John Laurance

John Laurance (sometimes spelled "Lawrence" or "Laurence") (1750 – November 11, 1810) was a delegate to the 6th, 7th and 8th Congresses of the Confederation, a United States Representative and United States Senator from New York and a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New York.

John Laurance
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
December 6, 1798 – December 27, 1798
Preceded byTheodore Sedgwick
Succeeded byJames Ross
United States Senator
from New York
In office
November 9, 1796 – August 1, 1800
Preceded byRufus King
Succeeded byJohn Armstrong Jr.
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New York
In office
May 6, 1794 – November 8, 1796
Appointed byGeorge Washington
Preceded byJames Duane
Succeeded byRobert Troup
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1793
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded byJohn Watts
Personal details
John Laurance

1750 (1750)
Falmouth, Cornwall, England, Kingdom of Great Britain
DiedNovember 11, 1810(1810-11-11) (aged 59–60)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting placeFirst Presbyterian Church
New York City, New York
Political partyFederalist
ResidenceNew York City, New York
Educationread law

Education and careerEdit

Born in 1750, near Falmouth, Cornwall, England,[1] Laurance immigrated to the Province of New York, British America in 1767 and settled in New York City.[2]

He pursued academic studies,[2] then read law in 1772,[1] with Cadwallader Colden, the Lieutenant Governor of New York.[3]

He was admitted to the bar and entered private practice in New York City, Province of New York (State of New York, United States from July 4, 1776) from 1772 to 1776.[1]

In 1775, Laurance married Elizabeth McDougall, the daughter of General Alexander McDougall.[3]

Military serviceEdit

Laurance served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War as a commissioned officer from 1775 to 1782.[1][2] At the outbreak of war in 1775, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the 4th New York Regiment, and took part in the 1775 Invasion of Quebec.[3] In 1776, he received a commission as captain and paymaster of the Continental Army's 1st New York Regiment, serving under his father-in-law Alexander McDougall (sometimes spelled MacDougall).[3]

He was Judge Advocate General from 1777 to 1782.[1][2][4] Among the cases he handled were prosecuting at the court-martial of Charles Lee for insubordination in 1778, and the 1779 court-martial of Benedict Arnold for corruption.[4] He also presided at the trial of Major John André,[2] serving on the 1780 board that convicted the major of spying and sentenced him to death by hanging, and was the board's recorder.[4]

Laurance attained the rank of colonel and resigned his commission in 1782.[4] He was a charter member of the Society of the Cincinnati.[3]

Post-war careerEdit

He resumed private practice in New York City from 1782 to 1785.[1] Among Laurance's legal apprentices was Charles Adams, son of President John Adams.[3] He was also active in land speculation and other business ventures with Alexander Hamilton.[3]

He was a member of the New York State Assembly,[1] serving from 1782 to 1783 from Westchester County, and from New York County from 1784 to 1785.[3]

He was a regent of the University of the State of New York in 1784.[2] He was a trustee of Columbia College (now Columbia University) from 1784 to 1810.[2]

He was a delegate to the 6th, 7th and 8th Congresses of the Confederation (Continental Congresses) from 1785 to 1787.[1]

He was a member of the New York State Senate from 1788 to 1790.[1] While serving in the State Senate, Laurance was also a member of New York City's Board of Aldermen.[3]

He was an ardent supporter of adopting the United States Constitution.[3]

United States RepresentativeEdit

Laurance was elected as a Federalist from New York's 2nd congressional district to the United States House of Representatives of the 1st and 2nd United States Congresses, serving from March 4, 1789, to March 3, 1793.[2] During this time, in 1790, his first wife Elizabeth (McDougall) Laurance died, and in 1791 he married Elizabeth Lawrence Allen (d. 1800), the widow of attorney James Allen, and mother of four children.[3]

Federal judicial serviceEdit

Laurance was nominated by President George Washington on May 5, 1794, to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of New York vacated by Judge James Duane.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 6, 1794, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on November 8, 1796, due to his resignation,[1] after his election as United States Senator from New York.[3]

United States SenatorEdit

Laurance was elected as a Federalist to the United States Senate from New York to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of United States Senator Rufus King and served from November 9, 1796, until August 1800, when he resigned.[2] He served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate during the 5th United States Congress.[2]

Later career and deathEdit

Following his departure from Congress, Laurance resumed private practice in New York City from 1800 to 1810,[1] also residing there until his death.[3] He died on November 11, 1810, in New York City.[1] He was interred at the First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.[2]


After more than two centuries of neglect by historians, the first book-length study of John Laurance was published by the American Philosophical Society in 2019.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Laurance, John | Federal Judicial Center".
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k United States Congress. "John Laurance (id: L000120)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Bickford, Charlene; et al. (2002). "John Laurance, Representative from New York". Documentary History of the First Federal Congress Project. Columbia, SC: Model Editions Partnership.
  4. ^ a b c d Judge Advocate General's Corps (January 1, 1964). "John Lawrence, Judge Advocate General, 1777-1782". Military Law Review. Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army.
  5. ^ Jones, Keith Marshall, III. John Laurance: The Immigrant Founding Father America Never Knew. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2019.




External sourcesEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Seat established
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
John Watts
Legal offices
Preceded by
James Duane
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New York
Succeeded by
Robert Troup
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Rufus King
U.S. senator (Class 3) from New York
Succeeded by
John Armstrong Jr.
Political offices
Preceded by
Theodore Sedgwick
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
Succeeded by
James Ross