Cotton Mather

American religious minister and scientific writer
Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather (1663-02-121728-02-13), A.B. 1678 (Harvard College), A.M. 1681; honorary doctorate 1710 (University of Glasgow), was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author and pamphleteer.


  • Religion brought forth Prosperity, and the daughter destroyed the mother.
    • Magnalia Christi Americana (The Ecclesiastical History of New England), s. 63 (1702). Mather, commenting on the spiritual condition of the colonies, cited an old saying in Latin: Religio peperit Divitias, et filia devoravit matrem.
  • Your Knowledge has Qualified You to make those Reflections on the following Relations, which few can Think, and tis not fit that all should See. How far the Platonic Notions of Demons which were, it may be, much more espoused by those primitive Christians and Scholars that we call The Fathers, than they see countenanced in the ensuing Narratives, are to be allowed by a serious man, your Scriptural Divinity, join'd with Your most Rational Philosphy, will help You to Judge at an uncommon rate. Had I on the Occasion before me handled the Doctrin of Demons, or launced forth into Speculations about magical Mysteries, I might have made some Ostentation, that I have read something and thought a little in my time; but it would neither have been Convenient for me, nor Profitable for those plain Folkes, whose Edification I have all along aimed at. I have therefore here but briefly touch't every thing with an American Pen; a Pen which your Desert likewise has further Entitled You to the utmost Expressions of Respect and Honor from. Though I have no Commission, yet I am sure I shall meet with no Crimination, if I here publickly wish You all manner of Happiness, in the Name of the great Multitudes whom you have laid under everlasting Obligations. Wherefore in the name of the many hundred Sick people, whom your charitable and skilful Hands have most freely dispens'd your no less generous than secret Medicines to; and in the name of Your whole Countrey, which hath long had cause to believe that you will succeed Your Honourable Father and Grandfather in successful Endeavours for our Welfare; I say, In their Name, I now do wish you all the Prosperity of them that love Jerusalem. And whereas it hath been sometimes observed, That the Genius of an Author is commonly Discovered in the Dedicatory Epistle, I shall be content if this Dedicatory Epistle of mine, have now discovered me to be,
(Sir) Your sincere and very humble Servant,
C. Mather.
  • Go tell Mankind, that there are Devils and Witches; and that tho those night-birds least appear where the Day-light of the Gospel comes, yet New-Engl. has had Exemples of their Existence and Operation; and that no only the Wigwams of Indians, where the pagan Powaws often raise their masters, in the shapes of Bears and Snakes and Fires, but the House of Christians, where our God has had his constant Worship, have undergone the Annoyance of Evil spirits. Go tell the world, What Prays can do beyond all Devils and Witches, and What it is that these Monsters love to do; and through the Demons in the Audience of several standers-by threatned much disgrace to thy Author, if he let thee come abroad, yet venture That, and in this way seek a just Revenge on Them for the Disturbance they have given to such as have called on the Name of God.
  • Memorable providence, relating to witchcraft's and possessions. (1689) [1]
  • First: my Friend planted a Row of Indian corn that was Coloured Red and Blue; the rest of the Field being planted with corn of the yellow, which is the most usual color. To the Windward side, this Red and Blue Row, so infected Three or Four whole Rows, as to communicate the same Colour unto them; and part of ye Fifth and some of ye Sixth. But to the Leeward Side, no less than Seven or Eight Rows, had ye same Colour communicated unto them; and some small Impressions were made on those that were yet further off.
  • As quoted in Zirkle, Conway (1935), The beginnings of plant hybridization p. 105
  • If in the midst of the many Dissatisfaction among us, the publication of these Trials may promote such a pious Thankfulness unto God, for Justice being so far executed among us, I shall Re-joyce that God is Glorified...
  • Stacy Schiff. "The Witches of Salem: Diabolical doings in a Puritan village", The New Yorker, September 7, 2015, pp. 46-55.

About Cotton MatherEdit

  • The Puritans in New England were not immediately presented with an Indian problem, for diseases introduced earlier by trading ships along the coast had badly decimated the Indian population. Yet when the Pequots resisted the migration of settlers into the Connecticut Valley in 1637, a party of Puritans surrounded the Pequot village and set fire to it. About five hundred Indians were burned to death or shot while trying to escape; the Whites devoutly offered up thanks to God that they had lost only two men. The woods were then combed for any Pequots who had managed to survive, and these were sold into slavery. Cotton Mather was grateful to the Lord that "on this day we have sent six hundred heathen souls to hell."
  • Mr. Buroughs (sic) was carried in a Cart with others, through the streets of Salem, to Execution. When he was upon the Ladder, he made a speech for the clearing of his Innocency, with such Solemn and Serious Expressions as were to the Admiration of all present; his Prayer (which he concluded by repeating the Lord's Prayer) [as witches were not supposed to be able to recite] was so well worded, and uttered with such composedness as such fervency of spirit, as was very Affecting, and drew Tears from many, so that if seemed to some that the spectators would hinder the execution. The accusers said the black Man [Devil] stood and dictated to him. As soon as he was turned off [hung], Mr. Cotton Mather, being mounted upon a Horse, addressed himself to the People, partly to declare that he [Mr. Burroughs] was no ordained Minister, partly to possess the People of his guilt, saying that the devil often had been transformed into the Angel of Light. And this did somewhat appease the People, and the Executions went on; when he [Mr. Burroughs] was cut down, he was dragged by a Halter to a Hole, or Grave, between the Rocks, about two feet deep; his Shirt and Breeches being pulled off, and an old pair of Trousers of one Executed put on his lower parts: he was so put in, together with [John] Willard and [Martha] Carrier, that one of his Hands, and his Chin, and a Foot of one of them, was left uncovered.
    • George Bancroft (1874–1878), History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent, Boston: Little, Brown, & co,
  • If anyone imagines that we are stating the case too strongly, let him try an experiment with the first bright boy he meets by asking,...
'Who got up Salem Witchcraft?'... he will reply, 'Cotton Mather'. Let him try another boy...
'Who was Cotton Mather?' and the answer will come, 'The man who was on horseback, and hung witches.'
  • William Frederick Poole, (1869). Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. Cambridge: University Press: Welch, Bigelow, & Co. p. 67.
  • Cotton Mather never in any public writing 'denounced the admission' of it, never advised its absolute exclusion; but on the contrary recognized it as a ground of 'presumption' ... [and once admitted] nothing could stand against it. Character, reason, common sense, were swept away.
  • Upham, Charles (1859), Salem Witchcraft, New York: Frederick Ungar

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about: