John Laurens


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Laurens, JOHN, military officer; born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1753; son of Henry Laurens. Liberally educated in England, he returned to his native State just as the Revolutionary War was kindling (1775), when he entered the army as an aide to George Washington, and frequently acted as secretary. Expert in the French and German languages, he was Washington's chief medium of communication with the foreign officers in the service. He was a patriotic and brave soldier under all circumstances, and was devoted to the commander-in-chief. On one occasion he challenged General Charles Lee for speaking disparagingly of the chief. They fought, and he severely wounded Lee. In the battles at the Brandywine and Germantown, Laurens was particularly distinguished; and afterwards, at Savannah and at Charleston and Yorktown, he performed prodigies of valor. At the latter place he was conspicuous at the storming of a battery, and was the first to enter it and receive the sword of the commander. For months his indefatigable activity caused the confinement of the British in Charleston; and finally, at the very close of the struggle, he too carelessly exposed himself in a trifling skirmish near the Combahee, South Carolina, and was slain, August 27, 1782. In the autumn of 1780, when the finances of the United States were exhausted, he was sent to France to solicit a loan. While earnestly pressing his suit with Vergennes, the French minister, one day, that gentleman said that the King had every disposition to favor the United States. This patronizing expression kindled the indignation of the young diplomatist, and he replied, with emphasis, " Favor, sir! The respect which I owe to my country will not admit the term. Say that the obligation is mutual, and I will acknowledge it. But, as the last argument I shall offer to your Excellency, the sword which I now wear in defence of France as well as my own country, unless the succor I solicit is immediately accorded, l may be compelled, within a short time, to draw against France as a British subject." This had the desired effect, for France dreaded the subjugation of the colonies, or a reconciliation with the mother-country. Presently a subsidy of $1,200,000, and a further sum as a loan, were granted. The French minister also gave a guarantee for a Dutch loan of about $2,000,000.



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