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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Jonathan Belcher

BELCHER, Jonathan, governor of Massachusetts and New Jersey, born 8 January 1681 ; died in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, 31 August 1757. He was the son of Andrew Belcher, one of the provincial council, and a gentleman of large estate. Jonathan was graduated at Harvard in 1699, spent six years in Europe, where he visited the court of Hanover twice, and by making the acquaintance of the Princess Sophia and her son, afterward George I. of England, prepared the way for his future advancement. Having returned to Boston and become a merchant there, in 1729 he was sent to England as the agent of the colony, and on Governor Burner's death in 1730 he was appointed governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which office he held for eleven years, distinguishing himself by his hospitality and style of living. He wished the assembly to vote him a fixed salary of $5,000 a year, and dissolved it when it refused to do so; but, although he tried to gain over members of influence by the distribution of offices, he was finally obliged to accept a grant for one year only. This contest, together with some unnecessary assumption of authority and freedom in censure, gained him many enemies, and in consequence of popular clamor he was removed in 1741. It is also claimed that his enemies resorted to unfair means. However this may be, he easily succeeded in vindicating himself at court, whither he went immediately, was promised the first vacancy in America, and in 1747 was appointed governor of New Jersey. Here his government was successful, for, though he found the province in confusion and the two branches of the legislature at odds, by prudence and firmness he secured comparative quiet. He enlarged the charter of the College of New Jersey, and was its chief patron and benefactor, giving it, among other presents, his valuable library. See Hutchinson's " History of Massachusetts Bay" (Boston, 1764); Smith's " History of the Colony of New Jersey" (Burlington, 1765); Belknap's "History of New Hampshire" (Philadelphia, 1784) ; and Belcher's letters, 1731-'40, in the "New England Historical and Genealogical Register" (1865).-His son, Jonathan, jurist, born in Boston, 28 July 1710; died in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 29 March 1776. He was graduated at Harvard in 1728, and then went to London, where he studied law in the Temple and attained eminence at the English bar. He was one of the first settlers at Chibucto (afterward called Halifax), and in 1760, being senior councilor, was appointed lieutenant governor on the death of Governor Lawrence. He held this office until 1763, and in 1761 was also appointed chief justice of the province. In the same year, as commander-in-chief, he made a treaty with the Indians.*Andrew, son of the second Jonathan, was a prominent citizen of Halifax, and a member of the council in 1801.*Sir Edward, son of Andrew, British explorer, born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1799 ; died 18 March 1877. He entered the royal British navy as a midshipman at the age of thirteen, was present at the battle of Algiers, and served afterward on the African station, whence he returned home invalided in 1820. Having next served on the North American station for three years, he was selected in 1825 as assistant surveyor to Captain F. W. Beechey, then about to sail for Bering strait in the "Blossom " on his voyage of discovery. Belcher was made a commander in 1829, was engaged in 1830 upon a survey of the coast of Africa, and from 1836 till 1842 on a survey of the Pacific in H. 3I. S. "Sulphur." During this voyage he circumnavigated the globe and did important work in taking soundings of the Canton river. He was rewarded with a commission as post-captain and the companionship of the order of the bath in 1841, and was knighted in 1843. He was engaged chiefly on the East Indian station from 1842 till 1849, and was severely wounded while assisting to subdue the pirates of Borneo. In 1852 he was appointed to command an expedition to the Arctic ocean in search of Sir John Franklin. This was an unfortunate appointment, for Belcher, though an able officer, was personally unpopular, and the expedition did not succeed in its object, though it brought back Mc-Clure's party, who had been ice-bound for three years. Four of Belcher's ships were abandoned in the ice with what has been thought unnecessary haste. One of these, the " Resolute," was afterward found floating in open water by Captain Buddington, of New London, Connecticut, and was purchased by congress, refitted, and presented to the British government. On his return Belcher was tried by court-martial and acquitted; but he was never employed again, though he rose, in course of seniority, to the rank of admiral in 1872. He was also made a K. C. born in 1867. He published a " Treatise on Nautical Surveying," which was long a standard work (1835);" Narrative of a Voyage round the World" (1843); "Narrative of the Voyage of H. M. S. Samarang" (1848); " The Last of the Arctic Voyages" (1855); and "Horatio Howard Brenton, a Naval Novel" (1856). He also edited Smyth's "Naval Word-Book" (1867).

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