Essay on Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials of 1692

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Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 took place in the Puritan community of Salem, Massachusetts. Cotton Mather, a clergyman in Salem, emerged throughout the course of the trials as a pillar of support and, ultimately, as a witch-hunter. However, his motives at the beginning of the trials were driven by his Puritanical reasoning which holds a strong belief in Biblical Law. Cotton Mather used his Puritanical faith to find reasoning in God that allowed the Salem Witch Trials to occur.

Puritanism spawned from a reform group of the Church of England in the mid-sixteenth century. Puritans felt the need to make the Church of England pure from the corrupt influences of the Roman Empire.1 In their New
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Once again, this opens the town of Salem to what they perceived as infiltration by the Devil, or deviation from Scripture. The Puritans used their faith and their faith alone to reason. They saw that God was the highest power, and that He should be the guiding light in life. However, the Salem Witch Trials could have come from this pious and narrow view of society. The clergy, including Cotton Mather, allowed and, at times, instigated the search and seizure of witches.

Cotton Mather exemplified the essence of Puritan beliefs. He was originally from Boston, but he then moved to Salem, Massachusetts where he took the position of a clergyman. Mather authored many works on witchcraft throughout the course of the trials. Through his Puritanical belief, Mather embodied reasoning through faith. He wrote as the quintessential Puritan trying to rid humanity of its ills. These works included On Witchcraft and The Wonders of the Invisible World, as well as many letters he sent to fellow clergy on the subject of witchcraft. In his day, he was considered an authority on witchcraft due to his involvement in the well-publicized Salem Witch Trials.

In a discourse from On Witchcraft, Mather defines witchcraft and shows how the Bible supports the existence of witchcraft as valid. According to Mather, witchcraft is "the doing of strange (and for the most part ill) things by the help of evil

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