Amos A. Lawrence

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Amos Adams Lawrence (July 31, 1814 – August 22, 1886) was an American businessman, philanthropist, and social activist. He was a key figure in the United States abolitionist movement in the years leading up to the Civil War and the growth of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts. He was instrumental in the establishment of the University of Kansas and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Amos A. Lawrence
Amos Adams Lawrence.jpg
Amos A. Lawrence seated at desk, c. 1880
Amos Adams Lawrence

(1814-07-31)July 31, 1814
DiedAugust 22, 1886(1886-08-22) (aged 72)
EducationGroton Academy
Alma materHarvard College
OccupationMerchant, abolitionist
Known forPrivately donating funds to the founding of the University of Kansas
anti-slavery movement
Jayhawker movement
Political partyWhig
American (1858)
Constitutional Union (1860)
Sarah Appleton
(m. 1842)
Children4, including William and Harriet
ParentAmos Lawrence
RelativesSamuel Lawrence (grandfather)
Luther Lawrence (uncle)
Abbott Lawrence (uncle)
Jane Pierce (cousin)

Early lifeEdit

Lawrence was born in Boston, Massachusetts on July 31, 1814.[1][2][3] His father, Amos Lawrence, was a merchant, philanthropist, and member of the prominent Lawrence family.[4]

He was educated at Groton Academy and was graduated at Harvard College in 1835.[4]


Following his graduation from Harvard, Lawrence entered business for himself as a commission merchant and eventually became owner of Ipswich Mills, the largest producer of knit goods in the country.[citation needed]

In 1858 and 1860, he was a candidate for governor of Massachusetts.


Lawrence financed the founding of the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, which was named after him.

In 1847, he founded a college that is today Lawrence University on 5,000 acres (20 km2) of land that he had purchased in 1844 in the Fox River Valley. Some of the land he purchased became Appleton, Wisconsin, named for his father-in-law.

His farm outside of Boston became the campus for Boston College. From 1857 to 1862 he was treasurer of Harvard College, and from 1879 to 1885 an overseer.[5] Lawrence also contributed large sums of money to Harvard, the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lawrence Academy, and the Groton School.

Abolitionism and the Civil WarEdit

Lawrence credited the Anthony Burns affair in the spring of 1854 with radicalizing him and other cotton merchants on the issue of slavery: "[W]e went to bed one night old fashioned, conservative, Compromise Union Whigs & waked up stark mad Abolitionists."[6]

Lawrence contributed large amounts of capital to the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company and funds for the colonization of free negroes in Liberia.[7] He donated guns, specifically Sharps rifles, which were shipped to Jayhawkers and abolitionists in Kansas as "books" and "primers." During the bloodshed in Kansas, Lawrence wrote frequently to President Franklin Pierce, the husband of Lawrence’s cousin Jane, on behalf of the free-state settlers.

He also provided funds for the activism and legal defense of John Brown, though he deplored Brown's fanaticism and urged against violent resistance to the federal government. When Brown was arrested at Harpers Ferry, Lawrence appealed to the Governor of Virginia to secure a lawful trial.[7]

In 1862, he raised a battalion of cavalry which became the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, of which Charles Russell Lowell was colonel.[7]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1842, Lawrence married Sarah Elizabeth Appleton, daughter of U.S. Representative William Appleton and Mary Ann (née Cutler) Appleton.[8] They had four children:


Through his son William, Lawrence was the grandfather of William Appleton Lawrence (1889–1968), who was elected third Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts,[10] and Frederic Cunningham Lawrence (1899–1989), a suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.[9]

Death and legacyEdit

He died at his summer resort in Nahant, Massachusetts, in 1886.[2]


Lawrence is credited with founding an Episcopal church in Boston, Massachusetts, which prompted many Boston Brahmins to convert from Unitarianism.[citation needed] His son, William Lawrence, became the long-time Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts.[9]

His alma mater, Groton Academy was later renamed after him. Today, it is the Lawrence Academy at Groton.


  1. ^ Lawrence, William Richards (ed.). 1855. Extracts from the Diary and Correspondence of the Late Amos Lawrence. Boston: Gould & Lincoln, p. 15.
  2. ^ a b "Amos Lawrence Dead". Lawrence Daily Journal. 24 August 1886. p. 1. Retrieved 26 December 2015 – via  
  3. ^ Lee, Laura (ed.). 2001. The Name's Familiar II. Gretna: Pelican, p. 208.
  4. ^ a b Hunt, A.N., Freeman (1858). Lives of American Merchants, Vol. II. New York: Derby & Jackson. pp. 223–386. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Foster, E. Everton (1916). Lamb's Textile Industries of the United States: Embracing Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and a Historical Resume of the Progress of Textile Manufacture from the Earliest Records to the Present Time. James H. Lamb. p. 275. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  6. ^ James M. McPherson. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Bantam Books, 1989, p. 120.
  7. ^ a b c   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lawrence, Amos Adams". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 305.
  8. ^ "Amos Adams Lawrence Diaries and Account Books". Massachusetts Historical Society. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  9. ^ a b c "Dr. Lawrence Dies; Bishop Emeritus". The New York Times. 7 November 1941. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  10. ^ "William Lawrence, Retired Bishop, 79". The New York Times. 6 January 1969. Retrieved 15 March 2018.


External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by Know Nothing nominee for Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
First Constitutional Union nominee for Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by