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John Laurens (a close friend of Hamilton, and one of the last casualties of the Revolution) to Father Henry Laurens in Wake of Boston Tea Party and British Response
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“the Americans I hope will not suffer themselves to be thrown off their Guard, but continue to support their present glorious League, and maintain the Congress, as the surest, perhaps the only means of preserving that Unanimity of Counsels so formidable to their Enemies”

“No Sporting Club, but agitates and divides upon the American Question. Even the twangling Crew of Ballad Singers brawl in tumultuous Discord, the doleful Tale of wrong'd America – hare are two of the Lines that I have heard– ‘O may the Inventor of that wicked Bill / Lose his Head by an Axe on Great Tower Hill’”

Enclosing a newspaper with the British Prime Minister’s most recent speech in response to the Boston Tea Party, nineteen-year-old John Laurens writes a passionate letter from Switzerland, to his father, Henry Laurens, then living in Westminster, England. The younger Laurens expresses his hope that Lord North’s overtures would not weaken American resolve and unity.

The British Parliament responded to the Boston Tea Party with a series of four Coercive Acts, which the Americans dubbed the “Intolerable Acts.” King George III gave his royal assent to these acts in late May and early June 1774.

JOHN LAURENS. Autograph Letter Signed, to Henry Laurens, February 27, 1774, Geneva, Switzerland. 3 pp., 7 x 8¾ in.2/27/1774.

Inventory #27336       Price: $8,500

Complete Transcript
I have already written and sent Papers by this opportunity. with this comes to day’s Paper containing Lord North’s speech, which you will see in it’s proper Light. the Americans I hope will not suffer themselves to be thrown off their Guard, but continue to support their present glorious League, and maintain the Congress, as the surest, perhaps the only means of preserving that Unanimity of Counsels so formidable to their Enemies – doubtless the Minister would wish to dissolve that Republican Meeting, annul it’s proceedings, and treat with the separate Assemblies of each particular Province, contrive by various Instructions to Governors, various Store of Lures and Terrors held out to the People, to disunite them in their Claims and Protests – then triumph over their Divisions and consequent weakness, but their Policy and Resolution will protect them from this Snare – Lord North you see still insists upon the Right of Taxation, but proposes a suspension of it, if we contribute voluntarily. Nay will even place to our Credit those Taxes intended for the Regulation of Trade, which now bring Government in debt to levy them. this last offer is so plausible, that it inclines me to think the Minister wishes heartily for an accommodation, but perhaps it may be only an apparent Sacrifice for the present to make his Conduct more Specious and which he may repair hereafter by increased Duties, multiplied Salaries to be paid out of them for newly invented Offices, construed to be for the particular use of the Province where the Taxes are levied; tho’ calculated only to extend the Influence of the Minister and be as Ready Money in his hands.

It would have been almost impossible for the different Houses of Assembly on the Continent, to have come to the same Resolutions – but now that there is a model (not quite perfect by the bye) formed in those of the Congress <2>perhaps the Majority of each House would adopt them – then there would be Unanimity in the Collective Body of Assemblies, and perhaps it might add something to our Cause to have the Proceedings of the Congress, ratified in this manner – but I only say this as a Thought that occurs – for as the Matter strikes me at present, I most strenuously contend for the Support of the Congress. it grieves me to hear that there is any thing like Blame thrown upon our Delegates. I hope the same will be chosen again – tho’ pleased with the Republican Ceremony of Reelection to shew them their absolute Dependance upon the People, and remind them of their political Mortality – for they are possess’d of very large Discretionary Powers.

I was in Union Court to day. Mrs Parsons says she and her Cousin have both written to you, and have communicated every thing that I promised in addition, on this Subject, to my last Letter but one.

I am exceedingly sorry not to have been able to procure Mr Gadsden’s Papers.[1] My Newsman I suppose still to be upon the Search, he has returned to me no Answer as yet.

The servant girl brings me in a half penny stand Bill, which I send you, to shew how extensive the Tribe of Politicians is in this Country as well as with you. No Sporting Club, but agitates and divides upon the American Question. Even the twangling Crew of Ballad Singers brawl in tumultuous Discord, the doleful Tale of wrong'd America – hare are two of the Lines that I have heard–

            O may the Inventor of that wicked Bill

            Lose his Head by an Axe on Great Tower Hill

I write again to morrow by White. we are all <3> well. present as usual, and accept the Love of

                                                                        Your most affectionate / and Dutiful

                                                                        John Laurens.

27th Feby, 1774.

Deans call’d upon me to day, and told me, of his Determination to go to Carolina, in one of the vessels now preparing to sail. He has so good an opinion of Lord North’s speech and motion, that he thinks an Accommodation as certain, as we fear a Civil War inevitable.

Historical Background
In October 1771, South Carolina statesman and planter Henry Laurens moved to London with his three sons to further their education. From mid-1772 to mid-1774, John and his brother Henry Jr. attended school in Geneva.

On January 21, 1774, Henry Laurens wrote to his son John regarding the Boston Tea Party that had taken place on December 16, in response to the Tea Act that Parliament passed in May 1773. Henry wrote approvingly of the “Wily Cromwellians who have Spies every where” and who “made short work, about 30 fellows properly equipped Entered the three Ships in which the Tea was Laden 114 Chests in each, & in a few Hours cast every ounce into the Sea… what resentment will be shewn on this side for this Act of Violence is yet unknown.”

On March 8, 1774, Henry Laurens wrote to John with an update, which he followed with another three days later, informing his son that he had failed to gain admission to the House of Commons to hear the debates on the American colonies. Laurens wrote prophetically, “I am morally certain, that the New England Men who are to be first attempted will not tamely receive the Yoke—Blood will be shed, & Conquer who will, the Annals of Britain will be stained by disgraceful Memorandums. If Conquest happens to be on this side it will be but temporary & short Lived—My foresight presents a melancholy prospect throughout America perhaps within ten Days I may inform you of my determination to return to it immediately.”

During debates in Parliament in April, Lord North said, “Whatever may be the consequence, we must risk something; if we do not, all is over.” The British government responded by closing the port of Boston and passing laws that became known in America as the Intolerable Acts.

John Laurens (1754-1782) was born in South Carolina, the son of Henry Laurens, and was educated in Europe. In October 1776, he married Martha Manning, the daughter of a London business associate of his father’s. John returned to the United States early in 1777 and joined the Continental Army, while his father served in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. John Laurens never saw his young bride again and never met his daughter, born in late January 1777. He served as an aide-de-camp to General George Washington and became close friends with fellow aides-de-camp Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette. He wounded General Charles Lee in a duel in December 1778 for impugning Washington’s character. He proposed using enslaved African Americans as soldiers and was sent south to recruit a regiment in 1779. When the British captured Charleston, Laurens became a prisoner and was shipped to Philadelphia on parole. Laurens was freed through a prisoner exchange, and Congress appointed him as a special minister to France, where he obtained a gift and loan for the United States. John Laurens returned home to rejoin Washington and Hamilton at the siege of Yorktown. He was killed at the Battle of Combahee River in South Carolina in August 1782, one of the last casualties of the Revolutionary War.

Henry Laurens (1724-1792) was born in Charleston, South Carolina, into a family of Huguenots who had fled France. In 1744, he went to London to work in a prominent mercantile company. When his father died in 1747, Laurens inherited a substantial estate in South Carolina. In 1750, he married Eleanor Ball (d. 1770); they had thirteen children, many of whom died in infancy or childhood. Laurens served in the militia and in South Carolina’s colonial assembly from 1757 to 1774, except for one year in England. He was elected to the colony’s Revolutionary Provincial Congress in January 1775, and was president of the Committee of Safety in early 1776, and vice president of South Carolina from March 1776 to June 1777. He represented his state in the Continental Congress, serving as its president from November 1777 to December 1778, and as a delegate through 1780. Appointed by Congress as minister to the Netherlands, in 1780, he traveled to Amsterdam and won Dutch support. On his return from Europe, the British navy intercepted his ship. The papers he was carrying, including the draft of a U.S.-Dutch treaty, led to the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784). British authorities charged Laurens with treason and imprisoned him in the Tower of London. He was released on December 31, 1781, in exchange for British General Lord Cornwallis, who had been captured with his army at Yorktown. Laurens returned to Amsterdam and helped raise funds for the American war effort. His son John Laurens unsuccessfully urged Laurens him to free his 260 slaves. In 1783, Laurens traveled to Paris and was one of the commissioners who negotiated the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War. Laurens returned to South Carolina, declining several calls for public service until serving in the convention of 1788 that ratified the U.S. Constitution.

Condition: Professionally conserved.



[1] Perhaps Christopher Gadsden (1724-1805), leader of the Charleston Sons of Liberty, and delegate to the Stamp Act Congress and First and Second Continental Congresses. In 1776, he commanded the 1st South Carolina Regiment of the Continental Army. He succeeded Henry Laurens as lieutenant governor of South Carolina, serving from 1780 to 1782. Builder of Charleston’s Gadsden Wharf, which is thought to have landed as many as 100,000 slaves imported into America. He was also designer of the Gadsden flag.


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