LANGLOIS, Benjamin (1727-1802).
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Family and Education
b. 7 Jan. 1727, 4th s. of Peter L’Anglois (a Huguenot refugee who entered the British army 1692, was naturalized 1707, and subsequently settled as a merchant at Leghorn) by Julie, da. of Maj.-Gen. Isaac de Monceau de la Melonière (also a Huguenot refugee). educ. Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1745. unm.
Sec. of embassy, Vienna 1763-71; clerk of deliveries, Ordnance 1773-8; storekeeper of Ordnance 1778-80; under-sec. of state 1779-Mar. 1782; ld. of Trade Sept. 1780-Jan. 1782.
When Lord Titchfield was starting for Warsaw in December 1757, Mrs. Delany wrote to a friend:1
He is to be in the house with Lord Stormont ... envoy extraordinary to the republic of Poland. He ... has a gentleman with him who assists him in his studies (is an approved person), and is to do the same by Lord Titchfield, who has no other tutor with him.
Stormont, envoy extraordinary, aged 31, hardly required assistance ‘in his studies’; but the ‘approved person’ was undoubtedly Benjamin Langlois. The two had been contemporaries at Christ Church, and when Stormont went to Warsaw in June 1756 Langlois seems to have gone with him in an unofficial character: he is mentioned in Stormont’s letters to Andrew Mitchell throughout 1757;2 in 1758 the letters usually conclude ‘Lord Titchfield and Langlois send their compliments’; and that of 28 Aug. 17593 has a postscript:
Lord Titchfield sets out in a few days for Turin and Langlois at Lord Mansfield’s and the Duke and Duchess of Portland’s desire, strongly enforced by my Lord himself, is to go with him. This will be a great loss to me but as I think it will be an advantage to both I readily sacrificed my satisfaction to theirs.
In January 1760 they were still in Berlin, en route for Italy.4
When in 1763 Stormont was appointed ambassador to Vienna, Langlois went with him as secretary, and several times in Stormont’s absence was in charge of affairs.5 But he felt despondent about his future. ‘I am steering in this wide world without a compass’, he wrote to Mitchell on 22 Feb. 1768, ‘and know no more what my fate is to be, than I did at my first step in life’; ‘my great friend [Portland] is entirely thrown out, and that with circumstances of aigreur’, and there was little prospect of Portland’s party returning to office. And on 13 May 1768: ‘After such repeated disappointments as I have had, it would be folly in me to extend my thoughts beyond the present moment.’6 But then another old friend came to his assistance. Edward Eliot, who had a vacancy to fill at St. Germans, on Portland’s applying for a friend, answered on 18 Nov.1768:7
You are ... no stranger to the friendship which has subsisted between Ben Langlois and me from our earliest youth. Out of my own affection for him, I should have infinite satisfaction in being of use to him ... I have also the dying request of the most intimate friend I ever lived with. Mr. Trevanion by his will recommended Langlois’s interest to my attention. I see no probability of my serving him with Administration: and have therefore recourse to the only thing I can have recourse to, a seat in Parliament.
I mean it for his happiness; I wish it may, and hope it will, be for his happiness; yet I am not confident as to the event. But as he has wished for it, I think I am doing right ...
Langlois has always been one of the unluckiest men alive. If he knew that your Grace had written a syllable to me about a seat in the House of Commons it would throw him into agonies. I have therefore most scrupulously concealed it from him, as I am sure there is not a man upon the earth who has a greater, if so great, a friendship and veneration for your Grace as he himself has.
And on 11 Jan. 1769 Langlois, writing from Vienna, effusively thanked Eliot for bestowing on him ‘the greatest benefit’—none other ‘could bring so many advantages with it’.8
Had I time I would paint to you all the distress of my mind before the happy event, that you might judge of my gratitude to you for so suddenly changing the prospect by what you have done for me, and still more by the unlimited and generous manner in which you have done it.
He begged him, however, if possible to prevent his being sent for that winter: ‘I am exhausted to my last sixpence almost’, and such a trip would cost £4-500. He did not finally leave Vienna till October 1771, and even then seems to have expected to return.
Mr. Langlois, the secretary, sets out for England the end of this week [wrote Lady Mary Coke in her Journal on 20 Oct. 17719]. He is a sensible amiable man, and much esteemed here. He talks of returning in the spring.
But he did not.
His first recorded vote in the House, given naturally on the side of Administration, is over Sir Edward Astley’s motion on Grenville’s Act respecting controverted elections, 25 Feb. 1774; and he continued regularly voting with them. In 1773 he was appointed clerk of deliveries at the Ordnance, and in May 1778 promoted storekeeper, and in two debates, 4 Dec. 1777 and 17 Dec. 1779, intervened briefly on matters concerning that department. On Stormont’s appointment as secretary of state for the northern department, October 1779, Langlois joined him as under-secretary; but retained his place at the Ordnance till September 1780, when he was made a lord of Trade. About that change Lord North wrote to John Robinson, 7 Sept. 1780:10
As to Mr. Langlois’s dissatisfaction, it is the most unreasonable thing I ever heard of; he has a good place, takes a better, but does not think proper to quit his old one without an equivalent, though he cannot do the duties of both. A place, which many very considerable persons are satisfied with though they hold it by itself, is offered to him in commendam, and he is not satisfied unless I make him some promise or give him some hopes.
His two places ‘will produce above £1800 p.a.’, and ‘if he does not like the change ... let him continue where he is.’
In 1780 Eliot, now in opposition, left out Langlois in filling his boroughs. ‘You see by the Gazette’, wrote Gibbon to his stepmother, 5 Oct. 1780, ‘that Langlois is dismissed; and he himself has not received any other information from Cornwall.’ And Langlois himself wrote to the Duke of Portland, 20 Sept.:11
I am sorry that Eliot has continued so obstinately silent in regard to his not having elected me, as from the pain it appears to give him to let me know it I am afraid he has had more struggle in the decision than I could wish him to undergo ... I gave Lord North immediate notice. The effect this may have upon my situation I cannot yet foresee. But I am sick of the whole business and wish I was the subject of any other country in the world except this.
Though out of Parliament, he retained both offices, but ceased attending the Board of Trade at the end of April 1781 and was dropped from it in January 1782; on the fall of the North Government in March he lost also the other office. When during the Regency crisis the Opposition expected office, Stormont, who was to have the Home department, wrote to Langlois, 31 Jan. 1789,12 inviting him
not as formerly to a share of toil and labour but to a bed of down ... we shall not have more business in a year than we have often done in a single week ... take your share of this sinecure ... it will not prevent your shooting parties in autumn.
Langlois now resided a good deal at Welbeck, and Sir Gilbert Elliot wrote on 27 Oct. 178813 about an evening at Welbeck enlivened by the Duke’s ‘agreeable manners and character’ more than by ‘the brightness’ of Langlois.
Benjamin Langlois is the same diplomatic, old-fashioned coxcomb as ever, and favoured us with a good deal of prose, of and concerning himself and his own consequence; but he is, with all this, an inoffensive and polite man.
Sir Egerton Brydges describes him as ‘a good and benevolent old man, with much diplomatic experience, but most fatiguingly ceremonious, with abilities not much above the common’.14
When Lord Stormont died in 1796 he appointed Langlois his executor and trustee.
Langlois died 20 Nov. 1802: he left £22,000.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Autobiog. Corresp. (ser. 1), iii. 472.
- 2. Add. 6827.
- 3. Ibid. f. 111.
- 4. Add. 6861, f. 6.
- 5. Add. 35500, ff. 19, 32.
- 6. Add. 6828, ff. 32, 41.
- 7. Portland mss.
- 8. Eliot mss.
- 9. Jnl. of Lady Mary Coke, iii. 469-70.
- 10. Abergavenny mss.
- 11. Portland mss.
- 12. Ex inf. J. A. Lefroy.
- 13. Life Letters of Sir G. Elliot, ed. Countess of Minto, i. 223-4.
- 14. Ex inf. J. A. Lefroy.