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COT ION MATHER A>D SALKM WITCHCRAFT. 



1. The Mather Papers. Collections of the Massachusetts His- 
torical Society. Tol. VIII. Fourth Scries. Boston : Wig- 
gin and Lunt. 1868. 8vo. 

2, Salem Witchcraft; with an Account of Salem Village^ and a 
History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Suhjects. By 
Charles W. Upham. Boston : Wiggin and Lunt. 1867. 
2. vols. 8vo. 

8. The New England Tragedies. I. John Endicott. U. GUcs 
Corey of the Salem Farms. By Henry Wadsworth Lokg- 
FELLOW. Boston : Ticknor and Fields. 1868. 12mo. 

4. TJie New England Tragedies in Prose. I. Tlte Coming of 
the Quakers. II. Tlie Witchcraft Delusion. By Rowland H. 
Allen. Boston : Nichols and Noyes. 1869. 12mo« 

6. The Edinlurgh Review, July, 1868. No. CCLXI. Art. I. 
Salem WitchcrafL 

Nearly two centuries have passed away since the saddest 
tragedy of early New England history was enacted at Salem 
and Salem Village. Instead of fading out from the memory 
of men, the incidents of Salem Witchcraft are receiving more 
attention to-day than at any former period. Tlie fact of its 
being the last great exhibition of a superstition which had 
cursed humanity for thousands of years, and that every inci- 
dent connected with it has been preserved in the form of rec- 
ord, deposition, or narrative, impai*ts to it a peculiar interest, 
and one which will be permanent. It is not as a record of 
horrors, but as a field of psychological study, that the sub- 



II 

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4 Cotton Mather and Salem Wtcheraft. 

jcct will retain its hold on the minds of men. More vic- 
tims than suffered at Salem were hurried to the gallows by 
witchcraft, year after year, in a single county of England, 
during the seventeenth century; but the details of English 
trials, then so common, were generally not thought worth 
preserving. Probably as much authentic and reliable infor- 
mation resi)ecting the Salem proceedings is extant as of the 
trials of the thirty thousand victims who suffered from the 
same cause in England. How did the Salem delusion origi- 
nate ? 'WHio was resiwnsible for it ? Was it wholly the re- 
sult of fraud and deception, or were there psychological phe- 
nomena attending it which have never been explained ? Is 
there any resemblance between the proceedings of the " af- 
flicted children" of Salem Village and modem spiritual mani- 
festations ? Were the clergy of New England, or any other 
profession or class in the commmiity, esiHScially implicated in 
it ? Any one of these questions affords a theme for discussion. 
We propose, however, to i^eview the incidents of this fearful 
tragedy for the purpose of re-examining the historical evidence 
on which, in the i)opular estimation, so large a portion of the 
culpability for those executions has been laid upon one indi- 
vidual. 

In 1831 Mr. Upham printed his " Lectures on Salem Witch- 
craft," in which he brought some very grave charges against 
S\- Cotton Mather, as being the contriver, instigator, and jjromo- 

ter of the delusion, and the chief conspirator against the lives 
of the sufferers. These charges have been repeated by Mr. 
Quincy in his " History of Harvai-d University," by Mr. Pea- 
body in his " Life of Cotton Mather," by Mr. Bancroft, and 
by nearly all historical writers since that date. Mr. U])ham, 
after an interval of thirty-six years, has reiterated and em- 
phasized his original accusations, in his elaborate " Historj^ of 
Salem Witchcraft," printed in 1867. They have obtained a 
lodgement m all the minor and school histories; and the 
present generation of youth is taught that nineteen innocent 
persons were hanged, and one was pressed to death, to grat- 
ify the vanity, ambition, and stolid credulity of Mr. Cotton 
Mather. 

If any one imagines that we are stating the case too strongly, 



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Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 6 

let liim try an cxiKjrimcnt on the first bright boy he meets , 
by askmg, "Who got up Salein Witchcraft?" and, with a 
promptness tliat will startle him, he will receive the reply, 
" Cotton Mather." Let him try another boy with the quesion, 
" Who was Cotton Mather ? " and the answer will come, " Tlie 
man who was on horseback, and hung witches." An exam- 
ination of the historical text-books used in our schools will 
show where these ideas originated. We have the latest edi- 
tions of a dozen such manuals before us ; but the following ex- 
amples must suffice. 

** Cotton Mather, an ccccMitric, but influential minister, took up the 
matter, and great excitement spread through the colony. Among those 
hanged was a minister named Burroughs, who had denounced the \ 
proceedings of blather and his associates. At his execution Mather ) [ 
appeared among the crowd on hoi*seback, and quieted the people 
with quotations from Scripture. Mather gloried in tliese judicial mur- 
ders." — r QuACKEXBOs's School JUstory of the United States^ 1868, 
pp. 138-140. 

" Cotton Mather and other popular men wrote in its defence. Calef, 
a citizen of Boston, exi)osed blather's credulity, and greatly irritated 
the minister. Mather called Calef a ' weaver turned minister,' a * coal 
from hell,' and prosecuted him for slander." — Lossing's Pictorial 
History of the United Slates, 1868, p. 106. 

*' Most of those whq participated as prosecutors in the unrighteous 
work confessed their error; still there were some, the most prominent 
of whom was Cotton blather, who defended their course to the last" — 
AxDEUSOx's School History of the United States, 1868, p. 57. 

** The new authorities, under the influence of the clergy, of whom, 
in this particular. Cotton Mather was the leader, pursued a course 
which placed the accused in situations where they had need to be ma- 
gicians not to be convicted of magic. Malice and revenge carried on 
the work which superstition began." -^ Emma WiLLxnu^s History of 
the United States, 1868, p. 100. 

We give two other extracts from more elaborate works. 

"New England, at that time [1692], was unfortunate in having 
among her mini>ters a pedantic, painstaking, self-complacent, ill-bal- 
anced man called Cotton Mather; his great industry and^verbal learn- 
ing g.ive him undue currency, and his writings were mucli read. He 
was indefatigable in magnifying himself and his oflice. In an age 




6 Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcrafts 

when light reading consistecl of polemic pamj>hlets, it is eaj^y to pee 
that his storie!* of *' Margaret Kule*s dire Afflictions* would find favor, 
and prepare the public mind for a stretch of credulity almost equal to 
his own."* — ELLit>TT*s New England Histonfy 1867, Vol. II. p. 43. 

** He incurred the responsibility of being its chief cause and promo- 
ter. In the progress of the superstitious fear, which amounted to 
frenzy, and could only l>e satisfied with blood, he neither blenched nor 
halted ; but attended the courts, watched the progress of invisible 
agency in the prisons, and joined the multitude in witnessing tlie exe- 
cutions." — Quixcy's History of Harvard University^ Vol. 1. p. G3. 

Mr. Bancroft adopts substantially the views of Mr. Upliam. 
Cotton Mather's "boundless vanity gloried in the assaults 
of evil angels upon the country." f " To cover his own con- 
fusion, he got up a case of witchcraft in his own parish. 
Was Cotton Jilather honestly credulous ? He is an example 
how far selfishness, under the form of vanity and ambition, 
can blhid the higher faculties, stupefy the judgment, and dui)e 
consciousness itself." J But we need not pause over Mr. Ban- 
croft's second-hand and rhetorical statements. 

Mr. Hildreth gave some attention to the original author- 
ities, and saw that the wild assertions of Mr. Upham and 
Mr. Bancroft were untenable. It is to be regretted, that, with 
his candid and impartial methods of study, he did not go far 
enough to reach the whole truth. He says : § " The suggest ioi^ 
that Cotton Mather, for purposes of his own, deliberately got 
lip this witchcraft delusion, and forced it ui)on a doubtful and 
hesitating people, is utterly absurd. Mather's position, con- 
victions, and temperament alike called him to serve, on this 
occasion, as the organ, exponent, and stimulator of the popu- 
lar faith." 

These views respecting Mr. Mather's connection with the 
Salem trials are to be found in no publication of a date 
prior to 1831, when Mr. Upham's " Lectures" were published. 



* Mr. Elliott's nuthority for Mai'trnix't Kulc's dire afflictions, which occurred late 
in 1G9.3. is Mather's *' Mcnionihlc Providences," printed in 1689 ! How those afflic- 
tions shouhl have ])R'pared the public mind for the Salcm delusion of 1C92 tlic his- 
torian docs not explain. 

t Hist. U. Slates, Vol. III. p. 85. | Ibid. p. 97. 

k His^t. U. States, Vol. II. pp. 151, 152. 



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Cotton Mather and Sulem Wilchiraft. ^ 

The clergy of New England, indeed, soon after the delu- 
sion abated, and subsequently, had been blamed for fostering 
the excitement; and Increase Mather and Cotton Mather, 
father and son, being the most prominent clergymen in tlio y ] t-fJ 
colony, — both stanch believers in the reality of witchcraft, / ' i* 
and writers on the subject, — were criticised more freely than 
any others. But these charges were very diffci'cnt from those 
we are to consider. Mr. Upham, in the Appendix to his sec- 
ond edition, printed. in 18-32, sets forth and maintains for his 
opinions the claim of originality, to which he is entitled. 
The accuracy of his statements respecting Mr. Mather's char- 
acter had been questioned. Mr. Upham, in his reply, admits, 
that, previously to the investigation of the subject of his 
Lectures, " a shadow of a doubt had never been suggested 
respecting Mr. !Mather's moral and Christian character." Ho 
• adds : " It was with the greatest reluctance that such a doubt 
was permitted to enter my mind. It seemed incredible — nay, 
almost impossible — ^^that a man who had been at the head of 
all the great religious operations of his day, who had been the 
instrument of so many apparent conversions, and who devoted 
so many hours and days and weeks of his life to fasting and ) 
prayer, could in reality be dishonest and coriiipt. But when" 
the evidence of the case required me to believe, that, in the 
transactions which I had undertaken to relate, his character : \ 
did actually appear in this dark and disgraceful light, a re- • p^ 
gard for truth and justice comi)elled me to express jny con» ( 
victions.'' * 

In this discussion we shall treat Mr. Upham's Lectures and 
History in the same connection, as the latter is an expansion 
and defence of the views presented in the former. In the H \ . 
History Cotton Mather appears more frequently and in a ( ' "V 
more unfavorable light than in the Lectures, and many of . I 
i the allusions to him are not referred to in the Index. He 
comes in when we should least exjicct him, and always 
with evil purpose, — plotting and counter-plotting, — disap- 
pointed when the trials were over, — planning new excite- 
ment and other trials in Boston, — unrepentant wl:en every- 



♦ Tx?ctiiw;j«, p. 2F4. 



8. Cotton Mather and Salem Witclieraft. 

body else had taken to the confessional, — wrecked in rep- 
utation ahnost before his career had commenced, — and go- 
ing to his grave full of remorse and disappointment. 

Mr. Upham is never at a loss to know what ^Ir. Mather 
" contemplated'' on any occasion, — what " he longed for," — 
what " he would have been glad to have, " — what " he looked 
upon with secret pleasure," — and what " he was secretly and 
cunningly endeavoring " to do. ^Ir. Peabody also knows when 
" Cotton Mather was in his element," and what " he enjoyed 
the great felicity of." We do not hope to follow these writers 
into the dark recesses of Mr. Mather's mind ; but in the course 
of this investigation we shall take up some of their st«atements 
and examine them in the light of evidence that may be re- 
garded as liistoricaL 

A few words touching the wide-spread belief in witchcraft 
prevalent in the seventeenth century may prepare some of our 
1 ^ readers better to appreciate the events which are more partic- 
le' ularly to come under our notice. 

No nation, no age, no form of religion or irreligion, may 
claim an immunity from this superstition. The Reformers 
were as zealous in this matter as the Catholics. It is esti- 
mated that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries two 
hundred thousand jx^rsons were executed, mostly burned, in 
Europe, — Germany furnishing one half of the victims, and Eng- 
land thirty thousand. Statutes against witchcraft were enacted 
hi the reigns of Henry VI., Henry VIII., Elizabeth, and James 
I. Learning and religion were no safegiiards agauist this de- 
lusion. 

The " Familiar Letters " of James Howell, who, after the 
restoration of Charles II., was " Historiographer Royal," gives 
a frightful picture of the extent of the delusion in England. 
Under date of February 3, 164G, he writes : " AVe have mul- 
titudes of witches among us ; for in Essex and SuflTolk there 
were above two hundred indicted within these two years, and 
above the one half of them executed. I speak it with horror. 
God guard us from the Devil ! " * Again, February 20, 1G47 : 
" Within the compass of two years, near u])on three hundred 



* Pa«>c 386, Edition of 1673. 



Cotton Mather and Salem Wiieheraft. 9 

witches were arraigned, and the major part of them executed, 
in Essex and Suffolk only. Scotland swarms with tlicm now 
more than ever, and persons of good quality are executed 
daily.''* 

A general history of the witchcraft delusion and trials in 
England is a desideratum which we commend to the atten- 
tion of English antiquaries. It would show that no New 
England man has any occasion to apologize for the credulity 
and superstition of his ancestors in the presence of an Eng- 
lishman. 

In New England, the earliest witch execution of which any 
details have been prcsciTcd was that of Margaret Jones, of 
Charlcstown, in June, 1648. Governor Winthrop presided at 
the trial, signed the death-warrant, and wrote the reiK)rt of the 
case in his journal. No indictment, process, or other evidence 
in the case can be found, unless it be an order of the General ' 
Court of May 10, 1648, that, after the course taken in England 
for the discovery of witches, a certain woman, not named, and 
her husband, be confined and watched.f We give Governor 
Winthrop's record in full, with the exception of such pai*ts as 
cannot be printed. 

"June 4, 1648. At this court one Margaret Jones, of Charlestown, 
was indicted and found guilty of witchcraft, and hanged for it The 
evidence against her was : — '-' 

" 1. That she was found to have a malignant touch, as many j>ersons 
(men, women, and children), whom she stroked or touched witli any 
affection or displeasure, were taken with deafness, or vomiting, or other 
violent pains or sickness. 

" 2. She practi-iing physic, and her medicines being such things as 
(by her own confession) were harmless, as anise-seed, liquors, etc., yet 
had extraordinary violent effect. 

** 3. She would use to tell such as would not make use of her physic 
that they would never be healed ; and accordingly their disea>es and 
hurts continued, with relapse, against the ordinary course, and beyond 
the ap])r<'hension of .ill physicians and surgeons. 

** 4. Some tilings which she foretold came to pass accordingly ; other 
things she could tell of (as secret speeches, etc.) which she had no 
ordinary means to come to the knowledge of. 



I 



♦ Page 427. f Mass. Ucc, Vol. II. p. 242. 



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10 Cotton Mather and Salem WitchcrafL 

«5. [Omitted.] 

•* 6. . . . The like child wns set- n in two other place?, to wliich sh<5 
had rehition ; and one maid >^aw il, fell sick upon it, and was cured by 
tlie said Margan*t, who used mrans to lie employed to that end. Her 
iK'havior at her trial wsis very intemjK*mle, lying notoriousl}', and rail- 
ing upon tiie jury and witnesses, and in the like distemper she died. 
The same day and hour she teas executed there was a very great tempest 
at Connecticut^ which blew down many trees, etc.** — Journal^ Vol. II. 
p. 326. 

Wc arc soon to consider tlic credulity and suiierstition of 
Cotton Mather, and desire here to call attention to the not entire 
absence of these qualities in the staid and judicious Wiuthrop, 
the founder of the Mas'sachusetts Colony. The facts in rela- 
tion to Margaret Jones seem to be, that she was a strong- 
nimded woman, with a will of her own, and midertook, with 
simple remedies, to practise as a female physician. Were she 
living in our day, she would brandish a diploma of il. D. from 
the New- England Female Medical College, would annually 
refuse to ]>ay her city taxes unless she had the right to vote, 
and would make speeches at the meetings of the Universal 
Suffrage Association. Her touch seemed to be attended with 
mesmeric powers. Her character and abilities rather com- 
mend themselves to our respect. She made anise-seed and 
good liquors do the work of huge doses of calomel and Epsom 
salts, or their equivalents. Her predictions as to the termi- 
nation of cases treated in the heroic method proved to be true. 
Who knows but that she practised homoeo|iathy ? The regu- 
lars pounced ujwn her as a witch, as the monks did upon 
Faustus for printing the first edition of the Bible, — put her 
and her husband into jail, — set rude men to watch her day 
and night, — subjected her person to indignities unmentiona- 
ble, — and, with the assistance of TVinthrop and the magis- 
trates, hanged her,— rand all this only fifteen years before 
Cotton Mather, the credulous, was bom ! 

Mary Johnson was executed the same year in Hartford. 
Mary Parsons was tried in IGol, and again in 1G74; her hus- 
band, Hugh Parsons, was tried in lGo2. In 1651 two persons 
were tried in Hartford. In 1053 Goodwifc Knap was hanged 
at Fairfield, Conn. In 165G ^Irs. Ann Hibbins, the widowlofi 



Cotton Mailier and Salem Witchcraft. 11 

an eminent Boston merchant and magistrate, was hanged. / 
Hutchinson* says, three witches were condemned at Hart- 
ford January 20, 1GG2 - 63. " After one of the witches was 
hanged, the maid was well ! " Cotton blather was born 
twenty-three days after this date. A woman named Gi^een- 
smith was hanged at Hartford in 10G3. Elizalx^th Segur was 
condemned at Hartford in 1GG5, and Katharine Harrison at 
'Wethcrsficld in 1GG9. The water test, so successfully ap- 
plied by Matthew Hopkins hi England, by which he caused the 
death of one hundred persons in Jlssex, Norfolk, and Suffolk 
from 1G45 to 1G47, was tried in Connecticut. The method 
was, to tie the thumb of the right hand to the great toe of the 
left foot, and draw the victims through a horse-iKjnd. If they 
floated, thev were witches ; if thcv sank, thev were in all likeli- 
hood drowned. The account of these Connecticut women is, 
that thev ** swam like a cork." 

In 1G70 Marv Webster, of Hadlev, was examined at North- 
ampton, sent to Boston, and acquitted. On her i-eturn to Had- 
ley, a mob of young men dragged her out of her house, hung 
her up till she was almost dead, let her down, rolled her in the 
snow, and left her. A similar scene was enacted at Great 
Paxton, a village within sixty miles of London, in the year 
1808, on a poor woman named Ann Izard, accused of bewitch- 
ing three girls. 

From 1G52 to the time of the great outbreak in Salem the Ikj^ 
courts of Essex County in Massachusetts were constantly' in- !|'^ 
vcstigating alleged cases of witchcraft. John Godfrey, of An- 
dover, was cried out upon in 1G51>. One witness swore, that, 
six or seven years before, being in the first scat in the gallery 
of the meeting-house in Rowley, he did see in the second seat 
one whom he believed was John Godfrey, yawning; and while 
opening his mouth, so yawning, did see a small teat under his 
tongue. In 1GG9 there was another case of a female physician * 
charged with witchcraft by a regular practitioner. Goody I 
Burt, a widow, was accused by Philip Reed, physician, of pro- 
ducing cures which could be accounted for by no natural cause. 
She practised in Salem, Lynn, and Marblehead. In 1G79 the 
family of William Morse, of Newbury, was disturbed in a 

* WUu of Mass.. Vol. II. p. 23, Sailem Rlition, 179,5. 



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12 Cotton Mather and Salem Witclicraft. 

strange manner. The case gave rise to many examinations 
and much evidence. 

Mr. Peabody says : * " After the execution of Jilrs. Hibbins 
in 1655 [1G56J the taste for such scenes had abated, and it 
was not till Cotton Mather, in 1085, published an account of 
several cases of witchcraft,! that such fears and fancies re- 
vived." But, though we have given only an incomplete sketch 
of the early witch proceedings in New England, it is enough 
to show that the colonics were in a constant ferment, from 
sup]x)scd diabolical agency, for more than forty years before 
1692. In every communit}' there were suspicions and accusa- 
tions which never came to a public examination. The same 
disturbance had existed to a still greater extent in England and 
throughout Europe. / With persons actuated simply by malice, 
the easiest method of annoying a neighbor, or of ridding a com- 
nmnity of a pestilent old woman/was by setting on foot a 
charge of witchcraft against them. English books relating to 
this subject were very numerous, and constituted the light 
reading of the day. Everybody knew how a witch ought to 
beliave ; and some of their pranks aflTorded young people of 
unregenerate minds agreeable recreation after their unsavory 
tasks over the Cambridge Platform and the Westminster Con 
fession of Faith. Hutchinson says of these books : — 

" Not many years before [1681], Glanvil published bis Witch Sto- 
ries in Enprlaml ; Perkins and other Nonconformists were earlier ; but 
tlie great authority was that of Sir Matthew Hale, revered in New 
Kn<;1aml, not only for his knowledge of law, but for his gravity and 
pietj'. Tlie trial of the witches in Suffi»lk was published in 1684. All 
these books were in New England ; and tlie conformity between the 
behavior of Goodwin's children and most of tlie supposed bewitched at 
Salem and the behavior of those in England is so exact as to leave no 
room to doubt the stories had l>een read by the New England persons 
themselves, or had been tohl to them by others who had read them. 
Iiuh*ed. this conformity, instead of givinj; suspicion, was urged in con- 
finnatitm of the truth of both : the 01 1 Enghind demons and the New 
being so much alike. The Court justified themselves from hooks of law, 

* Life of Mather, p. 281. 

t It is to he ro;:reiictl tluit Mr. lVa'>o«ly tliJ not give flic title of tliis publication 
of Mr. Mather's in 1685, for it is one we have never seen or heard of. 



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Cotton Mather and Salem WMuraft. 13 

and tlie authorities of Kebl<\ Dnlton, anil other lawyers then of the firs^t 
character, who lay down rules of conviction as ahsnnl and dangcrou:^ 
as any which were practised in New England.'* — I/ist. of Mass^ Vol. 
IL p. 27. • 

One who has never examined this jioint wonld be surimscd 
at the numl>er of witch books printed in En<rland from the 
accession of James I. in ICO^^ to the deposition of James II. 
in 1688. Some one has said, with more wit than historical 
accuracy, that " Witchcraft and Kingcraft came in and went 
out with the Stuarts." Among their authors and si^oii^ors 
were some of the most eminent men of the kinjrclom, — 
Richard Baxter, Sir Thomas Browne, Sir Matthew Hale, Rob- 
ert Boyle, Joseph Glanvil, John Gaulc, William Perkins, and 
Richard Bernard. These names were constantly quoted at the 
trials, and in the writings of that period. 

The writings of Gaule, Perkins, and Bernard, though adopt- 
ing in full the popular theory of diabolical agency, had a bene- 
ficial influence in mitigating the evils of the delusion. They 
defined the kind of evidence necessary to convict a witch. ; 
They declared against the admission of '* spectral testimony." ' 
They proved that the Devil often, for his own wicked puriK)se8, 
performed his deeds of darkness through the agency of inno- 
cent and virtuous porsons. This theory was an immense 
advance on the one maintained at the trials before Sir Mat-\^ 
thew Hale, — ^that the Devil could emph)y only the spectres of 
such persons as were in league with him. The clergy of New 
England accepted the theory of these writers : the mnglstrates 
rejected it, and held to that laid down by Sir Matthew Hale. 
These two theories were the great questions in debate at that 
time, and all the evils at Salem gi-ew out of the iK)sition taken 
by the magistrates. 

The clergy maintained, and referred to Perkins and Bernard 
as their authorities, that, in the trial of any alleged case of 
witchcraft, the <|uestion was not whether the accused had done 
acts which in themselves were preternatural, but whether he 
or she was a willing agent, — in other words, whether a 
compact had been made with Satan. The comjmct must not 
be assumed ; it must be proved by legal evidence. But how, 
on such a theory, could a case of witchcraft be proved ? No 



14 Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcroft. 

sj)cctral evidence must be admitted ; for spectral evidence is 
the "Denl's testimony," who is a liar from the beginning. 
The evidence of a confessed witch nmst also be excluded. Tlie 
evidence must be strictly httman, — that is, what a i)erson, in the 
use of his ordinary faculties, and in their ordinary operation, 
has seen or known, without any supernatural or preternatural 
assistance, either from God or the Devil. A jxirson confessing 
himself to be a witch thereby acknowledges that he has re- 
nounced God and Jesus Christ, and has entered into the ser- 
vice of the Evil One. How can a jjerson so confessing take a 
legal oath, or, in any respect, be a competent witness ? These 
writers assert that a trial for witchcraft must be conducted by 
the same rules of law as a trial for murder or burglary. The 
testimony of a person who admitted that he had entered into a 
league with the Devil to work all manner of wickedness would 
not be received in a case of petty larceny. Why, then, should 
it be accepted in a case of witchcraft, which is a capital offence ? 
They claim that the rules of a trial for witchcraft, if they vary 
from those in other capital charges, should be even more rigid ; 
because we are dealing with something of which we know but 
little, exccjit that it is the greatest of crimes, and that the 
Devil is mixed up in the affair in some unaccomitable way, and 
will cheat us, if he can. 

How, then, inquired their opponents, can a witch be convicted ? 
No one ever saw the Devil make a contract with a man, or a 
witch '' sign his book." If these rules of evidence are obsen'ed, 
the witches will all esca])e punishment. — God forbid! these 
judicious writers replied. But that is not your affair, nor ours. 
If we tr}' them, it must be by the rules of justice and the laws 
of England ; otherwise, we are " jilaying blind-manVbuff with 
the Devil in the dark," and we shall surely get the worst of it^ 
We shall put to death innocent persons, and may suffer the 
same penalty ourselves, which we shall richly deserve, if we 
try, convict, and execute the accused by illegal methods* 

They went so far as to question the validity of a confession. 
The case must be inquired into. Was the person who con- 
fessed in his right mind ? Had no diabolical agency been 
exerted \\\)o\\ him ? Had he not been influenced by promises 
or threats " to sign the book " ? If not in his riglit mind, or if 



Cotton JIatJur and Sainn IMtchiraft. 15 

he had been iiiflneiiccd by the Devil, the confession was to be 
set aside, the plea of " Not guilty " eiitei-ed, and the case dis- 
posed of as if there had been no confession. If otherwise, and 
if he had done acts clearly of a dial)olical nature, he was, in the 
eye of the law, guilty of witchcraft ; and the licst disjwsition 
to make of such a person was to hang him. If then there was 
any mistake about it, the [jenalty was upon his own head for 

' such unpardonable lying. 

On such reasonin<]c it will readilv be seen that witch trials 
would be very infrequent and very harmless affairs. And yet 
these writers, judged by our niodcra standards, were very 
credulous and superstitious persons. Tlie narrative we have 
quoted from Winthrop's Journal would not have seemed to 
them absurd or revolting. No intelligent i)erson in those times 
rejected the theory of diabolical agency, unless he rejected also 
the authoritv of the Old and New Testaments, the existence 
of angels, and a life beyond the grave. A belief in witchcmft 
was essential to the maintenance of a Christian character. To 
express any doubts on the subject was to lay one's self ojien 
to denunciation as a Sadducee, — a term of reproach which 
has lost the significance it then had. 

Xo one within the i>ale of the Christian Church had then 
written or s|x>ken against the reality of witchcraft. By tak- 
ing an individual of a past generation out of his relations with 
his own times, and putting him n^xin the background of mod- 
ern civilization and refinement, and then reproaching him with 
opinions and practices now shown to be erroneous, Imt whicli 
he shared in common with all his contemi^raries, it is very 
easy to make any character appear ridiculous, and even culpa- 
ble. But this is not the historical method of dealing with the 

y reputations of men of a former age. We of the present shall 
need a more charitable interpretation of our own opinions 
and acts on the part of those who follow us. Did the man 
act well his part with the light he had ? Did he, in a time 
of intense excitement, when life and reputation wei^e at stake, 
act with reference to his duty to God, and in charity to his 
fellow-men ? 

We have set forth with some minuteness the theories of such 
writers as Perkins and Bernard, because we are to meet these 



16 Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 

names as authorities in the progress of our investigation. 
When the Governor and Council asked the advice of the clergy 
of Boston and the vicinity, in June, 1G92, those ministers ad- 
vised — and Cotton Mather drew up the advice — that " there 
is need of very critical and exquisite caution," and recom- 
mended " that the directions given by such judicious writers 
as Perkins and Bernard may be observed." Both the ^Mathers 
adopted the theory of these writers, and fi'equently made ref- 
erences to, and quotations from them. But we shall recur to 
this matter in another connection. 

We now come to consider the first case of witchcraft in 
which Cotton Mather was concerned, and of which Mr. Upham 
says,* " there is reason to believe that it originated the de- 
lusion in Salem." As the case is one of much imi)ortance, we 
shall allow Governor Hutchinson, who knew some of the par- 
ties concerned, and had conversed with others who were eye- 
witnesses, to relate the mam incidents. 

** In 1 G88 began a more alarming instance than any which liad pre- 
ceded it. Four of the cliiklren of John Goodwin, a grave man and a 
good liver at the north part of Boston, were genenilly believed to be 
bewitched. I liave often heard persons who were of the neighborhood 
speak of the great con.»ternation it occasioned. The children were all 
remarkahlc for ingenuity of temper, had been religiouslj' educated, and 
weiHi thought to be without guile. The eldest was a girl of thirteen or 
fourteen year?.. She had charged a laundress [one Glover] with taking 
away some of the family linen. The mother of the laundress was one 
of the wild Irish, of bad character, and gave the girl harsh languao^e, 
soon after which >he fell into fits, which were said to have .something 
dial>oru*al in them. One of her sisters and two brothers follow ed her 
exaniph*, and, it is said, were tormented in the same part of their 
bodies, at the ^anie time, although kept in separate apartments, and 
ignorant of each others complaint. Sometimes they would be deaf, 
then dumb, then blind ; and sometimes all these disorders together 
would come upon them. Their tongues would be drawn down their 
throats, then pulled out upon their chins. Their jaws, necks, shoul- 
ders, elbows, and all their joints, would appear to be dislocated, 
and they would make most j>iteons outcries of burnings, of being cut 
with knives, beat, etc., and the marks of wounds were afterwards to be 
seen. The ministers of Bo-ton and Charh'stown kept a day of fasting 

* llisturv. Vol. 1. p. 459. 



1/ 



Cotto7i Mather and Salem- Witchcraft. . 17 

/ 

nnd prayer nt tlie troubled liouse, after whieli tlie yoiin^st cliiM made 
no more C(>nip1nint!>. Tlie others i>en«evered, and tlie magistrates tlien 
inter|K>se<1, and the old woman was apprehended ; hut, uiK>n examina- 
tion, would neither eoiifess nor deny, and apiH*ared to W di:K)rd('n'd in 
her senses. Upon the report of physicians that she was coinjnn nieutU^ 
she was executed, deehiring at her death the children should not be 
relieved. The eldest, after this, was taken into a ininister*s [Mr. 
Mather's] family, where at first she behaved orderlj-, but after some 
time fell into her fits. The account of her aiHicii<m is in print [Math- 
er's *• Memorable Providence's," 1 081)] ; some things are mentioned as ex- 
tniordinar}', which tumblers are taught every day to perform ; others are 
more natural; but it was a time of great cix'dulity." — Hi$t, of Mass^ 
Vol. II. pp. 24-26. 

Ill his Lectures, 1831, which have given the cue to all subse- 
quent writers, Mr. Upham states, as an historical fact, that the \)) 
Goodwin case " was brought about by his [Cotton Mather's] 
management." * Now if Mr. Upham had not read the little 
evidence there is in this case, he was chargeable with a negli- 
gence and recklessness of statement which we do not like to 
characterize, in thus assailing the reputation of a member 
of his own profession, who was not living to make answer. 

If he had read the evidence, but the case is not a sui>- 

posable one: no one who knows Mr. Upham will for a mo- 
ment imagine that he >yould consciously make a misstate- 
ment, or suppress any evidence which he decmc^essential to 
a proper estimate of a character of which he was treating. We 
think it projier to make this explicit avowal here, for we shall 
often have occasion to question his facts and scrutinize his au- 
thorities, as well as challenge his reasoning. There is no more 
unsafe and ixjrilous task than the writing of history with a 
theory to maintain. If a preconceived opinion Ije strong and 
active, it must be controlled by no common love of truth and 
justice, not to render the person holding it disqualified even 
for the examination of authorities. Everything which comes 
under his eye only strengthens his opinion. The case seems 
to him so plain that he considers it unnecessary to look up 
rare and forgotten pamphlets, and pore over musty manu- 
scripts in the obscure chirography of two centuries ago, for 

♦ I^cturc>, p. 107. 




18 Cotton Mather and Salem Witehcrqft. 

the purpose of verifying a date, or explaining the motives of 
a person on whom he is to pass judgment. 

Mr. Upham can never have seen " Some Few Remarks upon 
a Scandalous Book by one Robert Calef," Boston, 1701, which 
was written by the parishioners of the Second Boston Church, 
as a reply to Calef 's charges against Mr. Mather ; neither can 
he have seen " Some ilisccllanv Observations on the Present 
Debates respecting Witchcrafts," 1692, nor Increase Mather's 
** Cases of Conscience concerning Witchcrafts," 1693 ; for, if 
he had seen these very important tracts, he would, with his 
integrity of puq^ose, have quoted from them the evidence to 
upset his whole theory. But he has read Cotton Mather's 
Diary, which is full of penitential confessions, and acknowl- 
edgments to himself and his Maker of manifold transgres- 
sions, — of pride, vanity, hardness of heart, imprudent zeal, 
and unworthincss in his Master's service. These confessions 
^Ir. Upham regards as historical evidence. Such a use of 
the confessional, we Ijelieve, is not common with historical 
writers. Before such a touchstone any devout man who keeps 
a diary will inevitably fall ; since, the more devout he is, the 
more self-depreciatory will be his confessions. Under this test 
the Aix)stle to the Gentiles himself becomes " the chief of 
sinners." 

No historian has a moral right to assail the character of a 
man who Iwrc a good reputation in his day, without an ex- 
haustive and candid examination of authorities. Such an ex- 
amination we shall show that Mr. Upham has not made in 
the case of Cotton Mather, and that he has used the facts 
which have come under his observation with a strong bias 
against Mr. Mather as a man of integrity and veracity. Mr. 
Upham dees not bring a particle of evidence or quote a sin- 
gle authority in proof of his allegation that the Goo dwin ^(g^s^ -^ 
" was brought about by Cotton Mather's management," — an 
allegation which he accompanies by others equally unsupported. 
He says : — 

*' Dr. Cotton Mather aspired to be cons'ulered the great champion of 
thi* Church, and the most successful combatant against the Prince of 
the Power of the Air. He sc«'ms to have lonjied for an op|)ortunity to 
signalize himself in this purticuhir kind of warfare, and re|K'atedly en- 



V 



Cotton Mather and Salem WitclicrafL 19 

dcavored to get up a delusion of this kind in Boston. An instance of 
witclioraft was brought ailiout by his uianagcMnent in 16SS. There is 
Foine gi'ound for suspicion that he was instrumental in causing the delu- 
sion in Salem ; at any nite, he took a leading part in conducting it." — 
Lectures^ pp. lOG, 107. 

The same statements, \\\ almost the same words, he repro- 
duces in his History.* 

Mr. John Goodwin, the father of the afflicted childi*en, told 
the story of his domestic trials, over his own name, in Mather's 
" Memorable Providences," 1089, page 46. He describes how 
the first child was taken, then a second, and, later, two others. 
Friends were called in, and afterwards physicians; but no re- 
lief came. He then says : — 

*' Now I considering ray ailliction to be more than ordinary, it did cer- 
tainly call for more than oixlinary prayer. I acquainted Mr. Allen, Mr. 
Moody, Mr. Willard, and Mr. C. Mather, the ibur ministers of the 
town, with it, and Mr. ISIorton, of Charlestown, earnestly desiring them 
that they, with some other praying people of God, would meet at my 
house, and there be earnest with God on the behalf of myself and my 
children." 

Did Mr. Mather have an}'thing to do with the case before he 
was called in, with four other clergymen, after the affair had 
been going on for some time, and physicians and sympathizing 
friends had given no relief ? Mr. Upham must show this, or 
his accusation fails. 

Twelve years afterwards, Robert Calef, between whom and 
Mr. Slather a personal quarrel existed, and many bitter words 
had passed, published his " More Wonders of the Invisible 
World," hi which he says (p. 152) : " Mr. Cotton Mather was 
the most active and forward of any minister in the country 
in these [Good\nji] matters, taking home one of the chil- 
dren, and managing such intrigues with that child, and, after, 
printing such an account of the whole in his " Memorable Prov- 
idences," as conduced much to the kindlijig those flames that 
in Sir William's time threatened the devouring this country." 
We shall in another jdace speak of the value to be set upon 
Calef 's statements respecting Mr. Mather. Soon after Calef *s 

* Vol. IL p. 366. 





txK^ ai^Mured, the pariahionen of Mr. Uather took up this 
mecaat&ja, and in " Some ¥ew Bemaiks," 1701, which Mr. 
Uj^m hu never seen, pn>ved it to be t doimright falsehood. 
One of the wren perecMU vbo |tt«paied the leplj was John 
Goodwin, the bther of tiie cHIdren. ^ makea, over his own 
name, a fuitiker ■tatement,.irhk!h i|re g^ve entire. 

*Ltf tba wotUbeinibnned,tliat|WlMaoaeof ay diiMren 1iadb«:en 
bbora^ nadnr md tsreunubucu inm the Invii^ila World fur about 
a fawttr •f a j/ear,! dHired ibe mii^en of Boaton, witli Charies- 
towa, to Icfi«^ a daj of prajer at mj haaM, if w be d«:liv«;nincii might 
be obtained. Mr. Cotton Uatber was Ae but of Ibe m'lnisiera tliat I 
•|Kik« to «a ibat ooca^oa, and tboogfa, by r«asoa of Boom iiet.-es^ry 
bannen, ba coald not attend, yet be aune to My boOM in the inoming 
of Ihat iaj, and (anied dMMt balf an boar, and wmt to pnijer with us 
beliwe any olber aifadHer ouae. Jftvwr iefim iad Itke leait ar^Maiut' 
imee viA kim. Aboot two or tbree arantha after ibis, I desired that 
■notber di^ of prayer mi^t be kepi by the sfbresaid minister^ which 
aoeoidb^ tbey did, and Ur. Co^ Italher wa* tben pre.ienL But 
be neror pre me tbe least advice, neitber &ce to bee nor by way uf 
episllet, neitbw direclly nor in^redly j but tbe notioa of going to tbe 
aatbority was made to me Igr a minister of a neigbboring lawn, now 
drafted;* and m^leia were laanaged by bm, in prosecution of tbe 
samiosed erindaal, wholly wilbout tbe adrke of any minister or lawyer, 
or any other perMn. T^e reitiistCTs would now etid then cotne to visit 
uiy distressed rumily, and pi'njr with iind for tbf m, among which Mr. 
Cotton Slallier would now and then come, and go lo prayer with ua. 
Yet all thnt time be never advised me to iinjlhing concerning the 
law, or trial of the aceust^ person j but after that wicked woman Imd 
bci! II condemned about a fortnight, Mr. Coliott Mather invited one of 
my children to liis liouse ; and within a day or two d^er that the 
womnn wn^a executed." 

"JOIIS GOODWIN." 

The writers of " Some Few Remarks " then say : — 

"Now behold liow active and forward Mr. Malber was in transacting 
ihe afliiirs relating to thU woman, and bu astonished that ever any one 
should go to insinuate sucb things to the world as are known by most 
iLal ever beui-d of iboae ufllidcd children to be BO liir different from 
thetnitb." 

* Probably Mr. John Bdly, of Walertowa, who died December, 1 697. 



■I 



CoUon Mather and Salan Witchcraft 21 

Cotton Mather, according to his custom with all prisoners 
visited the Glover woman twice after her condemnation, — not 
in the spirit of an inquisitor, but as a spiritual adviser. She 
never denied to him the guilt of witchcraft ; but as to her con- 
fessions about confederacies with the Devil, she only said that 
she used to be at meetings at which her prince and four more 
were present. She told him who the four persons were, and 
as to her prince, " her account plainly was that he was the 
Devil." Mr. ilather asked her many questions, in reply to 
which, after a long silence, she said she would fain give full 
answers, but Ibet/ would not let her. They? Who are they? 
She replied, that they were her spirits, or her sahits. He ad- 
vised her to break her covenant with hell. She answered, that 
he spoke a very reasonable thing, but she could not do it. He 
offered to i)ray with her, and asked her to pray for herself. She 
replied, that she could not, unless her spirits would give her 
leave. '^ However," he said, " against her will I prayed with 
her, which, if it were a fault, it was in excess of pity P 

Mr. Mather never revealed the names of the persons whom 
she, or others, accused; "for," said he,* "we should be very ^ 
tender in such relation, lest we wrong the reputation of the 
innocent by stories not enough inquired into." " I cannot re- 
sist the conviction," says Mr. Upham,t " that he looked upon 
the occurrences in the Salem trials with secret pleasure, and 
would have been glad to have had them repeated in Bos- 
ton." Why, then, did not ^fr. Mather divulge the names of 
the persons accused by the Glover woman ? He had the mat- 
ter entirely in his own hands, and could have indulged the de- 
sire here ascribed to him to his heart's content. But we know 
he did not manifest such a spirit ; and ^\J2 are forced to inquire 
by what methods of historical investigation Mr, Upham pro- 
ceeds, when he makes such assertions without examination of . 
the important documents here adduced. 

These Goodwin children performed some strange pranka 
" They would fly like geese, and be carried through the €f^, \ 
having but just their toes now and then on the ground.^ One 
of them, in the house of a kind neighbor and gentleman (Xlr. 
Willis), flew the length of a room about twenty feet, none see- V 

♦ Mem. Prov., p. 13. t History, Vol. IL p. 370. 



22 Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 

ing licr feet all the way touch the floor," Tliej threw them- 
selves down stairs, and jumped into the fire and into the wa- 
ter. Their dangers and deliverances were so maify as to cause 
the kind-hearted narrator " to consider whether the little ones 
had not their angels, in the plain sense of omr Saviour's in- 
timation." At family prayers they would "roar and shriek 
and holla," to drown the voice of devotion. " In short," says 
Mr. Mather, " no good thing must then he endured near those 
children, who (while they are themselves) do love every good 
thing in a measure that proclaims in them the fear of God." 

Mr. Mather took one of these pests to his own house, where 
he kept her during the autumn and winter of 1688 - 89. He 
endured ii'om her all manner of annoyance and vexation, hut 
not a word of reproach or complamt did he utter. For a time 
" she applied herself not only to acts of industry, hut to piety, 
as she had heen no stranger to." Then of a sudden she would 
cry, " They have found me out ! " and go into fits. 

She stated that they (her spii'its) brought to her an invisi- 
ble horse. She would throw herself in a riding position into a 
chair and gallop about the room, " the bystanders not perceiv- 
ing that she was moved by her feet upon the floor, for often they 
touched it not." Sometimes she would be carried from the 
chair oddly about the room, in the iK)sture of a riding-woman. 
A spectator once asked her if she could ride up the stairs. 
She thought she could, and the next time the horse came, " to 
our admiration she rode (that is, was tossed as one that rode) 
up the stairs." 

Si)eaking of her being able to read some books and not oth- 
ers, Mr. Mather says : " I was not insensible that this girl's 
capacity to read, or incapacity to read, was no test ; therefore 
1 did not proceed much further in this fanciful business, not 
knowing what snares the devils might lay for us in these trials." 

So the whiter wore away, with a recurrence at uitervals of 
these strange actions, some absurd, others curious, and all 
entertaining. 

Mr. Mather concludes by saying that the story is |ill made up 
of wonders, but that he has related nothing but what he believes 
to be true ; and he hoi)cs his neighbors have long thought that 
he has " otherwise learned Christ than to lie unto the world." 



Cotton Mather and Salein Witchcraft. 2S 

. •• Yea," he cleclares, ** ihere is, I l)elicvp, scarce any one parficnlar in 
this narrative which moi*e than one credible witness will not be ready 
to make oath unto. The things of nio^t concernment in it were before 
many critical observers, and all sorts of persons that had a mind to sat- 
isfy themselves. I do now pnblish the history, while the thing is fresh 
and new ; and I challenge all men to detect so much as one designed 
falsehooil, yea, so much as one important mistake, from the ef:g to the 
apple of it. 1 am resolved aAer this never to use but just one grain of 
patience with any man that shall go to impose upon me a denial of devils 
or of witches. I shall count that man ignorant who shall suspect ; but I 
shall count him downright impudent, if he asserts the non-existence of 
thing<; which we have had such palpable convictions of." — Mem, Pror, 
p. 40. 

No edition of the " Memorable Providences*' has been issued 
since the London reprint of 1691, with a Preface by Mr. Ricli- 
ard Baxter, in which he states that "this great instance 
Cometh with such full, convincing evidence, that he must be a 
very obdurate Sadducee that will not believe it." Mr. Baxter 
quoted from it largely in his " Certainty of the World of Spir- 
its," 1G91, and was in the habit of recommending his hearers to 
buy it. Both editions are now very rare, and cost their weight 
in gold. Its republication at this time would be a contribution 
to the literature of Spiritualism. 

In Mr. Upham's view, the Goodwin affair had a very impor- 
tant relation to the Salem troubles. Cotton Mather " got up" 
this case ; this case " got up" the Salem cases ; therefore Cotton 
Mather "got up" Salem Witchcraft. This is the argument 
concisely stated. It is projxir, therefore, to inquire what there 
was in Mr. Mather's practice with the Goodwin children that 
foreshadowed the shocking scenes at Salem. His whole con- 
duct in this transaction — call it credulous and sujierstitious, 
if the reader will — was marked with kindness, patience, and 
Christian charity towards the accused, the afflicted children, 
their friends, and four poor wretches, who, if the affair had 
been in other hands, might have come under condemnation. 
He. had a method of his own for the treatment of witchcraft 
and possession. He believed iii the power of prayer. The 
Almighty Sovereign was his Father, and had promised to hear 
and answer his petitions. He had often tested this promise, 
and had found it faithful and sure. Some will call such 




24 Cotton Mather and Salem Witcheraft. 

faith as his credulity and superstition ; tut this was Cotton 
Mather's method. He applies it to the cases in question. 
Tlie children all recover. He deems it an act of grace in 
answer to prayer. He writes his "Memorable Providences" 
to prove two proiK)sitions : 1. That witchcraft is a reality, and 
2. To illustrate the projx^r method of treating it. In his intro- 
ductory note " To the Reader " he says : ** Prayer is the pow- 
erful and effectual remedy against the malicious practices of 
devils and those that covenant with them"; and coiichides 
the narrative as he began, with these words : " All tliat I 
have now to publish is, that Prayer and Faith was the thing 
which drove tlie devils from the children ; and I am to bear 
this testimony unto the world : That the Lord is nigh to all 
them who call \\\)0\\ Him in truth, and that blessed arc all they 
that wait for Him." * 

The peculiarity of the Salem cases was, that the managei-s 
hanged their witches, and thiv^lnore victims they hanged the 
more the delusion spread. Cotton Mather, on the other hand, 
prayed with and for his bewitched ones, exorcised the demons 
(as he supi)osed), saved the children, suppressed the names 
of those accused, and put a stop to all further proceedings. / 
Hutchinson savs : f " The children returned to their ordinarv 
behanor, lived to an adult age, made profession of religion, 
and the affliction they had been under they publicly declared 
to be one motive to it. One of them I knew many years after. 
She had the character of a very sober, vii-tuous woman, and 
never made any acknowledgment of fraud in the transac- 
tion." Mr. John Goodwin and his wife Martha united with 
Mr. Mather's church, ilay 25, 1690. Before this their rela- 
tions had been with the church at Charlestown. The four 
chihlren were subsequently admitted to Mr. Mather's church. 
Nathaniel (Joodwin, the eldest of the sons, July 22, 1728, took 
out letters of administration on Cotton Mather's estate. 

This is a record which requires no ai>olog}\ Can ilr. Ui>- 
ham suggest any improvement in Cotton Mather's management 
of a witch case ? Why do we not find some of these facts in 
his History ? Would Cotton Mather, who had a method of his 
own, which he had practised with eminent success, and for the 

Mem. Prov., p. 44. t Hist, of Mjiss., Vol. II. \\ 26. 




-oi 



/ 



Cotton JIatJur and Salem Witchcraft. 



purpose of illustrating and commending it to the world had 
written a book, have instigated, and taken a " secret pleasure ** 
in, the detestable methods pursued at Salem, unless he had 
been himself bewitched ? This charge is the corner-stone on 
whicli the whole fabric of Mr. Upham's misrepresentations of 
Cotton Mather rests. If this crumbles, the whole must fall. } ^ 

** The wise and learned of liis [Cotton MatberV] day, and before if, 
had faiih in judicial astrology ; hut of this he ventures lx)ldly to ex- P 
press hi"« scepticism,-*- a remarkable fact, certainly, considering his repu- 
tation for unbounded credulity. So, too, he rejected all kind of ehanns 
and incantations and exorcisms, all vuljrar antidotes to witchcraft and 
tbe common machinery of magic, and ridiculed the notion, not now out 
of belief, that a seventh son is bom with extraordinary qualities. The 
only weapon with which he sought to resist the powers of evil, or con- 
trol them, was the arm of the law, or, wbat he preferred to that, prayer 
and fa>ting.** -7- S. F. H.VVEX, Xnrth American Review^ Vol. LI. p. 11. 

Mr. Upham and Mr. Pealx)dy* uniformly si)eak of Cotton 
Mather at this period of his life as Dr. Mather, a title which 
recalls to the reader the mature and majestic face, the flowing 
wig, the clerical bands, and the silk robe depicted in the well- 
known portrait. Mr. Mather received his degree of Doctor of 
Divinity from the University of Glasgow in 1710, when he was 
forty-seven years of age, and it was near this time, probably, 
that the portrait was painted. But at the time he " got up " 
the Goodwin case he was only twenty-five years old, and, con- 
sidering his youth and inexperience, we think liis conduct in 
the matter entitles him to great praise. Tliough a boy in 
years, he was a prodigy in talent and erudition. At the age oi 
eleven years and six months, when he entered Harvard Col 
lege, he had read Cicero, Terence, Ovid, and Virgil, and wrote 
Latin with freedom. lie had read through his Greek Testa- 
ment, and had commenced the study of Homer, Isocrates, and 
the Hebrew Grammar. In college he mastered the Hebrew, 
and comi>osed treatises on logic and physic, besides i)rosecuting 
the usual ciu^riculum of collegiate studies. Almost any other 
boy would have been ruined by the compliments and flattery 
lavished ixpow him. When he took his first degree at the age 

* Mr. PealKMly (p. 225) says : " Little did the vencniWe durtor think," etc. The 
vencrahic doctor was twenty-nine yc;ir5 of fl«;e ! and wusi no doctor at all. 



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Cotton Mather and Salem Witeheraft. 



of fifteen, President Oakes addressed him in Latin to this 
effect: — 

** Cotton Mailier ! What a name ! I confes.*, my hearer?, I have 
erred ; I should have said, "What nameft ! I shall .*ay nothing of hi:^ 
father (since I am unwilling to prai>e him to his face) ; but if he should 
represent and ilhistrcte the piety, learning, elegant culture, solid judg- 
ment, prudence, and dignity of his most eminent grandfathers, John 
Cotton and Richard Mather, he will l>ear away every prize ; and in 
this 3'outh I trust Cotton and Mather, names so eminent, will unite and 
live again." 

He was admitted a freeman and l)cgan to preach at the age 
of seventeen. The facility with which he ac(inircd languages 
was remarkable. At twenty-five years of age he could write 
in seven languages, one of them the Iro(]uois. Proud of his 
ancestry and his attainments, the wonder is that we find so 
much hi his character that is charitable, affectionate, and 
lovely.* His great aim in life was to do good. His intense 
application to study left him but little time to mingle in the 
common pursuits of life, and hence his knowledge of ordinary 
human nature was less than that of many men with inferior 
abilities. He was doubtless the most brilliant man of his day 
in Xew England. Within the last forty years, however, there 
has grown up a fashion, among our historical writers, of defam- 
ing his character and underrating his productions. For a sjkj- 
cimen of these attacks the reader is referred to a " Supi)Osed 
Letter from Rev. Cotton Mather, D. D.,'' f ^^'i^'j comments on 
the same by James Savage, ileanwhile his writings have been 

* As an ilhifitration of these (|ualities, wc ;rive an extract from a letter of Cotton 
Mather to John Saffin, an old man with many domestic trouhles, dated July 19, 

Ilia 

•* All former and crooked tiling must lie buried. There mu<t f>e no repeatinjr of 
matters which never can Iks exactly rectitied. There is a Scotch proverb, that you 
must keep to, — By-gones Ikj hy-gones, and fair play for the time to come. Do tlio 
jMirt of a }^ntleman. Cheerfully entertain the ri']mtah1e character of a miifs em*'ritn*. 
Repose is the milk of old age. No more earth now. Sir, hut all for heaven ! Vou 
must lay aside all hittemess ; and the more hnively you for-rive all real or snpi>o>scd 
injuries, the more sweetly you will l»e pnpaR'd for the consolations of your own for- 
giveness. Good Sir, throw all emhittcrments into a grave hcfore you go into your 
own." — MitRS. Hht. C«//., Vol XXI. pp. 137 - 1.30. 

Saffin died a few d.ivs after the date of this letter (20th Julv, 1710). at Bristol, 
R.I. 

t Mass. Hist. Coll., Vol. XXXII. p. 122. 



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Cutton Mather and Salem MltehcraJL 27 

more and more sought for, and their cost is now so great, with 
the excci)tion of such as have hcen reprinted, as to put them 
beyond the reach of all but wealthy collectors. One of our 
best living historical writers, in a public address, sj^eaks of the 
"Magnalia" as an "historical medley which is beneath criti- 
cism in any \you\t of view." * This writer, nevertheless, has 
drawn upoji it largely in making his own l)Ooks. Mr. Peabody 
says: " The ifagnalia has fallen into disrepute with those who 
read for instruction. Its value is not to 1)0 estimated by its 
usefulness, but by the more doubtful standard of its oddity and 
its age." t And again : " His works are of a kind which wero 
attractive in their day, but now sleep in repose, where even the 
antiquary seldom disturbs them." J Yet no student of New 
England history can dispense with the " Magnalia." The orig- 
inal edition of 1702, jmblished at one jwund, will now bring ten 
])Ounds, and it has twice been rejirinted within the present cen- 
tury. Mr. Mather's other books and tracts, numbering nearly 
four hundred, were never so much prized by collectore as to- 
day. Many of them will command their weight in sovereigns. 
It is not, however, with his general character, or the merit of 
his writings, that we are at presqnt concerned, but with his 
alleged connection with Salem Witchcraft. 

It seems never to have occurred to Mr. Upham that the name 
of Cotton Mather docs not once appear in Governor Hutch- 
inson's account of the Salem delusion, — and yet he says:§ 
" Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts is, perhaps, the most ( 
valuable authority on the subject. He enjoyed an advantage 
over any other writer before, since, or hereafter, so far as re- 
lates to the witchcraft proceedings in 1G92 ; for he had access 
to all the records and documents connected with it., a great 
part of which have subsequently been lost or destroyed. His 
treatment of that particular tojiic is more satisfactory than can 
elsewhere be found." This statement we fully indorse. How, 
then, can Mr. Upham explain the circumstance, that Hutchin- 
son, having all the original documcjits, and being the most 
valuable authority on the subject, should nevertheless omit 

to mention the agency, or even the name, of the alleged chief 

^- _ 

* Mnss. Hist. Coll., Vo]. XXIX. p. 173. X IhM., p. 349. 

t Life of Maihcr, p. 269. S Hisiory, Vol. I. p. 415. 




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28 Cotton Mather and Salem WUchcraft. 

actor? — Again, Thomas Brattle, the Treasurer of Harvard 
College, (not William Brattle, a merchant of Boston, as Mri 
Upliam states,*) -wTote, at the time, an account of Salem\ 
Witchcraft. He was a candid and impartial writer, a stanch 
unbeliever in the methods pursued at Salem, personally ac- 
quainted with the prominent individuals engaged, and an au- 

I thority whom Mr. Upham never mentions but with approval. 

Mr. Brattle gives the names of other'persons, — both of those 
who incited and abetted, and those who utterly disapproved 
\ and denounced the proceedings, — but he never once mentions 

I Cotton Mather. He gives the initials " C. M." in one strange 

i ^ connection (if Mr. Upham's theory be true), and has some 

^ { remarks, of a still more surprising character, concerning ** a 

\ Rov. person of Boston " (which will be considered in another 

part of this inquiry) ; but he seems to have 1)een wholly un- 
conscious of the iniquity which Cotton Mather was committing. 
It ought to have occurred to Mr. Upham that he has suf- 
ficiently accounted for the origin of the Salem proceedmgs 
without laying any portion of the resi)onsibility upon Cotton 
Mather. He assigns as causes: 1. Tlie general prevalence of 
erroneous opinions respecting diabolical agency, as well in 
England as in this country ; 2. The parish troubles in Salem 
Village, to which he devotes much space ; 3. The Indian ser- 
vants of ilr. Parris, who taught the afflicted children their 
^\ tricks; 4. The intrigue and malice of Mr. Parris; 5. The 
>* family and neighborhood feuds of the village ; 6. The stolid 
credulity of the local magistrates, Ilathonie and Curwin ; 7. 
i The infiituation of the judges in admitting si)ectral testimony, 
and adhering to the dogma that the Devil could act only 
through willing confederates. Tliese would seem to be suffi- 
cient to account for the origin of the Salem delusion. Cotton 
Mather had no connection with these incidents, and he had no 
opinions on witchcraft that were not held by all the clergy of. 
the land. The storm was raised, the jails of the county were 
filled, persons had confessed themselves to be witches and 
were accusing others, and- the whole community was in an 
ujiroar, before Cotton blather's name appears legitimately in 
\^_ the tragedy. 

♦ llistorr. Vol. II. p. 450. 



« 

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Voiton Mather and Salem IMtehrraJi. 29 






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V '^'A^ 



^^^- 



" Stoughton was in full sympathy with Cotton Mather, - 
whose influence had been used in procuring his a}>iK)hitnieut ^ ' — ^ 
over Danforth." * The Chief Justice, indeed, was hi full sym- 
pathy with Mr. blather as a friend, hut not in the methods of 
trying alleged witches. Their opinions on this subject were 
diametrically opiK)sed. Stoughton admitted si^ectral testi- 
mony against the accused ; f Mather, in his writings on the • 
subject, denounced it as illegal, uncharitable, and cruel. All 
the judicial murdere at Salem grew out of the acceptance of 
this rule by the Court. All questions in debate at the time, 
concerning the trial of witches, centred in this: *' What sort 
of evidence shall Ikj taken ? *' Everybody l>elieved in witch- 
craft, and in punishing witches; but some persons, and among 
them ^Ir. Mather, l)elieved in trying them by legal methods. 

Mr. Uphara says: J " I know nothing more ai-tful and Jesuit- 
ical than his attempt, in the following passage, to escajKi the 
odium that had been connected with the prosecutors : * The 
world knows how many images I have comix»sed and published, 
and particular gentlemen in the government know how many 
letters I have written, to prevent the excessive credit of sixjctral 
accusations.' " This statement, so far from being ai-tful and 
Jesuitical^ was literally tnie, though ^Ir. Upham had never seen 
the evidence of it, which is to be found in a letter which Mr. 
Mather wrote to John Richards, one of the judges, and his o\ni } 
parishioner. May 31, 1092, three days before the trijils com 
menced at Salem. The letter is one of the " blather Papers," 
for many years deposited with, and recently printed by, the 
Massachusetts Historical Society. Samuel Mather, in the " Life 
of Cotton blather,** 1729, j)age 44, uicikes mention of this letter 
as follows : " Mr. Mather, for his i)art, was always afraid of pro- 
ceeding to convict and condemn any jwrson as a confederate 
with afTlicting demons ui)on so feeble an evidence as a speclral 
representation. Accordingly he ever testified against it, 1>otli 
jiubiicly and privately ; and particularly in his Letter to the 
Judges he besought them that they would by no means admit 
it; and when a considerable assembly of ministei^ 7^^^^ ''^ 
their advice about the matter, he not onlv concurred with the 

* HUron, Vol. II. p. a.'iO. t Iliid., p. 356. 

% I>-c-tiirci«, p. 107; Ili^itory, Vul. II. I). 367. » »'/. 



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30 Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 

advice, but he drew it up." A search for this letter, in a col- 
lection so well known as the " Mather Papers," would seem to 
be the first duty of an historian, before putting in print such a 
grave accusation, and rei^^ating it thirty-six years later. It 
was the lack of such research that led ilr. Upham and his 
followers into many of their errors. In this letter Mr. Mather 

says: — 

« 

" And yet I most humbly bi*g you, ihat, in the management of the 
affair in your most worthy hamU, you do not lay more stresss u|)on 
IMirc; spectre testimony than it will bear. When you are satisfied, and 
have good, plain, legal evi<lence, that the demons which molest our poor 
neigiilH)rs «lo indeed represent such and such people to the sufferers 
though this be a prc>uni])tion, yet I supjjose you will not reckon it a 
conviction, that the people so represented ai^e witches to be imme- 
diately exterminated. It is very certain that the devils have repre- 
sented the shapes of persons not only innocent, but also very virtuous. 
TluMigh I believe that the just God then ordinarily provides a way for 
the speedy vindication of the persons thus abused. 

** Moreover, I do suspect that persons who have too much indulged 
themselves in malignant, envious, malicious ebullition of their souls 
may unhappily expose themselves to the judgment of l)eing represented 
by devils, of whom they never had any vision, and with whom they 
have much less written any covenant.. 

** I would say this : If, upon the bare supposal of a poor creature's 
being represented by a spectre, too great a progress be made by the 
authority in ruining a poor neighbor so represented, it may be that 
a door may be thereby opened for the devils to obtain from the courts 
in the invisible world a license to proceed unto most hideous desohitiong 
upon the repute and re|K).ie of such as have yet been kept from the 
great transgression. If manhind have thus far once consented unto tfte 
credit of duihoh'cal representation^ the door is opened ! Perhaps there 
are wise and good men that may be ready to style him that shall 
advance this caution a witch advocate; but in the winding up, this cau- 
tion will certainly be wished for." — Mass. Hist. Cdl.y 4th Series, Vol. 
VIII. pp. 392,3ll3. 

Mr. Mather, in this letter, expresses his full beliet in the 
i"*y^*"j yjL witchcraft, and in the duty of the civil magistrates to 
discover, if possible, and extirpate, those who are guilty of it. 
But while fighting dcvils^ie was full of compassion for jxxor 
afllicted mortals. 




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Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 31 

His advice was not adopted by tlie judges. Tlie Court, wliich 
met June 2, after the trial and conviction of Bridget Bishop, 
finding that tlie excitement and the number of accused persons 
were increasing, took a recess till June 29. In the mean time 
the Governor and Council, in view of the alaiming asi)ect of 
affairs, asked the advice of the ministers of Boston and the 
vicinity. As the advice of the ministers was drawn up by 
Cotton Mather, it becomes imixirtant evidence in this case, as 
well on his account as on that of his associates. Mr. Upham 
has never seen fit to print this pai)or ; and as its im}>oi*t has 
been so often misstated, we give it in full. 

" The lieturn of several Ministers consulted hy his Excellency and the 
Honorable Vunncil, upon the present Witchcrafts in Salem J lllaye. 

'* Boston, June 15, 1692. 

*' I. The afftieted state of our poor neigliliors that are now suffering 
by molestations from the Invisible World we apprehend so deplorable, 
that we think their condition calls for the utmost help of all persons in 
their several capacities. 

** II. We cannot but with all thankfulness acknowledge the success 
which the merciful Goil has given unto the »edulous and assiduous 
endeavors of our honorable rulers to detect the abominable witchcrafts 
which have been committed in the country ; humbly prayuifjc that the 
discovery of these mysterious and mischievous wickednesses may be 
perfected. 

*'Iir. We judge that in the prosecution of these and all such witch- 
crafts there is need of very critical and exquisite caution, lest, by loo 
much credulity for things received only on the Devil's authority, there 
be a door opened for a long train of miserable consequ<'nces, and Satan 
get an advantage over us ; for we should not be ignorant of his devices. 

**IV. As in complaints u|>on witchcrafts there may be matters of 
inquiry which do not amount to matters of presumption, and there may 
be matters of presumption which may not be reckonetl matters of con- 
viction, so 't is necessary that all proceedings thereabout l)e managed 
with an exceeding tenderness toward those that may l>e complained 
of, esiK»cially if they have been |)ersons formerly of an uiib1emishe«l 
reputation. . 

" V. When the first inquiry is made into the cin*umstances of such ^ 
as may lie under any just suspicion of witchcrafts, we could wish that 
there m.iy be admitted as little as is possible of such noise, company, 
and openness as may too hnsiily exjNise them that are examined; and 
that there may nothing be used as a test for the trial of the suspected. 



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82 . CoWm Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 

the lawfulness whereof nwj be doubted among the people of God ; but 
that the directions given by such judicious writers as Perkha and 
Bernard be consulted in such a case. 

*• VI. Presumptions whereu|M)n fHtrsons may be committed, and much 
more convictions whcreu|>on jiersons may be condemned as guihy of 
witchcrafts, ought certainly to be more cous^idenible than barely the 
accused |)erson being ntpre^entcd by a Spectre unto the aitiiicted ; inas- 
much 2is 't is an undoubted and a notorious thing, tliat a demon may, by 
God*s i>ennis?iion, appear even to ill purposes in the shape of an iimo- 
cent, yt-a, and a virtuous man. Nor can we esteem alterations made 
in the ^ufl^erer8 by a look or a touch of the accused to be infallible evi- 
dence of guilt, but frequently liable to be abused by the Devil's leger- 
demains. 

*• VII. "We know not whether some remarkable affronts jriven to the 
devils, by our disbelieving of those testimonies whose whole force and 
strength is from them ahme, may not put a period unto the progress of 
the dreadful calamity begun u| K)n us in the accusation of so many per- 
sons, whereof we hope some are yet clear from the great transgression 
laid unto their charge. 

'*Vni. Nevertheless, we cannot but humbly recommend unto the 
Governor the speedy and vigorous prosecution of such as have ren- 
dered themselves obnoxious, according to the direction given in the 
laws of God and the wholesome statutes of the English nation for the 
detection of witchcnifts." — Inckkase Mather's Case$ of Conscience^ 
Postscript; al>o IIuTCiiixsox's Hist, of Mass,, Vol. II. p. 52. 

Concerning this important document Mr. Upliam prints only 
the following : ** These reverend gentlemen, while ur^ng in 
general terms the imjiortance of caution and circumspection m 
the methods of examination, decidedly and earnestly recom- 
mended that the proceedings should be vigorously carried 
on ; and they were, indeed, ^^gorously carried on." * The Ad- 
vice, instead of urging caution in " general terms," was very 
sjiecific in excluding spectral testimony, and evidence from 
alterations in the sufferers by the look and touch of the ac- 
cused, — in excluding noise, company, and bustle, — in coun- 
selling the judges to take the directions given by such judi- 
cious writers as Perkins and Bernard, — and in recommend- 
ing " an exceeding tenderness towards the accused, esixjcially 
if they have home an unblemished reputation." These were 

/• • Hi-'tory, Vol. II. p. 268. 



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Cotton Mather and Salejn Witchcraft. 33 

the very points on wliicli the judges erred, and it is these 
errors that have made those scenes so memorable. Is that a 
fair statement which omits the essential and conchiding i)or- 
tion of the last section ? " In the laws of God and the whole- 
some statutes of the English nation'' had a meaning in the 
minds of those ministers. The laws of God require two wit- 
nesses to prove the charge in a capital trial ; the wholesome 
statutes of England demanded comiKJtent witnesses and legal 

. evidence, even in a witch trial. Mr. Upham says: "They yqc- 
ommendcd that the jiroccedings should be vigorously carried 
on." What proceedings ? The word is not to 1)0 found iu 
the Advice. The unpression is left on the mind of the reader 
that the ministers indorsed the Salem proceedings, against 
which, in the prmciples it sets forth, the whole \ya\yet is an 
earnest protest. One who brings such charges as the follow- 
ing might, in common justice, have given the profession to 

\l which he himself belonged the benefit of allowing the min- 
isters concerned to state their opinions in their own words: 
" The intimate connection of Dr. Mather and other prominent 
ministers with the witchcraft delusion brought a rcproach ujx)n 
the clergy from which they have not yet recovered.'* * The 
same observation is repeated in his History, f Mr. Quincy 
Siiys : t '* The guilt of the excesses and horrors consequent 
on that excitement rests, and ought to i*est, heavily uix)n the 
leading divines and ])oliticians of the colony at that iKjriod." 
There was nothing in Cotton Mather's connection with those 
" excesses and horrora " for which any clergyman need hang 
his head. The ministers' adnce will be further notic<3d pres- 
ently. 

Cotton Mather believed that devils were concerned in the 
pi-oceedings at Salem. If this be su])erstitiou, he was very 
sui)ei*$titious. But not a single person who held the faith of 
the Christian Chui*ch at that day can be named who had any 
other belief. Calef, Brattle, and Pike, who are accredited by 
Mr. Upham with superior intelligence in opposing the Salem 
delusion, fully indorsed tlie jwpular theory as to the reality of 
witchcraft. We are free to confess, that, if there be a Devil, 

* Lcctores, p. 114. . | Hist. Uan*. Univ., Vol. I. p. 64. 

t Vol. II p. 369. 



34 Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 

and it can be shown that he had no part or lot in the transac- 
tions at Salem, then is he an objectless and superfluous being 
in the moral economy of the universe. If, on the other hand, 
there be no Devils, then we claim that the human instincts 
demand the sup]x>sition of one, to account for the diabolisms 
there jierpetrated : innocent i)eople confessing themselves to 
be witches, and accusing others ; children swearing away the 
lives of their parents ; and judges of spotless moral and relig- 
ious character convicting and hanging their fellows on sixjctral 
or " devils' testimony." " condition truly miserable ! " says 
Cotton l^'^nther. " It is wonderfully necessary that some heal- 
ing attempts should be made at this time. I should think dying 
a trifle to be undergone for so great a blessedness." * These 
are the remedies which he proposes. " I would most imjwrtu- 
natefy, in the first place, entreat every man to maintain a holy 
jealousy over his own soul at this time. Let us more generally 
agree to maintain a kind opinion of one another. If we disre- 
gard this rule of charity, we shall indeed give our body politic 
to be burned." f After quoting from the sixth section of the 
advice of the Boston ministers, and giving the obnoxious eighth 
section entire, he says : " Only 't is a most commendable cau- 
tiousness in those gi'acious men to be very shy, lest the De^nl 
get so far into our faith, as that, for the sakcs of many truths 
which we find he tells us, we come at length to believe any lies 
wherewith he may abuse us ; whereupon, what a desolation of 
names would then ensue, besides a thousand other pernicious 
consequences! and lest there should be any other such princi- 
ples taken up as when put into practice must unavoidably cause 
the righteous to perish with the wicked." J These words are 
an authoritative explanation (if one were needed) of the mean- 
ing of the adnce of the Boston ministers, by the hand that 
drew up that pajicr ; but they are not found in either of Mr. 
Uplmm's books. Everything serving to explain the actual posi- 
tion of Cotton Mather and the Boston clergj' seems to Imrebeen 
omitted. /^^-^^ 

Mr. Mather wrote his " Wonders " while the excit^Bi^t was 
at its height, by express command of the Governor, as a record 
of the Salem trials. In it he sjioke resi)ectfully of the judges, 

* Woiidcrs of the Iii\i?ible Wuri.l, p. II. f Ibid. | Ibid., p. 12. 



Cotton Malher and Salem Witchcraft. 85 

and of " their hcart-brcnking solicitudes how they might therein 
best serve both God and inen. Ilave there been faults on any 
side fallen into? Surely they have at worst been but the 
faults of a well-meaning ignorance." * He submitted it, when* 
completed, to Stoughton, who gave it his cordial approval. 
This approval we regard as applying to the writer's views on 
witchcraft in general, and to the rejiorts of the trials contained 
therein, which were chiefly or wholly furnished by the clerk of 
the courts at Salem, rather than to Mr. Mather's spirit and 
views of the conduct of the trials, which were wholly at vari- 
ance with Stoughton's ideas.f Isolated expressions and pas- 
sages can be selected, which, separated from their connection, 
ap])ear harsh and cruel ; but we must take the book as a whole, 
and must consider the time and the circumstances of its com- 
position. Thus viewed^ Mr. Mather apix^ars as a peacemaker, 
instead of an instigator of further excitement. While express- 
ing freely his own opinion of methods, he deprecated the heated 
controversy wbidi had arisen on the subject. "We are to 
unite," he says, " in such methods for this deliverance as may 
be unquestionably safe, lest the latter end be tcorse than the 
beginning.^^ He proceeds: — 

^ And here I will venture to say thus much, that we are safe when 
we make just as much use of all advice from the invisible world as 
God sends it for. It is a safe principle, that, when God Almighty per- 
mits any spirits from the unseen regions to visit us with surprising infor* 
matrons, there is then something to be inquii*cd after ; we are then to tn- 
quire of one another what cause there is for such things J* — Wonders^ 
p. 13. 

We have italicized portions of the above extract for the pur- 
pose of indicating the authority on which Mr. Longfellow evi- 

* Wonders of the In^-isible World, p. 13. 

t This statement will, pcrlia|i8, be better understood, if we add that the work con- 
sists of several distinct parts. Mr. Mather first gives his own views, some of which 
we have quoted ; then an abstract of Mr. Pcrkius*s way for the discovery of witches, 
and several discourses on the enormity of witchcnift, which are followed by reports 
of five of the Salem trials and some additional mntter. Of the reports, he sai'S, 
They are " an abridgment collected out of the Court papers on this occasion put into 

my hands I liiive sin;;tcd out four or five which may ser\'e to illustrate the 

way of dealing wherein witchcrafts use to l»e concerned ; and I report matters, not 
as an advocate, but as an historiain." — Wonders, p. 55. 

8 



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86 Cotton Mather and Salem Witclicrafl. 

dcntlj relied for the words wriich he puts into Cotton Mather's 
mouth in addressing Hathorne, the ma^strate. 

** If God permits 
Tliese evil spirits from tlie unseen regions 
To visit us with 8urpri:»ing informations. 
We must inquire what cause there is for this, 
But not receive the testimonv bonie 
By spectres as conclusive proof of guilt 
In the accused.** • 

Mr. Thomas Brattle, who denounced the methods pursued at 
Salem as " rude and barbarous," f 81>oke, nevertheless, in char- 
itable terms of the judges. Of Stoughton he says: — 

** The chief jinlge is very zealous in these procetMlings, and says he 
is veiy clear as to all that hath as yet [Octol>er 8, 1G92] been acted 
by thin court, and, as far as ever I could perceive, is very impatient in 
hearing anything that hM>ks another way. I very highly honor and 
reverence the wisdom and integrity of the said judge, and ho])e that 
this matter shall not diminis^h.my veneration for liis Honor; however, I 
cannot but say my gn*at fear is that wisdom and counsel are withheld 
from his Honor as to this matter, which yet I look ujion not so much as 
a judgment to his Honor as to this poor land.*' — Mass, Hist, Cctt,^ 
Vol. V. p. 74. 

The cases before Chief Justice Holt, which, with the Salem 
trials, produced a revulsion of feeling in England, were not 
tried till 1704. The judges at Salem were doubtless carried 
away by the- storm of excitement that was raging around theni, 
and by the strange manifestations exhibited before their eyes. 
They rejected the advice concerning "critical and exquisite 
caution,'* and the recommendation of such judicious authorities 
as Perkins and Bernard, submitted by the clergy of Boston. 
These writers were also clergymen, who were deemed by the 
judges to know but little of law as a technical science. The 
opinions of the clergy, however, on legal and political subjects 
into which moral questions enter largely are not always safely 
to be rejected. It had been well with the twenty victims at 
Salem, if the ministers of the colony, instead of the lawyers, 
had determined their fate. And yet the chief responsibility 
for those judicial nmrders at Salem has been ascribed to the 



♦ Ke^v England Tragedies, p. HO. t Miis*. Hist. Coll., Vol. V. p. 72. 



.* 



CuttoH MtitJicr avd Saletn Witchcraft. 87 

credulity and superstition of the New England clergy, and 
that, too, by members of the same profession.* 

While the trials at Salem were in progress, Increase Mather, 
then President of Harvard CjUcgs, was requested by the min- 
isters of Boston to preiiare a more elaborate statement of their 
views, a brief synopsis of which was contained in their advice 
of June 15. lie entered u|K)n the work forthwith, and fin- 
ished it Octo1>er 3, 1092. It was printed soon after in Boston 
and London, with the title of " Cases of Conscience concern- 
ing Evil Spirits personating Men," 1093. Tlie copy before us 
is a reprint, bearing the date, London, 1862. The note, " To 
the Reader," indorsing the statements and opinions contained 
in the work, is signed by fourteen ministers of Boston and the 
vicinity. This is, i)crha|)s, one of the most im|X)rtant docu- 
ments relating to the history of Salem Witchcraft, and cannot 
be ignored in a full and candid treatment of the subject. How 
it should have escaped Mr. Uphnm^s attention is more than we 
can account for. Calef makes allusions to, and quotations from, 
it in seven instances. We assume that Mr. Upham has not 
seen this tract, as he has neither mentioned it nor made use 
of its material. He seems to be in a quandary as to the posir 
tion of Increase Mather in these proceedings. At one time 
he makes the father to be equally im])licated with the son. 
Then he qualifies this opinion, and shows a discrepancy in their 
views. Again, he relapses into his first ])osition, and finally 
concludes that the father has much the better record of the 
two. Tlie truth is, that they held the same opinions. If Mr. 
Upham had seen the " Cases of Conscience," he would have 
known what Increase Mather's opinions were. 

The book affirms the existence of witchcraft and witches. 
" The Scriptures assert it, and experience confirms it. They 
are the common enemies of mankind, and set upon mischief." 
It is chiefly devoted to the methods of detecting and punishing 
witches, which was the question of the day. " Tlie more exe- 

* Cnlcfs enmity to the Mathers, and his want of candor as an historical writer, 
appear in tlie following; extract : " It is rather a wonder that no more hlood was 
shed ; for if that advice of his [the Governor's] p.istors [ihc two Mathers] coald 
have still prevailed with him, witchcraft had not been so sliatnmcd off as it was." 
— More \VoMl*:n, p. 153. 



> 






88 CoUon Mather and Salem Witchcraft 

crable the crime is,*' say the fourteen ministers in their preface, 
" the more critical care is to be used in the exposure of the 
names, liberties, and lives of men, especially of a godly cojivcr- 
sation, to the imputation of it.'* Cotton Mather, in his " Won- 
ders of the Invisible World " (p. 14), has substajitially the 
^ -**-:ic remark: " But I will venture to sav this further, that it 

{ will be safe to account the names, as well as the lives, of our 

neighbors." Would it not be well for historians, in dealing 
with the names of godly men of a past generation, to use the 
same critical care ? Shall we blame our ancestors for practis- 
ing methods in the twilight of the seventeenth century which 
we ourselves rciieat in the noon of the nineteenth ? 

We shall quote from " Cases of Conscience " only with re- 
ference to a single inquiry, — whether spectres, fits, spasms, 
touches, and other abnormal appearances, are to be regarded 
as legal evidence. Mr. Mather answers this question in his 
opening sentence : — 

** The first case that I am desireil to express my judgment in is this : 
Whether it is not |H)!isible for the Devil to impose on the imaginations 
of persons bewitcheil, and to cause them to believe that an innocent, 
yea, that a pious person does torment them, when the Devil himself 
doth it ; or whether Satan may not appear in the shape of an innocent 
and pious, as well as of a nocent and wicked person, to afflict such as 
suffer by diabolical molestations. The answer to the question must be 
affirmative." 

He then pi^ocecds to prove it. In the course of his argu- 
ment he quotes from Mr. Bernard : " If the Devil can repi'e- 
sent to the witch a seeming Samuel, saying, ' I see gods 
ascending out of the earth,' to beguile Saul, may we not think 
he can represent a common ordhiary man or woman, to deceive 
them and others that will give credit to the Devil?" ' Mr. 
Mather adds : " As for the judgment of the elders of N. E., so 
far as I can learn, they do generally concur with Mr. Perkins 
and Bernard." He regards the strange exhibitions proceeding 
from the sight and touch as occasioned by some demon. To 
use such exhibitions as evidence is nothing less than witchcraft 
! itself. " We ought not," he says, " to practise witchcraft to 
discover witches. If we may not take the oath of a distracted 
or of a possessed person in a case of murder, theft, or felony of 



Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 89 

any sort, then neither may we do it in a case of witchcraft." 
lie makes " the judicious Mr. Perkins " his authority for the 
statement, that " the ways of trying witches in many nations 
were invented by the Devil himself." In his Postscript he 

says : — 

'• Some, I hear, have taken up the notion, that the book published by 
my son [ Womlers of the Invisible World] is contradictory to this of mine. 
'Tis strange that such imaginations should enter into the minds of men. 
I perused and approved ot* that book biffore it was printed ; and nothing 
but my relation to him hindered me from recommending it to the world. 
But myself and son agreed unto the humble advice which twelve min* 
istcrs concurringl}- presented before his Excellency and Council respect- 
ing the present dilliculties, which let the world judge whether there be 
anything in it di;?sentary from what is attested by either of 08." 

Cotton Mather, in the Life of his father, 1724 (p. 166), says: 
'^ But what gave the most illumination to the country, and a 
turn to the tide, was the -special service which he did in com- 
posing and publishing his very learned Cases of Conscience 
concerning Witchcraft Upon this the Governor par- 
doned such as had been condemned ; and the spirit of the 
country ran violently upon acquitting all the accused." 

Cotton Mather never attended one of the trials at Salem * 
in any capacity, — as adviser, witness, or sjx^ctator. He made 
visits to Solom while those sad and pitiful scenes were occur- 
ring, but, as we shall presently see, for quite another purpose 
than that which has been alleged. The intimation that he 
took delight in these proceedings is a groundless accusation. 
His book, though written in haste and amid excitement, is full 
of compassion for the poor afflicted ones. His method of com- 
bating witchcraft by spiritual weapons he never swerved from, 
even when admitting that the civil magistrates had a duty to 
perform. Not an expression implyhig bloodthirstiness can be 
found in all his writings. Pity for the suffering and charity 
for all were the ruling principles of his life. Prayer was ever 
his method of dealing with supi)oscd cases of witchcraft, " 
that, instead of letting our hearts rise against one another, our 
prayers might rise unto a high pitch of importunity! Esjie- 
eially let them that are suffering by witchcraft be sure and 

* Sec liis statement in Cnlcf, p. 54. 



40 



Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 



t 

il 






^ 






i t 



« ' i 

■,'l 



»• 



) > 

i 4 



I 

Mi 



stay and pray, and beseech the Lord thrice before tliey com 
plain of any neighbor for afllicting them." * 

Soon after the outbreak at Salem, we find him endeavoring 
to put in practice the methods which had, as he supposed, 
restored the Goodwin children. For the following statement 
-^ ino proceedings, written by Mr. Mather in 1093, but not 
printed by him, we are indebted to the book of his enemy, 
Calef. 

** Afrer that storm was raised at Salem, I (]i<l mj-self offer to provide 
meat, drink, and lod;^in!; for no less than six of the afHicted, that so an 
experiment might l)e made, whether Prayer with Fa<tinjr, npon the 
removal of the distressed, might not put a pen<id to tlie trouble then 
rising, without giving the eivil authority the trouble of prosecuting those 
things. 

*' In short, I do humbly, l)ut freely, affirm it, there is not that man 
living in this world who has been more desirous than the poor man I 
to shelter my neighliors from the ineonvenionccs of spectral outcries. 
.... The name of no one good person in the world ever c:nne un- 
der any blemish by means of any afflicted person that fell under my 
particular cognizance ; yea, no one man, woman, or child ever came 
into any trouble for the sake of any that were afilicted, after I had once 
begun to look after 'em. How often have I had this thrown into my 
dish, that many years ago I had an opjiortunity to have brought forth 
such people as have in the late storm of witchcraft been complained 
of, but that I smothered all ! " — More Wonders^ p. 11. 

Tliese statements appear in an account by Mr. Mather of 
the case of Margaret Rule in 1693. Calef obtained possession 
of the paper, and printed it seven years Inter, without Mr. 
Mather's consent, together with a letter from blather to himself. 
These writings of Mr. blather, which are nowhere else to be 
found, constitute the chief historical value of Calef's book. Mr. 
Mather, in his " Life of Sir William Phips," printed in 1697, 
and included, in 1702, in the " Magnalia," mentioned some of 
these incidents, but did not state that he himself was the person 
who made the projwsals named. He says : — 

" In fine, the country was in a dreadful ferment, and wise men fore- 
saw a long train of dismal and bloody consequences. IlcrtMipon th* y 
first advised that the afflicted might be kept asunder in the closest pri- 

* Wonders of ihe Iiivisihic World, p. 17. 



C-^tl'>u M-ttlnr iittd Sulfitt Wilcftemft. 

. (Wll 



© 



I re raHstt to know), iit 
Ivice, ofTiTcd liiiiiiOf, t-inglj-, to providu ncrwmno- 
of llii-m. t1i:it i>o lltt: siK-c-ti^^;! uf nioru Ihnn ordinary 
ml f<isling inijilit wiili p'ttUnce \\e. ex)icri«.'nc«<l, 
oiir»L-s were taken." — .VutfiuiUa^ VoL I. |>. 210, 



pO(VL-l' of prayer 
lii'fore iinj' iiiluT 
Iliirirord, 1853. 

TliLTo are later nllusions to these incidents in " Some Few 
Remarks," 1701 (p. 38), "Life of Increase Jfathcr," 1724 
(p. 1G5), and " Life of Cotton Matlicr," 1729 (p. 45). 

Mr. U|ili:iin cluirgcs Mr. Mather not only with " having been 
acti\'e in carrying on the delusion in Salem and clficwhere," 
hnt witli having "endeavored, after the delusion snhsided, to 
cscajie the difigrace of liaving approved of the proceedings, and 
pretended to have l)een in some measure opposed to them, 
while it can )ie too clearly shown that he was secretly and cun- 
ningly ondcavoiir.g to renew them during the next year in his 
own imrish in Boston." * The evidence to sustain these grave 
charges Mr. Vj)hani has not produced, and for the host of rea- 
sons, that it does not exist. His only attempt to sustain the 
accusation is hy references to Mr. Mather's "Lifeof Sir Willtom 
riiips." He says tliat the author puhlishcd it anonymously, 
" in order that lie might commend himself with more freedom." 
But an assumption of what Jlr. Mather's motives were, and 
what " he was secretly and cunningly endeavoring " to do, is 
not proof. lie says, further, that Mr. Mather, in the " Life of 
Pliips," when quoting from the advice of the Boston ministers 
of Jnije lo, 1 (192, " left out those passages in which it was vehe- 
mently urged to carry the pioceedings on ' si>eedily and vigor- 
ously.'" Jlr. Mather did not profess to quote the whole advice; 
he siinjily made extracts from it, omitting three entire sections, 
-^tho first, second, and eighth. The eighth section he printed 
in full in his "Wonders" (p. 12), which Mr, Upham has never "^ 
done. In the five stictions which he quoted he did not garhle 
a sentence or change a word. If it were such a heinous crime 
for Cotton ilather, in writing the " Life of Sir William Phips," 
to omit three sections, how will Mr. Uphiim vindicate his own 
omissions, when, writing the history of those very transactions, 
and bringing the gravest charges against the character of the 

• IlUlory. V..1, II. |,,...1CG. 36T. 



42 Cotton Mather and Salem WltchcrafU 

l)ersons concerned, lie leaves out seven sections ? This advice 
is a part of the record, and does not exhibit the clergjinen of 
Boston, and particularly Cotton Mather, at all in harmony with 
Mr. Upham's coloring. 

But this is not all. Mr. Upham does not print any part 
of the eighth section as the ministers adopted it. He sup- 
presses the esscjitial poiiions, changes words, and by interpo- 
lation states that the ministers " decidedly," " earnestly,'* and 
"vehemently"* recommended that the "proceadings" should 
be vigorously carried on. One who quotes in this manner 
needs other evidence than that produced by Mr. Upham to en- 
title him to impeach Mr. Mather's integrity. He adds: "Un- 
fortunately, however, for the reputation of Cotton Mather, 
Hutchinson has preserved the address of the ministers entire, 
and it ap|)eare that they approved, applauded, and stimulated 
the prosecutions, — and that the people of Salem and the sur- 
rounding country wei*e the victims of a delusion, the principal 
prompters of whicli have, to a great degree, been sheltered from 
reproach by a dishonest artifice, which has now been exposed " ! 
Mr. Upham supposes that Hutchinson, by good fortune, res- 
cued the Advice from oblirion, and thus enabled him to exix)se 
Cotton Mathers dishonesty! Mr. Upham should have been 
familiar enough with the original sources of information on the 
subject to have found this Advice in print seventy-four years 
before Hutchinson's History appeared. Hutchinson took the 
Advice, as we did, from the Postscript of Increase Mather's 
" Cases of Conscience," 1693. Mr. Upham might have found 
this information in Calef, who says,t " Tlie whole of the Ad- 
vice is printed in * Casss of Conscience,' the last pages." 

The charge has been brought by many writers, that, while 
the excellent Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, made a public 
confession in the Old South Church, Cotton Mather never re- 
pented, nor openly expressed any remote for the course pur- 
sued by him. Why should he ? What had he to repent of? 
For what ought he to have felt remorse ? For endeavoring to 
dissuade the judges from pursuing the cdurse they did ? For 
offering to take six of the afflicted children out of the excite- 
ment of Salem Village and care for them at his own house ? 

• History, Vol. II. pp. 268, 369. f More Wondera, p. 152. 






Cotton Maihvr and Salvm WiUheraJi. 48 

For believing tliat there were devils, and tliat evil spirits took 
ill tlic affairs of men? The more Mr. Mather saw and 
licard of tlicsc scenes at Salem, the more he waa convinced of 
■he rciility of devils' ajrency. Calcf, the alleged dishclievcr, 
>aid, Xovemher 24,1093:* "That there arc witcljea is not the 
lloultt ; the Scriptures else werc in vain, which assign their iniii- 
j-shnicnt to lie death. But what this witchcmft Is, and wherein 
lloijs it emisist, sccius to lie tlic whole difficulty." This state- 
was made aflcr Mr. Mather had jirosecuted him for liljcl. 
Iwhelher this circnni-stjinco had any hiflnencc on Ins opinions 
\\-c k'live for the consideration of Mr. Calef's admirers. 

Tlie mure we investigate these events, the more strongly we 

re convinced that there was some influence exerted (we give 

no iiaiiie) whit-h was wholly ahnormal, and which cannot be 

i;coiintc(l for on Mr. I'jdiam's hyiwtliesis of fi"aud and sclf-de- 

Lcptiun. Cotton Mather, his father, and all the religions men 

T)f that day went to their graves in full belief in the reality of 

witchcriift. It was the " blades" and " loarne<l witlhigs of the 

'nffce IJoiise'"t who objected to and ridiculed the do«;trinc. 

iiig ill 1701 to his parishioners, Matlicr says: "Abont 

Hhc trcmlilcs we have had from the invisible world, I Itavo at 

|>resi'iit nolhing to offer you, but that 1 Ijclievc they were too 

Shirk and tco deep fur ordinary comprehension, and it may be 

lors on Ijoth hands have attended them, ivliich will never be 

lulorstood until the day ivhcn Satan shall be bound al^cr an- 

lulher maimer than he is at this day. But for my own part, I 

f not that ever I have advanced ar.y opinion in the matter 

|iif witchcraft hut wliat all the ministers of the Lord that I 

V of in the world, whether English, or Scotch, or French, 

lor Dulcli (and I know maiiv), are of the same opinion with 

"t 

Mr. rpham§ makes the statement, and often repeats it, that 
JColton Mather's connection with i*alcm 'Witchcraft "left him 
cck," — and this before he had reached the ape of thirty 
i! But the course pursued even by the .judges did not 
liinpair their ]iopu1arity. Stougliton and most of liis associates 
rcapiKiintcd, when, soon after, t!ie court' was remodelled, 

• M.iro W.Hi.lers, p. 17. J S..iiie »«- Hi-inn.ks |.. 4*. 

t Mailicr in Cukr. ji. 10. \ Ilisiury, V,A. 11. p. 5-i3. 



44 Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 

and served for years with the confidence and the esteem of the 
public. Mr. Parris maintained his position as minister at Salem 
Village for five years aft«r the witch excitement, and the im- 
mediate cause of his leaving was his quarrel with the parish 

concerning thirty cords of wood and the fee of the parsonage. * 
How Cotton Mather should have Ijeen left a wreck requires 
some explanation. Mr. Upham illustrates this point hy a long 
extract from Mr. Mather's private diary, written thirty-two 
vears later, and four vears before his death, in which no allu- 
sion is made to Salem Witchcraft. The writer was then in the 
deepest domestic affliction. His third wife was insane. Tliir- 
tecn of his fifteen children had died, which had nearly broken 
his heart. His eldest son, Increase, for his recklessness and 
dissipation, had been sent to sea, and news had just arrived 
that he had been washed overboard. His own mind, says Mr. 
Peabody, was " almost on the verge of insanity." In the pas- 
sage Mr. Upham quotes, Mr. Mather thinks that he has not 
so many friends* as he deserves, — that many of his inten- 
tions to do good have met with little success, — and that he 
should have had the Presidency of Harvard College. It re- 
quires a lively imagination to connect these morbid feelings 
with Salem Witchcraft. Mr. Mather's course in introducing 
inoculation for small-pox in 1720, in the face of nearly the 

^ whole medical profession, — who opposed it on theological 
'' grounds, while he advocated it on medical principles, — did for 
a time impair his popularity with his contemporaries, and occa- 
sioned him much annoyance.f But his publications, of which 
thirty-one appeared before 1693, and three hundred and fifty- 
two sul>sequently, show that the >vitchcraft delusion of 1692 
did not leave him a wreck. 

It may seem strange that one who wrote so many books 
made no public vindication of himself, and that we must go 
to the book of his personal enemy, Calef, for facts with which 
to d3fend him from modern reproaches. He had done nothing 
that required vindication. He kei)t on his way and left events 
to explain themselves. Calef 's course, in 1693, he regarded 
as a deliberate attempt to break down his character and use- 
fulness. He wrote Calef a letter, by the printing of which the 

• DrakcV WitrluTaft, Vol. III. p. 220. t Mother Papcw, p. 44«. 



Cuilon Mutlur and Siitem WtUhcraft. 



45 



latter dciiiolished liis own credibility as a witness. A copy 
of Calef's " ifoie Wonders of the InvisilJc World," in ilie 
JIassacliusctts Historical Society's Lilirary, has on the cover 
nil niitogri»])h note of Mather's in these words: "Joh xxxi. 
■35, 3i!. 51y Dosire is — that mine Adversary had written a 
Book. Siii'ely I would take it upon my ."^lioulder, and liiiid it 
as a Crown to nic. Co : Mathfir." In *' Some Few Remarks " 
(]). t\f), lie says: " He [Calef] has licen so luicivU as to print 
a conijiiisnro of initic, utterly without anil a^iiist my consent; 
hut the good Proridouic of (lod has therein overruled his mal- 
ice: fiu- if that may linvc imtiartiiil readers, lie will have his 
confutation, and I iny iK'r{)ctnaI vindication." 

Calef's hook, ill our ognnion, lias a rejnitafion much Itcyond 
its merits. Wiiat it cuiitains eoiidenmatory of the l^alem jiro- 
ccodiiigs was stated earlier, and in a clearer and more foreihle 
manner, in the writinirs of the two Mathers and of Samuel 
AVillard. If Mr. Uphain had read Mr. Willard'g "8oinc Mis- 
(■!?l!any Observations," ]iriirted in I'liiladcljiliia in 10112, he 
would never have said of Calef, that " Iiis strong faculties 
and moral coura<rc enabled him to Ixicomc the most effi- 
cient o]j]ioiicnt in his day of (he system of false reasoning 
u|>on whifh the prosecutions rested"*; or of John Wise, 
of Ipswich, tliat " he was parlia{is tlic only minister in the 
ncijrlil)orhood or country who was discerning enough to see 
the erroneousucss of the [Sabin] ])roeecdiiigs from the begin- 
ning" t ; or of Rolwrt I'ike's letter againut the Salem methods, 
tliat ''no such piece of reasoning has come down to us from 
(hat age."} Calef's faculties, as hidieated by his writings, 
appear to us \o have been of an inferior order ; and as to his 
being "the most cfTicicnt op|)onent of the false reasoning," his 
name nowhere appears in the record until the storm had passed 
'' over, and the [leople had somewhat recovered their senses. 
Witlioiit discussing the character and molivcs of Calaf, it is 
clear that lie had a very feeble ooiieeplion of what credible tes- 
timony is, or of the )ini]jer method of stating it. Mr. Slather 
and his friends believed that the misstatements of Calef's hook 
arose from dowurijrht malice. Of his account of the interview 
at the bcdsida of Margaret Ilule, in liiP3, when he and the two 



1. II. p. ^ 



t Va.\., \t. iiA. 



t ll.i.l 



46 . Cotton Mather uxnd Salem Witchcraft. 

Matliers were present, Cotton Mather says, "Tlicre are as 
miny lies as there are lines in it." It douhtless contained 
many misstatements ; but we arc willing to account for them 
by the writer's loose habits of observation, and looser methods 
of stating what he observed. When Calef, soon after, was pass- 
ing his manuscript alwut, hearing that Mr. Mather intended to 
prosecute him for slander, he sent it to Mather, who replied, " I 
do scarcely find any one thing in the whole paper, whether re- 
specting my father or self, either fairly or truly represented." 
lie terms the narrative " an indecent travesty." He specifies 
some of its misrepresentations : — 

** AVIien the main design in visit inj; the poor afflicted creature was 
to prevent the accnsntions of the neigUhorhood, can it be fairly ropre- 
p^nteil that our design was to draw out such accusations? AVhen we 
n^kt'd Rule whether she thought she knew who tormeiited her, the 
question was but an introduction to the solemn charges which we then 
largely pive, that slie should rather die than tell the names of any 
whom she might imagine that she knew. Your informers have im- 
ported the question, and rejwrt nothing of what follows as essential to 
the pving of that question. And can XhU be termed a piece of fair- 
ness? ... 'T is no less untrue that either my father or self put the 
question, IIow many witches sit upon you ? We always cautiously 
avoide<l that expression, it being contrary to our inward belief. All 
the stawlers-by * will, I lielieve, swear they did not hear us use it, your 
witnesses excepte<l ; and I tremble to think how hardy those woful crea- 
tures must be to call the Almighty by an oath to so false a thing." — 
Letfer to Calef, in More Wonden, p. 20.t 

The precise form of the question to which Mr. Mather last 
objects appears in Calef s narrative thus : ** What, do there a 
great many witches sit upon you ? " Calef, in his reply, seeks 
to evade the* point of Mr. Mather's objection by saying, '*I find 
not in the narrative any such question as * How many witches 
sit ui>on you ? ' " 

As Calef persisted in circulating his paper, ^fr. Mather 
caused him to be arrested for libel. The modern revilers of 
Mr. Mather s.iy that he did not dare bring the case to trial. 
This explanation is wholly gratuitous. Mr. Mather, though 

• Tlicrc Wire from tlnrtv to fort^* in the room. 

t Mr. l\'a1)o<1y quotes Galcf's st.itemciit, but omits Mr. Mather's dcfual. — /^//« 
c/'.IAi/W, p.25l. 



i 



Coitvm Matktr mad Salnm WkfiermfL 47 

at first much annojed by CalcTs cliar^ges, sood foand that no 
one whose good cqiuiion he esteemed believed them.* ProbaUy 
his feelings towards his tradncer ehanged from resentment to 
seom and pitr, and lie abandtMied the snit as not worth follow 
iug np. lie said, after Calefs hock appeared : — 

^ I hare had tlic honor to be a^pencd and abused bj Robert CalrC. 
1 refnemlwr, that, vlitfO tliis miserable man ^mt unto an eminent min- 
ister in I be town [Somoel Willanl] a Cbelluus letter, whicfa be 1ms now 
publi^lied. and when be demanded an answer, tliat reverend peffsoa 
only said : * Go. tell him tlial tlie answer to him and his letter is in ibe 
twentv-s4Xlh of the Proverbs and the Ibarth.* The reason that made 
me unwilling to trusi any <if my wriiin«s in the hands <if this man wju 
because I saw tlie weaver (ibou«h he |»re>umes to rail himself a mrr- 
diant) was a stranger to all tlie rules of civitity, and 1 iunrsaw I shonU 
be served as now I find." — Some Fete Remarit, pp. Si, 5a. 

To 3Ir. Mather^s severe letter Calef replied in a ramUing 
statement, without substantiating his original charges, or seem- 
ing to appreciate the portion in which the discus^on left his 
own reputation as a credible witness. If he had not inten- 
tionally lied, he had a very imperfect appreciation of truth. 

Mr. Matlier has been reproved for trifling with CalePs name 
in calling him Caif. Tliis was tlie family name. Two lac» 
similes of his own autograph, Robert Gti/e and Ro: Cai/e^ 
may be seen in Drake^s ** Witchcraft Delusion." f His wific, 
in her wfll, wrote her name simply CaJf.X Tlie records <rf 
the town of Boston, April, 1694, show that Robert Calfe was 
cho^n hayward and fence-viewer. We liave seen also a 
facsimile of his autograph in a presentation copy of his bode 
now in the possession of a gentleman in New York, written 
Robert Calefy in harmony with his title-page. . 

There is on every page of Mr. Upliam^s writings in which // 
he alludes to Mr. Mather an unaccountable looseness of state-// 
ment in minor details; and they are errors which lead tlie ' 
reader, who has not sufficient knowledge of the sulject to 
correct tliem, to a wrong estimate of Mr. Mather^s character. 
We will illustrate what we mean by a sin«]rle extract concern* 
iiig the case of Margaret Rule. Mr. UfJiam says : § ^ He 



* Some Fev Remark*, p. 32. f Ihid., p. xxr. 

t VoL IL pp. zxii. xxir. \ Uisturr, Vol. II. p. 4S9. 



48 Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 

[Mr. Mather] succeeded that next summer in getting up a 
wonderful case of witchcraft, in the person of one Margaret 
Rule, a member of his congregation in Boston. Dr. ^Mather 
published an account of her long-continued fastings,'' etc. 
Mr. Mather did not " get up " the case of Margaret Rule. He 
went to see her, as Calef and crowds of other curious people 
did. The case did not occur in the summer : the date is pa- 
tent io any one who will look for it. The girl was fii'st taken 
with fits on the 10th of September, 1693, and the remarkable 
features of the case occurred subsequently. That she was a 
mcml)er of Mr. Mather's congi-cgatiou before Septcml>er, 1693, 
it will be difficult for Mr. Upham to jwove. * Mr. Mather was 
not Dr, Mather. Jifr. ^father did not publish an account of 
her long-continued fastings, or any other account of the case. 
These are not unim])ortant errors, but concern the character of 
one against whom Mr. Upham manifests a strong bias. Under 
these unsusiKJCted historical inaccuracies Mr. Upham lias in- 
troduced perhaps the most serious chargxj he has made against 
Cotton Mather. If, after the barbarities which had been com- 
mitted at Salem, Cotton Mather the year following, he being 
of sane mind, " got up " the case referred to, for the purpose 
of repeating the Salem proceedings (as Mr. Ui)ham again and 
again charges upon him), then we also would join with his 
enemies to cover his name and memory with infamy. But we 
claim that Mr. Mather shall not be condemned by other than 
comiKJtent evidence. 

y\v. Upham's narrative proceeds in the same loose method : 
" So far was he successful in spreading the delusion, that he 
l)revailcd upon six men to testify that they had seen Margaret 
Rule lifted bodily from tier bed and raised by an invisible 



♦ TIkj minist'T who pniycd for the dclivcraiifc of this young woninn, and 
" ])U nded that she Iwlonjied to his flovk and diarjje," and whom she called her 
failier (Calcf, p. 8), we may infer, from what follows on the next pa;;e, was not Mr. 
Mather, ihe writer, who sayn : ** 1 impiircd whether what had been said of that man 
were true, and 1 jrained exact and certain inf(»nnation that it was pre<*isi'|y so ; hut 
1 di>nht,in ivlalini: this passa«re, that I have }x<Qi\ more o|)enness tli:m n friend should 
he treated with.'* Mr. Drake say< : ** Whore the family of Itule came from, or 
what l>eeamc of them, does not appar. Tliry were, pcrlnips, tr<in>ient scijourners 
Imtc." (Witchcraft l)»lusion, II. 49.) Mr. Bancroft (III. 97), n.llowin^' Mr. 
Ujjliain, SMYs that *• Cotton Mather got up a case of witchcraft in his own parish." 



Cutlon Mother and Salan MltchcrqfL 49 

l>ower so as to touch the garret floor." Tliis, of course, seems 
to Mr. Upham very absurd ; but similar instances of elevation 
are recorded in modern times, and are believed in by those who 
accept the theory of sjnritualism. A bed was lifted in this 
manner in the house of the Wesleys at Epworth. And Cotton 
Mather *' i)revailed iipon six men " — Samuel Aves, Robert 
Earle, John Wilkins, Daniel Williams, Thomas Thornton, and 
William Hudson* — to testify in three deiK)sitions to — what? 
a fact ? Testifying to a fact is a commonplace incident, and 
divests the statement of all its significance. The inference 
prepared for the reader is, that Jlr. Mather prevailed u|K)n 
six persons to testify to a falsehood, — and all this without a 
particle of evidence to sustain the charge. 

No incident has been used with more eflcct to break down 
the reputation of Cotton Mather than the statement that he 
was jiresent, mounted on horseback, at the execution of George 
Burroughs. Every scliool-boy knows the story by heart. This 
" dreadful horseman " has been tramping through history for 
nearly two centuries, down even into the text-books in our 
common schools. It is time that he reined up, at least for a 
moment, and gave some account of himself. The story has 
been used by many writers to show that Mr. Mather took 
delight in scenes of this description, and that he attended 
witch executions out of curiosity, and in full sympathy with 
these judicial murders. How changed would be the moral of 
the story, if it could be shown that he was there as the si>irit- 
ual adviser and comforter of one or more of the sufferers that 
day! 

The only authority for the story is Calef. Perhaps we have 
already said enough of Calefs disqualifications as a witness. 
An examhiation of his original statement will further illus- 
trate his credibility. 

"As soon a* lie [Burrou;;lis] wa:< turned off', ]Mr. Cotton Matlicr, 
being mounted upon a lior.«e, addressed himself to the |K*ople, partly to 
declare tliat lie was no ordained minister, and partly to |M>ssess ilie 
people of liis guilt, saying that the Devil has often been transformed 
into an Angel of Light ; and this did somewhat appease the people, 
and the execution:* went on." — More WonderSj p. 104. 

♦ Culcf, pp. 22, 23. 



Z^ 



I 

J 
I 

1 
r 



50 Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 

If we accept this statement, we must infer that five persons 
were hanged separately, or in S(}uads, the otlier victims being 
kept in waiting for their turn. Here was a refinement of 
cruelty of which the authorities at Salem, in charity let us 
believe, were not ca]>able. The mode of execution was very 
simi)le, and five persons could be swung off at once as easily 
as one. Calef himself furnishes us with evidence that such 
was the practice in Salem, where eight persons were hanged 
thii-ty-six days later. He says (p. 108) : " After the execu- 
tions, Mr. Xoycs [a Salem minister], turning him to the bodies, 
said : *' What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of Hell 
hanging there ! ' " — an expression which has often been attrib- 
uted ta Cotton Mather. Mr. Upham cites, from a letter written 
by the venerable Dr. Holyoke, the statement of a jicrson who 
"saw those unhappy people hanging on Gallows Hill."* 

Calef goes on with his narrative : — 

** When he [Burroughs] was cui-ilowii, he was dragged by the hal- 
ter to a hole, or grave, between the rocks, about two feet deep, his shirt 
and breeches being pulled off, and an ohl pair of trousers of one exe- 
cuted jMit on his lower parts, he was ^o put in, together with [John] 
AVillard and [I^Iartha] Carrier, one of his hands and his chin, and a 
foot of one of them, being left uncovered.'* 

Observe the minuteness of detail: three persons, one of them 
a woman, buried in a gi*ave two feet deep! — a shirt and an 
old pair of trousers imlled off (in the presence of the crowd 
apparently) from one victim and put upon another ! — and 
when the bodies were partially covered, and certain i)arts ex- 
posed, he states that one of the hands and the chin belonged 
to Burroughs, and a foot to some one of them ! Our surprise 
is that Calef did not identify the foot. Mr. Upham expands 
the narrative of Calef by stating that the grave of Burroughs, 
Willard, and Carrier (two feet deep and uncovered) was 
"trampled down by the mob."t ^^ \i2i\(i never seen any 
evidence of this assertion, and should be glad to have it 
produced. 

Rev. William Bcntley, D. D., in " A Description and His- 
tory of Salem," printed in 1 800, J speaking of the execution 

♦ ni«<torv, Vol. II. p. 377. X Mass. Hist. Coll., Vol. VI. p. 268. 

t Lci'iurcs, p. 104. 



Cotton Mather and Salem }\liehcra/t. 



61 



of Burroughs, says : " It was said that the bodies, wcpe not 
j)ri)j>crly buried ; but uiK)n an examination of the ground, the 
graves were found of the usual dejitli, and the remains of the 
bodies, and of the wood in wliich they were interred.** The J 
bodies, it appears, were placed in coffins, and buried at the 
usual depth. * Calofs narrative is, therefore, shown to be 
incorrect or improbable in many i)articulars. lie does not 
state that he was present at the executions, and may have had - 
the story from mere rumor. We do not impute to him any 
intentional misrepresentation,, but simply an incajiacity to as- 
certain and state facts with accuracy; and inferences have 
been drawn from the narrative which the text of Calef does 
not warrant. There may be, too, a thread of truth amid this 
web of errors; and what that truth is we may j)ossibly ascer- 
tain by investigation in other directions. 

The attendance of a clergyman at a sqene of execution, 
even on horseback, — at that time the conmion mode of trav- 
elling, — could have been no mmsual circumstance. On the 
contrary, his presence on such occasions is deemed as neces- 
sary as that of the hangman. Were those five persons exe- 
cuted that day without any spiritual adviser? Had Mr. Mather 
spiritual relations with any of the sufferers ? We beg to remind 
Mr. Ui)ham of some facts in this connection which may be use- 
ful to him in case he jnints a new edition of his History. Mr. 
Thomas Brattle, speaking of the persons who had been con- 
demned, says: — 

" They protested their innocency as in tlie presence of the great 
God, whom forthwiih they were to appear before; they wished, and 
declared their wish, that their blood might be the last innocent blood 
shed upon that aceoinit. With great affection they entreated Mr. C. 
IM. to pray with them ; they prayed that God would discover what 
witchcrafts were among us; they forgave their accusers; they ppake 
without reflection on jury and judges for bringing them in guilty and 
condemning them, and seemed to be very Mncere, upright, and sensible 



* It niny he sni*! that the bodies wtrc rclmried. But when, and by whom ? The 
bodies of Proetor and Ja('ol)s were dehvered to their friends, and were buried on their 
own farms. What ]M>>>ilde motive could there Ik.' for trcaiinp the remains of the 
oilier three viciinis with <u<h iiidi;rniiy ? For all that appears to the contrary in 
CaKf'!> naiTutivc, he is deseribinjj the final disj)osition of the bodies. 

A 



> 



52 Cotton Mather and Salem MVUcheraft. 

of tlicir ctrcumstJinces on sill accounts ; ei:|>ccially Proctor and Willardy 
wliose whole management of tliemselve:^ from tlie jail to the gallowg 
was Tcry affecting and mehing to the hearts of some consideraole spec- 
tators, whom I could mention to you.** — Mau, lli$t, ColLj Vol. V. p. C8. 

Mr. Brattle mentions no other person than " Mr. C. M." as 
the comforter and friend of the sufferers, " csixjcially Proctor 
and Willard." In the alK)vc statement we trace the character 
of their spiritual counsellor. It was necessary for these per- 
sons to seek spiritual adrice from abroad. Proctor begged Mr. 
Noyes to pray with him, but was refused, unless he would 
confess that he was guilty. * Proctor and Willard had been 
confined for several months in the Boston jail, f and there, 
doubtless, made Mr. Matlier's acquaintance, as he was an 
habitual visitor of the prisons. We now see the object of Mr. 
Mather's visits to Salem, — for he attended none of the trials, 
— and what he means when he says : " It may be no man 
living ever had more people under preteniatural and astonish- 
ing circumstances cast by the providence of God into his more 
particular care than I have had." J Would these persons 
have asked Mr. ]ilather to be their spiritual comforter, if ht 
had been the agent, as has been alleged, of bringing them 
into their sad condition ? If Mr. Mather was present at Witch 
Hill, August 19, 1692, he was there, we believe, simply in the 
performance of a sad duty to Proctor and Willard, who were 
executed that day. That his conduct and bearing on that 
occasion were in any manner desemng of reproach is wholly 
without proof or probability. 

The following statement of Mr. Brattle is a complete refuta- 
tion of the charges brought against the clergy for their agency 
in the witch trials : — 

^ But although the chief judge and some of the other judges be 
very zealous in these proceedings, yet this you may take for a truth, 
that there are several about the Bay, men of understanding, judgment, 
and piety inferior to few, if any, in New England, that do utterly 
condemn the said proceedings, and do freely deliver their judgment in 
the case to l>e this, viz., that these methods will utterly ruin and undo 
poor New Enjrland." 




>. 99. 

t Fell's Salem, Vol. II. pp. 476, 477. 
\ Some Few Remarks, p. 39. 



CWm JUifitfr nJ S^dem Wkdker^ 



He mmtioiu aooe'of these, — nameir, Sobob Hi wlitin.!, 
Tbomsks Pftttt>rtlu Inczeade Ibther, Saflwd WiDard, 
Xatbaniel SakixistalL He add»: -Exci^pd^ Hr. Hali 

eremd eMers aimo^ ikromgioml ike wkoU eomairy mrt ra 
dusmii^SeJJ* • 

That Hr. Brattle should make no other mmirton eff C^Mom 
3Iatha- than that henstofiire adrerted to reqaires soHae espia- 
natioQr and rais«» the int|airT whether there i» no tacit refer- 
ence to him. If he acted the rCle s^ssisned to hba br Ik 
Upham, the oau:«sion is wh^Qj unaccoontaMe. In the fiaDov- 
ixkg passage llr. Brattle alhides to some perssoa whom he docs 
not name: — 

'"'I canxkoc but k^Uj appboiL tutd think k ««r dncj ti» be %9wj 

tbauklul fi>r. tlm^ enilcaTon of :H£TenJ cUers. wkjte fifH* I think 

pnsserve kw>wlc:«I^f and wbo^f coan:^ :^IumiU, I tkink. baxe 

■M)ffe re^u^fed, ia a cas« of tbu watant^ than jrt it bacb bceiL 

particular, I caniMC bat tbmk ntrj f^monblr of the cndmrcrs 

JBlrr. permm «/* Bottf»m^ wiMee pnorX alfeirtioa la bis eoantrj in 

and s^pffritoal rebtfioa to tbr^ of tbe jii*i^*s in partindar, k 

biBi ^erj soGcitoa» aod i»iik-tni>a» in thfe^ mathtr ; acd I aai '■Br prr- 

snadcd. tbalp had hi:§ wouaas and prnpoe^aL^ hcvn hearkened to and U- 

h)vrd, vfacro these troobhrs ven^ in their birth, in the ordinarj waj, 

thej would merer have ^nvvB anto that bright which now ther 

He ha$ as jet OMrt with finle bat inikiiidne<». abob^e, and reproach 

maoT men : bat I rnt-t that in after timeri his wisdoai and aeitite nfl 

find a more aniver?al ackiiowIeil;^ment ; and if not^ hk reward is with 

the Lord-"— JU^xMw Wa. OJL, VoL V- pp^ 7«, 77. 

Who was this person ? The editor has a note« ^ Supposed 
to be ^. Willard.'' He donUIcss based this opinion on the 
fact that three of the judges, Winthiop, Sewall, and Sa]gcant, 
were mcmijcrs of Mr. Willard':^ chnrch (the Old Sooth). We 
do not assert that this inference is not the correct one ; bat we 
rentnre to make some snggesticuns on this point. Samnd \Vil> 
hkrd had been mentioaed bj name on the preceding p^e, 
with Increase 3Iatber and others, as opposing the proccedi]i^ 
at Salem. Having so rccentlj commended him bj name, whj 
shonld ^Ir. Brattle speak of him again anonjmooslT ? Ridi- 

• 31i^ H'bo. CulL, Vol. V. PPL 74, TSl 




A 



51 Cotton Mather and Salem WltclurafL 

ards was a member of Mr. Mather's cliureh. Wait Wintlirop 
and Stouglitou were very intimate friends of Mr. ilatlicr, and 
he had "si)iritual relations" with them. Mr. Brattle docs 
not say that these jndges were members of the " Rev. i)cr- 
son's" church. Stoughton, whose church relations were in 
Dorchester, was a " Mather man," and Mr. Uijham would 
have his readers believe that Mr. Mather held his conscience 
and moulded his opinions.* To Wait Wintlirop Mr. Ma- 
ther inscribed his " Memorable Providences," 1089, " whom," 
he says, *'I reckcm among the best of my friends." Jlr. 
Mather preached his funeral discoui*se, and composed liis epi- 
taph. Mr. Mather, we know, " was very solicitous and indus- 
trious in this matter," and was full of " notions and projiosals, 
when these troubles wei'e in their birth," which were not 
*' hearkened to and followed." Mr. Willard, whose views were 
the same as Mr. Mather's, held his more quietly, and if he liad 
" notions and i)roiK)sals," we do not know what they were. 
The last sentence is particularly applicable to Mr. Mather; 
for while the executions were going on, he fell under the 
disapprobation of both parties, — of the more moderate party, 
Ijccause he had preached and written so zealously on the sub- 
ject of Witchcraft as a theological question, and of the more 
violent i>arty, because, when the trials and executions took 
l)lace, he did not give them his support. If Mr. Mather is not 
alluded to in this paragraph, he is omitted altogether from the 
narrative, except as sinritual adviser of the jKjrsons condemned. 
It will seem very imi)robal>le to the accusers of Mr. Jf ather that 
he had no other connection with the proceedings. 

Mr. Mather, Mr. Allen, Mr. Moody, Mr. Willard, Mr. Baily, 
and Mr. Morton acted as a unit in this whole matter. Five 
of them held prayer-meetings- at the house of John Goodwin 
in 1688. Four of them commended and prefaced Mr. Ma- 
ther's "ilemorable Providences" in 1689. They approved 
and indorsed Increase Mather's " Cases of Conscience," in 
1693; and Cotton Mather, Allen, Willard, and Morton, who 
were Fellows, set their names to " Certain Proposals made by 
the President and Fellows of Harvard College " in 1094, solic- 
iting accounts, among other things illustrious and remarkable, 

♦ History, Vol. 11. p. 250. 



CMi,n Mather tinJ Salon IVil'^n-rtift. 55 

of a]i]>nritioiifi, jtosscsRioiis, ciicliiiiilinciitn, mid all cxtraordinniy 
tilings wherein the existence and agency of the iuvisiWe world 
are more setmibly denionsfrated. Any statement, therefore, 
concerning the o|iiiiioiis and conduct of cither of these clei^- 
mcii ill relation to witelieraft may be applied to them all.* 

Mr. Josqih Willard, hi the l)iogra]»Iiy of his ance6tor,f ap- 
pro] liatcs Ml B ittle's commciidulion of "a Rev. person of 
Bust 11 to tl c I oucfit of that ancestor, without iiitimatintr that 
the nlhision is ni iiymons. lie says: " Mr. Willard early saw 
thiol p\\ the 1 if t lalinn which was so tlioruughly infused among 
(he I (t[k a id I J which almost every one else was hliiidcd, — 
an fatuition if not created, yet marvellously promoted, by 
Cotton Mather. lie o|«;iily opiwscd it in public niid private, 
he preached against it, and he wrote and published a ixiiuplilet 
on the subject, entitled, ' ^ome Mi&cllaiiy Oliiier\'ationB resi)cct- 
iiig Witchcraft in a Dialogue between S. and B., 1C92,'" If 
by the term " infatniition" he meant a belief in the reality of 
witclieraft, he was wrong in saying that liis ancestor opposed 
it, as he was wrong in imputing to Cotton Mather the charge 
of "creating or marvellously |»romoting" that belief. Mr. 
Upliani says, J "Mr. Willai-d signed the paper indorsing Dcodat 
Lavvson's fiiiuoiis stti'iuon, which surely drove on the prosccu- 
linns," and t^ccins to Iw wholly in the dark as to Mr. Willard'B 
jiDsition, as much as he is of Increase Matber^s. If lie had read 
Jlr, Willard's anonymous tract, his doubts would have liecn 
cleared up. Calef, in a letter to ilr. Willard, dated September 
20, 1005, names " that late seasonable and well-designed Dia- 
logue intituled, Some Miscellany Observations, &c., of which 
yourself is the snpiiosed author, and which was so serviceable 
in the time of it,"§ and quotes fram it. It is a quarto tract 
of sixteen jKiges, Its reproduction at this time would throw 

* J.'liii Protlgr nnil ntlii'n', u'liiL' nn-uilini; Iriiil, mMn^snl ii Iclli^r lu "Mr. Ma- 
iW, Mr, Allen, Mr. Moo.iv, Mr. Wilhrnl. uikI Mr. It«ilv,"iiskiii{r tlipm for llicir in- 
fliinii-c nii-1 syiiiii.-iihy." " IW-tor." f.iys Mr. Ui.Imm ([li-^torv, Vol. II. p. 310). 

ui~LU,m mil! niniliil iti sjiiiil." Ik' avuii^ iinint: Cuilun Mulliur cn'rllt, l.y Miviiii:, 
■■ Ofroiiw Mr. JIbiIkt means Iilwh^i: M^nh.r." It n sufvi.l.nt. fmin llH-fonn...^ 1 
lion in uhi.-li ve linliilii:i!ly fuiil ilit- ii.iii>cri <>( lliCHi clvr^fymcn, t'lml OiIIkii M»lti(-r > 

1 Aimrir.in (Jiiarti'riv It.t; M.r. Vol. XII. |>. IIS. 

1 lliiiory, Vol. II p"45S. i M..ro WoiiiUrf. p. 38. 



66 ' Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 

more light upon the opinions of the Xew England clergy re- 
specting witchcraft than anj otlier document which has not 
been republished. It. is Amtten with great ability and logical 
acumen. Tlie " S. and B." who carry on the dialogue may 
have been intended for Stoughton and Brattle, or Salem and 
Boston. ** S." defends the theory of the magistrates, and **B.** 
that of the clergy. "We give a few extracts. 

^ S. I understand that you and many others are greatly disr^atisfied 
at the proceedings among us. and have sought to obstruct them. Do 
you believe there are any witches? 

'^ B, Yes, no doubt; tlie Scripture clear for it; and it is an injurious 
reflection that some of yours have cast upon us, as if we called that 
truth in question ! 

**/& Ought not, then, witches to be punished? 

**jR Without question; the precept of God's word is for it; only 
they must first be so proved. 

" S. But may not witches be so detected, as to be liable to a right- 
eous sentence and execution ? 

^ B. I believe it ; though I think it is not so easy a& some make it. 
Yet God often righteously leaves them to discover themselves. 

^ S, Ought not the civil magistrate to use the utmost diligence in 
the searching out witchcraft, when he is directed by God's providence 
to grounds of a just suspicion of it? 

** B. Doul)tless ; yet ought he to manage the matter with great pru- 
dence and caution, and attend right rules of search." 

[" B." now becomes the questioner.] 

** B, Taking it for granted that there are witches in New England, 
which no rational man will deny, I ask whether innocent persons may 
not be falsely accused of witchcraft ? 

** S, I verily believe it ; and hope none of you suppose us so un- 
charitable as to think the contrary. 

^ B, Do you not think it a hard lot for an innocent person to have 
the aspersion of witchcraft cast upon him ? 

" S. Without scruple. There is no crime more scandalous and abom- 
inable, nor any that is with more ditficulty wiped off. 

" B, All of you are not so minded on my knowledge.** [lie then 
states at considerable length the outrageous and illegal methods pur- 
sued by the magistrates in committing a person accused] : " without 
b:iil, his credit stained, his liberty restrained, his time lost, and great 
charges and damages come upon him, which who shall repair ? 

" ^. These things seem to have some weight in them ; but I think 
them alien to our case. Please, then, to proceed. 



0«lf«*it AAifAfT «iHf &rf(W WUthrmii. 57 



^ It I Micv^ tbrm so not »Kr«; Iwl lor tW pr^rat let mc »4: 
IV Ttm tliitik th»t A kss dear evklence k $«ftcMl Hat tomxkikm m 
th« cusi^ of witdicmfl iLan k ncect^^air in olWr €ai|iiuil cai^aes Nippon 
Hmnier? 

"* X \\> SM|^)<^^ it nrcKSsanr to lak« «p villi !(:»; Ik>w else flaB 
wiK'lit^fc be Jelectt^ ami p«iiii$lie4 ? 

^ A Tlib W « 4ai^pn\Hi$ |miei|4ew «»l oHHruT to tW ikni of Go^ 
vW lunK ;iip|H^Meil ikait iKec^ :>luill W ^ooil ao^ deor proof a^gaiKt tke 
ertMiiMt N\Mr WniK G\^ ex<^4ni lltts casv of viklKraft lioa tke ^rs- 
eml roWv Beskl«t$^ i>Nt<^Mi Idk «!v iIkmu tW woiv Iwnil tW cM»r is 
the iiKVtv e«ttlioife$ w «m^ to W io wmkii^wiT foiliT of ic 

*" v< IWl Ih>w« llie«k >kidl mildM^^ W J hockJ oo4 execoioi? Mwt 
iWe UhiI £«vtMi ooilrr i W ImrJro inf iVetn^ «o«l k iIki^ »» idM? 

"^ /t \Viidi<^ *$^ wWr cruftioailN «r^ oct lo W r xii o n 4 til 4e0ecte4» 
n^yr «v^ iWey 3rie<^ liU UM^ii;i^!4T prow4 to W $o; €ir vlwli we 
«iv to O;^ Vv^^;^^ m;jiv« ;Mt«i m^k 11 ts tHML* [IW iImvi ^ oi» M l^nliiK 
anil lV«iMi\i iW wi:WMr\tie$ wwMitoig^i Vr iWe »iMi:tcr% lo tkeir A4- 

^ K An^ ^W iM< ! tWfY k lile io tWe «afe^ ; Wri l ej a piipnoJ i»> 
£iwi\ «>Hi I W frr^Mik «o«l 311 ronwoK rfprti tt cli i ftao Wk €Hn90 

^TWv tWo t^iike «p $f«e<tn4 h na a ^o iy; die cn.iWliSrr «f t— <ii^>i 
^ik-'Ik^ wnd \mImt e\Wlr«kc^ i>(^crnx4 M tke SdJroi tndK mlodi "^BJ* 
Mi^vt^ )^ tW itrtoe4 efiskisoft ooiii «m^ :>rtrtio^ cvi^kvoaCML] 

A$ ev^ktK>^ to $^ip|^Yt kb ektr^^ tkai Mr. Ihiker cudkwr* 
\xv>i t\^ 3f9^ 11}^ ;tt In^^tKm. ni iW cfe$e of Maxpo^et Rdke^ a Nfe^ 
liik>M \>f the SijJetft i^vvv^^Sk^ Mr. Vfkoft * prv^tac» a let- 
i^^r fr\>wi Mr. M4ixliier tv^ c^efliett Se^ralL detk v^l' die cwvis 

l^int^ i«i tW .V^^'^ftiiix t\^ tW ^^kvomI <^&Mi of lib Le<f«ra^ 
IS^S^ IW k&$ WiMi tiirTT-^iv^ t^MkK K^ nrA^ef if^v iu »i4 ir^ 
)«uil$ it in tbe :$;uae cvcuxvtxoi im lik IHscocr. Mr. Xbtfer. 

of tW ^Nftkwi :rii^ ^vTvci^ to ilie cSec^ of tW <ocKtSN. si» k 
;ii;tv**iM>i SKvie of tW xriik kcsiwifL fcc *" a ittzrjcrne of Air 
ex>ae>:xKV$<tt>(mi[x4fc: tWrrk^of ki^4 <iMinkor«2'i>rti|kK)c:» 
4 ^>809u v>f :W Traxrrol ^Tv-iie^ tkis kiT^ Vwrn cvMnHBod."* 

v^v l.^^v Boc >-Vi4; jvctjoct of i is^ tie cieci*> ajji vis« is Mr^ 



• S3>SMCT, T«L IL Ik 




68 C^ton Mather and Salem IVitchcrqft^ 

Slather's) in " Wonders of the Invisible World." Mr. Mather, 
we maj infer from his mode of addressing him, ^^ My dear and 
my very obliging Stephen," was an intimate friend, which will 
account for the free and somewhat obscure expressions in the 
letter. This is the passage on which Mr. Upham bases his 
accusation : " I am willing, that, when you write, you should 
imagine me as obstinate a Sadducee and witch-advocate as any 
among us. Address me as one that believed nothing reason- 
able ; and when you have so knocked me down, in a spectre so 
unlike me, you will enable me to box it [not the narrative of 
witch stories, but the fallen spectre of Sadduceeism] about 
among my ncightors, till it [the spectre] come, I know not 
where at last." " Such," says Professor Enoch Pond, " is the 
strict, proper, grannnatical meaning of the sentence, and is 
very different from the forced and perverted meaning which 
the accusers of Sir. Mather have put upon it. I am astonished 
that learned gentlemen should have so blundered upon it." * 
Mr. Peal)ody and Mr. Bancroft have followed Mr. Upham in 
his misinterpretation of the letter, who says : " He did liox it 
[the narrative of witch stories] about so effectually among his 
neighbors that he succeeded that next summer in getting up 
a wonderful case of witchcraft in the person of one Margaret 
Rule." Sir. Ui)ham makes this charge respecting the case of 
ifargaret Rule without a particle of evidence to sustain it. Mr. 
Mather cannot in any way be connected with the origin of this 
case ; and instead of making any excitement or getting up any 
prosecutions in the matter, he cautioned the sufferer not to give 
the names of any persons whose sj^ectres might apjiear to her. 
He prayed with her, as he did with the Goodwin children ; she 
recovered, and the affair i>assed off without injury to the life or 
rcjuitation of any one. 

Mr. Upham has devoted considerable space to the case of 
George Burroughs, — in our view, the most lamentable of all 
the Salem murders, but regarded at the time, even by mod- 
crate men, as the case in which the charge of confederacy 
with the De\'il was best substantiated. Increase Mather — ; 
who thouglit that these Salem "methods will utterly ruin and 
undo poor Xcw England," and who rei)roved a person coming 

* The Mailicr Family, pp. 134, 135. 



Cotton Mather and Salnn Witclicrafl. fi9 

to Salem to consult about his child, asking him ^^ whether 
there was not a God in Boston, that he should go to the Devil ^^ 
at Salem for advice " * — said : " I was not myself present at 
any of the trials, excepting one, viz., that of George Burroughs. 
Had I been one of his judges, I could not have acquitted 
him." t Cotton Mather, and doubtless all the clergy, had the 
?ame fecluig. " Glad should I have Ikjcu," said he, " if I had 
::evcr known the name of this man." The reader of Mr. Upham's 
History will not find there (he evidence which produced such an 
Impression on the minds of the contem|)orarics of Burroughs, 
further than that he was a little man, and had i)erformed great 
feats of strength. Mr. Peabody J says there was no other 
testimony agahist him than feats of l)odily strength. The re- 
port of Burroughs's trial is in i)rint in Mather's ** Wonders," 
and in Calef 's '* More Wonders," and even Hutchinson, from 
whom Mr. Upham takes his account, records other evidence, — 
that he, having been twice married, treated his wives harshly, 
and that he pretended to know what had been said to them in 
his absence. He persuaded them to swear that they would not 
\, reveal his secrets. They had privately complained to their 
neighbors that their house was haunted. The brother of one 
of the wives swore, that, going out after strawberries. Bur- 
roughs, on their retm'n, went uito the bushes on foot, and al- 
though they rode at a quick pace, they found him with them 
when near- home; "that he then fell to chiding his wife for 
talking to her brother alK)ut him, saying that ho knew their 
thoughts, which the brother said it was more than the Devil 
knew ; to which Burroughs replied, that his God told him." , i^^v^^ . it 
There was no " spectral evidence " in this testimony. Mr. ^ . . .^,^ ( s" 
Upham, instead of gi>nng what is so necessary for explaining , 

the case of Burroughs, supplies its place by some very grave C* • - 
and unsupported charges against the honesty of Cotton Mather, j • ' 
who printed the only contemi)oraneons account of tlie proceed- 
ings, which Calef copied. He says : § " Neither Hutchinson 
nor Calef seems to have noticed one remarkable fact : many 
of the depositions, how many we cannot tell, were jirocurcd 
after the trials were over, and surreptitiously foisted in among 

* Rmttle, p. 71. | Life of Cotton Matbcr. p. 228. 

1 Ciiscs of Conscience, Postscript \ History, Vol. II. p. 297. 



I 



60 Cotton Mather and Salem WUcherqfl. 

the papers to bolster up the proceedings/* "This,** he re- 
marks, " stamps the management of the prosecutions, and pf 
those concerned in the charge of the papers, with an irregular- 
ity of the grossest kind, which partakes strongly of the charac- 
ter of fraud and falsehood T]ie persons who had brought 

Mr. Burroughs to his death concluded that their best escape 
from public indignation was to accumulate evidence against 
him; .... and Cotton Mather, feeling the importance of 
making the most of Mr. Burroughs's extraordhiary strength, 
.... said : * Yea, there were two testimonies that George Bur- 
roughs, with only putting the forefinger of his right hand into 
the muzzle of a heavy gim, a fowling-piece of about six or 
seven foot barrel, did lift up the gun, and hold it out at arm*s 
cud.'"* This evidence was, indeed, taken after Burroughs*8 
trial and execution; but it. was not surreptitiously foisted in 
among tlie papers, by " an irregularity which partakes of the 
character of fraud and falsehood " ; and Mr. Upham should 
have discovered this fact. Mr. Mather puts this testimony 
Within brackets, in a paragraph by itself, and says : f " One of 
those witnesses was over-persuaded by some persons to be out 
of the way at G. B.*s trial ; but he came afterwards, with sor- 
row for his withdrawal, and gave in his testimony. Nor were 
either of these witnesses made use of as evidence in the Iriaiy 
^Ir. Upham probably did not observe the brackets, or the con- 
cluding part of tlie quotation, which wholly relieves Mr. Mather 
from the groundless charge here made against his integrity. 

It seems hardly necessary to continue this examination, and 
yet our stock of material is far from being exhausted. We 
might have made our citations from other writers ; but we have 
quoted chiefly from Mr. Upham's books, because he is the 
earliest, and is regarded as the most reliable authority on the 
subject of Salem Witchcraft. Mr. Peabody, who adopted Mr. 
Uphani*s view of Mr. Mather's connection with the Salem 
trials, seemed to appreciate the utter incompatibility between 
this and other portions of ilr. Mather's life, and says : J "It 
would be gratifying to see these things explained in any way 
creditable to his fame." Such an explanation we have at- 

* IlislDry, Vol. II. pp. 298-300. t Wonders, p. 64. 

X Life of Cotton Mather, p. 257. 



Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft. 



61 



tempted ; and if Mr. Pealx)dy were li\'ing, we arc sure that no 
one would welcome more cordially a vindication of Mr. Ma- 
ther's reputation. 

It is amusing to see with what flippancy the newspaper 
critics have assailed Jlr. Longfellow's " Giles Corey of the 
Salem Farms." His Cotton Mather is not a hloodthirsty 
fanatic, but is a warning Mentor to the magistrates, and an 
angel of mercy to the accused. To Ilathorne, the magistrate, 
he says : — 

** ^lay not the Devil take tbe outward shape 
Of innocent persons ? Are we not in danger. 
Perhaps, of puni>hing some who are not guilty ?" 

To Mary Walcott, one of the " afflicted " girls, he says : — 

** Dear child, be comforted ! 
Only by prayer and fasting can you drive 
These unclean spirits from you. An old man 
Gives you his blessing. God be with you, Mary ! ** 

Mr. JIathcr and Mr. Ilathorne stand over the dead body of 
Giles Corey. The latter says: — 

" This is the Totter's Field. Behold the fate 
Of those who deal in Witchcrafts, and, when questioned. 
Refuse to p^ead their guilt or innocence, 
And stubbornly drag death upon themselves.** 

Mr. Mather replies : — . 

** O sight most horrible ! In a land like this. 
Spangled with Churches Evangelical, 
In wrapped in our salvations, must we seek 
In mouldering statute-books of English Courts • 
Some old forgotten Law, to do such deeds ? 
Those who lie buried in the Potter's Field 
Will rise again, as surely as ourselves 
That sleep in honored graves with Epitaphs; 
And this poor man, whom we have made a victim. 
Hereafter will be counted as a martyr ! ** 

This view of Mr. Mather's principles and bearing during the 
witcli trials is historically the correct one, although Mr. Long- 
fellow has varied some of the minor incidents. Mr. Mather 
never attended any examination at Salem, and, being but 
twenty-nine years of age, was hardly **an old man." He 



\ 



\ 



62 Cotton Mather and Sahm WUchcraft. 

might, however, cite both Mr. Upham and Mr. Peabody for 
the latter statement. Mr. Longfellow's critics have said that 
he has represented ^fr. Mather as doubting and hesitating in 
these proceedings. Tliis was precisely yiv. Mather's position, 
and it is no little credit to the poet that he should hate dis- 
covered it, when this simple truth has been withheld from the 
historians. Mr. Mather IwHeved in witchcraft, but disl)elieved 
in the Salem methods of dealing with it. Mr. Longfellow's 
opinions have evidently been fonned, not from the modem 
histories, but by a study of the original authorities. His poem 
breathes the very spirit of 1692, and many of its expressions 
are lK)iTowed from the l)ooks and tracts of that period. 
" Spangled with Churches Evangelical " is from " Wonders of 
the Invisible World " (p. 6), and " Inwrapped in our salva- 
tions " is from the same (p. 17). 

Rev. R. H. Allen, in his neat volume, " Tlie New England 
Tragedies in Prose," has given a sketch of the historical events 
on which Mr. Ijongfellow has founded his " New England Trag- 
edies," and it is an appropriate explanatory accompaniment to 
the poems. 

The article on " Salem Witchcraft," in the " Edinburgh Re- 
view" for July, 1868, is based on Mr. Upham's History, and is 
a curious medley of historical errors, of which the following 
will serve as a specimen : " The settlement had its birth in 
1620, the date of the charter granted by James I. to the * Gov- 
ernor and Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England ' " 
(p. 6). Cotton Mather uniformly appears as the confederate 
of Parris and Noyes. " It remained for Mr. Noyes and the 
Mathers and Mr. Parris to endure the popular hatred " (p. 33). 
" ilathcr, Noyes, and Parris had no idea that these eight exe- 
cutions would Ije the last" (p. 34). "Cotton Mather was 
nimble and triumphant on the Witches' Hill, whenever there 
were firebrands of Hell swinging there " (p. 33). " Cotton 
Mather was the surnvor of the other two. He died in 1728, 
and was never happy again after that last batch of executions " 
(p. 37). These arc evidently the impressions which one unfa- 
miliar with the subject will derive from Mr. Ujiham's work. 
It is not simply the positive assertions, but the allusions with 
which his writings abound, that convey these impressions. 



CiAto/i Miither ami Sahm WitcliinrO. 



•^^>" 



' Jlr. Xoyes uiiO all liis fellow-porsccutorB," " and " Mr. Noycs 
I iiKirc tliuii any otiicr [not persmi, butj inhabitant of the town 
i rcsiMjnsiUc for tin; Mood that wq3 slicd,"f tlie reader ro- 
I gards as iillu»ioiia to Cotton ^father. 

Tlic History of Salcm Witclieraft is as yot unwritten. Mr. 
I L'|)liinii's works nuist be regarded only at! aflbnling niateri- 
I alti fur siicli a liiBtury, — and there arc other materials, as we 

have 8eon, wliich lie has not used. The »u1 Jcct can l>o ti-eafed, 
I moreover, hi a nioi-e compact form than his two hulky rolnnies. 
I Much of the matter in Ins first volume, tliougli interesting, and 
I showing great industry on the part of himself and his suns, bc- 
I longs ratiier to the local history of Salem Village, now Danvem, 
I than to a sjiccial work on Paleui Witclieraft. AVc make these 

<nggestions in the hoi>c that Mr. Ujtham will p.ve us a compact 

U'.uinal on the subject, revising liis opinions wlicrc be deems 
I thciii unsound, jmtthig his materials into a more concise form 
I and with a mure orderly an-angemont, dividing his work into 
I cbiijttcrs witli heudings, and by all means giving references to 
I authorities wlicn he <iuotcs. No one is so com|)ctcnt as he to 
I do this work, and tliore cuuld nut be a mure acceptable coiitri- 
I bnlion to New England history. 



I, Vul. JI. p. 3«, 



t IbM., p. IM. 



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