Richard, an English clergyman, born at Lowton, Lancashire, in 1596, died in Dorchester, Mass., April 22, 1669. He received a good education, became a schoolmaster at Toxteth Park, near Liverpool, at the age of 15, was admitted to Brazenose college, Oxford, in 1618, was ordained a few months later, and became the minister of Toxteth, where he remained 15 years. He was suspended for nonconformity to the ceremonies of the established church in 1633, and, though soon restored by the influence of friends, was again silenced in 1634. He therefore emigrated to New England, landing in Boston Aug. 17, 1635. In the following year he became pastor of the church in Dorchester, where he resided till his death. He was the author of several brief theological treatises and letters, chiefly on'church government, and drew up in 1648, at the instance of the Cambridge synod, a model of discipline, which was accepted. He married in 1656 the widow of John Cotton. Of his six sons by his first wife, four were distinguished clergymen and authors: Samuel (1626-'71), in Dublin, Ireland; Nathaniel (1630-'97), in London; Elea-zar (1637-,69), in Northampton, Mass.; and Increase. His "Journal, Life, and Death" has been published for the Dorchester antiquarian and historical society (Boston, 1850).
Increase, an American clergyman, son.of the preceding, born in Dorchester, Mass., June 21, 1639, died Aug. 23, 1723. He graduated at Harvard college in 1656, and in 1658 at Trinity college, Dublin. He afterward preached in Devonshire and the island of Guernsey. He returned to Boston in 1661, and was pastor of the North street church from 1664 till his death. He was a member of the synod of 1679, and drew up the propositions which were adopted concerning the proper subjects of baptism. In 1681 he was elected president of Harvard college. The reluctance of his church to relinquish him induced him to decline the office; but in 1685 he accepted it with a stipulation that he should retain his relation to his people. Be continued in this station till 1701, when he retired in consequence of an act of the general court requiring the president to reside in Cambridge. He procured an act authorizing the college to create bachelors and doctors of divinity, and received in 1692 the first diploma for the degree of D. D. that was granted in America. When in 1683 Charles II. demanded that the charter of Massachusetts should be resigned into his hands, Mather was foremost in opposing the measure; and when that monarch annulled the charter in 1684, he was sent to England as agent for the colonies.
He was in England during the revolution of 1688, and, finding it impossible to obtain a restoration of the old charter, accepted a new one, under which the appointment to all the offices reserved to the crown was confided to him. He returned in 1692, when the general court appointed a day of thanksgiving for his safety and for the settlement of the dispute. He is said to have condemned the violent proceedings which followed relating to witchcraft. He was accustomed to spend 16 hours every day in his study, and always committed his sermons to memory. One tenth part of all his income was devoted to charity. He was the author of 92 distinct publications, now mostly very scarce. Two of these were written in Latin. His "Remarkable Providences " was republished in the "Library of Old Authors" (London, 1856), with an introduction by George Offor. He married a daughter of John Cotton.
Cotton, an American clergyman, son of the preceding, born in Boston, Feb. 12, 1663, died Feb. 13, 1728. He studied at the free school in Boston, and graduated at Harvard college in 1678. In his 14th year he began a system of rigid and regular fasting and vigils,"which he continued through life, and at the age of 16 made the Christian profession. After leaving college he taught, and having overcome an impediment in his speech, he then devoted himself particularly to theological studies. In 1680 he became the assistant of his father in the pastorate of the North church, Boston, and in 1684 was ordained as his colleague. It was his aim to maintain the ascendancy which had belonged to the clergy in New England in civil affairs, but which was then on the decline; and in 1689 he prepared the public declaration justifying the imprisonment of Gov. Andros. In 1685 he published his "Memorable Providences relating to Witchcraft and Possessions," narrating cases which had occurred at intervals in different parts of the country, which was used as an authority in the prosecution of the " Salem tragedy." When the children of John Goodwin became curiously affected in 1688, he was one of the four ministers of Boston who held a day of fasting and prayer, and favored the suspicion of diabolical visitation.
He afterward took the eldest daughter to his house in order to inspect the spiritual and physiological phenomena of witchcraft, and his experiments are wonderful instances of curiosity and credulity. He discovered that the devils were familiar with the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but seemed less skilled in the Indian languages, suspected that they were not all alike sagacious, and was persuaded that he himself was shielded against their power by special protection of Heaven. A discourse, in which he pronounced witchcraft "the most nefandous high treason against the Majesty on high," was printed with a copious narrative of his recent researches, and the particulars were reprinted in London with a preface by Richard Baxter. When the first phenomena occurred at Salem in 1692, he at once became a prominent adviser concerning them, expressing his eager-ness "to lift up a standard against the infernal enemy," whose assaults upon the country he regarded as "a particular defiance upon my poor endeavors to bring the souls of men unto heaven;" and in order to convince all who doubted the obsessions and disapproved of the executions, he wrote his " Wonders of the Invisible World" (1692), which received the approbation of the president of Harvard college and of the governor of the state, though it was designed to encourage the excesses and to promote "a pious thankfulness to God for justice being so far executed among us." When the reaction in the popular mind fol-wed he vainly attempted to arrest it; and tnough he afterward admitted that "there had been a going too far in that affair," he never expressed regret for the innocent blood that had been shed, and charged the responsibility upon the powers of darkness.
Finally, he sought to shun the odium of the popular feeling by declaring the subject " too dark and deep for ordinary comprehension," and referring it for decision to the day of judgment. By the publication of Robert Calef's " More Wonders of the Invisible World" (London, 1700), in which the veracity of many of the narratives of Mather was disputed, the delusion was at length dissipated. Though his influence declined, his activity continued. His publications amounted to 382, many of them small books and sermons. His Magnalia Christi Americana (London, 1702; 2 vols., Hartford, 1820) is a chaotic collection of materials for an ecclesiastical history of New England, concerning which he was admitted to know more particulars than any other man. In 1713 his Curiosa Americana was read before the royal society of London, and he was elected to that body, being the first American to receive this distinction. In its " Transactions " in 1721 appeared an account of the practice of inoculation for the smallpox; and by the efforts of Mather in connection with Dr. Boylston, against both professional and popular prejudice, the operation was first performed in Boston. His " Essays to Do Good " (1710) and his "Christian Philosopher" and "Directions for a Candidate of the Ministry " enjoyed high repute.
His greatest undertaking was entitled " Illustrations of the Sacred Scriptures." He labored upon it from his 31st year to his death, and the manuscript is now in the library of the Massachusetts historical society. His life was written by his son, Samuel Mather (1729), and again by W. B. O. Peabody in Sparks's "American Biography".