John Langdon (politician)

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John Langdon
John langdon.jpg
2nd Governor of New Hampshire
In office
June 5, 1810 – June 5, 1812
Preceded byJeremiah Smith
Succeeded byWilliam Plumer
In office
June 6, 1805 – June 8, 1809
Preceded byJohn Taylor Gilman
Succeeded byJeremiah Smith
In office
June 4, 1788 – January 22, 1789
Preceded byJohn Sullivan
Succeeded byJohn Sullivan
In office
June 1, 1785 – June 7, 1786
Preceded byMeshech Weare
Succeeded byJohn Sullivan
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
November 5, 1792 – December 2, 1793
Preceded byRichard Henry Lee
Succeeded byRalph Izard
In office
April 6, 1789 – August 9, 1789
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byRichard Henry Lee
United States Senator
from New Hampshire
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1801
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded byJames Sheafe
Personal details
Born(1741-06-26)June 26, 1741
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, British America
DiedSeptember 18, 1819(1819-09-18) (aged 78)
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S.
Political partyPro-Administration

John Langdon (June 26, 1741 – September 18, 1819) was a politician from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and a Founding Father of the United States. He served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, signed the United States Constitution, and was one of the first two United States senators from that state.

As a member of the Continental Congress Langdon was an early supporter of the Revolutionary War. He later served in United States Congress for 12 years, including as the first president pro tempore of the Senate, before becoming governor of New Hampshire. He turned down a nomination for Vice Presidential candidate in 1812.


Early years[edit]

Langdon's father was a prosperous farmer and local ship builder whose family had emigrated to America before 1660 from Sheviock, Caradon, Cornwall. The Langdons were among the first to settle near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, a settlement which became Portsmouth, one of New England's major seaports. Langdon attended the local grammar school run by a veteran of the 1745 Siege of Louisbourg against the French at Fortress Louisbourg in New France. After finishing his primary education, he served an apprenticeship as a clerk. He and his older brother, Woodbury Langdon, rejected the opportunity to join in their father's successful agricultural livelihood and apprenticed themselves to local naval merchants instead.

To sea[edit]

By age 22, Langdon was captain of a cargo ship called the Andromache, sailing to the West Indies. Four years later he owned his first merchantman, and would continue over time to acquire a small fleet of vessels engaging in the triangle trade between Portsmouth, the Caribbean, and London.[citation needed] His older brother was even more successful in international trade, and by 1777 both young men were among Portsmouth's wealthiest citizens.

As revolutionary[edit]

British control of the shipping industries greatly hurt Langdon's business, motivating him to become a vigorous and prominent supporter of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s. He served on the New Hampshire Committee of Correspondence and a nonimportation committee, and also attended various Patriot assemblies. In 1774, he participated in the seizure and confiscation of British munitions from Fort William and Mary.

Langdon served as a member of the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1776. He resigned in June 1776 to become agent for the Continental forces against the British and superintended the construction of several warships including the Raleigh, the America, and the Ranger, which was captained by John Paul Jones. In 1777, he equipped an expedition against the British, participating in the Battle of Bennington and commanding Langdon's Company of Light Horse Volunteers at Saratoga and in Rhode Island.

Founding father[edit]

Governor John Langdon House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

In 1784 he built at Portsmouth the mansion now known as the Governor John Langdon House. Langdon was elected to two terms as President of New Hampshire, once between 1785 and 1786 and again between 1788 and 1789. He was a member of the Congress of the Confederation in 1787 and became a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, serving as a member of the New Hampshire delegation. Langdon was elected to the U.S. Senate and served from March 4, 1789 to March 3, 1801. He was elected the first President pro tempore of the Senate on April 6, 1789, and also served as president pro tempore during the second Congress.

During the 1787 constitutional debates in Philadelphia, Langdon spoke out against James Madison's proposed "negative" on state laws simply because he felt that should the Senate be granted this power and not the House of Representatives, it would "hurt the feelings" of House members.[1][dubious ]

In 1798, Langdon assisted Oney Judge to evade Burwell Bassett, the nephew of George and Martha Washington, who had intended to kidnap Judge and return her to slavery with the Washingtons.[2]

New Hampshire statesman[edit]

Langdon later served as a member of the New Hampshire Legislature (1801–05), with the last two terms as speaker; he served as governor from 1805 to 1812, except for a year between 1809 and 1810. In 1808, his niece, Catherine Whipple Langdon, married Edmund Roberts.[3] Langdon declined the nomination to be a candidate for Vice President with James Madison in 1812, and later retired.[citation needed] He died in Portsmouth in 1819 and was interred at the Langdon Tomb in the North Cemetery.[4]


The town of Langdon, New Hampshire is named after him,[5] as well as Langdon Street in Madison, Wisconsin, a town with numerous streets named after founding fathers.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Avalon Project – Madison Debates – July 10". Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  2. ^ Eva Gerson, "Ona Judge Staines: Escape from Washington" Archived May 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, 2000, Black History, SeacoastNH
  3. ^ "Calvin Howard Bell Family". extract from Bell Family History. Access Genealogy. April 23, 2012. Archived from the original on November 4, 2011. Retrieved April 19, 2012. Judge Woodbury Langdon, of Portsmouth, N. H.; Delegate to the Continental Congress, 1779; President of N. H. Senate, 1784; Judge of the Superior Court of N. H., 1782–91....(a) Catherine Whipple Langdon: m. 1808, Edmund Roberts, of Portsmouth, N. H.
  4. ^ "North Cemetery - Portsmouth, NH". Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  5. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 181.
  6. ^ "Wisconsin Historical Society". Retrieved July 30, 2016.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Meshech Weare
Governor of New Hampshire
Succeeded by
John Sullivan
Preceded by
John Sullivan
Governor of New Hampshire
Preceded by
John Taylor Gilman
Governor of New Hampshire
Succeeded by
Jeremiah Smith
Preceded by
Jeremiah Smith
Governor of New Hampshire
Succeeded by
William Plumer
New office President pro tempore of the United States Senate
Succeeded by
Richard Henry Lee
Preceded by
Richard Henry Lee
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
Succeeded by
Ralph Izard
U.S. Senate
New seat U.S. senator (Class 1) from New Hampshire
Served alongside: Paine Wingate, Samuel Livermore
Succeeded by
James Sheafe
Party political offices
Preceded by
Timothy Walker
Democratic-Republican nominee for Governor of New Hampshire
1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808, 1809, 1810, 1811
Succeeded by
William Plumer
Preceded by
George Clinton
Democratic-Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States

Succeeded by
Elbridge Gerry