James Bowdoin
James Bowdoin II was an American political and intellectual leader from Boston, Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. He served in both branches of the Massachusetts General Court
Massachusetts General Court
The Massachusetts General Court is the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The name "General Court" is a hold-over from the Colonial Era, when this body also sat in judgment of judicial appeals cases...

 in the colonial era and was president of the state's constitutional convention
Constitutional convention (political meeting)
A constitutional convention is now a gathering for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing constitution. A general constitutional convention is called to create the first constitution of a political unit or to entirely replace an existing constitution...

. After independence he was governor of Massachusetts.

Bowdoin was born in Boston to Hannah Portage Bowdoin and James Bowdoin, a wealthy Boston merchant
A merchant is a businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit.Merchants can be one of two types:# A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between producer and retail merchant...

. His grandfather Pierre Baudouin was a Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

 refugee from France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

Pierre took his family first to Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, then to Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine
Portland is the largest city in Maine and is the county seat of Cumberland County. The 2010 city population was 66,194, growing 3 percent since the census of 2000...

, finally settling in Boston in 1690. Bowdoin II took advantage of the small sum of money that his father left him to become one of the wealthiest merchants in Boston. Young James attended Boston Latin School
Boston Latin School
The Boston Latin School is a public exam school founded on April 23, 1635, in Boston, Massachusetts. It is both the first public school and oldest existing school in the United States....

, then graduated from Harvard in 1745. When his father died in 1747, he inherited a considerable fortune. He took an early interest in Natural History
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

, and had several papers read to the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 by his friend and correspondent, Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

. His main scientific interest was astronomy. He married Elizabeth Erving in 1748. They had two children.

Bowdoin was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Massachusetts House of Representatives
The Massachusetts House of Representatives is the lower house of the Massachusetts General Court, the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is composed of 160 members elected from single-member electoral districts across the Commonwealth. Representatives serve two-year terms...

 in 1753 and served there until named to the Council
Massachusetts Governor's Council
The Massachusetts Governor's Council is a governmental body that provides advice and consent in certain matters such as judicial nominations, pardons, and commutations to the Governor of Massachusetts...

 in 1756. By the end of Sir Francis Bernard's term as governor he spoke and wrote against the royal governors and their actions. He was proposed as a continuing Council member in 1769, but the new governor Thomas Hutchinson rejected his membership. Boston promptly elected him to the House. When Hutchinson was formally commissioned as governor in 1770, he restored Bowdoin to the Council, reasoning that he was less dangerous there than as an outspoken critic in the House. He was removed from the Council once again in 1774 because of his opposition to British policies.

Bowdoin as named as a delegate to the First Continental Congress
First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the...

 in 1774 but did not attend, citing health reasons. In 1775 he was elected President of the Council and held that office until 1777. This made him the head of the Massachusetts government. With the turmoil of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, he sometimes acted as council president in an executive, rather than legislative role. When Massachusetts wrote its own constitution in 1779, he was president of the Convention which created it, and chairman of the committee that drafted it. His son, James Bowdoin III
James Bowdoin III
James Bowdoin III was an American philanthropist and statesman from Boston, Massachusetts. He has born to James Bowdoin in Boston, and graduated from Harvard University in 1771. James then studied law at Oxford and traveled widely in Europe until 1775. When he got the news of the Battle of...

, also sat in this convention. He wrote the new constitution alongside John Adams. Under the new state government, governor John Hancock
John Hancock
John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

 appointed him to a commission to revise and consolidate the laws from colonial days.

In 1785, Bowdoin was elected Governor of Massachusetts, but his terms were not peaceful. Before this election, he had never received more than 15% of votes for Governor. However, Bowdoin Massachusetts was facing when John Hancock resigned, leaving Thomas Hutchinson as Governor. Under these circumstances, Bowdoin was able to win the election. He called up the militia
Militia (United States)
The role of militia, also known as military service and duty, in the United States is complex and has transformed over time.Spitzer, Robert J.: The Politics of Gun Control, Page 36. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995. " The term militia can be used to describe any number of groups within the...

 and took vigorous action to put down Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in central and western Massachusetts from 1786 to 1787. The rebellion is named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War....

, and as a result lost the election of 1787 as Hancock was swept back into office. In 1788 he served as a member of the Massachusetts convention that ratified the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

Throughout this period, he maintained his interest in learning a natural history. In 1780 he was primarily responsible for the creation of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

. He served as its first president until his death and left the society his library. Bowdoin continued to publish not only scientific papers, but verse in both English and Latin. He served as the president of the Massachusetts bank in 1784 and was elected president of the Massachusetts Humane Society in 1786. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

, made a fellow of Harvard, and was a member of the Royal Society of both London and Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...


He died of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 on November 6, 1790, in Boston. Bowdoin's funeral is known to be one of the largest and grandest in the history of Boston. Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College , founded in 1794, is an elite private liberal arts college located in the coastal Maine town of Brunswick, Maine. As of 2011, U.S. News and World Report ranks Bowdoin 6th among liberal arts colleges in the United States. At times, it was ranked as high as 4th in the country. It is...

 in Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

 was named in his honour, as his son, James Bowdoin III
James Bowdoin III
James Bowdoin III was an American philanthropist and statesman from Boston, Massachusetts. He has born to James Bowdoin in Boston, and graduated from Harvard University in 1771. James then studied law at Oxford and traveled widely in Europe until 1775. When he got the news of the Battle of...

 had provided the principal endowment for its foundation. Bowdoin Street and Bowdoin MBTA Station were also named in his honour.

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