The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Lawrence, Amos

Edition of 1879. See also Amos Lawrence and Abbott Lawrence on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

LAWRENCE. I. Amos, an American merchant, born in Groton, Mass., April 22, 1786, died in Boston, Dec. 31, 1852. In 1799 he became a clerk in a country store in Dunstable, and soon afterward in Groton. In April, 1807, he went to Boston, and upon the failure of his employers there, he commenced business upon his own account in December, 1807, as a dry-goods merchant. On Jan. 1, 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, thereby largely adding to their fortunes. The naturally benevolent disposition of Amos gradually led him to resist the demands which his business imposed upon his time and inclinations; and when, after a serious illness in 1831, he was compelled to retire permanently from active participation in the affairs of his firm, he devoted the remaining years of his life to acts of beneficence. From the beginning of the year 1829 till his death he expended, according to his books, $639,000 for charitable purposes. Nearly five sixths of this amount were given during the last 11 years of his life. Among the public objects of his bounty were Williams college, to which he gave nearly $40,000; the academy in Groton, now called the Lawrence academy, on which he expended at different times $20,000; Wabash college, Kenyon college, the theological seminary at Bangor, Me., and several others. Books he distributed in whole libraries, sending collections 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.—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). II. Abbott, an American merchant, brother of the preceding, born in Groton, Mass., Dec. 16, 1792, died in Boston, Aug. 18, 1855. In his 16th year he was bound an apprentice to his brother Amos in Boston, and in 1814 he 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. Subsequent to 1830 they were largely interested as selling agents in the manufacturing companies of Lowell, and in the latter part of his life Abbott Lawrence participated extensively in the China trade. In 1834 he was elected a representative in congress, 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 on the part of Massachusetts on the subject of the northeastern boundary. He took an active part in the presidential canvass of 1844 as a supporter of Mr. Clay, as he had done four years previous in the election of Gen. Harrison; and in the whig national convention of 1848 he was a prominent candidate for vice president, lacking but six votes of a nomination. In 1849 President Taylor offered him a seat in the cabinet, which he declined; but he accepted the post of minister to Great Britain, which he occupied with credit until October, 1852, when he was recalled at his own request. 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, 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 for ever applied to certain public charities.—See Hunt's “Lives of American Merchants,” vol. ii.