Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

John Langdon

                    John Langdon, signer of the Constitution of the United States, was a politician and one of the first two United States Senators from New Hampshire.  He served in the Continental Congress and was an early supporter of the Revolutionary War.  He served as the first president pro tempore of the Senate after serving in that body for twelve years.  He served as governor of New Hampshire and turned down a nomination to be a candidate for vice president in the election of 1812.

                    Langdon's father was a prosperous farmer and local politician.  His ancestors left Sheviock, Caradon, Cornwall before 1660 to come to America where they became some of the first settlers of the area that would become Portsmouth, New Hampshire; this settlement was located near the mouth of Piscataqua River and became one of the major seaports in New England.

                    John Langdon was born June 26, 1741, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and attended a local grammar school.  He later served an apprenticeship as a clerk.  Instead of joining their father in agricultural pursuits, John and his brother Woodbury apprenticed themselves to local naval merchants and sent to sea.  John was the captain of a cargo ship - Andromache, which sailed to the West Indies, by the time he was 22 years old.  He owned his first merchantman four years later and continued acquiring vessels until he owned a "small fleet."  His brother was even "more successful in international trade," and the brothers were among Portsmouth's "wealthiest citizens" by 1777.

                    Because Langdon was involved in the shipping industries, his business suffered under British controls.  This fact motivated him to join the revolutionary movement in the 1770s.  He was active as a member of the New Hampshire Committee of Correspondence as well as a committee dealing with non-importation matters.  He attended various Patriot assemblies and in 1774 participated in seizing and confiscating British munitions from Fort William and Mary.

                    From 1775 until 1776, Langdon was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress.  After resigning in June 1776, he became an agent for the American patriots and supervised the construction of various warships, including the Raleigh, the America, and the Ranger (later captained by John Paul Jones).  He was very busy in 1777 as he equipped an expedition against British forces, participated in the Battle of Bennington, and commanded Langdon's Company of Light Horse Volunteers at Saratoga and in Rhode Island.

                    In 1784 Langdon built a mansion in Portsmouth, which is now known as the Governor John Langdon House.  He served two terms as President of New Hampshire (1785-86 and 1788-89).  He was a member of the Congress of the Confederation in 1787 as well as a delegate from New Hampshire to the Constitutional Convention that same year.  During the constitutional debates in 1787, he "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." 

Langdon belonged to three different political parties:  Pro-Administration, Anti-Administration, and Democratic-Republican.  He also followed the Congregationalist religion.

Under the new Constitution, Langdon was elected to the U.S. Senate (March 4, 1789, to March 4, 1801) and was elected as the first President pro tempore of the Senate on April 6, 1789.  He also served as President pro tempore during the Second Congress.  He later served in the New Hampshire Legislature (1801-05) and was speaker during the last two terms.  He was governor of New Hampshire from 1805-12 with a break during 1809-10.  He was nominated to be a candidate for vice president with James Madison in 1812 but declined the nomination and later retired.

There was no mention of a wife or children.  His niece, Catherine Whipple Langdon, married Edmund Roberts in 1808.  Langdon died on September 18, 1819, in his hometown of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at age 78.  His body was interred at the Langdon Tomb in the North Cemetery.  I assume that this cemetery is in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

John Langdon has the honor of having the town of Langdon, New Hampshire, named after him as well as being one of several Founders to have a street in Madison, Wisconsin named after him.

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