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Abstract

Cotton Mather’s Involvement in the Salem Crisis is about the role Mather played during the witchcraft trials. Mather came from a long line of Puritan ministers. His father was a very influential minister in New England during the Salem Crisis, as were several of his uncles. Mather took part in the crisis by observing people thought to be bewitched, publishing accounts of those observations and also by publishing other books about the trial. There are also letters written by Mather to judges and other administrators, which strongly urge caution. There is a debate between Mather’s critics and supporters about his actual involvement and level of influence during the trials. Mather’s critics accuse him of spurring on the trials through some of the books he published, saying they pushed inhabitants of Salem to seek out witchcraft. On the other hand, Mather’s defenders examine his books and actions with Puritan ideals in mind, remembering that it went against Puritan beliefs to disobey authority. Defenders also focus on Mather’s many calls for caution, especially in regards to the acceptance of spectral evidence in the Salem trials. Through his observations and publication, if viewed through a Puritan lens, it can be argued that Mather was simply obeying authority and not seeking to destroy witches in Salem.

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