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but only known to be most odious to his Majesty, makes many afraid of joining themselves to the Gospel, though in conference their consciences are convicted herein; so to prevent a greater mischief that may follow, it were good to petition his Majesty to define a Puritan, whereby the mouths of these scoffing enemies would be stopt. And if his Majesty be not at leisure, that he would appoint some good men to do it for him; for the effecting thereof you know better than I can direct, and therefore I commit you and your affairs to the blessing of the Almighty, praying for your good success there, and safe return hither, resting Your assured friend to his power
EMANUEL DOWNING Dublin 24 Oct. 1620.
SUPPOSED LETTER FROM REV. COTTON
HONOURABLE SR As soon as your hon' has considered ye Contents hereof, I request you (for several reasons) to burn it. I being lately in ye Company of Dr. Mather, was made sensible of some things, wch. I tho't I might do well to lay before your hon" and the rather because I understand he is a person, that you have some value for.
have some value for. I am not without fears that ye heavy & many troubles, that oppress him, may have such an Effect upon, that wee shall quickly loose him except redressed speedily, and indeed had it not been for some singular attainments wch. I suppose he is master of, he could never have born up so well as he has. Your Honour I believe is not acquainted wth. his troubles. but I find that wch. most overwhelms him is, ye wretched Administr'con as he calls it in wch. he has been ensnared, by his Love to some whom he finds full of Ingratitude. Your hon' can deliver him if you please, and if Incapacity to Admin' be a just cause for a Judge to lay aside an Administrator, you have it already before you, or if you think you have not, you will (it may be) have it either in the Death, or in some thing worse than that soon coming on that distressed tho' worthy Gentle
I am inform’d by those who have it from Mr. Boydell, that the accounts of y® Administracon given in are beyond expectation fair & clear and to your hon's sattisfaction.
Every one that I speak wih are of Opinion that ye mannagers deserve to have more allow'd them than all that Whittamore has applyed for his owne support in the business, for ye Incredible fatigue wch. they have undergone.
But if so much be not allowed then y® Doctor must pay it out of his pockett, wch. I percieve he is ready to do, rather then the orphans should be defrauded of a penny. But until your hon' shall release him, his condition as he sayes, and I partly know it, is intolerable; every one ye knocks at his door surprizes him, that his heart dies whin him as he sayes, fearing there is an Arrest to be serv'd on him, or some body to dun him for a Debt, due from an Estate, which he nor his can be a farther the better for. Old Mrs. Fyfield keeps worrying about ye ruins that her Estate must suffer because of her husbands suretyship.
Your honour gave the old doctor some hope that you would deliver his son out of his Extream distresses. He sayes you told him, it was in your power, and then he adds I hope the good Judge will think 'tis his duty.
The brave and good old Doctor, who is longing for Heaven does also vehemently long for your hon' to deliver his son.
But this morning, I find the distressed Gentleman viz' y® young doct" almost sunk into a total dispair of any deliverance, he sayes the affair Labours as if it were inchanted, they have been two years doing what might have been done in less than two months. the Doctor speaks of your honjudgem' and goodness wth. ye greatest respect, but he seems to be apprehensive of a strong plott laid to ruin him, by them for whom he alwayes had ye bowels of a Tender father. He is commonly Informed that your Nephew stirs up people to arrest him, and has given y® Doctor reason to think, that he has consulted wth an able Lawyer, to molest him for male administracon. he is told, that Mr. Faneuils arrest was contrived on purpose to prevent your hon" from delivering of him, wch arrest tho now dropt, (by ye good perswasion of my great & good friend) will be speedily renewed for that purpose. His Tirrible wife (whose character Mr. Jon. Sewell has given (as ye Doctor understands) to others, and can give to your honour if he pleases) will have a great Estate whether there be one or no. the women talk like mad people about it. the story of a sham Inventory Mr. Boydell can tell your hon'.
The Estate has already fared much the worse, as I am inform'd because your Nephew refused to act as an attor
ney in ye administracon, & will do so more & more. It seems his wife wont let him act, & the doctor thinks its from an ill intention to plague the doctor.
Considering some strange things that your Nephew knows relating to his predecessor, the doctor has often wondered at his barbarous carriage towards him (whereof I belive the Doctor can give your hon' a strange Instance) and that he is not afraid of Dreadful consequences. the Doctor thinks your nephew studdies all ye Litigious arts he can to defeat your honours just & good purposes to deliver y poor afflicted servant of God, and the Doct' expects he'll be successful in them, wch. causes the doctor to be so dejected that it would move your hon" compassion to a.great Degree were you to see him. The Doctor I percieve esteems yr hon" conversation above any in the Land, & would have waited on you often, but his dejection ab' this wretched administracon so dispirits him that he is fit for to speak with none, to talk of nothing. His burthen certainly is almost insupportable, for he would fain have preach'd a Lecture sermon, to stir up devout persons to pray for ye conversion of ye Jews, on ye next week, but he sayes this wretched administracon undoes him, he cannot fix his tho'ts & must let it alone.
Good S make haste with your helping hand to this distressed afflicted minister of Christ & save him from ye Plotts of those whom you may see would ruin him. I beseech you Si let not your nephew, or by him, his wife be to hard for you
I am your hon" most humble
& obedient servi &c.
On this anonymous epistle the Judge made, in the corner, near the end, the significant memorandum here inclosed in brackets [ ] ; but on the outside, as the paper is folded in the common form of filing letters, is noted only, “ Recd Apr 13th 1720 in behalf of Dr. Cotton Mather.”
Presuming that some explanation of this curious letter might be derived from the Journal of Chief Justice Sewall, one of whose family in a
collateral branch had given the original to a former member of our Historical Society, who presented it to the Society, I sent on the 19th of March an exact copy, with request for such aid, to Rev. Samuel Sewall, of Burlington, a descendant of the Judge. His reply follows:
Burlington, March 22, 1844. DEAR SIR : Your kind letter of the 19th instant, containing a copy of the strange letter lately presented to the Historical Society, was received yesterday. For that copy I give you many thanks. This morning I applied myself to the work of tracing out the letter itself, aided by the copy you sent me, and succeeded beyond my expectations. The following extracts from the Judge's Journal, Letter-Book, and Probate Minutes (a small quarto volume, containing a brief account of his Probate business, copies of wills, as Grove Hirst's, his son-in-law, Governor Dudley's, &c., &c.) throw much light on this mysterious letter, although they do not reveal precisely the cause of Dr. Mather's uneasiness, &c., &c. I have arranged them in chronological order ; but the first I stumbled upon was that numbered 6.
1. “ 1716 May 2. Mr. Nathan Howell dies at Oldham's near Oliver's Spring.” – Journal.
2. “ * Nota. Dr. Cotton Mather had Letters of Administration Granted him on the Goods, Rights & Credits of Nathan Howell late of Boston Merch' deceased. June 4, 1716.” — Prob. Min., margin.
3. “ 1716 Dec". 22 Gave Cousin Sewall Mr. Henry on yo L. Supper, for his Spouse, Mrs. Katharine Howell,” &c.,
&c. 4. “ 1716–17 Jan. 15. 3 — Visited Cous. S. Sewall, and his new married wife.". - Journal.
5. “ 1717 Dec. 5 Mr. John Winthrop, Mr. Sam' Sewall and Katharine his wife, dine with us, and Jonathan Sewall. Mr. Winthrop sent home Mrs. Sewall in his coach.' - Journal. 6. “ To Dr. Cotton Mather, March 1. 1719-20
Your Obliging Letter of the 22d of Decr. last, I recd. the next Day; but one remora after another hindred my answering till now. I am truely sensible that I am the greatest Loser by any Interruption there has been of our most agreable conversation; and therefore earnestly desire that the Causes of that Interruption may be removed.
“ And the proper Way to obtain freedom from this perplexing Administration (wherein I sympathise with you) is to bring in an Account of what has been receiv'd and paid to A. B. C. D. the express Sums with the Vouchers; as also what the Managers of the affair propose to have allowd them for their Reward : which I see not yet done. To this end I have desired Mr. Boydell to assist in drawing up the Administration Account in form; which he is ready to doe. I very much desire that this may be done with all convenient Expedition, for your sake, and for the Orphans, and my own.
Nine Months of the fourth Year are now spent since the Letters of Administration were taken out. 6 A Visitation of Mr. Williams's School,” &c., &c.
“ I am, Sir, your humble Serv' S. S.” 7. “ 1720. 8r 12. Give Mr. Whittemore & Willard y Oath to Dr. Mather's Inventory." --Journal.
8. “ 1720.87 17 Monday. Give Mr. Dan' Willard, and Mr. Pelatiah