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Lovell, James

Lovell, James

LOVELL, JAMES. (1737–1814). Continental Congressman. Massachusetts. Born in Boston on 31 October 1737, James Lovell graduated from Harvard in 1756, having become an accomplished linguist and mathematician. He became an instructor under his father (John Lovell) in the South Grammar (now Boston Latin) School. During these years his reputation as an orator increased, and in 1771 he was chosen to deliver the first commemorative speech on the Boston Massacre. This widely reprinted speech made him a well known Patriot figure. The school was closed by the British on 19 April 1775, even though the senior Lovell was a Loyalist.

James Lovell was arrested for spying on 27 June 1775 and was confined in the Provost's Prison. When the British evacuated Boston in March 1776, they took Lovell with them to Halifax, where he shared a cell with Ethan Allen. Lovell was exchanged for Colonel Philip Skene in November 1776 and returned to a welcoming Boston. A few days later, he was sent to the Continental Congress, taking his seat on 4 February 1777 and serving until April 1782. Lovell worked nearly as hard in Congress as his cousin, John Adams, serving on numerous committees and editing the Journals of the Congress for publication. He conducted very important work on the Committee for Foreign Affairs, including developing the cipher used by American agents abroad and acted as Congress's French translator. In addition, he played an active role in practically all the controversies of the Congress, including the Deane affair, in which Silas Deane faced charges ranging from profiteering to treason, and the Conway cabal, in which a group of Continental officers sought to replace Washington as commander in chief. A fervid admirer of General Horatio Gates, Lovell was a sarcastic critic of General George Washington. He took Gates's side in his quarrel with General Philip Schuyler, and encouraged Gates to deal directly with Congress, going over Washington's head. A scandal over indiscreet letters to Abigail Adams and a possible affair with his landlady led Lovell to resign from Congress in 1782. He returned to Boston to serve as receiver of Continental taxes. He became customs collector for the state in 1788, and in 1789 was appointed naval officer for Boston and Charlestown. His son was also named James Lovell, and served as a Continental officer. The senior James Lovell died in Windham, Maine, on 14 July 1814.

SEE ALSO Conway Cabal; Lovell, John.


Jones, Helen Frances. "James Lovell in the Continental Congress 1777–1782." Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1968.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles

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