In 1779 the ambitious and irascible delegate was sent as ambassador to the Netherlands to seek further financial assistance for the War against Britain. Off the banks of Newfoundland, the ship carrying Laurens was waylaid on June 20th by the British frigate Vestal, and he and his incriminating papers were captured. The documents revealed that the Dutch were aiding the Americans. At the time, England was looking for an excuse to go to war with the Netherlands (“the Fourth Dutch War”) and they used this opportunity. Henry Laurens was sent to the Tower of London where he remained a prisoner until exchanged for Lord Cornwallis who was captured at Yorktown in October of 1781.
The forces of Lord Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown, October 19, 1781
While imprisoned in the Tower, the long days of boredom and soul-searching commenced. “Although he had been a lifelong churchman, he was not known for his piety,” but the experience caused much personal reflection. Laurens wrote that he resolved his faith into a “God-fearing, Bible-reading, hymn-singing, passion for permanent things.” Though just as committed to the cause, and an opponent of tyranny, he “became far more pensive, far more judicious, and far more principled.”1
His estate burned by the British, Laurens was forced to live in a shed while he recouped his losses after the War (3.5 million dollars by today’s standards). He died in 1792, lionized as one of the founders of the new nation. But we now know too, that he found a real faith that could sustain him.
1 George Grant, Christian Almanac
Image Credits: 1 Henry Laurens (Wikipedia.org); 2 Henry Laurens (Wikipedia.org); 3 Tower of London (Wikipedia.org); 4 Continental Congress (Wikipedia.org); 5 Surrender at Yorktown (Wikipedia.org);