William Bradford and Cotton Mather

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William Bradford (1590 – May 9, 1657) was the chosen leader of the Pilgrim settlers of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Later, he became the Governor of the Plymouth Colony. Among his important accomplishments was being the primary architect of the Mayflower Compact. He was the second signer of the said agreement. Being Governor of Plymouth, one of Bradford’s main accomplishments is establishing a popular part of American tradition which we referred to the first Thanksgiving.

Cotton Mather (February 12, 1663 – February 13, 1728). At the very tender age of 15, he graduated from Harvard with a degree. He was considered both socially and politically-influential “Puritan” minister during his time. He was also an author and pamphleteer and achieved a certain degree of high esteem during his time. Cotton Mather was the son of influential minister Increase Mather.

Although centuries spanned between the two writers, William Bradford and Cotton Mather seemed to share the same sentiments when it comes to religion and politics. Mather especially showed a profound respect and admiration towards Bradford in the way he wrote about Bradford’s life.

Written over a period of years by the leader of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation is the single most complete authority for the story of the Pilgrims and the early years of the Colony they founded. Written between 1620 and 1647, the journal describes the story of the Pilgrims from 1608, when they settled in Holland, through the 1620 Mayflower voyage, until the year 1647. The book ends with a list, written in 1650, of Mayflower passengers.

Both authors strive to portray the culture and history of the time, place, and person(s)through a blend of fact and interpretation. From Bradford’s journal records one can read not only the events that occurred during the first 30 years but also the resulting reactions it elicited from the colonists. Keeping a journal record is also apparent in Mather’s work.

The Bradford journal is considered by historians as the finest work of 17th century America. The simple yet vivid story Bradford recounted in his book made the Pilgrims the much-loved “spiritual ancestors of all Americans”

Both William Bradford and Cotton Mather writings come across as biographical accounts. William Bradford in ‘Plymouth Plantation’ spoke of his own experiences. While, Cotton Mather in ‘The Life of William Bradford’ wrote about Bradford’s life.

Both writers gave reference to the Christian religion in their accounts. Bradford wrote in Plymouth Plantation: “It is recorded in Scripture as a mercy to the Apostle and his shipwrecked company, that the barbarians showed them no small kindness in refreshing them”.

Mather in ‘The Life of William Bradford’ said and I quote: “At the end of Two Years, he did, being of Age to do it, convert his Estate in England into Money; but Setting up for himself, he found some of his Designs by the Providence of God frowned upon, which he judged a Correction bestowed by God upon him for certain Decays of Internal Piety, whereinto he had fallen”. It is obvious that their shared trait of being devout and religious come across in their writings.

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