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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.860

Papers of Increase Mather, 1683-1717.

Increase Mather was the sixth president of Harvard College, serving as acting president from 1685 to 1686, as rector from 1686 to 1692, and as president from 1692 to 1701. This collection consists of one letter to Abraham Kick concerning an order of books, five letters to Sir William Ashurst regarding political concerns of the Massachusetts colony and Harvard College, and a letter to Harvard treasurer John Richards regarding College account books. One page of notes cites Mather’s concerns regarding the religious views of the Harvard Corporation.

Dates

  • 1683-1717

Creator

Conditions on Use and Access

The Papers of Increase Mather are open for research use. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the reference staff for further details.

Extent

0.1 cubic feet (9 documents in 1 folio box)

This collection contains letters and one page of notes written by Increase Mather between 1683 and 1717. Most of this material describes Mather's efforts to secure a royal charter for Harvard College and to protect the legacy left to the College by Robert Boyle. Mather's concerns regarding the religious beliefs held by members of the Harvard Corporation are also addressed.

Biography

Increase Mather (1639-1723) was the sixth president of Harvard College, serving as acting president from 1685 to 1686, rector from 1686 to 1692, and president from 1692 to 1701.

Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Mather received his A.B. from Harvard in 1656, and an A.M. degree from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1658. Mather preached in England and Guernsey until 1661, when he returned to Massachusetts and was ordained as minister at the North Church in Boston, a position he held for sixty years. While in England, Mather married Maria Cotton (1662-1714), with whom he had ten children. Their eldest child was Cotton Mather (1663-1728), the influential minister notable for his involvement in the Salem witch trials. Shortly after Maria's death in 1714, Mather married Ann Lake Cotton (1663-1737).

A staunch proponent of Puritan religious orthodoxy, Increase Mather defended religious uniformity in New England and supported the enforcement of a strict moral code in Massachusetts.

Mather’s administrative tenure at Harvard lasted sixteen years, beginning with his appointment as acting president in 1685. During this time he retained his ministry in Boston, refusing to live in Cambridge, and spent much of his time in England where he pursued political matters on behalf of the Massachusetts colony. He also sought unsuccessfully to replace the Harvard Charter of 1650 with a royal charter, believing that this would provide a stronger legal foundation for the College.

Although Mather’s influence as president of Harvard was limited, he revised the College curriculum, restoring instruction in Greek and Hebrew and emphasizing the use of Biblical and Christian writings in the teaching of ethics. He also rewrote the College laws to require student residence in dormitories, attendance at meals, and regular attendance at lectures and recitations.

Opposition to Mather’s presidency and his perceived lack of attention to the College eventually grew strong enough to force his resignation from Harvard in 1701. He continued in his Boston ministry for another twenty years. Increase Mather died in 1723.

Footnote on date conventionsPlease note that descriptions of documents dated between January 1 and March 25 before 1752 have been cited with the double date convention, e.g., 1649/50 February 27. This convention was used in England and the North American colonies between 1582 and 1752. The first date refers to the year by the Julian calendar, which began on March 25, while the second refers to the year by the Gregorian calendar, which began on January 1.

References:
  • Hall, Michael G. Mather, Increase; http://www.anb.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/articles/01/01-00581.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot. Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century. Part II. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.
  • Publications of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts: Documents from the Harvard University Archives, 1638-1750. Volume 49. Boston: The Society, 1975.
  • Sibley, John Langdon. Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Volume I, 1642-1658. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Charles William Sever, University Bookstore, 1873.
Footnote on date conventions Please note that descriptions of documents dated between January 1 and March 25 before 1752 have been cited with the double date convention, e.g., 1649/50 February 27. This convention was used in England and the North American colonies between 1582 and 1752. The first date refers to the year by the Julian calendar, which began on March 25, while the second refers to the year by the Gregorian calendar, which began on January 1.
References:
  1. Hall, Michael G. Mather, Increase; http://www.anb.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/articles/01/01-00581.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
  2. Morison, Samuel Eliot. Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century. Part II. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.
  3. Publications of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts: Documents from the Harvard University Archives, 1638-1750. Volume 49. Boston: The Society, 1975.
  4. Sibley, John Langdon. Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Volume I, 1642-1658. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Charles William Sever, University Bookstore, 1873.

Acquisition Information

The Papers of Increase Mather were acquired by the Harvard University Archives through donation and purchase as follows:
  1. [1936 or 1937] Spaulding donation:
  2. ___Letter from Increase Mather to Abraham Kick
  3. 1973 Bernard Quaritch Ltd., Antiquarian Booksellers of London:
  4. ___Letter from Increase Mather to Sir William Ashurst, 1709 December 5
  5. ___Letter from Increase Mather to Sir William Ashurst, 1709/10 January 19
  6. ___Letter from Increase Mather to Sir William Ashurst, 1709/10 February 13
  7. ___Letter from Increase Mather to Sir William Ashurst, 1710 November 8
  8. ___Letter from Increase Mather to Sir William Ashurst, 1717 August 12

Related Material

  1. The following collections contain documents from the time Increase Mather served as president and rector (1685-1701):
  2. ___ Harvard University. Corporation. Harvard College Papers, 1st series, 1636-1825, 1831 (UAI 5.100): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua62011
  3. ___Harvard University. Corporation. Corporation papers, 1st series, supplements to the Harvard College Papers, circa 1650-1828 (UAI 5.120): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua09012
  4. Included in these collections are the following documents:
  5. ___1695 August 5 Vote of the Corporation desiring Mr. Mather to continue in the presidency and Mr. Mather's reply.
  6. ___1697 June 29 Note accepting the "trust reposed in us by the late act for incorporating Harvard College," signed by Increase Mather and Charles Morton.
  7. ___1697 [August?] Mather's resignation written in his own hand.
  8. ___1698 December 16 Mather's letter to Lieutenant Governor Stoughton resigning as president.
  9. ___1700 March 4 Mather's letter to the Lieutenant Governor and Council to be communicated to the General Assembly.
  10. ___1700 June 30 Draft of a letter to the Lieutenant Governor to be communicated to the General Assembly.
  11. ___1700 October 17 Extract of a letter from Mather to Lieutenant Governor Stoughton.
  12. ___1700 [October?] Draft of a letter in Mather's hand to "Mr. Speakr."
  13. ___1704 January 2 Draft of a letter in Mather's hand to Joseph Dudley, Governor.
  14. ___1704 June 1 Contemporary copy of a letter to Mather from William Blathwayt regarding a charter for the College.
  15. ___1704 June 19 Letter from George Willcock of London enclosing a "pacquett" from William Blathwayt.
  16. ___1704/05 [February?] Draft of a petition in Mather's hand to Joseph Dudley, Governor.
  17. ___1704/05 February 20 Draft of a letter in Mather's hand concerning the College charter.
  18. ___1704/05 March 6 Draft of Mather's answer to William Blathwayt of Whitehall.
  19. ___1707 May 8 William Brattle's letter to Mather concerning College affairs.
  20. Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about Increase Mather.

General note

This document last updated 2015 November 12.

Processing Information

Processing Note This material was first classified and described by the Harvard University Archives prior to 1980. The collection was reprocessed in 2004, with subsequent preparation for digitization in 2009. Reprocessing involved a collection survey, rehousing in size- and format-appropriate archival folders and boxes, and the creation of this finding aid. Preparation for digitization involved updates to the finding aid and the addition of links to the digital copies.

The digitization of Increase Mather's papers was made possible in part by generous support from the Sidney Verba Fund.
Link to catalog
Title
Mather, Increase, 1639-1723. Papers of Increase Mather: an inventory
EAD ID
hua28004

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
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Cambridge MA 02138 USA
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