Revolutionary War Historical Article

John Langdon of New Hampshire:
Signer of the Constitution

Editor's Note: This article was reprinted from the October 1984 Edition of the Valley Compatriot Newsletter


John Langdon was born at Portmouth, New Hampshire in 1741. He rapidly became a wealthy merchant and when the Revolution started in 1775, he had already committed himself to the American cause. The year before, 1774, he took part in a raid that seized ammunition and arms at the British fort in his town. During the war he served both as a politician and a soldier. He was speaker of the State Legislature of New Hampshire from 1775 until 1781. In that capacity he actively led the support for neighboring Massachusetts. He served as the delegate from New Hampshire to the 1775 and 1776 Continental Congress.

On June 25th 1776, he became the 1776, he became the New Hampshire agent for prizes (captured enemy shipping) and actively performed his duty throughout the war. He was one of the first to realize the possibility of naval operations against British shipping, and financed several vessels for that purpose. These ships appear to have been privateers and they made a handsome amount of money for New Hampshire.

When British Major General Burgoyne reached Fort Edward and Fort George with his army, it was obvious that western Vermont and New Hampshire were threatened. Langdon organized the forces that became the Army commanded by General John Stark. It is said that he not only pledged his household silver, but sold seventy hogsheads of his Tobago Rum to raise the money necessary to outfit this Army.

He then led a body of militia in General Stark's subsequent triumph at Bennington and was present at the Battle of Saratoga and at Burgoyne's surrender. Later he commanded the New Hampshire troops in the Newport operations of August 1778.

Originally a federalist, he gradually moved toward the opposition. He served in the United States Senate from 1789 to 1801. In the latter year he was offered and declined the position of Secretary of the Navy, offered him by then President Thomas Jefferson.

In 1812 he declined the nomination for the Vice Presidency offered by the Republicans. In 1805 he was elected Governor of the State of New Hampshire, and was reelected every year until 1811 (except 1809). He died at his home in Portmouth in 1819.

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