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New England Puritans & Pilgrims

New England Puritans & Pilgrims

Cotton Mather in New England Puritans & Pilgrims

Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was Increase Mather's son, a Puritan clergyman and a writer like his father. Cotton was ordained in 1685 and became a colleague of his father at North Church, Boston. He was pastor during his father's many absences and then after his father's death in 1723. Cotton's Magnalia Christi Americana (1702), an ecclesiastical history of New England, was quite influential in his time and made him famous among New England ministers. While his father negotiated with King William and Queen Mary for a new Massachusetts colonial governor, Cotton helped lead the movement at home against the very unpopular Edmund Andros. When the monarchs replaced Andros with Sir William Phips, Cotton served in his government.

Cotton praised the heroism of the famous Indian captive and author Mary Rowlandson; his father even wrote the preface to her 1682 narrative. He is also more notoriously remembered for his role in the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. He did not approve of all the trials, but just a few years prior, he had published Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions, followed after the trials by Wonders of the Invisible World, in which he discussed satanic possession. Despite these topics, he combined this mysticism with an earnest curiosity for science. Cotton was the first native-born American to be a fellow of the Royal Society, and he supported smallpox inoculation even when it provoked a popular outcry against him.

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