Henry Laurens

American slave trader, planter, and congressman (1724-1792)

Henry Laurens (March 6, 1724 – December 8, 1792) was an American merchant, slave trader, and rice planter from South Carolina who became a political leader during the Revolutionary War. A delegate to the Second Continental Congress, Laurens succeeded John Hancock as President of the Congress. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and President of the Continental Congress when the Articles were passed on November 15, 1777.

Henry Laurens


  • The day I hope is approaching when, from principles of gratitude as well as justice, every man will strive to be foremost in showing his readiness to comply with the Golden Rule. Not less than twenty thousand pounds sterling would all my Negroes produce if sold at public auction tomorrow. I am not the man who enslaved them; they are indebted to Englishmen for that favor; nevertheless I am devising means for manumitting many of them, and for cutting off the entail of slavery. Great powers oppose me—the laws and customs of my country, my own and the avarice of my countrymen. What will my children say if I deprive them of so much estate? These are difficulties, but not insuperable. I will do as much as I can in my time, and leave the rest to a better hand.
    • A letter to his son (John Laurens), As quoted in The American Debate Over Slavery, 1760–1865: An Anthology of Sources[1] (2016), p. 3.

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