Rossiter Johnson, ed., "Forbes, John Murray," The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, vol. 4 (Boston: The Biographical Society, 1904).
FORBES, John Murray, merchant, was born in Bordeaux, France, Feb. 23, 1813; son of Ralph Bennet and Margaret (Perkins) Forbes, and grandson of the Rev. John and Dorothy (Murray) Forbes. His father was temporarily engaged in mercantile business in Marseilles and his wife with two children joined him in 1811, having taken passage from Boston in a merchant vessel which was captured and detained by a British man-of-war. Three months after John Murray was bom the family set .sail for Boston, were again captured, put under a prize crew and carried to Corunna, Spain. Sailing thence they were again captured and carried to Portugal and on the third trial they reached Boston in August, 1813. John Murray was educated at the Round Hill school, Northampton, Mass.. where he had as instructors George Bancroft and Joseph G. . Cogswell. He left school to take a position in the counting room of his uncles, James and Thomas H. Perkins, and in 1830 went to China as clerk in the house of Russell & Co. He returned to America in 1833 for the benefit of his health and on Feb. 8, 1834, he was married to Sarah S. Hathaway of New Bedford, Mass. In March, 1834, he returned to Canton, China, and became a partner in the house of Russell & Co. He returned to the United States in 1837 with a fortune gained in trade. He acted as agent lor the Canton house and engaged in business on his own account. In 1861 he used his influence in averting civil war and was appointed a peace commissioner by Governor Andrew. Finding no possibility of securing a peaceful solution to the troubles between the north and south he advised preparation for a long war and aided Governor Andrew in recruiting and equipping the troops from Massachusetts. He advised the issue of bonds and favored making them payable after a long term of years as a permanent loan and not for a short term as a passing emergency. He also advised transporting the first troops sent to Washington by boat rather tlian take the risk of passing through the border states on the railroad. He was sent to England by the government to try and prevent the fitting out of ironclad rams. He was largely interested in western railroads from 1846, and was a director of the most important railroads having a terminus at Chicago. He was a presidential elector in I860, 1868 and 1872, and a personal friend of President Grant. He supported the candidacy of Grover Cleveland in 1884 and was an advocate of free ships to sail under the American flag. He had a home at Milton, Mass., and as a summer home owned Naushon island off the southern coast of Massachusetts, which he made a model American estate. Mr. Forbes died at Milton, Mass., Oct. 12, 1898.