Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Lawrence, Amos

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LAWRENCE, Amos, merchant, b. in Groton, Mass., 22 April, 1786; d. in Boston, Mass., 31 Dec., 1852. He was the son of Samuel, a Revolutionary officer, and was educated in the Groton academy, which was founded by his father. Amos became a clerk in a country store in Dunstable in 1799, and soon afterward in Groton. In April, 1807, he went to Boston, and, upon the failure of his employers there, began business upon his own account in December, 1807, as a dry-goods merchant. On 1 Jan., 1814, he entered into a partnership with his brother Abbott, who for the previous five years had been his chief clerk, which continued uninterruptedly until the death of Amos. The business operations of the firm were conducted with great success, and both brothers aided in the establishment of manufactures in New England, especially the cotton industry of Lowell, where they established a factory in 1830. After a serious illness in 1831, Amos was compelled to retire from active participation in the affairs of his firm, and devoted the remaining years of his life to acts of beneficence. From 1829 till his death he expended, according to his books, $639,000 for charitable purposes. Among the public objects of his bounty were Williams college, to which he gave nearly $40,000; the academy in Groton, the title of which was changed in 1843 to Lawrence academy, on which he expended at different times $20,000; Wabash college, Kenyon college, the theological seminary at Bangor, Me., and several others. He sent collections of books to many literary institutions and deserving persons. He established and for some time maintained a child's infirmary in Boston, and gave $10,000 for the completion of the monument on Bunker hill. His private benefactions were almost innumerable, and several rooms in his house were used as the receptacles of articles for distribution. At his death his fortune was estimated at $1,000,000. See “Extracts from the Diary and Correspondence of the late Amos Lawrence, with a Brief Account of some Incidents in his Life,” edited by his son, William R. Lawrence, M. D. (Boston, 1855). — His brother,

Appletons' Lawrence Amos - Abbott.jpg
Appletons' Appleton Lawrence Amos - Abbott signature.jpg

Abbott, merchant, b. in Groton, Mass., 16 Dec., 1792; d. in Boston, Mass., 18 Aug., 1855, was bound an apprentice to Amos at the age of fifteen, and in 1814 became one of the firm of A. and A. Lawrence, which for many years conducted a prosperous business in the sale of foreign cotton and woollen goods on commission. After the conclusion of peace in 1815 the import trade greatly expanded, and in that year, and regularly thereafter, Abbott visited England to buy goods. Subsequent to 1830 they were largely interested as selling agents for the manufacturing companies of Lowell, and in the latter part of his life Abbott participated extensively in the China trade. In 1834 he was elected a representative in congress as a Whig, and was appointed a member of the committee on ways and means. He declined an election to the next congress, but served for a brief period in 1839-'40. In 1842 he was appointed a commissioner for the settlement of the northeastern boundary question, and arranged with Lord Ashburton the basis of an arrangement that was satisfactory to both the American and English governments. He was president of the Essex company, which was organized in 1844 to build the manufacturing town of Lawrence on the Merrimack river. He took an active part in the presidential canvass of 1844 as a supporter of Henry Clay, as he had done four years previously in the election of Gen. Harrison, and was a presidential elector in that year. In the Whig national convention of 1848 he was a candidate for vice-president, lacking but six votes of a nomination. In 1849 President Taylor offered him a seat in the cabinet, first as secretary of the navy, and then as secretary of the interior, which he declined; but he accepted the post of minister to Great Britain, which he occupied until October, 1852, when he was recalled at his own request. He took up the negotiations that had been begun by his predecessor, George Bancroft, relative to the projected Nicaragua canal, and discovered in the archives documents that invalidated Great Britain's territorial claims in Central America; but, much to his disappointment, the negotiations were transferred to Washington. He performed an important service in the settlement of the fishery question, which threatened to lead to a serious complication. The remainder of his life was devoted to his private business. In 1847 he gave to Harvard university $50,000 to found the scientific school, bearing his name, that is connected with that institution, and he bequeathed a like sum in aid of the same object. He also left $50,000 for the erection of model lodging-houses, the income to be forever applied to certain public charities. See “Memoir of Abbott Lawrence,” by Hamilton A. Hill (Boston, 1884). — Amos's son, William Richards, philanthropist, b. in Boston, 3 May, 1812; d. in Swampscott. Mass., 20 Sept., 1885. After studying in the Dummer academy at Byfield and at Gardiner, Me., he went to Europe in 1829 and spent five years in travel and study. He was living in France at the time of the French revolution of July, 1830, and was at the storming of the barricades in Paris. He then engaged for a short time in business, but afterward studied medicine both at home and abroad, and was graduated at Harvard medical school in 1845. Having engaged for a short time in private practice, he established, with his father's aid, a hospital for poor children in Boston, to the management of which he devoted much of his time. Dr. Lawrence was for about twenty years a manager of the Boston dispensary, a member of the original board of trustees of the Boston city hospital, one of the founders of the Church home for orphans and destitute children, and of the Boston provident association, a trustee of the Industrial school for girls at Lancaster, and president of the Young men's benevolent society. He was an active member of the Protestant Episcopal church, was interested in the foundation of several parishes, and with his brother built the Church of our Saviour, Longwood. His father's “Diary and Correspondence” was at first printed by him for private distribution; but, being urged to publish it, he did so, and the work obtained a circulation of 22,000 copies within six months, and has been many times republished. He was the author also of a “History of the Boston Dispensary” (1859); and “The Charities of France” (1867). — Another son, Amos Adams, b. in Boston, Mass., 31 July, 1814; d. in Nahant, Mass., 22 Aug., 1886, was graduated at Harvard in 1835, entered mercantile life, invested capital in cotton-manufactories, and became president or director of many banks and industrial corporations in Massachusetts; also an officer in numerous charitable institutions. In 1853-'4 he associated himself with Eli Thayer and others in the colonization of Kansas and its development into a free state, and was the treasurer and principal manager of the Emigrant aid association, which sent out parties of settlers from New England during the Kansas struggle. He was twice nominated by the Whigs and Unionists for governor of Massachusetts. In the beginning of the civil war he aided in recruiting the 2d Massachusetts cavalry regiment. He built Lawrence hall, the Episcopal theological school in Cambridge, and was its treasurer for many years. In 1857-'60 he was treasurer of Harvard college, and in 1880 was chosen an overseer. The town of Lawrence, Kansas, and Lawrence university, at Appleton, Wisconsin, were named in his honor. A “Memoir” of him has been prepared by his son William (Boston, 1888).