Governor Jonathan Belcher,

Champion of Civil and Religious Liberty

[The following reveals that American-born Governor Jonathan Belcher (1682-1757) was in the favor of both the people and the king--i.e., he championed both the people’s rights, or civil liberty, and he also tried to be faithful to his supreme ruler, the king. Needless to say, this was a delicate balancing act. Source for the following: The New England Weekly Journal, No. 164, May 11, 1730, page 1, column 1 (Printed by S. Kneeland and T. Green). (For more statements of Governor Belcher’s advocacy of the people’s rights, see the heading entitled Poems about Governor Jonathan Belcher.)]



EXTRACT FROM THE Political State of Great Britain FOR THE MONTH OF December LAST.

    THE new difference between the people of NEW ENGLAND and their Governors seems to take a new turn from hence, and such as it is hoped may end in a happy accommodation of all this seeming breach, the government here having nominated a Governor of their own particular body, namely, Mr. BELCHER, a person not only sage and judicious and fully understanding the Constitution of that Colony [Massachusetts] and how far their lawful right extends, and one who for that reason was entrusted by the very people of NEW ENGLAND themselves and by the House of Representatives as their Agent to manage their affairs here and to solicit [advocate] in their behalf, but also one that by his temper and judgment and his faithful adherence to his trust, yet with a loyal and dutiful behavior to His Majesty and all the ministers has gained so universal good opinion that His Majesty has thought fit to put the whole affair into his hands and entrust him with the government of this opulent Colony, the best and greatest branch of all his AMERICAN Empire.

[The New England Weekly Journal, No. 178, Monday, August 17, 1730, devoted much of that issue to Governor Jonathan Belcher. The following poem (also included in this website’s section titled Poems about Governor Jonathan Belcher) praises Governor Belcher as a champion of both civil and religious liberty. Note that when the governor arrived in Massachusetts, though he was technically a Puritan, he greeted, and was greeted by, ministers of both denominations (Congregational [Puritan] and Church of England [Anglican]) in that colony, and then the Governor called for religious tolerance. Thus, he was a champion of religious liberty.]


The New-England Weekly Journal.

No. 178. Monday August 17. 1730.



A Congratulatory POEM to his Excellency Governor BELCHER; at his Arrival.


    Immortal NASSAU! How angelic great!

That could retrieve three sinking kingdoms fate.

How justly, too, shall BELCHER’s deathless name

Shine bright forever in the rolls of fame!

Three destined Provinces that erst deplored

Their bleeding liberties has he restored.

    Beloved of Heaven, the Guardian Angels joy;

His precious life, nor spot, nor harm annoy.

While nature, grace, and art strongly combined

Enrich his soul, inspired his brightened mind:

For mighty things, in future life designed.

His generous soul fired with his country’s love;

These talents, does to public use improve.

The anxious Provinces, in deep distress;

To him their mighty refuge make address.

Nor did his noble soul their cry disdain;

Who only, could the weighty charge sustain.

The grand affair, he thenceforth has at heart,

Nor night, nor day, does the sad care depart.

Of all the joys of life though full possessed:

For his dear country, does himself divest.

Bids all adieu! And with a winged haste,

The Atlantic dangers he soon overpassed.

BRITAIN arrives; approached the British Throne:

Seeks his loved people’s welfare as his own.

King GEORGE’s early friend and favorite!

And whom the King to honor does delight.

King GEORGE smiles on his friend, grant his request,

And all his grievances are soon redressed.

And while he for his dear loved land appears,

Not all the FRONT of mighty foes he fears.

    The glorious work performed: prepares to come,

To bless and to rejoice his friends at home.

The willing ocean, swelled with joyous pride,

To waft his ship back over the briny ride.

Fierce winds and waves that sometimes seemed to roar,

Only conspired dispatch to native shore.

    He’s come! He’s come! Welcome to native coast!

Long time with labors and with billows tossed;

Your happy people’s glory, joy, and boast!

    Happy the day of your arrival here!

To future ages, every coming year,

It shall the marks of public honors bear.

The happy State, exulting shall employ

Their rescued liberties in grateful joy.

The golden CHURCHES, still continuing pure

From all encroachments; By [your] guard secure,

Shall be your praise while sun and moon endure.

HARVARD shall boast, her glory now returned;

The brightest crown her temples e’re adorned.

And her learned son’s, with joyful souls conspire

Your just encomium couched with Delian fire.

    If British liberties be precious things,

Now, new confirmed, from the best of kings.

With much expense and hardy toil sustained;

The glorious blessings happily regained.

Let now triumphal arches, high, be reared,

Let polished statues firm, forever stand,

Devote[d] to the deliverer of the land.

That love and joy, each loyal mind inspire;

Each heaving breast, still fan the noble fire;

Swell every vein, and [rapture] every heart;

And universal reign in every part:

While joyous tongues loud songs of praises sing;

And Heaven and Earth with acclamations ring.

    But now while Town and Country thus resound

With mighty joys and praises all around.

Yea, even dull earth with fertile glory springs,

And every creature joys, and smiles, and sings.




The ADDRESS of the Reverend Dr. CUTLER, Minister of CHRIST CHURCH, in behalf of himself, his Church Wardens, and Vestry, To His Excellency Governor BELCHER on his arrival to his Government. August 11th 1730.


    "TO receive the congratulations of the minister, church wardens, and vestry of Christ Church in this town, with sundry other members of the Church of ENGLAND, on your arrival to this Province, and in the character which the best of PRINCES hath conferred on you."

    "The dispositions of our own minds and the principles of loyalty, peaceableness and submission which are the distinguishing glory of the Church of ENGLAND will entirely accord in all the respects due to Your Excellency’s station and merits, and in contributing as we are able to the success and ease of your administrations.

    And may the general good be proportioned to the general joy, and Your Excellency’s happiness be great in this world and infinite in a better."

    His EXCELLENCY [Governor Jonathan Belcher] was pleased to take kindly this dutiful and affectionate address, and to make the following answer.


    AS nothing could be more acceptable to me than your expression of loyalty and duty to the best of KINGS, so it will lead me to have tender regard to the CHURCH OF ENGLAND in general, and all her well affected members in particular. I take very kindly on not only your congratulation upon my arrival to the government, but also the assurances you give me of contributing as you may be able to the ease and success of my administrations. And I do assure you I shall heartily rejoice to see everything that looks like parties and distinction among us languish and die, and that harmony and universal charity may rise and flourish in their stead."

[Note: The following Ministers’ Address is also listed in the website directory under the title "Ministers’ Address to Governor Jonathan Belcher":]

BOSTON, AUGUST 12. This Day the Reverend associated PASTORS, waited on His Excellency the Governour, and Mr. COLMAN being the Senior Minister, made the following ADDRESS to Him in their Name.


    "With Hearts full of Joy, and sincere Thankfulness to GOD, we Congratulate your Excellency’s return to Your Country, and Your Advancement to the Government of it. The KING could not have chosen any One of its SONS more worthy to represent His Royal Person, nor more accepted of the Multitude of Your Brethren."

    "When we first heard of his MAJESTY’s Grace and Favour to Us, in Naming Your EXCELLENCY our Governour, we were like Men that Dream. The CLOUD that hung over us scattered in a moment, as the SUN breaks out in a dark Day, so was the Face of GOD, and the Light of the KING’s Countenance upon Us. We render back to the THRONE our dutiful and fervent Prayers, for His Majesty’s long Life, and happy Reign over Us."

    "According to the good Hand of our GOD upon YOUR EXCELLENCY, so has the KING granted to You both now and heretofore; GOD help’d you then to do us singular Benefits, and now He has rewarded You in an extraordinary manner. We adore the WISE PROVIDENCE that has led in every step to so great an Event, and to GOD be all the Glory."

    "We believe, SIR, That You are come full of Benevolence to Your Country, to our Churches and to the [Harvard] College, and will always have the most tender solicitude for their Welfare and Prosperity. And we bow our knees with You to the GOD of all Wisdom and Grace, for all those Supplies of both, which You will continuously need in the Administration of the Government."


    His EXCELLENCY [Governor Jonathan Belcher] was pleased to take kindly this dutiful and affectionate Address, and to make the following Answer.



    I am Extremely pleased with the Respect & Duty you Express to his Majesty, and am Obliged for the Honor you do Me. I do assure you it has not been from any self interested Views, That I have sought His Majesty’s Favor in the Station he has been pleased to place Me, but from a Hope of Advancing His Majesty’s Service, and the Interest and Prosperity of this Country. The COLLEGE and CHURCHES always were and are very dear to Me, and you may assure Your Selves Nothing will be wanting in Me to promote their [good] Weal and Prosperity. And I desire You to join Your Prayers to Mine, That GOD would give me an Understanding Heart to discern between good and bad, That I may at all times go out and come in before this People to the Honor of GOD, to the good of this Country, and to the Applause of my own Conscience.


[Note: The following reveals the response of the secular town officials who greeted Governor Jonathan Belcher’s arrival. In their response they thanked Governor Belcher for protecting the rights of the people by "setting the record straight" at Court about the recent constitutional conflict that centered around the right of the Massachusetts House of Representatives to thwart potential executive tyranny. At a time when the Massachusetts people feared the British government would take away their charter privileges, Massachusetts Agent Jonathan Belcher spoke up on behalf of the people’s rights, and the crisis was resolved. Also Note: The selectmen asked Governor Belcher to encourage religion! So back then in American history, a government/governor was EXPECTED to promote religion!]

    To His Excellency JONATHAN BELCHER, Esq; The ADDRESS of the Select Men of the Town of BOSTON.


    "WE the selectmen of the town of BOSTON most heartily congratulate Your Excellency’s safe arrival to your government and native country, which we have been earnestly waiting for, and now behold with the common joy and satisfaction. And we can’t but take notice on this occasion that we look on it as an extraordinary smile of Providence that His Majesty has been most graciously pleased to appoint Your Excellency (one among our selves, of whose virtues and affections to the town we have had such experience) to be our Governor; and we adore that Providence that has stirred up Your Excellency to appear so courageously and early for us at the Court of GREAT BRITAIN, and as we have heard, succeeded your endeavors to remove those unjust representations which some from hence, out of no good will to us, have made in prejudice to these His Majesty’s most affectionate and loyal subjects, when we desired nothing more than the continuance of our ancient privileges."

    "And now that Your Excellency is placed at the head of our affairs, we greatly encourage ourselves to hope this town will meet with those cheerful smiles whereby it may again revive and hold up its head, and the inhabitants be encouraged, both in their trade, good order, and religion. We particularly pray and trust that Your Excellency will always countenance us in all things relating to the town’s affairs and interests, so far as they may come within our sphere. And may our most excellent KING and QUEEN long reign and prosper, and their offspring after them in all generations. May happiness attend yourself and yours. And may Your Excellency be made and long continued a great blessing to this now joyful people, is the hearty wishes of your Excellency’s

    most Obliged humble Servants,

           SAMUEL WHITE            JONATHAN LORING

            ANDREW TYLER          SAMUEL ADAMS

            JOHN OSBORNE           BENJAMIN FITCH

            JOSHUA CHEEVER

Boston August 14th 1730.


    His EXCELLENCY [Governor Jonathan Belcher] was pleased to take kindly this dutiful and affectionate Address, and to make the following Answer,


    Your professions of loyalty to His Majesty and of duty and affection to his Royal House justly claim a very particular respect from his governor; And I give you my kind and hearty thanks for the joy and satisfaction you express upon the honor and favor the KING has done me in appointing me to the government of this Province; the metropolis whereof being more especially under your care, you may at all times assure yourselves it will be with the greatest pleasure and alacrity that I shall countenance and encourage religion, good order and trade among you; and shall be glad to see the town of BOSTON revive and flourish in every thing that may be for its truest interest and prosperity.


[Note: The following excerpt from Governor Belcher’s speech to the Massachusetts General Court, September 9, 1730, is from A Journal of the Honourable House of Representatives, At a Great and General Court of Assembly of His Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England,... (Boston: Thomas Fleet, 1730):]

    A Quorum of the House being met, Ordered, That Mr. Lewis, Mr. Welles, Mr. Lynde, Col. Berry and Major Brattle wait upon His Excellency with a message to acquaint him that a quorum of the house are now met. Who returned, they had delivered the message.

    A message from His Excellency by Mr. Secretary, directing the House to attend him in the Council Chamber.

    The Speaker and the House accordingly went up, and His Excellency delivered a speech to the Court, of which the Speaker obtained a copy which was read in the House, and the same is as follows:

    Gentlemen of the Council and House of Representatives,

    It is with gratitude to almighty God that I now mention to you my safe return from Great Britain after a long absence and a dangerous voyage.

    His Majesty’s Commission, published at my arrival, told you of the king’s having appointed me his Governor of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, in consequence whereof I now see you with pleasure, convened in General Assembly (I doubt not) to pursue those measures which may most of all conduce to His Majesty’s service and interest, and the prosperity of this country.

    The first thing I would recommend to you is a regard to virtue and true religion, for which New England has (a long time) had the honor to be distinguished, and from His Majesty’s pious care of his people here, he has commanded me not only to see that there be a strict execution of all the laws now in force against immorality and impiety, but that I commend to your consideration the enacting such others as may best promote and encourage our most holy religion. And I wish every thing of this kind may be always brought forward and debated with a true...Christian spirit.

    It is one of the shining graces of His Majesty’s reign that Dissenters of all denominations in Great Britain enjoy the toleration in its full ease and extent, and it should be your care to imitate the royal indulgence of our gracious sovereign, that none of our laws may carry in them a spirit of rigor or severity to those who may conscientiously differ from us in the modes of Divine worship. We, I say, of all His Majesty’s subjects, ought as much as possible to steer clear of this, since our ancestors (but in the last century) left their native country, as not able to comply with an impositions on their consciences, or endure the hardships of not doing it. And I can’t pass from this article without putting you in mind of the happiness peculiar to this Province, in the early care our fathers took for a liberal and pious education of their posterity; I mean the founding of a college at Cambridge [Massachusetts--i.e., Harvard College]. And I do assure you I shall gladly embrace every opportunity you’ll put in my power of nourishing that seminary of religion and learning.


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