He was born in Flushing, New York on February 28, 1791. Lawrence attended the public schools and moved to New York City in 1812, he engaged in mercantile pursuits. He had a son, James Ogden Lawrence (died August 1, 1904).
He represented New-York in Congress from 1832 to 1834 and became the first popularly elected Mayor of New York City after the election law was changed in 1834 (who was famous for having an international staff from Egypt, Ireland and France). In 1836 he was President of the Democratic Electoral College. He was Collector of New York under President Polk. For twenty years he held the office of President of the Bank of the State of New-York. He was Director of the Branch Bank of the United States, of the Bank of America, a trustee of the New-York Life and Trust Company, and a director in various insurance companies.
Lawrence died in Flushing on February 20, 1861. He was interred in the family burying ground in Bayside, New York.
Cornelius Van Wyck Lawrence was a cousin of Effingham Lawrence.
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