from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. a humorous designation for the people of the United States collectively. The phrase is said to have originated from Washington's referring to the patriotic Jonathan Trumbull, governor of Connecticut, as “Brother Jonathan.”
Sorry, no etymologies found.
Since I've seen a Welshman in a top hat leading a Zulu impi, and have myself ridden in an Apache war party in paint and breech-clout, I dare say I shouldn't have been surprised to find that Gurdana Khan, the complete Khyberie hillman, could talk the lingo of Brother Jonathan — there were some damned odd fellows about in the earlies, I can tell you.
I will confess that, when the spectre Debt has leaned over my pillow of late, and, smiling ghastlily, has asked if she and I were not intended as companions through life, I snap my fingers at her and tell her that Brother Jonathan talks of adopting me, and that he won't have her of his household.