Thomas Jefferson Papers

Passport to William Langborn, 15 June 1786

Passport to William Langborn

Paris, 15 June 1786. Passport issued to “William Langbourne, Citoyen des Etats-Unis d’Amerique.”

Printed form (NjP); blanks filled in in unidentified hand; signed by TJ. (For specimen of this form, see illustration in Vol. 8.)

“Mr. Langbourne, of Virginia,” wrote John Adams in his diary on 16 July 1786, “… dined here yesterday. This gentleman, who is rich, has taken the whim of walking all over Europe, after having walked over most of America. His observations are sensible and judicious. He walks forty-five or fifty miles a day. He says he has seen nothing superior to the country from New York to Boston. He is in love with New England; admires the country and its inhabitants. He kept company with the King of France’s retinue, in his late journey to Cherbourg. He says the Virginians have learned much in agriculture, as well as in humanity to their slaves, in the late war‥‥ 21. Friday. Major Langbourne dined with us again. He was lamenting the difference of character between Virginia and New England. I offered to give him a receipt for making a New England in Virginia. He desired it; and I recommended to him town meetings, training days, town schools, and ministers, giving him a short explanation of each article. The meeting-house and school-house and training field are the scenes where New England men were formed. Colonel Trumbull, who was present, agreed that these are the ingredients” (Adams, Works, ed. C. F. Adams, iii, 400). Preeson Bowdoin, Jr., another Virginian, had “called at Mr. Jefferson’s Hotel” in Apr. of 1786 seeking Langborn’s address, “and found no Body at home except the Servants” (Bowdoin to Short, 23 Apr. 1786; DLC: Short Papers). John Ledyard also sought out Langborn in Copenhagen and endeavored to persuade the latter to join him; but Langborn refused, proceeded on his way through Sweden, Norway, and Lapland to Archangel, during which journey, in a church at Jukasjeroi within the Arctic Circle, he recorded in a register: “Justice bids me record thy hospitable fame, and testify it by my name. W. Langborn, United States. July 23d, 1787” (quoted in Jared Sparks, Life of John Ledyard, 1828, p. 178–83, where the name is given as Langhorn). Langborn had been Lafayette’s aide-de-camp, and on 6 Feb. 1786 Lafayette wrote Washington: “Langbourne is arrived in Paris these two weecks—but the same queer fellow you know him to be, and you will hardly believe that I could not as yet prevail on him to come and see me” (Gottschalk, ed., Letters of Lafayette to Washington, New York, 1944, p. 310).

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