regiment. The commission is signed by Henry Laurens as President of the Continental Congress and attested by Charles Thomson, Secretary, on January 8, 1777.

Papers: 1778, 1 page.
A letter from Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress, to Meshech Weare, President of New Hampshire, written on October 13, 1778. In the letter, Henry Laurens writes regarding an Act of Congress "recommending the encouragement of true Religion and good Morals and the suppression of theatrical Entertainments, Horse Racing, Gaming and such other Diversons..."

Papers: 1778, 1 page.
Written by William Whipple, this is Henry Laurens's resignation speech from the Presidency of the Continental Congress dated December 9, 1778. In the speech, Henry Laurens defends his actions in the Silas Deane affair and offers his resignation, resulting in the election of John Jay as President of the Continental Congress.

Dartmouth College
Rauner Special Collections Library
Hanover, NH
Papers: 1778, 1 item.
A letter from George Washington to Henry Laurens written between June 28 and July 1, 1778. In the letter, George Washington describes the Battle of Monmouth, including a casualty list, as well as a brief description of a Fourth of July celebration.

Papers: In the New Hampshire Grants, 1778, 2 items.
The grants include a copy of a letter, dated 23 Oct. 1778, from Joseph Marsh, Chairman of the Assembly of the State of Vermont, to Henry Laurens, President of Congress. Also included is a copy of a circular from the Cornish Convention of 1779 to the towns in the New Hampshire Grants, both relating to political matters in the grants.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA
Papers: 1762-1780, approximately 1500 items.
The correspondence of Henry Laurens reflects American political opinion before and during the Revolution. It contains information concerning the proceedings of the Continental Congress, Indian treaties, and financing the Revolution, 1774-1780.

Papers: In the Charles Thomson Papers, 1774-1811, amount unknown.
The papers include Charles Thomson's 1779 defense in Congress against charges of Henry Laurens.

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division
Washington, DC
Microfilm: 1747-1882, 19 microfilm reels.
The papers of Henry Laurens include correspondence, a journal of the Council of Safety, Army and Navy returns, and material relating to transactions with the French minister, Indian affairs, the Revolution, commerce, and plantation affairs, and reflecting various aspects of colonial economic history.

Papers: In the Daniel Roberdeau Papers, 1767-1791, 1 item.
Correspondents include Henry Laurens.

Papers: In the Meshech Weare Papers, 1776-1785, 2 volumes and 1 folder.
Other authors include Henry Laurens.

The Morgan Library
Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts
New York, NY
Papers: 1762, 1 item.
A letter from Henry Laurens to William Fisher written on July 26, 1762.

Papers: 1766, 1 item.
A letter from Henry Laurens to Captain George Forten written on April 23, 1766.

Papers: 1775, 1 item.
A letter from Thomas Lynch to Lt. Col. Huger written on September 7, 1775. In the letter contains an endorsement in the autograph of Henry Laurens 'Capt. Lynch's complaint against Doctr. Baker' etc.

Papers: 1777, 1 item.
A letter from Henry Laurens to Patrick Henry written on November 28, 1777.

Papers: 1778, 1 item.
The papers include four letters from George Washington, Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress.

Papers: 1778, 1 item.
An autograph signature by Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress, to a statement dated February 20.

Papers: 1778, 1 item.
A letter from Henry Laurens to Governor Caswell written on March 14, 1778.

Papers: 1778, 1 item.
A letter from Baron von Steuben to Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress, written on September 1, 1778. In the letter, Baron von Steuben states that at General Washington's request, he will remain until further news is had from the troops in Rhode Island.

Papers: 1778, 1 item.
A letter from Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress, to the Earl of Stirling written on November 29, 1778.

Papers: 1781, 1 item.
A letter from Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress, to an unidentified recipient written on March 1, 1781. The letter accompanies a copy of the Articles of Confederation.

Papers: 1784, 1 item.
A letter from the Countess of Huntingdon to Henry Laurens written on January 17, 1784. In the letter, the Countess of Huntingdon rejoices on Henry Laurens's arrival in Bath, his improvement in health, and hoping to see him and his son.

Papers: 1785, 1 item.
A letter from Henry Laurens to Rev. Doctor Price written in February 1785.

The New-York Historical Society
New York, NY
Papers: 1772-1773, 1 volume.
A nineteenth century copy of a travel diary, 1772 Dec 19-1773 Jan. 3 and 1773 Apr. 19-1773 Apr., kept by Henry Laurens while traveling in France, containing his observations on travel conditions, the general countryside, populace, and the towns and cities visited, with notes recording the distances between destination.

Microfilm: In the William Alexander Selected Papers, ca. 1767-1782, 1 linear foot.
Subjects include Henry Laurens.

The New York Public Library
Manuscripts & Archives Section
New York, NY
Papers: 1769-1792, 0.1 linear foot.
The collection consists of a journal of Henry Laurens's voyage to England, his capture and subsequent confinement in the Tower of London, 1780-1781; and correspondence, 1769-1792.

Papers: In the William Livingston Papers, 1749-1782, 3 linear feet.
Other authors include Henry Laurens.

Papers: In the Caesar Rodney Papers, 1749-1823, 0.3 linear foot.
The collection consists of letters from Caesar Rodney to his brother Thomas and to Henry Laurens.

New York State Library
Manuscripts and Special Collections
Albany, NY
Papers: 1780, 2 pages.
A letter from Nathaniel Scudder to Henry Laurens written on March 6, 1780. In the letter, Nathaniel Scudder discusses personal matters and expresses concern over the safety of Henry Laurens's voyage to Europe. He sends regards from his family, and also mentions the possibility of Henry Laurens procuring a place for Nathaniel Scudder's son in Europe. Nathaniel Scudder also mentions briefly the state of the new country's affairs.

The Rosenbach Museum & Library
Philadelphia, PA
Papers: In the Charles Cotesworth Pinckney Papers, 1776, 1 item.
Other authors include Henry Laurens.

Papers: 1778, 1 item.
A letter from George Washington to Henry Laurens written on September 12, 1778.

Papers: In the United States Continental Congress Resolution and Testimony: Philadelphia, 1779 Aug. 31, 2 items.
The congressional resolution and related testimony concern an inquiry into the secretary's alleged disrespectful conduct toward a Member. The resolution, by Charles Thomson, Secretary to Congress, states that Henry Laurens has accused Charles Thomson of disrespect and appoints a committee to investigate the matter. Accompanying the resolution is a letter by James Custer stating his recollections of messages he carried between Henry Laurens and Charles Thomson at an earlier unspecified date.

Papers: 1779, 1 item.
A letter from Henry Laurens to John Houstoun written on December 16, 1779. In the letter, Henry Laurens reports a victory of the French and Spanish fleets over a British squadron under Sir Charles Hardy, encourages Georgia to send some able representatives to Congress, and forwards a letter (not present) to Governor John Houstoun.

Papers: 1780, 1 item.
A letter from Arthur Lee to Elias Boudinot written on December 7, 1780. In the letter, Arthur Lee sends extracts from a letter from an unidentified correspondent in Europe telling of fresh British troops being raised and sent to America and of the capture of Henry Laurens, the American minister to Holland.

Papers: 1782, 1 item.
A note from Richard Oswald on the appointment of peace commissioners. The note is accompanied by a docket note in the hand of Henry Laurens: "A hint of the desires of Mr. O which he showed to Ld. Shelburne & returned to me 27th April 1782."

University of Virginia Library
The Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History
Charlottesville, VA
Papers: 1777-1780, 43 items.
The public papers of Henry Laurens include handwritten copies regarding the Continental Congress, public finance and monetary policy, foreign and domestic loans, and the provisioning of the armed forces.

Papers: In the Memoranda of Richard Oswald, 1779-1781, 7 items.
The memorandum from 14 August [1781], discusses an interview between Richard Oswald and Henry Laurens while the latter was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and includes discussion on the conduct of the war in Virginia and the Carolinas. Another memorandum, August 1781, covers the conduct of the war in Georgia and the Carolinas, with an addendum regarding Portsmouth, Va.; and letter, 16 August 1781, from Richard Oswald, talks about Henry Laurens and recommends that Cornwallis shift the focus of his military endeavors from Virginia to the Carolinas.

Wisconsin Historical Society
Archives Division
Madison, WI
Papers: 1777, 0.1 cubic foot.
A letter from Henry Laurens, Charlestown, Mass., to General Lachlan McIntosh giving news of his activities including the selling of two fugitives to a broker; his plans to equip a private vessel of war, for the good of the country or his own fortunes; and updates on British movements during the Revolutionary War.

  • Jenings, Edmund. The Candor of Henry Laurens, Esq.: Manifested by His Behaviour to Mr. Edmund Jenings. [N.p., 1783].
  • Laurens, Henry. Papers of Henry Laurens. 10 Vols. Edited by Philip M. Hamer, George C. Rogers, Jr., and David R. Chesnutt. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1968.
  • McDonough, Daniel J. Christopher Gadsen and Henry Laurens: The Parallel Lives of Two American Patriots. Sellinsgrove, Pa.: Susquehanna University Press; London: Associated University Presses, 2000.
  • Wallace, David Duncan. The Life of Henry Laurens. 1915. Reprint, New York: Russell & Russell, [1967].