Journal of Jonathan Belcher, the First-Known, American-Born Freemason
Jonathan Belcher (1681/2–1757) was born the son of a Massachusetts tavernkeeper. Once his father, Captain Andrew Belcher, got into shipping; however, he soon became one of the wealthiest men in New England who could afford to send his son to Harvard and then on a tour of Europe. Jonathan set sail in 1704 to England where he first spent time researching his family history. He then traveled through Holland and Germany, keeping a journal, which is published herein. And it was during his European travels, Crockett contends, that Belcher became a Freemason, possibly the first American-born Freemason. Even apart from the freemasonry question, the journal is delightful. Jonathan had a knack for making friends within hours of arriving in any strange city and his journal is filled with descriptions of his new acquaintances and their families, their houses and the sightseeing trips they took him on. In his lively, direct style he tells us about the towns and villages of early 18th century Holland and Germany, the appearance of the houses, the ways of fishing and farming, the windmills, the wealth of the merchants, poorhouses, prisons and churches. He concludes his journal with a mileage and expense account, for the enlightenment of “any that are desirous to make the same tour which I have.” Back to London, Belcher was introduced to the Royal family, which would eventually lead to his appointment in 1730 as Royal Governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The latter part of the book tracks his successes and shortcomings in that position.
(1992), 2015, 5½x8½, paper, index, 280 pp.