Governor Jonathan Belcher and Harvard College (later Harvard University)

[Governor Jonathan Belcher, when he was governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, was an Overseer of Harvard College at Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the following speech, December 16, 1730, excerpted 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), Governor Belcher urged the legislature to renovate Harvard's Stoughton Hall. This is one of the many instances in which Governor Belcher served as a firm friend and supporter of Harvard College.]


    A Quorum of the House being met, Ordered, That Mr. Welles, Mr. Lynde, and Col. Berry, go up with a Message to His Excellency, to acquaint him that a quorum of the House are met, and ready to proceed to business.


[The following is Governor Belcher's speech to the House, December 16, 1730:]

    Gentlemen of the Council and House of Representatives,


    When you consider what a diffusive blessing the college at Cambridge has been to this country in its learning and religion, and how much all the estates among you have thereby been raised in their value, and that while other Plantations are obliged to send their sons abroad for education at a great expense, and often to the ruin of their morals, we reap that advantage at home; I say, I hope these things will make you ready on all occasions to nourish and cherish that society [Harvard College]. And what I would particularly point at, is the complaint of the sons of the prophets [i.e., the college faculty and students], that they are straitened for room [i.e., the college is running out of space to house everybody]. I am told that Stoughton College is gone much to decay, and not without danger of falling; I should be therefore glad that a committee of this Court might be chosen to view it and report what may be proper to be done for the better accommodation of the students there.



[When Governor Jonathan Belcher was an Overseer of Harvard College, he supported the famous evangelist George Whitefield's efforts to preach to the students and faculty of Harvard in 1740. When Whitefield returned to Boston in 1745, Jonathan Belcher was no longer governor there, however, and then Whitefield was reminded of the importance of Governor Belcher's prior support and just how much the governor's influence meant to the success of Whitefield's ministry. Here is what Whitefield wrote in 1745 about the positive influence of the governor's support:]

                                                                "Boston, Jan. 18, 1745.

My dear Friend,

    By this time I suppose you have heard, by your brother's letter, how good old Mr. Moody, in his honest way, said, I was welcome to all the faithful ministers in New England. But the good old man judged too much by his own honest feelings. You see I am now at Boston, whither I was brought from Piscataway in a coach and four. The joy with which I was received by the common people cannot well be described, but many of the ministers how shy! And how different from what once they were! When [I was] last in Boston, Governor Belcher was in the chair [of the governorship of Massachusetts]; then...he honored me with great honor, and the clergy paid [attention to] the nod, and obeyed. In many I then perceived it was quite forced, and I think when at his table I whispered to some and said, if ever I came again, many of those who now seem extremely civil, will turn out [to be] my open and avowed enemies. The event has proved [correct], that in this respect I have been no false prophet. You know where it is written, 'There arose a king who knew not Joseph'."


                            --- [George Whitefield, A Select Collection of Letters of the

                                Late Reverend George Whitefield, M.A...Written to His

                                Most intimate Friends, and Persons of Distinction, in

                                England, Scotland, Ireland, and America, From the

                                Year 1734, to 1770...In Three Volumes. (London:

                                Edward and Charles Dilly, 1772). Volume 2, p. 72.)

[Therefore, George Whitefield gave credit to Governor Belcher for a large measure of his success in Boston--namely, that he was even allowed to preach at all.]

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