Abbott Lawrence (December 16, 1792-August 18, 1855) was a prominent American businessman, politician, and philanthropist. He founded Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Born in Groton, Massachusetts, son of Revolutionay War officer Samuel Lawrence, Abbott Lawrence attended Groton Academy, (now Lawrence Academy at Groton.) Upon his graduation in 1808, Lawrence became an apprentice to his brother, Amos. Soon the Lawrences formed a partnership, specializing in imports from Britain and China, and later expanded their interests to textile manufacturing. They became extraordinarily wealthy. Many cite the Lawrence brothers as the founders of New England's influential textile industry.
In the 1820s, Lawrence became a prominent public figure--a vocal supporter of railroad construction for economic benefit, a very controversial stance at the time. In 1834, Lawrence was elected to the 24th Congress, as a Whig from Massachusetts. He did not run for renomination to the 25th Congress, but was re-elected to the 26th Congress. In 1842, he was appointed commissioner to settle the Northeastern Boundary Dispute between Canada and the United States.
In 1848, Lawrence was an unsuccessful candidate for the vice-presidency on the Whig ticket, headed by Zachary Taylor. With Taylor's presedential victory, he offered Lawrence a choice of administrative positions. After rejecting a cabinet appointment, Lawrence chose the post of minister to Great Britain. He filled that position with great distinction, and was involved in the negotiations of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. He resigned in 1852, and returned to the United States to join the presidential campaign of Gen. Winfield Scott; however, he soon grew dissatisfied with the Whig stand on slavery, and estranged himself from the party.
Lawrence was active in Boston's Unitarian Church. He actively promoted education for lower-class citizens, and donated money to various causes. He supported Lawrence Academy, affordable housing in Boston, and the Boston Public Library. He also provided funds to establish the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard College. He died in Boston on Aug. 18, 1855, and was interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His nephew, Amos Adams Lawrence is also well-known.
This article incorporates facts obtained from the public domain Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.