Amos Adams Lawrence

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Amos Adams Lawrence (July 31, 1814 – August 22, 1886), the son of famed philanthropist Amos Lawrence, was a key figure in the United States abolition movement in the years leading up to the Civil War, and instrumental in the establishment of the University of Kansas and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.


Lawrence was born in Groton, Massachusetts[1] or Boston[2][3] and educated at Groton Academy (now Lawrence Academy at Groton) and Harvard College. He then entered business for himself as a commission merchant and eventually became owner of Ipswich Mills, the largest producer of knit goods in the country located in Ipswich, Massachusetts. In addition, he was a devout member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Boston, where he met and married his wife, Sarah Appleton (a relative of Samuel Appleton), as well as a trustee of Massachusetts General Hospital and president of the Young Men's Benevolent Society.

Lawrence was radicalized by living through the Anthony Burns affair in the spring of 1854: "[W]e went to bed one night old fashioned, conservative, Compromise Union Whigs & waked up stark mad Abolitionists."[4] Lawrence became a key figure in the United States abolition movement in the years leading up to the Civil War, during which he contributed large amounts of capital to the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company and John Brown's abolitionism, played a major role in the crucial border state of Kansas (see Kansas-Nebraska Act), and also contributed to funds for the colonization of free negroes in Liberia. He contributed personally for the famous Sharp rifles, which, packed as “books” and “primers,” were shipped to Kansas and afterwards came into the hands of Brown. During the contest in Kansas, Lawrence wrote frequently to President Franklin Pierce (his mother's nephew) in behalf of the free-state settlers; and when John Brown was arrested he appealed to the governor of Virginia to secure for him a lawful trial. He repeatedly urged the necessity of offering no armed resistance to the Federal government, and he deplored Brown's fanaticism. In 1858 and 1860 he was the Whig candidate for governor of Massachusetts. In 1862 he raised a battalion of cavalry which became the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, of which Charles Russell Lowell was colonel.[5]

Lawrence financed the founding of the University of Kansas (in the town of Lawrence, named after him); founded in 1847 a college that evolved into Lawrence University upon 5,000 acres (20 km2) of land that he purchased in 1844 in the Fox River Valley, which became Appleton, Wisconsin (named for his father-in-law); and contributed large sums of money to Harvard and the Episcopal Theological School (now Episcopal Divinity School), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lawrence Academy, and the Groton School. His farm outside of Boston became the campus for Boston College. In 1857-1862 he was treasurer of Harvard College, and in 1879-1885 was an overseer. He died at his summer resort in Nahant, Massachusetts.[2]

Amos Adams Lawrence is credited with founding an Episcopalian dynasty in Boston, Massachusetts, which prompted many Boston Brahmins to convert from Unitarianism. His son, William Lawrence, took an even more avid interest in the Episcopalian church, and became the long-time bishop of Massachusetts.


  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. August 24, 1886. p. 1. Retrieved December 26, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read
  3. ^ Lee, Laura (ed.). 2001. The Name's Familiar II. Gretna: Pelican, p. 208.
  4. ^ James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), p. 120.
  5. ^  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. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 305. 


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