James Lovell (Continental Congress)

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James Lovell
Born 1737-10-31 (1737-10)
Boston, Massachusetts
Died 1814-07-14 (1814-07-15) (aged 76)
Windham, Massachusetts
(now Maine)
Nationality American
Occupation educator, statesman
James Lovell signature.png

James Lovell (October 31, 1737 – July 14, 1814) was an American educator and statesman from Boston, Massachusetts. He was a delegate for Massachusetts to the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1782. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation.

Early life[edit]

James was born in Boston and had his preparatory education at the Boston Latin School. His father, John Lovell (1710–1778) was the school's headmaster from 1738 until 1775. James attended Harvard and graduated in 1756. He then joined his father and taught at the Latin School, while continuing his own studies. He received an MA (Master of Arts) degree from Harvard in 1759. Father and son continued their work in the Latin School until it was closed on April, 1775, during the Siege of Boston in the American Revolutionary War.

While the school produced a number of revolutionary leaders, including John Hancock and Samuel Adams, the approaching revolution split father and son. John wrote and endorsed loyalist or Tory positions, while James became aligned with the Whigs and associated growing rebel sentiment. He was chosen to give an oration to the town the first year after the Boston Massacre, which he delivered at the Old South Church [1] Following the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, the new military Governor William Howe, ordered the arrest of likely dissidents in Boston. James Lovell was picked up in the sweep and spent nine months in the Boston Stone Jail [2]

General Howe evacuated Boston in March 1776, taking all British troops and Loyalists. James was transported with the British fleet as a prisoner and taken to Halifax (former city), Nova Scotia, where he spent nine months in the jail on Hollis Street.[3] His father also sailed with the British fleet to Halifax in March 1776, as part of the general exodus of Loyalists when British forces abandoned the city. In November 1776, James was exchanged for Colonel Philip Skene. When he got back to Boston in December, he was elected to be a delegate to the Continental Congress. He would serve in Congress until 1782.

Congressional career[edit]

Lovell served effectively in the Congress during the six years that were critical to the American Revolution. He was particularly important as a long term member of the Committee of Foreign Correspondence and that of Secret Correspondence. He signed the Articles of Confederation, endorsing them for Massachusetts on July 9, 1778.[4]

In one area his performance was controversial. In 1776 and 1777, there was a growing struggle for influence and command in the Continental Army. Lovell became a supporter of Horatio Gates in his lobbying quest for command. He encouraged Gates in reporting directly to Congress, in effect going over Washington's head. This reached its peak when Gates was given command of the Northern Department, replacing Philip Schuyler in the summer of 1777.

A womanizer in Philadelphia, Lovell was also a frequent correspondent with both John and Abigail Adams. In his correspondence to Abigail he flirted wondering what John was doing with his private time in France. He also used Abigail's pet name of Portia in his correspondence.

Later events[edit]

After his term in Congress, Lovell returned to teaching, but continued to hold various political offices. He was collector of taxes in Massachusetts from 1784 to 1788 and Customs Officer of Boston in 1778 and 1789. He died in Windham, Maine (then part of Massachusetts) on July 14, 1814.


His son, James Lovell (1758–1850) served in the Continental Army from 1776 to 1782. After graduating from Harvard in 1776, he joined the 16th Massachusetts regiment as a lieutenant, and saw action at Battle of Monmouth and in Rhode Island. In 1779 he was assigned as adjutant and major to Light Horse Harry Lee's Southern Legion and fought in the Southern Campaigns. He is reported to have fought valiantly and was wounded several times.

James's grandson, by James S., was Joseph Lovell who served as Surgeon General of the Army from 1818 when Congress created the position until 1836.


  1. ^ "Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, Old South Church". Colonials and Patriots. National Park Service. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Edes, Peter. Peter Edes, Pioneer Printer in Maine, a Biography: His Diary While a Prisoner by the British at Boston, in 1775, with the Journal of John Leach, who was a Prisoner at the Same Time. Bangor: Google eBook. 
  3. ^ Bushnell, Charles (1865). The Narrative of John Blatchford, detailing His Sufferings in the Revolutionary War, While a Prisoner with the British. New York: Privately Printed. 
  4. ^ Jones, Helen F. (1968). James Lovell in the Continental Congress 1777-1782. PhD. Dissertation: Columbia University. 

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