Increase Mather and the writing of history Marquita Elder

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English/History 3300

Reading Responses

January 16, 2007

Increase Mather and Mary Rowlandson


  1. Increase Mather and the writing of history

Marquita Elder

The most remarkable element of both narratives is each text’s staunch refusal to mask truth. Increase Mathers states in his address to the reader that “History is indeed in itself a profitable study.” Among those other versions of truth, the supposed false truths which inspires Mathers to write in the first place, Mathers’ account of King Philips War is rife with bias and poorly concealed propaganda. On the first day of class, we spoke at length about cultural works and the agendas behind them. Even without expressly conceding that his own work must therefore be a reflection of an agenda, Mathers implies that he, the “righteous,” because of his religiosity, is of an authority to do so. Really, his blatant disregard for the truths of his fellow historians amazes me. Nevertheless, I understand how Mathers might be completely justified in his interpretation of history’s truths. History profits the silent nothing. In his writing Mathers figures he and his fellow white man to be of a paternal nature both literally and figuratively. He writes about Indian “mischief,” a hallmark of juvenile behavior, and “the terror of God,” the divine father. In this model, white America’s duty is to discipline and to silence the Natives. White America achieves this, literally, with war and, figuratively, through Mather’s writings.

Here is the link to my artifact. From what I understand, Philip himself is the author of this poem.

Rebecca Gilliland

Mather’s opening of his brief history of war is succinct. He thinks that he is the historian of the situation by claiming he wants to present an unbiased presentation of facts and events all the while proclaiming his desire to help convert the heath population. From study, it is almost as though the English settlers beat the Indians over the head with Christianity until they accepted or else ran them out or segregated them for non-compliance. He stresses most the religious aspect of his presentation. He claims to write as God would have and to do his will aka convert the Indians, and while it is not stated point blank he seems willing to use force aka the numbers reference. It is also kind of funny because he’s such and influential minister who feels the classic desire to convert the heathens, most often by any means necessary, and yet he is claiming to be a historian; supposedly an unbiased perspective.

The item contained in the link is a series of cartoon drawing of lady liberty and a native American in a subservient position. It says its from the civil war era but it I think relates to Mather because it is similar to his status and beliefs according to his “Brief History…” Ultimately as a whole the American Settlers felt superior to the Native Americans. It also reflects the later sentiment of the Native Americans, in that they wanted the same liberties and rights claimed by all white Americans in the post civil war era.
Samantha Davis

Increase Mather’s A Brief History discusses the causes of King Philip’s War and some events of the war itself. It is extremely difficult to read and understand and the ideas do not flow together well. Mather’s role as historian, as he makes clear on the second page of the history, is not to inflame the war but nor does he discuss whether they should be at war at all with the Native Americans. He is simply writing down the events of the war as he knows them to be, rarely implementing opinion except in the case of God’s role in the war. His Puritan roots are obvious as he refers to God and “divine providence” as he describes the events of the war; the events of the war were part of the “Providence of God”. The Indians whom the English shared the land with were referred to as “barbarous creatures” in Mather’s history. Mather, like most Englishmen during his time, was inclined to see the Indians as a threat to their way of life, viewing them as lesser beings who were uncivilized, even though some (as John Salaman) were even Christianized. The presence of the “heathen people” on the land that was given to the English by God himself and the “fact” that the Indians were constantly plotting against the English made it acceptable for violence to erupt between the two groups.

In Mary Rowlandson’s account of time as a captive during King Philip’s War, she describes her captives as “heathen”, “barbarous”, and as the “enemy”. Although nothing violent happens to her personally, she finds herself witness to much violence done to her family and community. Throughout her ordeal, she is separated from everything familiar to her; her own sense of status in the community, separation of her from her children and husband, and comes near to starvation. She finds herself held at the will of her captors, owned as a slave by an Indian and his wives. Her attitude toward her captives changes little during her stay with the Indians, referring to them as liars, barbarous, pagan, and heathens. Her view toward her own community changes for she becomes more appreciative of what she has and grows closer to God through her ordeals. Although her account is written by her, it is noteworthy to mention the hand men in her community had in her accounts (Mather and her own husband). The many references to specific scripture and her relationship with God seem extremely similar to sermons of the time.

This website tells a short history of King Philip and the war. It includes many pictures, links to other interesting sites, and references for further research and information.
Danny Karr

This piece reminds me of a country Baptist sermon. The ideals behind Mather’s work speak of the war with the Indians, but not of battlefield scenes. Mather’s occupation shines in his accounts of history. His thoughts are not of victories or strategies on a bloody, muddy battlefield against heathens; but rather of the victories and strategies in converting these heathens to Christianity.

Mather, on the title page, instantly relays the hostilities stemming from the date in which the first English man was “murdered by Indians.” Also included on the title page are three (3) scriptures that relay the purpose that must have been ingrained into New Englanders.

The author then goes on to very adequately explain his reasoning for writing these passages with the utmost hope that his accounts will be useful in the discipline of history. At this time, the knowledge of history became important to learned men. They had just begun to want history and ensure that proper accounts would be available in the future. Mather also wants to make sure that his accounts are unbiased and completely accurate. The Quakers were looked at as very radical, so this man’s accounts were inaccurate to Mather.

I find it amazing that a man had this much insight on what would be needed in the future, however as a teacher of the church, this wisdom is his occupation.

Ashleigh Higgins

Reading Response to the Increase Mather piece:

A major motivation for violence in our nation'a history, of course, has been religion. Whether religion was the true motivation or the tool used by conquerors, monarchs, and social elites to allow for the exploitation foriegn lands...religion is linked with violence.

Mather's writes violence or "warr" may aid in the "conversion of the heathens unto Christ" (Mathers). He goes on to say that "the Salvation of a few immoral Souls is worth the labour of many, all their lives"

(Mathers). Mather's makes it quite obvious that taking the lives of native peoples is a worthy sacrifice when attempting to earn converts.

However, is someone who converts to something out of the fear of death or injury a true convert? I enjoy reading the myth's surrounding the Knights Templar. In many of these tales, these knights are tortured so severely by Inquisitors that they confessed to be devil worshippers and heretics even though none were guilty of such deeds. The point is, the threat of death or torture is enough to cause the most noble of people to admit to some of the worst things imaginable. Some of the same tactics have been used to hunt witches and any other person who has acted against the norms of the day. Therefore, even if Native Americans agreed to be converted Christians...were many of them true converts or posers who were actually still embracing their own religions in secret?

I do not know the answer because I am not speaking for those of the past. Nevertheless, I can answer for myself and I can also hypothesize what I might do in their position...probably lie to save my own skin.
***Here is the link for my attachment:


2) Captivity and Gender; Experience and Writing; Victim or Victor?
Michelle LaFalce

While reading the narrative by Mary Rowlandson, I found it hard to understand the rhetoric. Reading first hand accounts is very interesting but can also pose a challenge to the reader. One must at times infer what the writer is saying or meant to say. I was touched by her recollection of when her daughter died. She describes how she could not bare to be in the room with a dead body in any other circumstance but she could not leave her dead daughter’s side. This shows the reader a personal side of Rowlandson and helps us sympathize for her as a mother. Rowlandson seems to feel like her suffering is a test of her faith. She stays true to her faith through her whole captivity.

What I find especially interesting is the fact that the Puritans believed that the Indians were barbarous and evil, while the Indians thought the same of the settlers because their land was being taken away. The Indians rebelled against the European “expansionism, discrimination, and enforced conversion to Christianity” (3). The Indians were fighting for their land and their way of life. While their methods were not overly sympathetic to the settlers, they did what they thought was necessary to survive. Both sides have substantial points.

David Epps

What an amazing story this was. I know little about the wars between the English and the Indians and know even less about the captives.

This piece opened my eyes to just how difficult and trying life was during the 17th. century in America. Rowlandson's struggle was like nothing I had ever read before. Her ordeal was no doubt physically challenging. She endured many hardships such as miles and miles of walking through forests, starvation, and bitter cold temperatures. Her ordeal was perhaps even more of a mental struggle that physical. Not knowing what lay ahead in her future was frightening. Not knowing if each day would be her last is something that is hard for me to empathize with. I can empathize with her fears about her children. I have a 5-year old daughter and I honestly do not know what I would do if she were ever taken from me and I was not able to be there to protect her. I found it inspiring to read that her faith in God was something that helped her along in her struggle. It was also interesting to read that at the end of her ordeal she said that she was almost glad that it had happened to her because the Lord had shown her what it meant to really suffer. Rowlandson looked back at her ordeal as a lesson from God. That lesson: Do not take for granted what you have because the Lord givith and the Lord taketh away. I look forward to the discussion in class on Tuesday.

This is a link to a site that has information as well as pictures of the area that Rowlandson was captured as well as the site of her original house. This site helped me get a better feel for her story.

Abby Tapp

The story of Mary Rowlandson’s captivity is a very disturbing story. To learn about how her home was invaded and her family murdered and wounded was very heartbreaking. I cannot imagine being injured and having to carry my six year old child, who is also injured. Having to watch her suffer and eventually die would be more than I could bear. I felt that she was a very brave woman to endure all the adversity that she was faced with. Her narrative shows how much God played a part in her survival. She relied heavily on her beliefs and the scriptures that she read. I was curious about why the Natives did not kill her young child after she was injured. They had murdered several other small children when they first captured the people from the town. It seems to me that if they were as brutal as they are often made out to be that they would not have tolerated a sick, weak child who was probably somewhat of a hassle to them. The violence in the narrative is exerted by the natives over the people they have captured. In the beginning of her narrative, Rowlandson refers to the natives as Indians and talks abut how barbaric they are. After she is captured, she refers to them as her masters and mistresses. She realizes her role has changed and that even though her status in her town is prominent, here she is nothing but a slave, a captive. She understands that her life is basically in their hands and she does what she can to protect herself and her children.

Todd Cates

I found the Mary Rowlandson piece quite interesting in that she seemed to do nothing but whine about her circumstances and wait for the next terrible thing that was about to happen to her. She didn’t seem to see that God was providing a way for her to ease her suffering through the making of clothes, but she sure could see that God was trying to teach her about suffering. Not having read very many “captivity narratives”, how many are in the purely Puritan style of thought, i.e. the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away?

Have we moved beyond this thinking in our society today?

I also found her complacency, which may not be the right thought, about protecting or curing her daughter disconcerting. Having two children myself, I would rather fight to see them live than watch them die. I also found it humorous that she took food from an English child at one point later in the story because she was hungry and the child couldn’t properly chew the horse’s hooves, not very compassionate on her part.

The following link has pictures/illustrations of Mary Rowlandson and her journey.

Dobrinka Genevska-Stamm

Mary Rowlandson’s narrative and gender

Reading Rowlandson’s A true History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson one notices the strong influence of the female voice throughout the entire text. This happens not only in terms of context, but also in terms of emotions. This voice is furthermore authentically female unlike the one of previous texts that were supposed to have been written by women and were actually written by men, who only imagined the way women would write. As the first book ever published by a woman in America it raises the question of the circumstances that made this possible. Women were not supposed to write books or do any other kind of professional work beyond their domestic responsibilities until the late 19th century. Mary Rowlandson’s story appeared in 1682 for the first time, approximately two centuries earlier. Certainly the fact that her husband was a minister at that time helped the publishing of the text, but it is not what made it possible. The reasons for this success are the autobiographical nature of the book, which distances it from a professional work of literature on the one side and also cultural on the other; such stories were needed in order to serve the anti-native American propaganda. Indians should be described as “merciless wolves” and their fame as such should be made more convincing and widely available to the broader public. This notion was furthermore reinforced by the fact that the writer was female and as such helpless to defend herself; she also lost her six year-old daughter in a most severe and painful way. These social reasons furthermore put the authenticity of the text in the center of the attention of the critics, because they make the chance of manipulation by editors even greater.
Eve Fletcher

Reading Response: Mary Rowlandson

I found the possibility that Mary Rowlandson’s narrative may have been edited by any of four Puritan ministers interesting. As the author notes in the introduction, Rowlandson’s story incorporates many sermon stylistics, and sometimes certain passages seem to be added as an afterthought. Rowlandson’s narrative would read quite differently without these elements. If Rowlandson’s narrative was edited, then her work looses some credibility of being a true account. I also found it interesting that Rowlandson’s rhetoric toward her captors does change throughout the text. Rowlandson witnesses horrible acts of violence before she is taken captive, and she refers to the Indians as bloody Heathen and ravenous Bears. Yet, Rowlandson also notes remarkable passages of Providence, one of which is that the Indians did not starve to death after their corn was cut down. Rowlandson also claims that the Indians never treated her with “abuse of unchastity,” which is another instance that seems to astonish her. At the end of the narrative, Rowlandson even seems grateful for her new perspective toward her life and her religion.

Harrison Johnson
Within the first paragraph of Increase Mather's "A Brief History of the Warr", something stuck out at me. "That the Heathen People amongst whom we live, and whole Land the Lord God of our Fathers hath given to us..." The question that was riased was...

1) What does it mean to be "Heathen People" (my guess is that it means to be without a Juedo-Christian faith system, and/or living "wild".) As the text progresses, the Native Americans turn from "Heathens" to "Enemies". After reading both "A Brief Warr" and the Mary Rowlandson text, an intrest was introduced in the subject of captivity and the European invasion from the Native American perspective.$50


3) Religion, God, and Violence
Nicole Acosta

In reading the Narrative of Mary Rowlandson’s capture by Nimpuck Indians, I came to believe that the Puritans put too much of their faith into the world beyond this one. It is obviously a good thing to have faith, but Mary Rowlandson and those around her have so much faith in their Christian God that they are blind to the reasons why they are truly getting attacked by the Indians and being treated the way that they are as captives. In the preface to the narrative, the anonymous author says that the Puritan people are the victims of the “causeless enmity of these Barbarions,” (7). What the author fails to see is that the Puritan people are the cause of the hatred that the Indians have for them. The Puritans (although victims of violence) are the catalysts of this intuitive defense from the Indians to protect their own land, their own people, culture and religions.

The Puritans are biased toward the idea of captivity and torture by the Indians being a work of God. It is easy to see by Rowlandson’s narrative that the Puritans revered themselves above all other races. The Indians were seen as savages, anything but humans, and Rowlandson calls them “heathens” more than once. Yet, for all of this distinction between man and animal, the Puritans don’t count on the Indians to be so resourceful in means of militia attack. Rowlandson describes their attack methods by saying that “Some of the Indians got behind the Hill, others into the Barn, and others behind anything that would shelter them.” (12) It is easy to see that the Indians were not what the Puritans thought them as, and therefore they were human as well as the white Puritans. Puritans may have overlooked the fact that this was not a punishment from God, but an act of humans fighting for their own lives when met with violence in the first place.
Below is a link of “Redemption Rock,” a marking site of Mary Rowlandson. Wikipedia describes the marking site as a homage to the liberation of Mary Rowlandson.
Works Cited

Rowlandson, Mary. Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives. Penguin Books. New York, NY: 1998.

Free Software Foundation. 2005.

Joshua Waychoff

In the excerpt from Increase Mather, the language he uses constantly refers to the Indians as “Barbarians” and “Heathens.” He also justifies retaliation and violence to the Indians as a way that has to happen since prayer and fasting didn’t work. In essence, he believes God backs the English’s violence towards them.

There is a similar language in the writing about Mary Rowlandson in A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. God and Providence are constantly used to explain the occurrences that happen to Mrs. Rowlandson. Even though there were times she wanted to die, she used her living as a sign from Providence that other plans were in order for her. The way she describes the violence of the Indians towards her and the other captives gives the reader the feeling of how apathetic the Indians seemed to be.


Carla Ledgerwood

The captivity account of Mary Rowlandson appears to be written because she wished to glorify God in her ordeal. She suffered the loss of a child and inhumane treatment, but she lived to tell the story. She pointed out how unstable the Indians were and how unstable her situation was as she was held captive. One minute, she was shown kindness, the next she was threatened with death. She also takes a moment to criticize the English Army for their failed endeavors. She chastises them for their inability to mobilize quickly and save them. She also gives her theory of one way in which the Indians could be stopped—burn their crops and starve them. On the same note though, she acknowledges that God has allowed them to survive, always sustaining them and providing for them when they are suffering. She believes that God has done this because of her people’s wickedness.

Increase Mather sees his role as “true historian.” He had read published accounts of the war, written by a Quaker, that he challenges. He declares he will write the truth that God wants him to write. He also has problems with the claims of a Franciscan who wrote about converting the Indians after having lived with them for 20 years.
This site has excerpts from her Narrative and also photographs of places mentioned in her ordeal. There is a photo of Redemption Rock, among others, where she was exchanged.

Emmanuel L. Reddish

Reading Response on Mary Rowlandson

I found it highly interesting in her captivity narrative how Mary Rowlandson consistently comments on her religious standing throughout her writings continuously utilizing scriptures and biblical verses. Rowlandson acknowledges her captors as being the servants of the devil and of an evil presence. She believes that this is a test from God to test her loyalty and service to Him. In being held captive and her continuous trust in God proves the strength of her faith and acknowledges that God is the only one that can save her and it is by His grace and mercy that she escapes from the hands of the enemy, the Indians that capture her. I love how she finds comfort and strength from her continuous trust in the Bible. It is her source of loyalty and guidance from God. She is firmly rooted in her spirituality and faith despite all of the trials and tribulations that she is currently facing. This faith and trust in the heavenly word deeply relates to me because I am firmly rooted in my beliefs as a Christian and I view the Lord as my only source of help, strength, and guidance. If I am in bad situations and turmoil as she was placed in, I would only look towards God’s hands in providing my deliverance and salvation. With the Lord’s help and guidance, you can always tell the difference between “the lovely faces of Christians, and the foul looks of those Heathens” (Rowlandson 35).

Maria Fortson

There were two main points in the Captivity Narrative that especially stood out when reading the text. There is an obvious focus and a possible obsession with religion. Rowlandson quotes the Bible numerous times throughout her recollection of her captivity. It is surprising at how well the passages fit her experiences. It seems as though it would take quite a while to find a passage that fits so well with the event. The second point that stands out in the narrative is the mixed feeling that Rowlandson seems to portray in her writings. There are more negative associations to the Indians with her using words such as savages and barbarians. There are some points, however, when she has more of a positive view of some Indians. These are the ones who give her food and are even kind to her. She does not spend much time acknowledging these kind Indians but she does make it a point to mention them in her narratives.

Mechelle Puckett

Increase Mather is frank about the justification for the war. On the very first page, after the short introduction, Mather claims divine blessings from God have been granted the English. The land is a “rightful possession” of the English, and it was God’s hand that kept the natives from resistance for so long. The natives were jealous and mischievous. They murdered John Saufaman, who was a Christian, according to Mather, because of a hatred for the Christian religion. The murder was very likely very small part of a much greater picture of problems between the English and the natives, however, Mather does not seem concerned (in the first few pages) with the natives’ wellbeing, beyond their potential for conversion to Christianity.

In Mather’s introduction, he states his concern with inaccuracies of previous accounts of the war. He claims to be writing a true historical collection of information about the war from the position of a historian. However, Mather furthers with a long justification of his position as a minister in writing a historical account. Is this account about history, or about religious righteousness? Can Mather write an objective account from an obvious one-sided position?

The Mary Rowlandson text has several different purposes. For the Lancaster community, the text could serve as a historical account of the events of the day town was seized and an explanation of what happened to the other English captives Mary crossed paths with. It could also be used as a strong motivator for the people of the community to be in a proper position with God. For Rowlandson, the text serves as a sort of “thank you note” to God. The test of faith mad her stronger and helped her feel more close to God. The text is a strong use of propaganda for the church, as it has very likely been edited and revised by the publisher/minister. Does Mary really feel like God lets the natives live their (challenging/miserable) lives so they can serve as motivation to keep the Christians devout? Did she not develop any further appreciation for them as human beings in her time of captivity? Certainly her captivity was challenging, but it seems as though she might have developed a greater understanding of the position of the natives. This could potentially be repressed by the publisher/minister’s influence.
4. Cultural Difference/Transculturation

Matt Sherling

After reading Mary Rowlandson’s introduction and account of her life as a Puritan captive to the Indians, my eyes have opened to the context of the unique lifestyle lived by the Americans of this day. Much of her account was repetitive, to me, simply because as an ultimate day-by-day journal, many similar activities occurred during her captivity: her primarily harsh treatment with some exception, her redemptive readings of the Bible, and her occasional meeting with family members. Though repetitive, this account helped me see the binaries between light/dark, white/black (Indian), civilized/heathen more clearly. It seems that the Puritan’s intense focus on these binaries leads them to judge unjustly on many occasions, and when reading Puritanical literature, I find it hard to see past the narrow vision of the Puritan eye. Then, after reading Mather’s account, my annoyance with the bias of the Puritans became stronger. As a Christian myself, I agree with some actions, beliefs, and intentions that the Puritans hold, yet it still remains very difficult to sympathize completely with the situation the Puritans put themselves in by acting upon their supposed superiority and pressing their entire way of life upon the Indians initially.



Gerrit Breves
This page gives a short overview about Mary Rowlandsons life.
It’s a brief summary of captivity narratives. What they are, what stereotypes they serve.
Created by the Literary Research Classes at the Richard Stockton College (New Jersey) about Mary Rowlandon and her Captivity Narrative.
A small picture showing the captivity of Mary Rowlandson and her children
A woman defending her home$50
Captivity of a white women
Two young ladies taken prisoners by the Savages

Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson


Hannah Dustan:
Kenny Rivers

In the piece about the capture and the eventual escape of Hannah Dustan the most interesting part is the way in which the violence is portrayed. In the short history preceding the story it is said that Hannah’s family was infamous because of her fathers abuse towards them, and because Hannah’s unmarried sister was tried and executed for infanticide. She was chastised at her execution sermon for tainting the community. The strange thing here however is the fact that the very same preacher, Cotton Mather, praised Hannah in a sermon only four

years later for an act just as violent and gruesome. After she had

been taken captive by the Abenakis, and they had killed her baby, she headed up a plan in which her and her fellow captives killed the Indians in there sleep and took their scalp. Though I do believe her actions were more than justified in killing the Indians, it seems very ironic that violence, the very thing that had made her family infamous, and gotten her sister hanged had now brought her prominence within the community, and a great deal of money from some very affluent and respected people within the community.

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