- "I'm John Laurens in the place to be!"
- — John Laurens in Aaron Burr, Sir
The sassy Laurens meets Hamilton in "Aaron Burr, Sir", while in New York with his friends, tailor's apprentice Hercules Mulligan and a snarky Frenchman, le Marquis de Lafayette. The two bond almost instantly, and Hamilton states in "My Shot" that he "likes Laurens a lot." Laurens encourages his friends to take heart and have faith in the revolution ("The Story of Tonight"). In "Right Hand Man", Laurens, Hamilton, Lafayette, and Mulligan steal British cannons, and Hamilton becomes Washington's secretary. Laurens accompanies his regiment and Hamilton to a ball, where Hamilton meets his future wife Eliza ("A Winter's Ball"). Laurens is the best man at Hamilton's wedding, and good-naturedly teases him afterwards about finally settling down, a jibe at Hamilton's flirtatious nature. Laurens then not-so-subtly asks Aaron Burr about his lover ("The Story of Tonight (Reprise)").
In the play’s opening number, the people who effected Hamilton’s life the most handed him his bag and coat. The two people were Eliza Hamilton and John Laurens.
In "Stay Alive", Laurens becomes angry at the strong words from new general Charles Lee, and challenges him to a duel ("Ten Duel Commandments"). Hamilton is the second for the duel, at the close of which, Laurens shoots Lee in the side. Hamilton is sent home after the incident, leaving Laurens somewhat alone
Laurens leaves for South Carolina, where he works to recruit an all-black military regiment. He is killed in a gunfight shortly after ("Tomorrow There'll Be More Of Us"). As he dies, he looks towards Alexander, who is on the other side of the stage, and their eyes meet.
As Alexander contemplates death in his duel against Aaron Burr ("The World Was Wide Enough"), he sees Laurens leading a chorus of soldiers in heaven.
Hamilton and Laurens are very close friends. After meeting in the second song, they are constantly seen together and hug not infrequently, and before going to battle, they hold each other's forearms and look into each other's eyes. When Laurens is prepared to duel Charles Lee, he requests that Hamilton serve as his second, and then confesses that he considers Hamilton to be his closest friend.
In reality, Hamilton and Laurens exchanged a number of affectionate letters. In his, Hamilton stated multiple times that he loved Laurens. Hamilton never entirely recovered from his friend's death and, aside from Lafayette, never had such an intimate friendship again. In fact, the only person with whom Alexander opened up so much was John Laurens, who after his death did not open up to anyone else for the rest of his life.
Some letters between Hamilton and Laurens
- From Alexander to Laurens: "Cold in my professions, warm in my friendships, I wish, my Dear Laurens, it might be in my power, by action rather than words, to convince you that I love you. You know the opinion I entertain of mankind, and how much it is my desire to preserve myself free from particular attachments, and to keep my happiness independent on the caprice of others. You should not have taken advantage of my sensibility to steal into my affections without my consent. But as you have done it and as we are generally indulgent to those we love, I shall not scruple to pardon the fraud you have committed, on condition that for my sake, if not for your own, you will always continue to merit the partiality, which you have so artfully instilled into me.
- From Alexander to Laurens: "I have received your two letters one from Philadelphia the other from Chester. I am pleased with your success, so far, and I hope the favourable omens, that precede your application to the Assembly may have as favourable an issue, provided the situation of affairs should require it which I fear will be the case."
- From Alexander to Laurens: "This carries with it an air of preference, which, though we can all truly say, we love your character and admire your military merit, cannot fail to give some of us uneasy sensations. But in this, my dear J I wish you to understand me well. The blame, if there is any, falls wholly upon Congress. I repeat it, your conduct has been perfectly right and even laudable; you rejected the offer when you ought to have rejected it; and you accepted it when you ought to have accepted it; and let me add with a degree of overscrupulous delicacy. It was necessary to your project; your project was the public good; and I should have done the same. In hesitating, you have refined upon the refinements of generosity."
- From Alexander to Laurens: "I anticipate by sympathy the pleasure you must feel from the sweet converse of your dearer self in the inclosed letters. I hope they may be recent. They were brought out of New York by General Thompson delivered to him there by a Mrs. Moore not long from England, soi-disante parente de Madame votre epouse. She speaks of a daughter of yours, well when she left England, perhaps (---)"
- From Alexander to Laurens: "But as to fortune, the larger stock of that the better. You know my temper and circumstances and will therefore pay special attention to this article in the treaty. Though I run no risk of going to Purgatory for my avarice; yet as money is an essential ingredient to happiness in this world - as I have not much of my own and as I am very little calculated to get more either by my address or industry; it must needs be, that my wife, if I get one, bring at least a sufficiency to administer to her own extravagancies. NB You will be pleased to recollect in your negotiations that I have no invincible antipathy to the maidenly beauties & that I am willing to take the trouble of them upon myself."
- From Alexander to Laurens: "To excite their emulation, it will be necessary for you to give an account of the lover - his size, make, quality of mind and body, achievements, expectations, fortune, & c. In drawing my picture, you will no doubt be civil to your friend; mind you do justice to the length of my nose and don't forget, that I (-----)"
- From Alexander to Laurens: "Do I want a wife? No - I have plagues enough without desiring to add to the number that greatest of all; and if I were silly enough to do it, I should take care how I employ a proxy. Did I mean to show my wit? If I did, I am sure I have missed my aim. Did I only intend to frisk? In this I have succeeded, but I have done more. I have gratified my feelings, by lengthening out the only kind of intercourse now in my power with my friend. Adieu."
- From Alexander to Laurens: "Harrison, McHenry, Gibbs put you in mind of the place you have in their hearts. McHenry would write you; but besides public business he pleads his being engaged in writing an heroic Poem of which the family are the subject. You will have your part in it. He celebrates our usual matin entertainment, and the music of those fine sounds, with which he and I are accustomed to regale the ears of the fraternity. Harrison holds a distinguished place in the piece. His sedentary exploits are sung in strains of laborious dulness. The many breeches he has worn out during the war are enumerated, nor are the depredations which long sitting has made on his ______ unsung."
- From Alexander to Laurens: "I acknowledge but one letter from you, since you left us, of the 14th of July which just arrived in time to appease a violent conflict between my friendship and my pride. I have written you five or six letters since you left Philadelphia and I should have written you more had you made proper return. But like a jealous lover, when I thought you slighted my caresses, my affection was alarmed and my vanity piqued. I had almost resolved to lavish no more of them upon you and to reject you as an inconstant and an ungrateful ______. But you have now disarmed my resentment and by a single mark of attention made up the quarrel. You must at least alow me a large stock of good nature."
- From Alexander to Laurens: "I am chagrined and unhappy but I submit. In short Laurens I am disgusted with every thing in this world but yourself and very few more honest fellows and I have no other wish than as soon as possible to make a brilliant exit. 'Tis a weakness; but I feel I am not fit for this terrestreal Country."
- From Alexander to Laurens: "Adieu my Dear; I am sure you will exert yourself to save your country; but do not unnecessarily risk one of its most valuable sons. Take as much care of yourself as you ought for the public sake and for the sake of Yr. affectionate A Hamilton. All the lads remember you as a friend and a brother. Meade says God bless you."
- From Alexander to Laurens: "In spite of Schuyler's black eyes, I have still a part for the public and another for you; so your impatience to have me married is misplaced; a strange cure by the way, as if after matrimony I was to be less devoted than I am now. Let me tell you, that I intend to restore the empire of Hymen and that Cupid is to be his prime Minister. I wish you were at liberty to transgress the bounds of Pensylvania. I would invite you after the fall to Albany to be witness to the final consummation. My Mistress is a good girl, and already loves you because I have told her you are a clever fellow and my friend; but mind, she loves you a l'americaine not a la francoise. Adieu, be happy, and let friendship between us be more than a name. A Hamilton The General & all the lads send you their love."
- From Alexander to Laurens | Last letter known: "It requires all the virtue and all the abilities of the Country. Quit your sword my friend, put on the toga, come to Congress. We know each other sentiments, our views are the same; we have fought side by side to make America free, let us hand in hand struggle to make her happy."
- Remarks by Hamilton at Lauren's funeral: "I feel the deepest affiction at the news we have just received of the loss of our dear and inestimable friend Laurens. His career of virtue is at an end.... I feel the loss of a friend I truly and most tenderly loved, and one of a very small number."
Marquis de Lafayette and Hercules Mulligan
Marquis de Lafayette and Hercules Mulligan are Laurens' two other friends in the musical. They both seem to show affection towards him, and are saddened upon the news of his death. While he is closest with Hamilton, Laurens is portrayed as knowing them first, and supports/is supported by the them throughout the show. The three all advocate for Alexander. During Laurens' Interlude in the musical, Mulligan and Lafayette are both on the upstage balcony reading letters of their own. When Eliza reads the section of the letter about Laurens dying, Lafayette drops to his knees and Mulligan takes out a flask and chugs it.
- John Laurens is played by the same actor who plays Philip Hamilton in every production of Hamilton.