Lowell, the name of a distinguished family of Massachusetts, descended from Percival Lowell, a merchant who emigrated from Bristol, England, in 1639, and settled in Newbury, where he died Jan. 8, 1665.
I. John, an American statesman and jurist, born in New-buryport, Mass., June 17, 1743 (O. S.), died in Roxbury, May 6, 1802. He was the son of the Rev. John Lowell, the first minister of New-buryport, and graduated at Harvard college in 1700. He studied law, was admitted to practice in 1762, represented Newburyport in the provincial assembly in 1770, and settled in Boston in 1777. He was elected to the convention which framed the constitution of Massachusetts in 1780, took a leading part in its deliberations, and was a member of the committee by which the constitution was drafted and reported. He inserted in the bill of rights the clause declaring that " all men are born free and equal," for the purpose, as he avowed at the time, of abolishing slavery in Massachusetts; and after the adoption of the constitution he offered through the newspapers his services as a lawyer to any person held as a slave who desired to establish a right to freedom under that clause. The position maintained by him on this question was decided to be constitutional by the supreme court of the state in 1783, since which time slavery has had no legal existence in Massachusetts. In 1781 he was elected a member of the continental congress, and in 1782 was appointed by that body one of the three judges of the court for the trial of appeals from the courts of admiralty in the several states.
In 1784 he was selected as one of the commissioners to establish the boundary between Massachusetts and New York. In 1789 President Washington appointed him judge of the district court of Massachusetts, and on the new organization of the United States courts in 1801 he was appointed by President Adams chief justice of the first circuit. He was one of the founders of the American academy, and for 18 years was a member of the corporation of Harvard college.
II. John, an American lawyer and political writer, son of the preceding, born in Newbury port, Oct. 0, 1709, died in Boston, March 12, 1840. He graduated at Harvard college in 1786, studied law, was admitted to the bar before he was 20 years of age, and rose rapidly to the highest rank in the profession. In 1803 he visited Europe, where he remained three years, and after his return devoted himself chiefly to politics. Though he always refused to accept office, few men of his day in Massachusetts had so strong an influence on public opinion. His writings in the newspapers and his pamphlets, of which he published 25, were of eminent service to the federal party. From 1810 to 1828 he was the leading member of the corporation of Harvard university. He was one of the founders of the Massachusetts general hospital, and of the Boston Athenaeum, savings bank, and hospital life insurance company. For many years he was president of the Massachusetts agricultural society.
III. Francis Cabot, an American merchant, brother of the preceding, born in Newburyport, April 7, 1775, died in Boston, Sept, 2, 1817. In 1810 he visited England on account of his health; and on his return home, shortly after the commencement of the war. of 1812, he became so strongly convinced of the practicability of introducing the cotton manufacture into the United States that he proposed to his kinsman, P. T. Jackson, to make the experiment on an ample scale. (See Jackson, Patrick Tracy.) The result of his project was the establishment of manufactures at Waltham, and the foundation of the city of Lowell, which was named after him. He visited Washington in 1816, and his personal influence with leading members of congress contributed largely to the introduction into the tariff act of that year of the protective clause which gave an impetus to the cotton manufacture in the United States.
IV. John, jr., founder of the Lowell institute at Boston, son of the preceding, born in Boston, May 11, 1799, died in Bombay, March 4, 1836. He received his early education at the Edinburgh high school, and entered Harvard college in 1813; but after two years' study, his health being impaired, he made in 1816 and 1817 two voyages to India, the first to Batavia, returning by Holland and England, and the second to Calcutta. After his return he engaged for a few years in commerce, but in 1830-'31 his wife and two daughters, his only children, died in the course of a few months, and for the rest of his life he devoted himself to travel. He spent one year in traversing the United States, and then travelled through Europe, Asia Minor, Egypt, the countries on the upper Nile, Arabia, and Hindostan. His main object was to penetrate the Chinese empire from the Indian frontier. But he was prostrated by disease when he reached India, and died three weeks after his arrival. By his will, made while in Egypt amid the ruins of Thebes, he bequeathed about $250,000 for the maintenance in Boston of annual courses of free public lectures on religion, science, literature, and the arts.
The Lowell institute, as it is called, went into operation in the winter of 1839-'40, and has been highly successful.
V. Charles, an American clergyman, son of Judge John Lowell, born in Boston, Aug. 15, 1782, died in Cambridge, Jan. 20, 1861. He received his early education at Medford and at Andover academy, graduated at Harvard college in 1800, and began the study of law, which he soon abandoned for that of theology. In 1802 he visited Europe, and studied for two years at Edinburgh, and afterward travelled on the continent, returning to the United States in 1805. On Jan. 1, 1806, he was settled as minister of the West (Congregational) church in Boston, retaining its pastorate until his death, a period of fifty-five years. In 1837- '40 he travelled extensively in Europe and the East. Besides many occasional discourses, he published two volumes of sermons (Boston, 1855).
Mary Lowell VI. Mary. See Putnam. VII, Robert Traill Spence, an American author, brother of the preceding, born in Boston, Oct. 8, 1816. He was educated at Round Hill school, Northampton, and at Harvard college, where he graduated in 1833. He studied medicine and afterward theology, and in 1842 was ordained a clergyman of the church of England by the bishop of Newfoundland and Bermuda, whom he accompanied as chaplain first to Bermuda, and then to Newfoundland, where he was settled for some years as rector of Bay Robert. During a severe famine which prevailed in the island he was appointed commissioner for distributing food, became ill through overwork, and returned home. He soon after became rector of Christ church, Newark, N. J., and subsequently of Christ church in Duanesburg, N. Y., and still later principal of St. Mark's school in Southborough, Mass. In July, 1873, he became professor in Union college. In 1858 he published at Boston a novel of Newfoundland life and scenery, "The New Priest in Conception Bay;" in 1860, "Fresh Hearts that failed 3,000 Years Ago, and other Poems;" and in 1874, " Antony Brade," a story of school-boy life.
VIII. James Russell, an American poet, brother of the preceding, born in Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 22, 1819. He graduated at Harvard college in 1838, and recited a " Class Poem," which was printed in 1839, and which contained many strokes of vigorous satire and much sharp wit. He studied law in Harvard university, was admit-ted to the bar in 1840, and opened an office in Boston, but soon abandoned the profession and devoted himself entirely to literature. In 1841 he published a volume of poems entitled "A Year's Life," which has never been reprinted, though many of the poems, revised by the maturer taste and judgment of the author, have been incorporated into the subsequent collections of his writings. In January, 1843, he commenced, in conjunction with Robert Carter, the publication at Boston of "The Pioneer, a Literary and Critical Magazine." Three monthly numbers were issued, containing articles from Poe, Neal, Hawthorne, Parsons, Story, and others, besides the editors, when the publishers, involved in debt by other publications, failed, and the magazine was discontinued.
Mr. Lowell's next publication was a volume of "Poems" (Cambridge, 1844), comprising "A Legend of Brittany," "Prometheus," "Rhaecus," and numerous smaller pieces, among which were sonnets to Wendell Phillips and J. R. Giddings, expressing decided anti-slavery sentiments. A volume of prose, entitled " Conversations on some of the Old Poets" (Cambridge, 1845), next appeared. It is a series of essays in the form of dialogues on Chaucer, Chapman, Ford, and poets and poetry in general, interspersed with remarks on politics, slavery, and other topics. A second series of his "Poems" (Cambridge, 1848) contained " The Present Crisis," "Anti-Texas," " On the Capture of certain Fugitive Slaves near "Washington," and others which obtained great popularity among the opponents of slavery. In the same year were published at Cambridge "The Vision of Sir Launfal," a poem founded upon the legend of the search for the Holy Grail, and the "Biglow Papers," a witty and humorous satire, consisting of various poems in the Yankee dialect, ostensibly by Mr. Ho-sea Biglow, and edited, with an introduction, notes, glossary, index, and "notices of an independent press," by "Homer Wilbur, A. M., pastor of the first church in Jaalam, and prospective member of many literary, learned, and scientific societies." This satire was mainly directed against slavery and the war with Mexico in 1846-'7. It has passed through several editions in the United States, with additions, and has been twice reprinted in England. In 1848 also appeared anonymously "A Fable for Critics," an ingenious rhymed essay upon the principal living American authors.
In July, 1851, Mr. Lowell visited Europe, travelling in England, France, and Switzerland, and residing for a considerable period in Italy. He returned home in December, 1852. In the winter of 1854-'5 he delivered a course of 12 lectures on the British poets. In January, 1855, on the resignation of Mr. Longfellow, he was appointed professor of modern languages and belles-letters in Harvard college. To qualify himself more fully for the duties of the office, he went to Europe in May, and after spending a year in study, chiefly at Dresden, he returned home in August, 1856. From 1857 to 1862 he edited the "Atlantic Monthly," in which many of his writings first appeared. In 1863, in conjunction with Charles E. Norton, he assumed the editorship of the " North American Review," to which he had also been a frequent contributor, and retained the charge of it till 1872. In 1864 he published "Fireside Travels;" in 1867, a new series of the "Biglow Papers" and "Meliboeus Hipponax;" in 1868, "Under the Willows, and other Poems;" in 1869, "The Cathedral," a poem; and in 1870, two volumes of literary essays, "Among my Books" and "My Study Windows." He was appointed to write the poem to be delivered on " commemoration day" at Harvard university, when memorial ceremonies were held for alumni of the university who had fallen in the civil war; and the " Commemoration Ode " then recited, one of the noblest of his poems, was afterward included in one volume with " Under the Willows," etc.
In 1872 he again visited Europe, returning in 1874. The degree of LL. D, was conferred upon him in 1874 by the English university of Cambridge.
IX. Maria (White), an American poet, wife of the preceding, born in Watertown, Mass., July 8, 1821, died in Cambridge, Oct. 27, 1853. Her marriage with Mr. Lowell took place in 1844. A volume of her poems was privately printed in Cambridge in 1855.