Henry Laurens of South Carolina was born in March of 1724 to a wealthy family. He went on to make his living as a merchant.
Henry Laurens was slow to adopt the Revolutionary Cause. He was in England on business when the First Continental Congress met. When he return to America, Laurens joined the Rebellion, quickly rising through the ranks of the South Carolina legislature.
Laurens' contemporaries sent him to Philadelphia where he would spend a year as President of the Second Continental Congress. He was the presiding officer when the Articles of Confederation was signed. As such, he was the first person to sign the document.
Henry would later be named Minister to the Netherlands. Here he would successfully negotiate a treaty for their allegiance in the war. Unfortunately, on his return voyage home his ship was captured by the British. Henry Laurens was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He is the only American in history to suffer such a fate.
After his release, Laurens would go to France to assist John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay in negotiating the Treaty of Paris and official end the American Revolution. However, he did not sign the document, as he was not selected by Congress to do so.
He returned to South Carolina where he retired and died in December of 1792. Legend has it that Laurens was the first person to be cremated in American history.
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