Essay about Cotton Mather

Submitted By jdh91493
Words: 1054
Pages: 5

Joshua H.
Read & Response Essay: Cotton Mather's "The Wonders of the Invisible World"
February 26, 2014

Cotton was the eldest son of Increase Mather, the pastor of the Second Church of Boston, and as such, it was assumed he would become one himself. He struggled with a harsh stammer and a nervous disorder all his life, though, that made speaking difficult. Just as his father had done, he attended Harvard College, being admitted at the age of twelve. Only three years later, he graduated, having become somewhat of a genius in the sciences and the study of ancient languages. In spite of his stammer, he returned to his father's church and was ordained, remaining connected to the church until his death in 1728. Throughout his life, he always found fulfillment in doing good deeds, such as building churches or schools that educated the children of slaves. Though his preaching skills became notable, he is most famous for his work as an historian. In one of his more well-known works, Magnalia, he wrote of the Puritan beliefs, while recording New England's history. He also wrote of Hannah Dustan's experience as an Indian captive, later including it into his Magnalia. His fame as a writer did not stop there, as he wrote many "self-help" books, providing the poor with the knowledge of how to act and speak as the upper class. In this way, he shared Benjamin Franklin's view that doing good for society was the best way to please God. With all his success, however, his life was plagued with deep tragedy. He lost two wives to death, while a third went insane, and of his fifteen children, only a mere two survived until his death. Remarkably, these tragedies were not allowed to thwart his accomplishments. One of his written works, The Wonders of the Invisible World, is a short narration of the witch trials in Salem. Cotton, himself, was never present at any of the incidents, but was commissioned to write an account of the trials. His writing shows us that, while he may have felt compassion for the family members left behind, he believed the witchcraft was real and needed to be terminated. His commission, though, was simply to give an accurate account of the trials, from a historian’s perspective. This piece of literature opens with Mr. Mather giving some background to why he believed witchcraft was so prevalent in Salem. He writes that credible Christians affirmed there had been a witch executed in Salem some forty years earlier. Mather continues to relate that through that execution, a foundation of a great witchcraft was built, such that would destroy Christianity. He writes, "We have now with horror seen the discovery of such a witchcraft" (pg 329)! He explains that the Devil was angry about the invasion of God's people in this new land and, as such, was bewitching the people, in an attempt to destroy them. He declared the "wretches have proceeded so far as to concert and consult the methods of rooting out the Christian religion from this country" (pg 330). He shows just how prevalent the witches were when he writes, "Several of them have been convicted of a very damnable witchcraft: yea, more than one [and] twenty have confessed" (pg 329). Towards the end of Mather's introduction, he shares that he feels for the family members, whose loved one was executed as a witch and "would be as hearty a mourner as any man living in the world: The Lord comfort them" (pg 330)! Because of the compassion he feels, he writes that he "reports matters not as an advocate, but as an historian" (pg 330). Accordingly, Cotton writes of the trial of Martha Carrier, who was charged for bewitching people, and, as in most cases, she pleaded “not guilty” to the charge. As such, many witnesses were brought in to testify against her, including her own children. Those who claimed to be tormented by her thought themselves to be near death, until she was restrained. Furthermore, even her eyes, the victims claimed, would cause…