LAURANCE, JOHN. (1750–1810). Judge advocate general of the Continental army. New York. Born near Falmouth, England, in 1750, he moved to New York City in 1767; was admitted to the bar in 1772; and about two years later married Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander McDougall. When the province started raising Continental regiments, he became a second lieutenant in the Fourth New York on 1 August 1775 and took part in the Canada invasion. On the promotion of his father-in-law, Laurance became his aide-de-camp and paymaster. On 11 April 1777 he succeeded William Tudor as judge advocate general on Washington's staff, holding this post until he resigned from the army on 3 June 1782. In his capacity of judge advocate general, he prosecuted the cases of Benedict Arnold and John André, winning commendation from the Continental Congress and leaving the service as a major.
After the war he was active in law and politics. He was a delegate to Congress (1785–1787); served in the state senate (1788–1790); enthusiastically supported the federal Constitution; and on its ratification became the first U.S. representative from New York City, serving in 1789–1793. He was judge of the U.S. district court for the following two years. A Federalist Party supporter, on 8 November 1796 he succeeded his friend Rufus King in the U.S. Senate, resigning this post in August 1800. He died in New York on 11 November 1810.
revised by Michael Bellesiles