James Bowdoin II (/ˈboʊdɪn/; August 7, 1726 – November 6, 1790) was an American political and intellectual leader from Boston, Massachusetts, during the American Revolution and the following decade. He initially gained fame and influence as a wealthy merchant. He served in both branches of the Massachusetts General Court from the 1750s to the 1770s. Although he was initially supportive of the royal governors, he opposed British colonial policy and eventually became an influential advocate of independence. He authored a highly political report on the 1770 Boston Massacre that has been described by historian Francis Walett as one of the most influential pieces of writing that shaped public opinion in the colonies.
From 1775 to 1777 he served as president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress' executive council, the de facto head of the Massachusetts government. He was elected president of the constitutional convention that drafted the state's constitution in 1779, and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1780, losing to John Hancock. In 1785, following Hancock's resignation, he was elected governor. Due to the large debts of Massachusetts, incurred from the Revolutionary War, Bowdoin ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility. During his two years in office the combination of poor economic conditions and his harsh fiscal policy laid down by his government led to the uprising known as Shays' Rebellion. Bowdoin personally funded militia forces that were instrumental in putting down the uprising. His high-handed treatment of the rebels may have contributed to his loss of the 1787 election, in which the populist Hancock was returned to office.
In addition to his political activities, Bowdoin was active in scientific pursuits, collaborating with Benjamin Franklin in his pioneering research on electricity. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1787. He was a founder and first president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, to whom he bequeathed his library. Bowdoin College in Maine was named in his honor after a bequest by his son James III.