Laurens, Henry lôr´ənz, lär´– [key], 1724–92, political leader in the American Revolution, b. Charleston, S.C. A wealthy merchant and planter, he was, in the years preceding the Revolution, an opponent of British colonial policy, although he disapproved of the radical policies of some colonists. Late in 1774 he was elected to the first provincial congress of South Carolina and was an active advocate of independence. He was later a member of the Continental Congress (1777–80) and its president (1777–78). In 1780, while en route to the Netherlands with the draft of a possible U.S.-Dutch treaty prepared by William Lee, Laurens was captured by the British and was imprisoned in the Tower of London and later exchanged (1782) for General Cornwallis; the treaty was used as a reason for war between Great Britain and the Netherlands. Laurens was a commissioner to negotiate the Treaty of Paris (1783) but arrived too late to take much part in the negotiations. Publication of his papers was begun in 1968.
See biography by D. D. Wallace (1915, repr. 1967).
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