John Laurance

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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 byDistrict created
Succeeded byJohn Watts
Personal details
Falmouth, Cornwall, England
DiedNovember 11, 1810 (aged 59–60)
New York City, New York
Political partyFederalist

John Laurance (sometimes spelled "Lawrence" or "Laurence") (1750 – November 11, 1810) was an American lawyer and politician from New York. A veteran of the Continental Army who served throughout the American Revolution, Laurance served in the Continental Congress, the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and as Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New York.

Early life[edit]

Laurance was born in Falmouth, Cornwall, England in 1750.[1] He emigrated to England's North American colonies in 1767 and settled in New York City, where he read law with Cadwallader Colden, the lieutenant governor.[1] Laurance was admitted to the bar, and began a practice in 1772.[1]

Military career[edit]

At the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in 1775, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the 4th New York Regiment, and took part in the 1775 Invasion of Quebec.[1] 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).[1] He was Judge Advocate General from 1777 to 1782.[2] 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.[2] He also served on the 1780 board that convicted John André of spying and sentenced him to death by hanging, and was the board's recorder.[2] Laurance attained the rank of colonel, and resigned his commission in 1782.[2] He was a charter member of the Society of the Cincinnati.[1]

Political career[edit]

Laurance continued to practice law in New York City; among the prospective lawyers who studied under his direction was Charles Adams, son of President John Adams. He was a trustee of Columbia University, and a member of the University of the State of New York Board of Regents.[1] He was also active in land speculation and other business ventures with Alexander Hamilton.[1] Laurance was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1782–83 from Westchester County, and from New York County in 1784-85.[1] He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1785 to 1787.[1] He was an ardent supporter of adopting the United States Constitution, making him a member of the group which became the Federalist Party.[1] He was a member of the New York State Senate, representing the Southern District from 1788 until 1790. He vacated his seat after the Legislature enacted in January 1790 a law that made it impossible to be a member of Congress and the State Legislature at the same time.[1] While serving in the State Senate, Laurance was also a member of New York City's Board of Aldermen.[1]

In March 1789, Laurance was elected as a Federalist to the 1st United States Congress, and re-elected in April 1790 to the 2nd United States Congress, serving from 1789 to March 3, 1793.[1]

On May 5, 1794, Laurance was nominated by George Washington to the seat vacated by James Duane on the United States District Court for the District of New York.[1] He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 6, and received his commission on the same day.[1] He resigned from the bench on November 8, 1796, after his election as U.S. Senator from New York.[1] He took his seat on November 9, 1796, and served until his resignation from the Senate in August 1800.[1]

Retirement and death[edit]

In retirement, Laurance continued to reside in New York City.[1] He died there on November 11, 1810, and was buried at First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.[1]


In 1775, Laurance married Elizabeth McDougall, the daughter of General Alexander McDougall.[1] She died in 1790, and in 1791 Laurance married Elizabeth Lawrence Allen (d. 1800), the widow of attorney James Allen, and mother of four children.[1]

See also[edit]





External sources[edit]

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

Succeeded by
John Watts
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Rufus King
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from New York
Served alongside: Aaron Burr, Philip Schuyler, John S. Hobart, William North, James Watson, Gouverneur Morris
Succeeded by
John Armstrong, Jr.
Political offices
Preceded by
Theodore Sedgwick
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
December 6–27, 1798
Succeeded by
James Ross