Important Persons in the Salem Court Records

People and TopicsBiographical Data

Increase Mather

INCREASE MATHER (1639-1723): Mather, an influential Boston minister and father of Cotton Mather, is credited with being a force for moderation throughout the Salem witchcraft trials and helping bring them to an end with the circulation of his Cases of Conscience on October 3, 1692. Increase Mather has drawn fire from some historians of the period for his hesitancy to take a firm stand against the trials and executions early in the summer of 1692. However, Mather's unique role as leading minister, President of Harvard College, and confidant of Governor William Phips placed him in the precarious position of contesting the witchcraft trials while supporting the judges. While his actions in 1692 were often self-contradictory, he was, according to Kenneth Murdock regarded as "an ally and leader of those whom we see as the most liberal of his time."

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