1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lawrence, Amos

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LAWRENCE, AMOS (1786-1852), American merchant and philanthropist, was born in Groton, Massachusetts, U.S.A., on the 22nd of April 1786, a descendant of John Lawrence of Wisset, Suffolk, England, who was one of the first settlers of Groton. Leaving Groton academy (founded by his father, Samuel Lawrence, and others) in 1799, he became a clerk in a country store in Groton, whence after his apprenticeship he went, with $20 in his pocket, to Boston and there set up in business for himself in December 1807. In the next year he took into his employ his brother, Abbott (see below), whom he made his partner in 1814, the firm name being at first A. & A. Lawrence, and afterwards A. & A. Lawrence & Co. In 1831 when his health failed, Amos Lawrence retired from active business, and Abbott Lawrence was thereafter the head of the firm. The firm became the greatest American mercantile house of the day, was successful even in the hard times of 1812-1815, afterwards engaged particularly in selling woollen and cotton goods on commission, and did much for the establishment of the cotton textile industry in New England: in 1830 by coming to the aid of the financially distressed mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, where in that year the Suffolk, Tremont and Lawrence companies were established, and where Luther Lawrence, the eldest brother, represented the firm's interests; and in 1845-1847 by establishing and building up Lawrence, Massachusetts, named in honour of Abbott Lawrence, who was a director of the Essex company, which controlled the water power of Lawrence, and afterwards was president of the Atlantic Cotton Mills and Pacific Mills there. In 1842 Amos Lawrence decided not to allow his property to increase any further, and in the last eleven years of his life he spent in charity at least $525,000, a large sum in those days. He gave to Williams college, to Bowdoin college, to the Bangor theological seminary, to Wabash college, to Kenyon college and to Groton academy, which was re-named Lawrence academy in honour of the family, and especially in recognition of the gifts of William Lawrence, Amos's brother; to the Boston children's infirmary, which he established, and ($10,000) to the Bunker Hill monument fund; and, besides, he gave to many good causes on a smaller scale, taking especial delight in giving books, occasionally from a bundle of books in his sleigh or carriage as he drove. He died in Boston on the 31st of December 1852.

See Extracts from the Diary and Correspondence of the late Amos Lawrence, with a Brief Account of Some Incidents in his Life (Boston, 1856), edited by his son William R. Lawrence.

His brother, Abbott Lawrence (1792-1855), was born in Groton, Massachusetts, on the" 16th of December 1792. Besides being a partner in the firm established by his brother, and long its head, he promoted various New England railways, notably the Boston & Albany. He was a Whig representative in Congress in 1835-1837 and in 1839-1840 (resigning in September 1840 because of ill-health); and in 1842 was one of the commissioners for Massachusetts, who with commissioners from Maine and with Daniel Webster, secretary of state and plenipotentiary of the United States, settled with Lord Ashburton, the British plenipotentiary, the question of the north-eastern boundary. In 1842 he was presiding officer in the Massachusetts Whig convention; he broke with President Tyler, tacitly rebuked Daniel Webster for remaining in Tyler's cabinet after his colleagues had resigned, and recommended Henry Clay and John Davis as the nominees of the Whig party in 1844 — an action that aroused Webster to make his famous Faneuil Hall address. In 1848 Lawrence was a prominent candidate for the Whig nomination for the vice-presidency, but was defeated by Webster's followers. He refused the portfolios of the navy and of the interior in President Taylor's cabinet, and in 1849-1852 was United States minister to Great Britain, where he was greatly aided by his wealth and his generous hospitality. He was an ardent protectionist, and represented Massachusetts at the Harrisburg convention in 1827. He died in Boston on the 18th of August 1855, leaving as his greatest memorial the Lawrence scientific school of Harvard university, which he had established by a gift of $50,000 in 1847 and to which he bequeathed another $50,000; in 1907-1908 this school was practically abolished as a distinct department of the university. He made large gifts to the Boston public library, and he left $50,000 for the erection of model lodging-houses, thus carrying on the work of an Association for building model lodging-houses for the poor, organized in Boston in 1857.

See Hamilton A. Hill, Memoir of Abbott Lawrence (Boston, 1884). Randolph Anders' Der Weg zum Glück, oder die Kunst Millionär zu werden (Berlin, 1856) is a pretended translation of moral maxims from a supposititious manuscript bequeathed to Abbott Lawrence by a rich uncle.