Cotton, John

Cotton, John,

1584–1652, Puritan clergyman in England and Massachusetts, b. Derbyshire, educated at Cambridge. Imbued with Puritan doctrines, he won many followers during his 20 years as vicar of the rich and influential parish of St. Botolph's Church, Boston, Lincolnshire. He was summoned to appear before the High Court of Commission (1632), but instead of appearing he resigned and fled. Some of his followers sailed (1633) with him to Massachusetts Bay, where the young city of Boston was so named primarily to honor him. He and John Winthrop were the leading figures of the colony, and Cotton was chiefly responsible for the exile of Anne HutchinsonHutchinson, Anne,
c.1591–1643, religious leader in New England, b. Anne Marbury in Lincolnshire, England. She emigrated (1634) with her husband and family to Massachusetts Bay, where her brilliant mind and her kindness won admiration and a following.
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, because of her antinomian doctrines, and for the expulsion of Roger WilliamsWilliams, Roger,
c.1603–1683, clergyman, advocate of religious freedom, founder of Rhode Island, b. London. A protégé of Sir Edward Coke, he graduated from Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1627 and took Anglican orders.
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. He was one of the molders of the Congregational Church, and his arguments in such treatises as The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (1644), The Way of the Churches of Christ in New England (1645), and The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared (1648) were influential in his day. He was a firm believer in the right of the Congregational minister to dictate to the faithful, and thus he has been viewed as a strong upholder of theocracy. His Milk for Babes (1646) was a well-known catechism for children. His daughter was the wife of Increase MatherMather, Increase,
1639–1723, 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.
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 and the mother of Cotton MatherMather, Cotton
, 1663–1728, American Puritan clergyman and writer, b. Boston, grad. Harvard (B.A., 1678; M.A., 1681); son of Increase Mather and grandson of Richard Mather and of John Cotton.
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See biographies by L. Ziff (1962) and E. Emerson (1965).

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Cotton, John

(1584–1652) Puritan clergyman, author; born in Derby, England. He arrived in Boston, Mass. (1633), and soon became the teacher of the Boston Church. He originally supported Anne Hutchinson, but he joined her persecutors when he discovered that he was alone in support of her. A tireless worker, he wrote Spiritual Milk for Babes (1646), a standard textbook for New England children, and numerous books and pamphlets including The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared (1648). In later years he became hostile toward religious dissenters and favored the power of civil authorities over the individual.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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