Increase Mather was the youngest son of Rev. Richard Mather and Catherine Holt. He was born on June 21, 1639, was admitted to Harvard College at the age of 12, and graduated in 1656 at age 17. On May 27, 1664, he became the preacher at the North Church of Boston, remaining the pastor of this church until his death at age 84. His son, Cotton, was a colleague for 39 years with him.
President of Harvard
In 1684, Rev. Increase was offered the Presidency of Harvard College. He accepted with the condition that he also be allowed to continue preaching at North Church. He, therefore, preached every Sunday in Boston but remained in Cambridge during the week, until 1701.
Politician & Diplomat
Known for his conservatism in religious matters, Mather opposed clergymen who were trying to liberalize Puritan doctrine and church organization. Yet he was also a fierce proponent of American independence, actively and diplomatically resisting attempts by the British government to reduce the historic independence of the Massachusetts colony. Mather spent four years in London between 1688 and 1692 pleading the cause of his colony before William III. He obtained a new charter in 1691 that united Plymouth and Massachusetts.
Against Witchcraft Executions
Increase Mather was troubled by the witch trials of Salem and protested against the extreme methods of prosecution. His book, Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil, published in 1693, is attributed as being instrumental in ending executions for witchcraft.
Rev. Increase Mather died August 23, 1723, in Boston. Buried in the Mather Tomb at Copps Hill in Boston, a codicil to his will reads as follows: "I do hereby signify to my Executor, That it is my Mind & Will that my Negro Servant called Spaniard shall not be sold after my Decease; but I do then give Him his Liberty: Let him then be esteemed a Free Negro. Jun 4, 1719."