A soldier and successful merchant, Laurens was also highly politically active, serving in the commons house of assembly from 1757 until the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Laurens served as president of the First Provincial Congress, and also of the first council of safety, in 1775. He also served in the Second Provincial Congress, and as president of the second council of safety, in 1775 and 1776. Laurens was elected president of the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777, and served in that position until December 9, 1778. While sailing to Holland to serve as Minister, Laurens was captured by the British and imprisoned in the Tower of London—the only American ever to be held there. He was released in December of 1781, in exchange for Lord Cornwallis. Following the war, Laurens returned home; although elected to the Continental Congress, the state legislature, and the Federal Constitutional Convention, he declined all three, preferring to live quietly as a planter until his death in 1792.
- "You know, my dear son, I abhor slavery. I was in a country where slavery had been established by British Kings and Parliamentsc as well as by the laws of that country, ages before my existence. I found the Christian religion and slavery growing under the same authority cultivation. I nevertheless disliked it. In former days there was no combating the prejudices of men supported by interest. The day, I hope, is approaching when, from principles of gratitude, as well as justice, every man strive to be foremost in showing his readiness to with the golden rule."