Facts and Events
Jonathan Belcher (8 January 1681/231 August 1757) was a merchant, businessman, and politician from the Province of Massachusetts Bay during the American colonial period. Belcher served simultaneously for over a decade as colonial governor of the British colonies of New Hampshire (1729–1741) and Massachusetts (1730–1741) and later for ten years as governor of New Jersey (1747–1757).
Born into a wealthy Massachusetts merchant family, Belcher attended Harvard College and then entered into the family business and local politics. He was instrumental in promoting Samuel Shute as governor of Massachusetts in 1715, and sat on the colony's council, but became disenchanted with Shute over time and eventually joined the populist faction of Elisha Cooke, Jr. After the sudden death of Governor William Burnet in 1729 Belcher successfully acquired the governorships of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. During his tenure, Belcher politically marginalized those who he perceived as opposition and made many powerful enemies in both provinces. In a long-running border dispute between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Belcher sided with Massachusetts interests despite openly proclaiming neutrality in the matter. It was later discovered that he allowed illegal logging on Crown lands by political allies. His opponents, led by William Shirley and Samuel Waldo, eventually convinced the Board of Trade to replace Belcher (with Shirley in Massachusetts and Benning Wentworth in New Hampshire), and the border dispute was resolved in New Hampshire's favor.
Belcher was appointed governor of New Jersey in 1747 with support from its Quaker community. He unsuccessfully attempted to mediate the partisan conflicts between New Jersey's Quakers and large landowners, and promoted the establishment of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. Through most of his tenure as royal governor, Belcher was ill with a progressive nervous disorder, and died in office in 1757. Belchertown, Massachusetts is named for him.