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which they never were designed? Most men say things at their own firesides, and in presence of their families, which they would not wish to have published to the world. And if some impertinent listener were to treasure them up, and make them public, there are few persons who would not think themselves injured. We know not that President Quincy keeps a diary; but doubtless he is in the habit of writing letters, and maintaining, in this way, a social, confidential correspondence with his friends. And in the course of this correspondence, he may have written as few things unsuitable for the public eye, as any other individual. But would he be willing that, some hundred and fifty years hence, all his private letters should be collected, and that the whole of them, or the more objectionable parts, should be spread out before the public view ? Would he be willing that his successors in office should treat him after this manner, willing to rest his permanent reputation on the result of such disclosures ?
Almost all ministers (and many others) in the days of the Mathers were in the habit of keeping diaries; in which they recorded their private thoughts, their religious impressions, and the more important transactions of their lives. But would it be right for their successors, their descendants, their family friends, into whose hands these private papers may have fallen, to make a public exhibition of them before the world ? As well might they strip their venerable ancestors of their wigs and bands, and send them into the pulpit in their shirts and night-gowns.
Besides; the real import of the diaries of evangelical Christians is not unfrequently misunderstood, especially by those who do not sympathize with them in their religious feelings and views. Pious men, in their closets, record the sense they feel of their many imperfections, their great sinfulness in the sight of God; and persons, who have less conscience of sin than they, and less sorrow for it, infer from the record, either that they were gross hypocrites, or that they had been secretly guilty of abominable crimes. Thus Boswell, finding such intimations in Johnson's diary, supposed, on account of the depth of his selfabasement, that he must have been secretly a very wicked man. And Mr. Bancroft infers, from Cotton Mather's account of his temptations and repentings, that his conscience troubled him for the part he had taken against the witches.* We once
* Hist. of U. States, Vol. III. p. 98.
knew a man who bitterly hated what he termed " the Evangelicals," and because he had little else to allege against them, he used to appeal, for evidence, to their prayers. “Go and hear the wretches pray. We need no further evidence of guilt. They confess themselves to have committed the most abominable crimes.” There was about as much justice and sense in this kind of reasoning, as in the conclusions which are sometimes drawn, either ignorantly, or maliciously, from the humble confessions of devout Christians, in their diaries. Because Job “ abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes," and Isaiah confessed himself to be “a man of unclean lips,” and Paul groaned habitually under a burthen of sin; is it to be inferred, that these men were hypocrites, or that they lived in the indulgence of palpable vice?
But we have not yet done with this species of diary eridence. When the diary does not treat of religious experience, but records the impressions of the writer as to the common occurrences of life, there is reason to receive the testimony with much caution and allowance. For what is this testimony ? It is not that of an individual under oath. Neither is it the word of one who is writing a history--writing for posterity-stating what he has thoroughly inquired into, and knows to be fact. In the language of a reviewer in the North American : “ The writer of a diary puts down his present impressions, which may be materially erroneous, for want of the explanations which a little more time may bring. Where friendships or dislikes are concerned, or questions of conduct are at issue, he makes his record under the influence of feelings which may bias him from the juster conclusions of a cooler hour. At all events, if his testimony remains to be produced, when he and they whom it may harm are no more, it is simply the testimony of a witness who cannot be cross-examined, against one accused who cannot speak for himself;—a kind of evidence which no acknowledged principle or process of justice approves."* In proof of the justness of these remarks, in their application to the work before us, it may be observed, that the diaries here quoted not unfrequently contradict one another. Mather contradicts Sewall, and Sewall Leverett, and Leverett (it may be) both the others. All are honest, and give their honest impressions at the time; but these impressions do not agree. All, therefore, cannot be correct.
* No. III. p. 358.
Perhaps none of them are. Such statements are to be received, as I said, with much caution and allowance.
I have made these remarks, because, as it seemed to me, they were demanded by the general subject, and not because they were thought to be specially needful, in reference to the point in hand. President Quincy “is enabled to speak with great certainty of the motives and master-passions of Mather's eventful presidency,” because he has got possession of his diary, or of certain parts of it. And under the shelter of such a caption, he proceeds to accuse his venerable predecessor of acting from selfish, base, ambitious motives, in many of the more important transactions of his life. But does the diary bear him out, in these accusations? Does Dr. Mather record in his diary, that he really was influenced by such motives as are imputed to him? We shall see.
President Quincy thinks that Mr. Mather, in early life, recanted his first thoughts respecting the half-way covenant, because “ the side he had embraced proved to be neither popular nor prevailing." Also that he changed his mind on the subject of toleration, for the same reason. Also, that it was “ love of distinction," in part, which led him to oppose the usurpations of Andros. Vol. I. pp. 119–121. Again, when the new charter of government had gone into operation, and “the Calvinistic leaders of the province”—which “ Increase Mather and Cotton Mather, his son, aspired to become”—began to realize that “the sceptre they had so long possessed had passed from their hands,” they“ sought to possess themselves of such instruments of power as were yet within their grasp ;” and this was the secret of their strong attachment to the college. pp. 65, 66. It was this motive which influenced President Mather, in his early endeavors to secure a charter for the college. “He had sufficient knowledge of human nature to apprehend, that the continuance of his own influence was, at least, precarious.” p. 72. And when this charter, which he had exerted himself to push through the provincial legislature, and under which the corporation had acted long enough “ to gratify him with a doctorate," was negatived by the king, President Quincy thinks it likely that Mather was glad of it; “ as the affairs of the college were thrown into a state of inexplicable embarrassment,” and “the sense of the importance of his experience and services was greatly augmented.” p. 71. In all these important transactions, it will be seen, that the basest motives are fearlessly im
thrown of the immediato
puted to Dr. Mather. He cares nothing for the college, and nothing for his country. His only concern is, so to conduct affairs, and so to act, that his own private ends may be answered, and the sense of his personal importance may be augmented.
But farther; in nominating individuals to compose the first council under the provincial charter, Mr. Mather is said to have been guided, in part at least, “ by personal motives." p. 80. His opposition to the founders of the Brattle-street church was the result of an “excited temper,” and “wounded pride," and a desire to retain “ his popularity with the prevailing sect.” p. 133. He was compelled, however, from prudential reasons, so far “ to smother his resentments, as to take part in the religious services at the dedication of the church.” p. 135. It was " the indignation of the Mathers against Dudley,” because one or the other of them was not elected president of Harvard College, in place of Leverett, that induced them to write to the governor the letters, to which I have referred above. p. 201.
Such is a specimen of the manner in which President Quincy goes on, through more than a hundred pages, in imputing the basest, the most unworthy motives, to Dr. Mather. And he feels authorized to do this, because he has had sight of Mather's diary, and is able to speak with great certainty as to the motives and master-passions of his eventful presidency.” But where, I ask, is the evidence from the diary, that such were “ the masterpassions” by which he was moved ? Does Mather confess as much as this? Does he record it in his diary? As our author has been pleased to appeal to the diary, as a means of deciding upon the motives of the writer of it, we may insist, I think, that he should abide by the diary. He should, at least, so far abide by it, as in no instance directly to contradict it. And yet this he has very frequently done. In many instances he imputes motives to President Mather, the very opposite of those which the diary affirms. For example, President Mather, in his diary, continually assigns it as his motive, and his only motive, for desiring to return to England, that he might there have an opportunity to glorify God, and serve the cause and kingdom of Christ. But President Quincy can see nothing here, but “the natural cravings of an ambitious spirit.” Again : Président Mather, in his diary, repeatedly, and with the utmost apparent sincerity, expresses his determination to resign his office, in connection with the college. He did this in 1695, and was prevented from carrying his determination into effect, only by the earnest remonstrances of the corporation against it. He did the same, in two several instances, in 1697. Under date of August 7th, he says: “I am determined to resign my relation to the college the next week, having desired a corporation meeting for that end.” “ September 3d. My discouragements are such, that I am fully purposed to resign the presidentship.” “September 15th. At college to attend a corporation meeting, when I intended to resign the presidentship; but, it being a stormy day, there wanted one to make a sufficient number for a meeting." Yet President Quincy persists in insinuating, if not asserting, that “ these threats of resigning were intended only for effect, and that there was no sincerity in them.” p. 96. What we complain of here is, that having appealed to the diary as the grand source of evidence, by which to decide upon the motives of his predecessor, President Quincy thus confidently imputes to him unworthy motives, not only without the evidence of the diary, but directly in face of it. He will appeal to the diary, so far as he can find any thing there disreputable to its author,-any thing which, judged of by our modern standards, can be turned into ridicule or reproach ; but when the diary assumes another character, he can easily dispense with it, or directly contradict it.
I only remark further, in reerence to President Quincy's treatment of Increase Mather, that he represents him often, I had almost said generally, as manifesting an unhappy spirit and temper, as a disturber more than a father of the churches, as being rather a bad, than a good man. Both to him and his son, “ controversy was not so much an incident, as an element of their natures." Their “ theological zeal was always at the boiling point." Their controversy with the innovators of the times was conducted “neither with temper, nor policy.” pp 132, 137. In the progress of it, they became “excited to such a height of indignation, that they seem to have lost all sense of prudence and character.” p. 141. “Violent doctrinal dissensions were by them excited, and perpetuated” in the churches, through a long course of years. p. 349. Of Increase Mather himself it is said, that in his controversy respecting church order,“ he lost all patience and self-possession,” and “was led to the exhibition of great violence and personality.” pp. 133, 139. In a word, the character of President Mather is summed up by our historian, in the following terms: he was“ restless, obtru. sive, excitable, boastful of his public services, and complaining of SECOND SERIES, VOL. VII. NO. I.