Mather was named after his maternal grandfather, John Cotton.
He attended Boston Latin School, where his name was posthumously added to its Hall of Fame, and graduated from Harvard in at age In Mather assumed full responsibilities as pastor of the church. Mather lived on Hanover Street, Boston, — Mather wrote more than books and pamphlets, and his ubiquitous literary works made him one of the most influential religious leaders in America.
Mather set the moral tone in the colonies, 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. The most important of these, Magnalia Christi Americana , comprises seven distinct books, many of which depict biographical and historical narratives.
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From his religious training, Mather viewed the importance of texts for elaborating meaning and for bridging different moments of history—linking, for instance, the Biblical stories of Noah and Abraham with the arrival of such eminent leaders as John Eliot; John Winthrop; and his own father, Increase. Highly influential, Mather was a force to be reckoned with in secular, as well as in spiritual, matters. The Mather tomb in Copp's Hill Cemetery. Cotton Mather was not known for writing in a neutral, unbiased perspective.
Many, if not all, of his writings had bits and pieces of his own personal life in them or were written for personal reasons. According to literary historian Sacvan Bercovitch; Few puritans more loudly decried the bosom serpent of egotism than did Cotton Mather; none more clearly exemplified it. Explicitly or implicitly, he projects himself everywhere in his writings.
In the most direct compensatory sense, he does so by using literature as a means of personal redress. He tells us that he composed his discussions of the family to bless his own, his essays on the riches of Christ to repay his benefactors, his tracts on morality to convert his enemies, his funeral discourses to console himself for the loss of a child, wife, or friend. Mather influenced early American science. In , because of observations of corn varieties, he conducted one of the first recorded experiments with plant hybridization.
This observation was memorialized in a letter to his friend James Petiver:. 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. 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.
In November , Mather's wife, newborn twins, and two-year-old daughter all succumbed during a measles epidemic.
Salem Witchcraft and Cotton Mather: A Reply by Charles Wentworth Upham (Paperback) - Lulu
Of Mather's three wives and 15 children, only his last wife and two children survived him. A huge influence throughout Mather's career was Robert Boyle. Mather read Boyle's work closely throughout the 's and his early works on science and religion borrowed greatly from it. He even uses almost identical language to Boyle.
Salem Witchcraft and Cotton Mather: A Reply by Charles Wentworth Upham
Cotton Mather's relationship with his well-known father, Increase Mather, is thought by some to have been a strained and difficult one. Increase Mather was a pastor of the Old North Church and president of Harvard College; he led an accomplished life that Cotton was determined to live up to.
Despite Cotton Mather's efforts, he never became quite as well known and successful in politics as his father. He did surpass his father's output as a writer, writing over books. One of the most public displays of their strained relationship emerged during the Salem Witch Trials. Despite the fact that Increase Mather did not support the trials, Mather documented them. Cotton helped convince Elihu Yale to make a donation to a new college in New Haven that would come to be Yale College.
The practice of smallpox inoculation as opposed to the later practice of vaccination was developed possibly in 8th-century India or 10th-century China. Spreading its reach in seventeenth-century Turkey, inoculation or, rather, variolation, involved infecting a person through a cut in the SKIN with exudate from a patient with a relatively mild case of smallpox variola , in order to bring about a manageable and recoverable infection that would provide later immunity. By the beginning of the 18th century, the Royal Society in England was discussing the practice of inoculation, and the smallpox epidemic in spurred further interest.
It was not until , however, that England recorded its first case of inoculation. Smallpox was a serious threat in colonial America, most devastating to Native Americans, but also to Anglo-American settlers.
New England suffered smallpox epidemics in , —90, and It was highly contagious, and mortality could reach as high as 30 percent or more. Boston had been plagued by smallpox outbreaks in and During this era, public authorities in Massachusetts dealt with the threat primarily by means of quarantine. Incoming ships were quarantined in Boston harbor, and any smallpox patients in town were held under guard or in a "pesthouse.
In , Mather's slave, Onesimus, explained to Mather how he had been inoculated as a child in Africa. Mather was fascinated by the idea. Mather then declared, in a letter to Dr. John Woodward of Gresham College in London, that he planned to press Boston's doctors to adopt the practice of inoculation should smallpox reach the colony again. By , a whole generation of young Bostonians was vulnerable and memories of the last epidemic's horrors had by and large disappeared. Despite attempts to protect the town through quarantine, eight known cases of smallpox appeared in Boston by May 27, and by mid-June, the disease was spreading at an alarming rate.
The combination of exodus, quarantine, and outside traders' fears disrupted business in the capital of the Bay Colony for weeks. Guards were stationed at the House of Representatives to keep Bostonians from entering without special permission. The death toll reached in September, and the Selectmen, powerless to stop it, "severely limited the length of time funeral bells could toll.
On June 6, , Mather sent an abstract of reports on inoculation by Timonius and Jacobus Pylarinus to local physicians, urging them to consult about the matter. He received no response. Next, Mather pleaded his case to Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, who tried the procedure on his only son and two slaves—one grown and one a boy.
Salem Witchcraft and Cotton Mather: A Reply
All recovered in about a week. Boylston inoculated seven more people by mid-July.
The epidemic peaked in October , with deaths; by February 26, , Boston was, once again, free of smallpox. The total number of cases since April came to 5,, with deaths—more than three-quarters of all the deaths in Boston during Meanwhile, Dr.
Diabolical doings in a Puritan village.
Boylston had inoculated people, with only six resulting in death. Boylston and Mather's inoculation crusade "raised a horrid Clamour" amongst the people of Boston. Both Boylston and Mather were "Object[s] of their Fury; their furious Obloquies and Invectives," which Mather acknowledges in his diary. Boston's Selectmen, consulting a doctor who claimed that the practice caused many deaths and only spread the infection, forbade Boylston from performing it again. The New-England Courant published writers who opposed the practice.
The editorial stance was that the Boston populace feared that inoculation spread, rather than prevented, the disease; however, some historians, notably H. Brands, have argued that this position was a result of editor-in-chief James Franklin's Benjamin Franklin's brother contrarian positions. Public discourse ranged in tone from organized arguments by Reverend John Williams from Boston, who posted that "several arguments proving that inoculating the smallpox is not contained in the law of Physick, either natural or divine, and therefore unlawful," to more slanderous attacks, such as those put forth in a pamphlet by Dr.
Douglass was exceptional at the time for holding a medical degree from Europe. At the extreme, in November , someone hurled a lighted grenade into Cotton Mather's house. Several opponents of smallpox inoculation, among them John Williams, stated that there were only two laws of physick medicine : sympathy and antipathy. In his estimation, inoculation was neither a sympathy toward a wound or a disease, or an antipathy toward one, but the creation of one. For this reason, its practice violated the natural laws of medicine, transforming health care practitioners into those who harm rather than heal.
As with many colonists, Williams' Puritan beliefs were enmeshed in every aspect of his life, and he used the Bible to state his case. William Douglass proposed a more secular argument against inoculation, stressing the importance of reason over passion and urging the public to be pragmatic in their choices. In addition, he demanded that ministers leave the practice of medicine to physicians, and not meddle in areas where they lacked expertise.