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read the letters of the first professor, Wigglesworth ;* and I suspect that Cotton Mather's letters were quite as unreadable as his. This conjecture is the more probable, because the expression, as reported by Hollis, is not in keeping with the ordinary state of feeling subsisting between Mather and Leverett, for a long course of years. To be sure, there had been little mutual cordiality; still, their feelings were not openly hostile. They often met and deliberated on questions of interest, and were in the habit of exchanging pleasantly the usual courtesies of life. We find their names appended frequently to the same public documents. Mr. Mather placed his son at Harvard College, during the period of which we speak, with a handsome letter of introduction to the president. He also encouraged the young men of his church, in seeking an education there. In one of his letters to President Leverett, he says: “It is a satisfaction that I can reckon sixteen or seventeen of the sons of the church whereof I am the servant, who belong, at this time, unto the college.” I believe, also, that at the funeral of President Leverett, Mr. Mather officiated as one of the bearers.t
With regard to the the expression quoted above, I have only to say farther, that, if correctly reported, it certainly was of an offensive character; and we wonder not that Mr. Hollis was surprised and aggrieved at it. It must have been written by Mather (if written at all) in one of those seasons of hypochondria and depression, to which he was subject during the latter years of his life.
To sum up all the objections against Cotton Mather, Presi
* See Peirce's Hist. of Harvard University, p. 154. † Ibid. p. 120.
I Certain other charges against Cotton Mather have been publicly set forth, within a few years; but they have not seemed to me of sufficient importance to require a formal consideration. Thus, it is said by Mr. Peabody, that he "used all kinds of machinations" to prevent the settlement of Rev. John Barnard, afterwards of Marblehead, over a new church and society then recently gathered out of the North church in Boston. Am. Biog. Vol. VI. p. 298. But it appears from Mr. Barnard's own account of the matter, that it was Increase, and not Cotton Mather, who prevented his settlement in Boston. Mass. Hist. Coll., Series 3, Vol. V. p. 214. Nor does it ap
dent Quincy, and the other writers to whom I have occasionally referred, represent him as possessing decidedly a bad character ; as forfeiting his reputation and influence with the community; and as becoming, at length, “the object of public ridicule and open insult.” In the excitement respecting witchcraft, says President Quincy, he was “headlong, zealous and fearless, both as to character and consequences." p. 62. He was “ in the bitterness of anger," because disappointed as to his father's agency to England. p. 108. He was a man of " malign” and "vehement passions;” of “ violent,” “never-sleeping animosity;" and of a “self-glorifying spirit;” who would “resort to underhand measures to gratify” himself. pp. 137—237. He was characterized by“ violence of passion, frequent coarseness of language, and deficiency in judgment, to a degree, at times, scarcely reconcilable with common sense.” p. 330. His spirit “ was restless, violent, selfish and passionate, craving distinction, and claiming it, by every form of self-illustration and dis
pear that Increase Mather did any thing more in the case, than was perfectly proper for him to do, in his circumstances. Certain of his members were about to leave, and form a new church; or as the phrase now is, his church was about to set off a colony. Increase Mather was unwilling that Mr. Barnard, who was thought to favor the Brattle-street church, should be settled over them. Accordingly, he saw several of the individuals, who were expected to constitute the new church, but who were still members of his own church, and advised them not to settle Mr. Barnard.
Again, Mr. Bancroft, in the plenitude of his democracy, ac cuses Cotton Mather of resisting the will of the people, in not being willing that the old colonial charter should be set up, at the time of the revolution, in 1689. Hist. of U. States, Vol. III. p. 71. But if this was true of Cotton Mather, it was equally true of nearly all the magistrates and principal men of the col. ony, at that period. The old magistrates were willing to assume a temporary, provisional government; but they were not willing to set up the old vacated charter, and act upon it, till they could hear from England. See Hutchinson's History of Mass., Vol. I. p. 344. Not that they were unfriendly to the old charter, for they all wished to see it restored. But they were unwilling themselves to undertake to restore it. They were unwilling to set it up, and formally act under it, until it should be legally established. See Reply to Calef, p. 46.
play.” p. 344. Through the faithful medium of history,“ Cotton Mather must be transmitted, as an individual of ungovernable passions and of questionable principles; credulous, intriguing and, vindictive; often selfish as to his ends, at times, little scrupulous in the use of means; wayward, aspiring and vain ; rendering his piety dubious by display, and the motives of his public services suspected, by the obtrusiveness of his claims to honoi and place; whose fanaticism, if not ambition, gave such a public encouragement to the belief in the agencies of the invisible world, as to have been one of the chief causes of the widest spread misery and disgrace, to which his country was ever subjected.” p. 346. Thus far President Quincy. Mr. Upham says, that Cotton Mather combined an almost incredible amount of vanity and credulity, with a high degree of cunning and policy; an inordinate love of temporal power and distinction, with every outward manifestation of piety and Christian humility; a proneness to fanaticism and superstition, with amazing acquisitions of knowledge."* Mr. Bancroft says: “He is an example how far selfishness, under the form of vanity and ambition, can blind the higher faculties, stupefy the judgment, and dupe consciousness itself.” “ His self-righteousness was complete."'+ In fine, President Quincy says, Cotton Mather “ disgusted his cotemporaries,” and “became the frequent subject of ridicule and derision.” p. 345. And Mr. Upham says, that he fell “into such disgrace," that“ he became the object of public ridicule and open insult.” p 115.
In proof of these last charges, reference is made, not to any thing of which the public had knowledge, but to the private writings of Mr. Mather; which, in the latter part of his life, were often penned in seasons of severe domestic affliction, and (what is more under the influence of deep mental depression, which led him to suspect insult, where none was intended, and to construe every thing pertaining to himself in the most unfavorable light. That he really had forfeited his reputation with the community, and become “ the object of public ridicule and open insult,” is refuted by what President Quincy himself says of him, in 1724—the very time when Mather was led to record, in his diary, the severest things against himself. Speaking of him, in connection with Rev. Joseph Sewall, President Quincy
* Lectures on Witchcraft, p. 103.
says: “ At that time they were held in high esteem by the Calvinistic party.” p. 329. It was at this time, that he was a prominent candidate for the presidency of Harvard College, when, as Dr. Elliot says: “ The voice of the people cried aloud for Dr. Mather; and it was declared, even in the general court, that he ought to be president.”
But the most perfect refutation of the charges under cousideration is found in the general mourning which was occasioned by his death ; in the circumstances of his funeral; and in the many testimonies to the high excellencies of his character which, at that time, were given by his cotemporaries. “He was followed to his grave,” says Mr. Peabody, “ by an immense procession including” the lieutenant governor, the honorable council, the representatives, and “ all the high officers of the province.” “The streets,” says Dr. Elliot, “ were crowded with people, and the windows filled with sorrowful spectators, all the way to the grave.” “It was the general sentiment, that a great man had fallen.” The mourning was compared, by one of the ministers, to the mourning of the children of Israel, on the death of Aaron. Funeral sermons were preached for him in most of the churches in Boston ; where his brethren in the ministry his cotemporaries, stood up in the midst of his cotemporaries—those among whom he was born, and with whom he had always lived, and who were perfectly acquainted, both with his weaknesses and excellencies, and gave him a character, in the terms and manner following:
“Thus lived and died Dr. Mather,” said Mr. Thatcher, in his funeral discourse, “the glory of learning, and the ornament of Christianity,” “The capacity of his mind,” said Rev. Mr. Gee, “the readiness of his wit, the vastness of his reading, the strength of his memory, the variety and treasures of his learning, in printed works and in manuscript; the splendor of virtue which, through the abundant grace of God, shone out in the tenor of a most entertaining and profitable conversation ; his uncommon activity, his unwearied application, his extensive zeal and numberless projects of doing good ;--these things, as they were united in him, proclaimed him to be a truly extraordinary person."
“One of the most elegant compositions of those times," says Elliot, " was a funeral sermon upon Dr. Cotton Mather, by Dr. Benjamin Colman.” In this sermon, Colinan says :
“We mourn the decease from us (not his ascension to God) of the first minister of the town ;-the first in age, in gifts, and in grace, as all his brethren very readily own. I might add, it may be without offence, the first in the whole province and provinces of New England, for universal literature and extensive services. Yea, it may be, among all the fathers in these churches, from the beginning of the country to this day-of whom many have done worthily and greatly-yet, none of them amassed together so vast a treasure of learning, and made so much use of it, to a variety of pious intentions, as this our Rev. Brother and Father, Dr. Cotton Mather.” “His printed works will not convey to posterity, nor give to strangers, a just idea of the real worth and great learning of the man. His works will, indeed, inform all that read them of his great knowledge, and singular piety, his zeal for God, and holiness, and truth, and his desire of the salvation of precious souls. But it was conversation, and acquaintance with him in his familiar and occasional discourses and private communications, that discovered the vast compass of his knowledge, and the projections of his piety, more, I have sometimes thought, than all his pulpit exercises. Here he excelled; here he shone; being exceedingly communicative, and bringing out of his treasure things new and old, without measure. Here it was seen, how his wit and fancy, his invention, his quickness of thought, and ready apprehension, were all consecrated to God, as well as his heart, will, and affections; and out of the abundance within, his lips overflowed--dropped as the honey.comb- fed all that came near him and were as the chcice silver, for richness and brightness, for pleasure and profit.”
The Rev. Mr. Prince, after quoting the foregoing passages from Colman, adds :
“ Every one who intimately knew Dr. Mather, will readily subscribe to the above description. By his learned works and correspondence, those who lived at the greatest distance might discover much of his superior light and influence; but they could discern these, only by a more mediate and faint reflection. They could neither see, nor well imagine, that extraordinary lustre of pious and useful literature, wherewith we were every day entertained, surprised, and satisfied, who dwelt in the directer rays—the more immediate vision.
“Great abilities, an insatiable thirst for all kinds of knowledge, an extraordinary quickness of apprehension, liveliness of fancy, with a ready invention and active spirit, seemed to be the chief ingredients of his natural genius. And all these, being sanctified in his early days, endued with a divine bias, and turned to the noblest objects, he became inflamed with the most ardent desires to amass unto himself, from all sorts of writings, an unbounded treasure of curious and useful learning, and to find out all imaginable ways of employing it, for the glory of God, the good of men, and the advancement of his own perfection; that as he grew in knowledge, he might increase in goodness and usefulness, and become a greater and more extensive blessing.
“So much erudition, such high degrees of piety, and such an active life in doing good, united in the same person, are very rarely seen among the sons of men. By a transient acquaintance with him,