A Tribute to Abbott Lawrence From His Great-Great-Grandson

The following was written by James Lawrence (1907-1995) and appeared in his wife’s, Frances Weeks Lawrence’s, handwritten genealogy of the Lawrences.

 

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Portrait of Abbott Lawrence, from a Geo. Saunders miniature

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Abbott Lawrence 1792‑1855 was an ancestor worthy of knowing, and with this in mind this briefest of sketches is offered to his descendants by one of his great-great-grandsons.

For Abbott Lawrence carved a position for himself in the history of 19th century Boston and New England such as few if any others achieved. He possessed energy, initiative, and unusual business acumen, but beyond that he had a tireless sense of public duty, as well as great personal charm of manner and speech which made him a most persuasive advocate and splendid citizen.

Twice he served in Congress, in the midst of an immensely active business career (a thing unheard in our time), but even when not in formal office, he was continuously involved in public affairs, local, state and national.

Thus it was natural that he should be a delegate to the presidential convention of the Whig party in 1848 where he was slated to be nominated as vice-president to General Taylor, but because of eight obdurate Massachusetts delegates who could not forgive him for having failed to support Webster he was denied the post. Fillmore was chosen and two years later on Taylor’s death became President. So near was our forbear to the White House.

As a reward for his services to General Taylor the latter appointed him Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Saint James where he acquitted himself with great distinction from 1848 through 1851; by all accounts a splendid representative of our country.

One cannot close the briefest of accounts without citing, (among his many services to all manner of educational institutions) his gifts to Harvard in 1847 for the founding of the Lawrence Scientific School. Nor can one end without mentioning that he was responsible for the founding of the city of Lawrence in 1845.

Four years after his return from London in 1855 he died, to the sorrow of a whole city— which accorded him in death all possible honors. Among these was a special noonday meeting convened by the Mayor in Faneuil Hall where various persons pronounced their tributes to their late friend. Of these the one by Mr. Winthrop was particularly moving. These were his closing words:

“I cannot think of him as he was among us but yesterday without recalling the beautiful, words of Edmund Burke in reference to his friend Sir George Savile ‘Where an act of great and signal humanity was to be done and done with all the weight and authority that belonged to it— this community could cast its eyes on eyes on none but him.’”

 

 

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The Funeral of Abbott Lawrence, Brattle Street, Aug 18, 1855

 

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