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Cotton Mather

Oct. 9, 2013 presentation for american lit.

agnes c

on 10 October 2013

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Transcript of Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather
Who was he?
When and where did he live?
What early experiences shaped his life?
What was his involvement with the small pox epidemic?
What is his connection to Auther Miller's The Crucible play?
• Born into well known minister family rote over 450 books and pamphlets
great influence on New England politics and religion

• A socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author and pamphleteer
• Often remembered for his role in the Salem witch trials.

Cotton Mather (February 12, 1663 – February 13, 1728)
in Boston, Massachusetts
• Theologian by vocation, but also pursued various sciences
• Recorded observations on plants, birds, rattlesnakes, birth defects
• Conducted one of the first recorded experiments of plants hybridization
• Wrote Christian Philosopher, justified religion with scientific explanations
• Interested in medicine, studied medicine in Harvard
Boston had been plagued by smallpox outbreaks in 1690 and 1702.
Before Cotton Mather, people believed that smallpox was God’s punishment on humans and cannot be cured.
Testing on human body was strictly forbidden by Christianity.
He learned about inoculation from his African servant.
Cotton Mather is a man whose reputation has been smeared for three hundred years by the abuse and harsh criticism of a legion of know-all antagonists.

Cotton Mather was a clergyman. He claimed innocent people who are mistaken for witches, who idly pretend to be witches, and those guilty souls who, actually believe themselves as being in the league with the devil.
Although Mather was not directly involved in the proceedings of the Salem witch trials,
he wrote a letter to one of the magistrates in the trials, John Richards of Boston, urging caution in the use of spectral evidence.
Mather was also the author of the "Return of the Several Ministers," a report sent to the judges of the Salem court.
What are the various views of him today?
How was his reputation changed over time?
What was his role in the Salem Witch Trials?
Work Cited

What does this show about Mather?
• Heavily criticized by people, had lots of opposition when he first introduced inoculation.
• Gained support from Dr. Boylston, finally carried out the first inoculation experiments
This shows that Mather has a secular aspect besides the typical religious side of ministers
The belief in witches and witchcraft was widespread in 1692 New England. One of the most ardent believers was Cotton Mather.

But Mather's sermons and written works fanned the flames of the witchcraft hysteria. He declared that the Devil was at work in Salem, and that witches should face the harshest punishment.

19th century
In 1869, William Frederick Poole quoted from various school textbooks of the time demonstrating they were in agreement on Cotton Mather's role in the Witch Trials:
"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.'"

20th Century
A mad witch hunter
Historian Bernard Rosenthal laments that Mather is so often portrayed as the rabid witch hunter.
Rosenthal suggests that Mather might have had guilty feelings—feigned or not—for choosing not to restrain the judges during the trial, though he was in the best position to do so.

this dude
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