Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Langdon, 23 May 1801

To John Langdon

Washington May 23. 1801.

My dear Sir

After your refusal of the office of Secretary of the Navy, it was proposed to Capt Jones of Philadelphia who in like manner declined it. Genl. Smith then agreed to perform the duties without being appointed or recieving any reward. he has nearly compleated the requisitions of the law. on a surmise that Capt Jones might give a different answer on a second application, I proposed it to him again, and he again declined it. I now learn that it is thought possible you might be induced to relieve our distress by undertaking it. I lose not a moment therefore in proposing it to you. the labours of reformation & of ultimately disposing of the vessels will all be over to your hand. the residence here is very pleasant indeed. a charming society, & not too much of it, all living on affectionate & unceremonious terms. it is impossible to be associated with more agreeable collegues. I hope therefore that you will undertake the office, & so say by return of post. the commission shall be forwarded on recieving your answer; and we shall entertain the hope of seeing mrs Langdon & yourself as soon after as your convenience will admit. accept assurances of my constant esteem & high consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NhHi); lacks address sheet. RC (copy in TJ Editorial Files); address sheet only; addressed: “John Langdon Portsmouth New Hampshire”; franked; postmarked 24 May. PrC (DLC).

John Langdon (1741–1819) was a successful Portsmouth merchant and New Hampshire’s leading Republican. An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he sat in the Continental Congress from 1775 to June 1776 (where he probably first made TJ’s acquaintance), then became Continental agent for New Hampshire. He assumed a lead role in state politics during the 1780s. He represented New Hampshire at the Constitutional Convention and subsequently became a strong advocate of ratification. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1789, Langdon intially supported the Federalists, especially Hamilton’s fiscal policies, but his opposition to the Jay Treaty led him to transfer his allegiance to the Republicans. TJ offered Langdon the office of secretary of the navy sometime early in 1801, after Robert R. Livingston and Samuel Smith had already declined the post, but the New Hampshire senator likewise rejected the proposal. Leaving the Senate in 1801, Langdon returned to New Hampshire and resumed his leadership position in state politics. He was a frequent correspondent during TJ’s presidency, offering advice on politics and appointments. He declined the Republican nomination for vice president in 1812 and lived in retirement at Portsmouth until his death (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; TJ to Madison, 12 Mch. 1801).

Requisitions of the law: the reduction of the navy required by the Peace Establishment Act of 3 Mch. 1801 (Samuel Smith to TJ, 2 Apr. 1801).

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