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John Cotton

John Cotton, 1584–1652, Puritan clergyman in England and Massachusetts, b. Derbyshire, educated at Cambridge. Imbued with Puritan doctrines, he won many followers during his 20 years as vicar of the rich and influential parish of St. Botolph's Church, Boston, Lincolnshire. He was summoned to appear before the High Court of Commission (1632), but instead of appearing he resigned and fled. Some of his followers sailed (1633) with him to Massachusetts Bay, where the young city of Boston was so named primarily to honor him. He and John Winthrop were the leading figures of the colony, and Cotton was chiefly responsible for the exile of Anne Hutchinson, because of her antinomian doctrines, and for the expulsion of Roger Williams. He was one of the molders of the Congregational Church, and his arguments in such treatises as The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (1644), The Way of the Churches of Christ in New England (1645), and The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared (1648) were influential in his day. He was a firm believer in the right of the Congregational minister to dictate to the faithful, and thus he has been viewed as a strong upholder of theocracy. His Milk for Babes (1646) was a well-known catechism for children. His daughter was the wife of Increase Mather and the mother of Cotton Mather.

See biographies by L. Ziff (1962) and E. Emerson (1965).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Making of An American Thinking Class: Intellectuals and Intelligentsia in Puritan Massachusetts
Darren Staloff.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "John Cotton, Roger Williams, and the Problem of Charisma" and Chap. 3 "John Cotton and the Dialectic of Antinomian Dissent"
The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America
William M. Shea.
Oxford University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Colonial Ministers: John Cotton and Jonathan Mayhew" begins on p. 92
The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry
Perry Miller.
Doubleday, 1956
Librarian’s tip: "John Cotton, 1584-1652" begins on p. 84
The Enigma of the Bay Psalm Book
Zoltán Haraszti.
University of Chicago Press, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Chap. III "John Cotton - Not Richard Mather"
Tenacious of Their Liberties: The Congregationalists in Colonial Massachusetts
James F. Cooper Jr.
Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of John Cotton begins on p. 47
Puritanism and Its Discontents
Laura Lunger Knoppers.
University of Delaware Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "Assurance, Community, and the Puritan Self in the Antinomian Controversy, 1636-38" begins on p. 197
Puritanism in America, 1620-1750
Everett Emerson.
Twayne Publishers, 1977
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