John Mercer Langston


John Mercer (February 6, 1704 – October 14, 1768)

Colonial American Lawyer, land speculator and author.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, he came to Virginia in 1720 where he built the colonial estate Marlborough (also called Marlboro; at Marlborough Point on the Potomac River, in Stafford County. He was a leading Virginia attorney and lawyer to George Washington as well as a colonial prosecutor for the King’s court of Virginia.

He authored “Dinwiddianae” (4 November 1754 – 3 May 1757; also known as “The Dinwiddianae Poems and Prose”), “Abridgement of the Public Acts” (1737; also “An Exact Abridgment of the Public Acts of the Assembly of Virginia”), “First Code of Virginia Laws” (1759), and “Abridgment of Virginia Laws” (“Mercer’s Abridgement of the Laws of Virginia”). Mercer was also a founding member, secretary and general counsel of the Ohio Company of Virginia, a land speculating company that had George Washington as a member. His private library consisted of between 1500 and 1800 volumes.  Did legal work for George Washington land deals as a down payment as a partner, died owing Washington the balance of partnership.  His heirs deeded 790 acres (just west of the present day intersection of South Four Mile Run Drive and South Walter Reed Drive in Arlington County, Virginia) to Washington in payment.  Married Catherin Mason, divorced in 1750  and married again after her death to Ann Roy.  Had several children (count was at 11) many of which died during their childhood.   Three sons lived to become prominent in Eighteenth Century America.

John Mercer Langston was born on December 14, 1829, in Louisa County, Virginia. In 1854, Langston became the first African-American lawyer in Ohio. In 1888, he became the first African American to win a congressional election in the state of Virginia, having run as a Republican candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Langston served in Congress from 1890 to 1891. He died in Washington, D.C., in 1897.

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