Why Princeton University’s Nassau Hall is not called “Belcher Hall”

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In a September 24, 1755 letter to New Jersey governor Jonathan Belcher, the trustees of the College of New Jersey at Princeton wrote,

By the Skill and Prudence of the Measures pursued in your Administration (thro’ the Smiles of Heaven) Harmony, good Order, and Tranquility is restored in a Province, which before your Accession, was unhappily distracted with Animosities, Tumilts, and general Disorder.

Belcher, an evangelical (New Light) governor, was a great defender of the college. He granted the college its second charter (after its first charter was contested by New Jersey Anglicans) and served as chair of the Board of Trustees. He was influential in moving the college from Newark, New Jersey to Princeton and donated his large library to the school.

Belcher was also celebrated in New Jersey for bringing a temporary end to some of the social unrest over property rights that wracked the colony in the 1730s and 1740s. His enlightened evangelicalism also brought renewed unity to the religious life of a colony divided over the First Great Awakening. His efforts in leading the New Jersey through the early years of the French and Indian War made these unification efforts possible.

Belcher responded to the letter of the Princeton trustees:

When I first had the Honour of his Majesty’s appointing me Governor in his Plantations (now nineteen Years ago), I determined, as far as it would consist with his Majesty’s Honour and Interest, and with the Welfare of his People, to look upon Moderation, as a wise Temperament for the easy and happy Administration of Government: And this I believe has greatly contributed to the present Peace and Tranquility of this Province, after the many Tumults and Riots it had been groaning under for a long Time before my Arrivals.”

The Princeton trustees wanted to name their newly constructed building at Princeton “Belcher Hall,” but the governor refused to lend his name to it. Instead, he recommended the name “Nassau Hall” after the “House of Nassau,” the

great Deliverer of the British Nation, from those two monstrous Furies–Popery and Slavery. And who, for the better Establishment of the true Religion and of English Liberty, brought forward an Act in the British Parliament for securing the Crown of Great Britain, to the present Royal Family, whereby we are not become happy, under the best of Kings, in the full Enjoyment of English Liberty and Property.

Source:

To His Excellency Jonathan Belcher, Esq; captain general, and governor in chief of the province of Nova-Caesarea, or New-Jersey, chancellor, and vice-admiral in the same. An address from the trustees of the College of New-Jersey  (September 24, 1755).