Laurens, Henry (1724-1792) Diplomat, President of the First Continental Congress: Only three months after he took a seat in the Continental Congress, Laurens was elected president in 1777. His leadership brought the Continental Congress during its most critical period, during which Laurens supported General Washington through several political plots against him; helped secure the French Alliance; and saw the Articles of Confederation signed. Laurens was involved with South Carolina politics, and resigned from his post as president of the Continental Congress in 1779 to negotiate an alliance with Holland. His ship was captured, and Laurens spent 15 months in the Tower of London. He was exchanged for Lord Cornwallis, and joined the American Peace Commission in Paris, serving as unofficial minister to Great Britain. After returning to North America, Laurens retired from public life, except to attend the South Carolina ratification convention for the proposed federal Constitution in 1788.