William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America


Mather, Increase

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition

16391723, 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
(16851701), 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 Philips War; and
Remarkable Providences (1684), based on an earlier work by other
writers. 1

See biography by K. B. Murdock (1925, repr. 1966); study by R.
Middlekauff (1971); bibliography by T. J. Holmes (1931). 2


Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Pilgrims and Puritans