Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather (1663 – 1728) was a socially and politically influential Puritan minister, prolific author, and pamphleteer in New England. He received a B.A. at Harvard College (1678), and a M.A. in 1681. He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow in 1710. Cotton Mather, likely named after his grandfather, John Cotton, was the son of influential minister Increase Mather. He is often remembered for his persecution of witches and association with the Salem witch trials.


After completing his post-graduate work, he joined his father as assistant Pastor of Boston's original North Church (not to be confused with the Anglican/Episcopal Old North Church). It was not until his father's death, in 1723 that Mather assumed full responsibilities as Pastor at the Church.

Author of more than 450 books and pamphlets, Cotton Mather's ubiquitous literary works made him one of the most influential religious leaders in America. Mather set the nation's "moral tone," and sounded the call for second and third generation Puritans, whose parents had left England for the New England colonies of North America to return to the theological roots of Puritanism.

A friend of a number of the judges charged with hearing the Salem witch trials, Mather on numerous occasions warned against "spectral evidence" (testimony about dreams and visions, accepted as evidence in court). Writing of the trials later, Mather stated:

"If in the midst of the many Dissatisfactions 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. . ." (Wonders of the Invisible World).

Template:GFDL Cotton Mather.

Selected works