first american republic This website is designed to be an introduction to, supplement to, and companion to the book 'THE FIRST AMERICAN REPUBLIC: 1774-1789
(The First Fourteen American Presidents Before Washington)'

Chapter 4: President HENRY LAURENS of South Carolina 

The Ultimate Sacrifice

first american republic Henry Laurens, one of the wealthiest and most influential merchants of the South, certainly appeared to be the obvious complement to the departing President, John Hancock. Both were men of the world who knew London first hand. Both were successful and highly respected businessmen who had largely dominated their respective regions. Both had held major political positions in their home states prior to their election to Congress. It was the Stamp Act crisis in the mid-1760s that had nudged each of them toward opposition to British policies despite their affection for their mother country. And, it was the stupidity and greed of British bureaucrats that had driven them into the arms of their more radical colleagues and even transformed them into patriotic heroes. To the casual observer, Henry Laurens, the Fourth President of the Continental Congress, could easily have been described as the Hancock of the South.

Beneath the surface, however, nothing could have been further from the truth. Henry Laurens was far too reserved to openly court popular support. While Hancock delighted in displays of wealth, Henry remained a Calvinist at heart.

As President, Henry had the distinction of leading the Continental Congress back to the American capital after the British withdrew from Philadelphia. As a former President, Henry embarked on a dangerous diplomatic mission, which resulted in his capture by the British Navy and his confinement for over a year in the dreaded Tower of London. It was in London two years later that he received the news that his eldest son and closest confidant had been killed on the field of battle.