Increase Mather

Increase Mather, 1639–1723, American Puritan clergyman, b. Dorchester, Mass.; son of Richard Mather. After graduation (1656) from Harvard, he studied at Trinity College, Dublin (M.A., 1658), and preached in England and Guernsey until the Restoration. After returning to Massachusetts (1661), he became (1664) pastor of North Church, Boston, and retained that position through his life. Cotton Mather, his son and colleague, cooperated with him in many of the affairs that occupied their busy lives. They were outstanding upholders of the old Puritan theocracy and of the established order in church and state. This conservatism led to trouble with the government during the Restoration period, and Increase Mather was a particularly bitter opponent of Edward Randolph and Sir Edmund Andros over the withdrawal of the Massachusetts charter and the conduct of the royal government. In 1688 he went to England to present the grievances of Massachusetts, and, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the subsequent revolt in Massachusetts against Andros, he obtained a new charter that united Plymouth Colony with Massachusetts Bay Colony. Increase Mather looked with favor on the government of Sir William Phips. After 1692 his influence declined somewhat, but he remained powerful to the end. He was president of Harvard College (1685–1701), but he was inactive and spent little time in Cambridge. His writing reflected the concerns of his career. Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits (1693), appearing soon after the Salem witch furor, denounced "spectral evidence" in witch trials. He also wrote a biography of his father (1670); A History of the War with the Indians (1676), written just after King Philip's War; and Remarkable Providences (1684), based on an earlier work by other writers.

See biography by K. B. Murdock (1925, repr. 1966); study by R. Middlekauff (1971); bibliography by T. J. Holmes (1931).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Increase Mather: Selected full-text books and articles

The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728 By Robert Middlekauff University of California Press, 1999
The Salem Witch Crisis By Larry Gragg Praeger, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Increase Mather begins on p. 85
The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century By Perry Miller Harvard University Press, 1954
The Making of an American Thinking Class: Intellectuals and Intelligentsia in Puritan Massachusetts By Darren Staloff Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Increase Mather and the Decline of Cultural Domination"
Main Currents in American Thought: An Interpretation of American Literature from the Beginnings to 1920 By Vernon Louis Parrington Harcourt, Brace, vol.1, 1927
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II"The Mather Dynasty"
The American Past: Conflicting Interpretations of the Great Issues By Sidney Fine; Gerald S. Brown Macmillan, vol.1, 1961
Librarian’s tip: "The New Order" begins on p. 5
FREE! Literary Culture in Early New England, 1620-1730 By Thomas Goddard Wright Yale University Press, 1920
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VI "Education"
The Profane, the Civil, & the Godly: The Reformation of Manners in Orthodox New England, 1679-1749 By Richard P. Gildrie Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. One "The Reforming Synod of 1679"
America Begins: Early American Writing By Richard M. Dorson Pantheon, 1950
Librarian’s tip: Includes several works by Increase Mather
FREE! Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706 By George Lincoln Burr Barnes & Noble, 1914
Librarian’s tip: "From 'An Essay For The Recording Of Illustrious Providences,' [also known as 'Remarkable Providences']" by Increase Mather, 1684" begins on p. 1
Tenacious of Their Liberties: The Congregationalists in Colonial Massachusetts By James F. Cooper Jr Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Increase Mather begins on p. 141
Puritanism and the Wilderness: The Intellectual Significance of the New England Frontier, 1629-1700 By Peter N. Carroll Columbia University Press, 1969
Librarian’s tip: Chap. X "A Smart Rod and Severe Scourge"
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