Nathaniel Lawrence was born on July 11, 1761 in Newtown, Queens County, New York. He abandoned his studies at Princeton College to fight in the Revolutionary War, was taken prisoner at the capture of Fort Lafayette in Westchester County and was confined on a British prison ship for two years.
In 1788, Nathaniel Lawrence was a delegate to the New York State Convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution and was Secretary to the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York from 1790 to 1794. Nathaniel Lawrence was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1791, 1792, 1795 and 1796 and succeeded Aaron Burr as New York State Attorney General in 1792. His health was impaired by his long imprisonment and he died in Hempstead, Long Island on July 15, 1797, at the age of 36.