Article abstract: dedicated to God and also to learning, Mather noted a distinctively American view to europe thought and also sought to reconcile brand-new England Puritanism with the pundit trends of his day.

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early on Life

cotton Mather was born February 12, 1663, in Boston, Massachusetts. He to be the eldest child of increase Mather, a rising Boston preacher, and the nephew of Richard Mather and also John Cotton, normally regarded together the spiritual fathers of Massachusetts just Colony. Destined to follow his father and also grandfathers right into the ministry, noodle was a kid prodigy. He was patiently however rigorously tutored through his father, to visit Boston Grammar School, and also entered Harvard university at eleven (the youngest student ever before to matriculate there). He obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1678 and also master’s degree in 1681. After ~ assisting his dad for five years as a ministerial candidate, cotton was ordained and became the 2nd pastor in ~ the Old north Church in 1685.

by both parentage and education, cotton Mather was thoroughly all set for the Puritan ministry. The precocious lad did, however, encounter special trials and also tribulations. The Puritan legacy weighed heavily upon him, and also the expectations of his too many protective father to be at best a combined blessing. In fact, increase Mather, despite a loving dad in numerous ways, to be a melancholy man whose aloof actions may have actually increased the stress and anxiety of his conscientious son. Together a young boy, Cotton emerged a major stammer which threatened his potential together a cleric. After lot prayer and practice, the learned to regulate the stuttering, but it would certainly return periodically transparent his life, abruptly reminding the of his very own fallibility. Hardly much more than a boy as a Harvard freshman, he was at times viciously enraged by the enlarge students; his renowned name and also obvious stammer made the a likely target because that bullies. He nevertheless loved Harvard, ending up being a fellow of the university in 1690, and also he yearned to offer as the president, together his father had done for a couple of years. His hopes were to it is in dashed, though, for both Harvard and Massachusetts were moving away from the conservative theology that the Mathers.

By the time of his ordination, Mather had largely overcome his stuttering and also was widely well-known as one eloquent and scholarly young preacher. He was likewise following in his father’s footsteps as counselor come the government and prophet come the people. Father and son made typical cause versus Governor Edmund Andros and the dominion of new England end which he ruled. In 1689, when Increase lugged the protest come London, Cotton continued to be in Boston and also joined with other provincial leaders that took advantage of the Glorious change in England to jail Andros and also overturn the Dominion. 3 years later, Mather came to be embroiled in the witchcraft trials in ~ Salem. He believed in witches and also wrote numerous pamphlets defending the introduction of together spectral evidence as dreams and visions in the judicial proceedings. Although that was more of one observer than an instigator, his defense that the prosecutions to be criticized in ~ the time and vigorously denounced by historians ever before since. ~ all, more than 150 persons to be jailed and mistreated as accused witches and nineteen persons to be executed. Indeed, the an unfavorable historical photo of Mather together the learned however bigoted and superstitious Puritan preacher is based squarely top top his inglorious authorized in the pathetic witchcraft controversy.

While developing himself together a preacher, Mather was anxious to begin his own family. The was reportedly a handsome young man, and also the portraits painted of him in later life imply the shining eyes, the pleasant and also expressive face, and also the genial personality that the young parson that dressed in style and elegance and pointedly safeguarded the put on of perukes. For a priest with limited income, the acquisition of a wife was specifically important. He married in ~ twenty-three, recognize a great and loving wife in Abigail Phillips and a measure of financial security in her thriving father. Mather took an excellent joy and also satisfaction in his family, but he also experienced the heart pain that only a loving father and husband could know. Five of the nine kids Abigail boring died very young, and also Abigail herself died of usage in 1702. Just thirty-nine years old, Mather married again, taking to mam a young widow, Elizabeth Clark, who provided birth come six more children. By 1713, Elizabeth was dead, and also so were four of her children. Mather was a warm and affectionate man who loved his wives and his kids dearly and also found consolation and fulfillment in his family.

Life’s Work

cotton Mather was first and foremost a preacher call his generation back to the spiritual traditions of the Puritan fathers. Yet, for every one of his important conservatism, Mather to be not nearly as inflexible as his movie critics have claimed. In fact, he well-known that if Puritanism to be to be revived in the minds and hearts the the people, it would have to reach an accommodation v the progressively secular fads of his very own day. He saw himself together a peacemaker, and time and also time again, he tried come reconcile antagonistic views, generally finding self blamed by all sides. In fact, his involvement in the witchcraft trials was an initiative to define an ext precisely the legal standing of controversial spectral evidence. A couple of years later, he sought to hold together Congregationalists and also Presbyterians versus Anglican pretensions and also found self bitterly denounced by various other Congregationalists because that his ecumenical endeavors. Similarly, he an initial tried to moderate before outrightly opposing the Presbyterian concepts of Solomon Stoddard in the Connecticut Valley and Benjamin Colman at Boston’s Brattle Street Church.

Mather to be a prolific writer who felt compelled to deal with a multitude the issues. He gained a reputation throughout the nests as the most learned guy in America; his library of number of thousand volumes suggested the breadth that his interest. He wrote an ext than 4 hundred works that to be published and also left scores of unpublished manuscripts. Lot of what he developed was sermonic or homiletic, instructing rather on the means to the godly life. He also wrote thoughtful discourses, however, and also historical and also biographical essays, medical and also scientific treatises, and also hymns. His intellectual curiosity knew no bounds. He synchronized widely with learned men in Europe and also America ~ above astronomy, zoology, geology, and also meteorology. He to be constantly sending specimens that plants and also animals to his friends abroad. Undoubtedly, his best work to be Magnalia Christi Americana: Or, The Ecclesiastical history of New-England (1702), which told the story of brand-new England, its people, and its see from the beforehand English movements to his very own time. Mather obtained an global reputation for his academic endeavors. In 1710, the college of Glasglow awarded that a medical professional of great degree. Three years later, he to be made a other of the call Royal culture of London.

Mather created so broadly since he wanted to explain God’s grand style both in the natural world and in person relationships. He also found release and also comfort in his creating as he tried to cope with mounting problems. There were the deaths of his two wives, his father, and thirteen children; only two the his kids survived him. His 3rd wife, Lydia Lee George, who he married in 1715, to be neurotic and also brought him much despair. His political influence, which had been significant under Governors william Phips and also William Stoughton, almost disappeared as he discovered it challenging to get together with Governor Joseph Dudley, who hosted power from 1702 to 1715. His relationships with Harvard College likewise declined throughout the presidency of john Leverett, whom Mather related to as more Anglican than Puritan. He played critical role in creating Yale in 1716, also serving for a time together its rector, however he intended to be named Leverett’s follower at Harvard in 1723 and was bile disappointed as soon as the presidency was readily available to rather instead, including his rival, Benjamin Colman. To do matters worse, Mather challenged maddening economic troubles involving the heritage of his second wife’s deceased husband, and he had actually to address numerous petty quarrels and divisions in ~ his own congregation.

Mather comment to adversity by resolving to return great deeds for the angry done him. That was affected to do so by the works of european pietists, an especially John Arndt and also August Hermann Francke. His resolution to do great inspired plenty of essays and books, including Bonifacious: an Essay top top the Good (1710). According to Kenneth Silverman, his ideal biographer, the latter work signaled Mather’s shift intellectually and religiously away “from the superordinary to the civic, from new England to the World, from rejuvenation to progress.” Doing good also intended writing the Christian Philosopher (1721), the very first book in basic science composed in early american America. It supposed defying windy opinion and also advocating inoculation versus smallpox throughout the destructive epidemic of 1721-1722. Indeed, whether sending out “Curiosa Americanna” to the Royal culture or composing manuals for young preachers, Mather was moved by his desire to do good in every things. That was hence driven in deed and scholarship until his fatality on February 13, 1728.


complying with the example of his father, cotton Mather to be both a preacher and a scholar, v preaching always coming first. In Puritan life, the preacher was counselor as well as prophet, charged through guarding the spiritual past, interpreting the troubled present, and obtaining divine guidance because that the unsure future. Increase Mather had actually filled every these roles, and his son was bound and also determined to execute the same. It was harder for the son due to the fact that Massachusetts to be growing much more secular and less dependency on its ministers. Indeed, noodle Mather himself was a facility mixture that faith and reason. He bridged the substantial gap that separated the spiritual seventeenth century indigenous the rationalistic eighteenth. His triumphs and also tribulations were straight related come the precarious position he occupied between the Puritan past and the secular future. The wittingly and unwittingly played a significant role in the shift from one era to the next.

Lurking behind the increase and decrease of noodle Mather to be economic and also intellectual forces which changed the civilization he had known together a child. The Puritan vision of society, the City top top a Hill, to be gone; also Mather well-known that together he adopted a restricted ecumenism. Indeed, plenty of of his problems sprang from the implicit resentment against the Puritan ministry that was comes to the fore during his adult years. It play a subtle duty in the antics of youngsters thought to be own by demons, the disruption the congregations, and also the additional fractionalizing the politics. Mather intuitively grasped the change to the secular, even if that did not grant of or totally understand it. V his prolific writing, that sought come reconcile the Puritan previous with the coming age of Reason. He at some point failed yet enjoyed significant recognition because that his efforts, specifically in Europe. He wanted others to lug on and also had an excellent hope for his younger child Samuel, who common his father’s love for learning and joined that in the ministry. During his last 3 years the life, in spite of failing health, he threw himself right into his work, publishing thirty-nine titles on every significant aspect of the ministry. He want desperately to leave a lasting tradition in order to instruct his son and other young pastors in the brand-new England way.

Historians have actually not dealt kindly with Cotton Mather. Indeed, his historical image has ebbed and also flowed through that that Puritanism generally. Until the mid-twentieth century, chroniclers tended to perpetuate a caricature that took on mythic proportions. The Mather of legend fame became a symbol of all the democratic, tolerant, reasonable, and also individualistic americans did not want to become. A complex man to be transformed into a national gargoyle, threaten vaguely from the unenlightened past. Yet in reality, Mather to be the very essence the the America of his times and also place. He strove mightily—and with significant success—to interject his brand-new England perspective right into the significant intellectual movements of Europe. As Kenneth Silverman puts it, “no other human born in America in between the time the Columbus and also of Franklin strove to make himself therefore conspicuous—strove, more accurately, to come to be conspicuous as an American.” unlike his father, he never had any desire come live anywhere yet Boston. He to be “the an initial unmistakably American number in the nation’s history.” That wise assessment of noodle Mather, when whatever else is said and also done, is the one the tells most around the man and also his mission.


Beall, Otho T., Jr., and Richard Shryock. Cotton Mather: First far-ranging Figure in American Medicine. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins university Press, 1954. Crucial in the rehabilitation of Mather’s historical image, this work makes it clear that Mather contributed considerably to clinical investigations. It demonstrates his advanced thinking on the germ theory and inoculation and also contains twelve chapters from his manuscript, “The point of view of Bethesda,” a much-neglected classic.

Boas, Ralph Philip, and Louis Boas. Cotton Mather, goalkeeper of the Puritan Conscience. Brand-new York: Harper and also Brothers, 1928. An interesting account filled v quotations native Mather’s diary and also correspondence, that does illuminate his life and also times. Draws upon Freudian psychology to explain Mather’s so-called neurotic character, getting to conclusions unwarranted by the facts. Still provides for fascinating reading.

Levy, Babette M. Cotton Mather. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979. Composed for university students, this tiny book is a fine arrival to Mather. It gift the numerous sides that his active intellect, concentrating on his most significant writings. Mather’s success are offered their just due, but his driving ambition and occasional pettiness are likewise recognized.

Middlekauff, Robert. The Mathers: three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728. Brand-new York: Oxford college Press, 1971. A superb intellectual biography of Richard, Increase, and also Cotton Mather. That goes a long means toward correcting the conventional view of cotton Mather together a learned bigot, emphasizing both his versatile intellect and also his understanding of theological and scientific thought. Especially an excellent in demonstrating the evolution of Puritan believed in one intellectual new England family over a century.

Parrington, Vernon L. Main Currents in American Thought. 3 vols. Vol. 1, The early american Mind, 1620-1800. New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1927-1930. A standard in American intellectual background written by a gradual historian that sees the Puritans together repressive conservatives. Parrington portrays noodle Mather together a small-minded bigot, the personification of decayed Puritanism. No other historian has done much more to confirm the famous view that Mather and new England Puritans.

Silverman, Kenneth. The Life and also Times of noodle Mather. Brand-new York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1984. Regarded as the definitive biography of cotton Mather, this occupational mixes both intellectual and also social history to explain Mather more totally than ever before before. Thoroughly documented and beautifully written, that is basically sympathetic to Mather, though it go not disregard either his vanity or his self-righteousness. Silverman sees Mather together a transitional figure, mediating in between the spiritual seventeenth century and the secular eighteenth, whose pundit endeavors made him the first truly conspicuous American figure.

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Wendell, Barrett. Cotton Mather: The Puritan Priest. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1891. Reprint. Brand-new York: Harcourt Brace and also World, 1963. An early scholarly defense of cotton Mather, this biography seeks to explain away his function in the witchcraft hysteria and also emphasizes his usually ignored intellectual and religious contributions. Criticized at the time as a defense of new England Puritanism by a brand-new England scholar, Wendell’s job-related foreshadows later scholarly interpretations of the much-maligned Mather.