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John Langdon

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John Langdon
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John Langdon

John Langdon (June 26, 1741September 18, 1819) was an American politician and one of the first two U.S. Senators from New Hampshire. Langdon was an early supporter of the American Revolutionary War and later served in the Continental Congress. After being for 12 years in Congress, including serving as the first President pro tempore of the Senate, Langdon became Governor of New Hampshire. He turned down a nomination for Vice Presidential candidate in 1812, and later retired until his death in 1819. Today, Langdon is considered the most important New Hampshire politician in early American history.

Langdon was born in or around Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His father was a prosperous farmer and local politician, whose family had emigrated to America before 1660 and was among the first to settle near the mouth of 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 against the French at Fortress Louisbourg in Canada. After finishing his primary education, Langdon served an apprenticeship as a clerk. He and his older brother, Woodbury, rejected the opportunity to join in their father's successful agricultural pursuits, and went to sea instead, apprenticed themselves to local naval merchants.

By age 22, Langdon was captain of a cargo ship 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, engaged in the triangular trade between Portsmouth, the Caribbean, and London. His older brother was even more successful in international trade, and by 1770 both young men were among Portsmouth's wealthiest citizens.

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 the Portsmouth fort.

Langdon served as a member of the First 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. In 1777, he equipped an expedition against the British, participating in the Battle of Bennington and commanding a company at Saratoga and in Rhode Island.

Langdon was again a member of the Continental Congress 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.

Langdon later served as a member of the New Hampshire legislature (1801-05), with the last two terms as Speaker; he served as Governor of New Hampshire from 1805-11, with the exception of 1809. Langdon declined the nomination to be a candidate for Vice President in 1812, and later retired. He died in his hometown of Portsmouth in 1819, and was interred at the Langdon Tomb in the North Cemetery.

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