John A. Lowell (1743 - 1802) MP

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Nicknames: "The Old Judge"
Birthplace: Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts
Death: Died in Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation: Continental Congressman; Jurist
Managed by: Sarah Burns
Last Updated:

About John A. Lowell

John A. Lowell (June 17, 1743, in Newburyport, Massachusetts – May 6, 1802, in Roxbury), the son of Rev. John Lowell and Sarah Champney, was a respected lawyer, selectman, jurist, delegate to Congress and federal judge.

Known within his family as The Old Judge, distinguishing him from the proliferation of Johns, John Lowell is considered to be the patriarch of the Boston Lowells. He, with each of his three wives, established three distinct lines of the Lowell clan that, in turn, propagated celebrated poets, authors, jurists, educators, merchants, bankers, national heroes, activists, innovators and philanthropists. John Lowell, his descendants, and many other well established New England families defined American life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Lowell's son, the Rev. Charles Lowell, D.D., wrote in a personal letter eight decades later, “My father introduced into the Bill of Rights the clause by which Slavery was abolished in Massachusetts... and when it was adopted, exclaimed: 'Now there is no longer Slavery in Massachusetts, it is abolished and I will render my services as a lawyer gratis to any slave suing for his freedom if it is withheld from him...' and he did so defend the negro slave against his master under this clause of the constitution which was declared valid by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1783, and since that time Slavery in Mass. has had no legal standing.” (Lowell 1899, pp 34–35)

He graduated from Harvard in 1760 and became an attorney in 1762. Lowell was a militia officer and served during the Revolution. He moved to Boston in 1777 and served in the Massachusetts House in 1778 and 1780 to 1782. In 1780 he was a Delegate to the convention that produced the post-colonial state Constitution. He convinced the convention to include in the document the phrase "all men are born free and equal," believing it would result in the abolition of slavery. His position was upheld by the state supreme court in 1783, ending slavery in Massachusetts.


  1. DAR Ancestor #: A072099
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Judge John Lowell's Timeline

June 17, 1743
Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts
January 3, 1767
Age 23
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
March 30, 1768
Age 24
Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
October 6, 1769
Age 26
January 1, 1771
Age 27
May 31, 1774
Age 30
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
April 7, 1775
Age 31
Newburyport, Essex, MA, USA
Age 32
January 27, 1778
Age 34
Dunstable, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
May 17, 1779
Age 35
Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts