Gronlund was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 13, 1846. He graduated from the University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Law in 1865, and moved to the United States in 1867. He taught German in Milwaukee until was admitted to the bar in 1869, at that time beginning practice in Chicago.
He was converted to socialism by Blaise Pascal's Pensées, and gave up the practice of law to write and lecture on socialism. He was closely connected with the work of the Socialist Labor Party from 1874 to 1884, after which devoted himself almost exclusively to lecturing until his appointment to a post in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After his period of civil service, he again returned to the lecture field, and was an editorial writer for the New York and Chicago American from 1898 until his death in New York City on October 15, 1899.
Gronlund considered the United States more advanced, and therefore better fitted for a socialistic régime, than any other country. The only obstacle he saw was the race problem; but he thought that social equality between the black and white races could and would be established. He thought a vast national organization, composed of energetic young men from every locality, could bring about a peaceful revolution in a few years.
He thought that the reforms proposed by Henry George were not comprehensive, and that the cooperative association of Jean Godin was inadequate because it paid too little attention to the social life of the people.
Gronlund's book "Cooperative Commonwealth", published in 1884, was extremely influential in popularizing socialism in the U.S., selling more than 100,000 copies.
Gronlund's wife, Beulah A. Gronlund, was a humane educator and co-founder of several humane societies.
- The Coming Revolution (1880)
- The Co-operative Commonwealth in its Outlines, An Exposition of Modern Socialism (1884) (at Internet Archive and Google Books)
- Insufficiency of Henry George's Theory (1887)
- Ça Ira!, or Danton in the French Revolution, a rehabilitation of Danton (1888) (at Internet Archive and Google Books)
- "Nationalism," The Arena, vol. 1, whole no. 2 (January 1890), pp. 153–165.
- "A Weak Argument:Berger’s Platform Analyzed and Its Defects Pointed Out," The Social Democrat [Chicago], vol. 5, no. 24 (June 23, 1898), pg. 1.
- Our Destiny, The Influence of Socialism on Morals and Religion, written to prove that, instead of being necessarily associated with atheism, socialism would reveal to all the immortality of the soul (1890)
- "Studies in Ultimate Society: A New Interpretation of Life," The Arena, vol. 18 (1897), pp. 351–361.
- The New Economy (1898)
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- Hal Draper (1970). "The Two Souls of Socialism". International Socialists.
- Clarence Bagley (1916). History of Seattle from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 2. S.J. Clarke Publishing Co.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gronlund, Laurence". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "Gronlund, Lawrence". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Solomon Gemorah, "Laurence Gronlund — Utopian or Reformer?" Science & Society, vol. 33, no. 4 (Fall-Winter 1969), pp. 446–458. In JSTOR.