Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
John Cotton (1585?-1652) was a founder of Boston, Massachusetts and a highly regarded principal among the New England Puritan ministers, who also included John Winthrop, Thomas Hooker, Increase Mather (who became his son in law), and Thomas Shepard. Born in England, he was educated at Derby Grammar School, which is now the Derby Heritage Centre and attended Cambridge University, where he also served as a head lecturer, and became a long-serving minister in the English town of Boston before his Puritanism and criticism of hierarchy drew the hostile attention of Church of England authorities. In 1633, like numerous other Puritan nonconformist figures under close watch or intoleration during the time of Archbishop Laud, he, his family, and a few local followers sailed for the Massachusetts Bay colony.
Because of his early views on the primacy of congregational government, his was an important role in Puritan aspirations to become the city on a hill which might help reform the English church. He is best known among other things for his initial defense of Anne Hutchinson early in her trials during the Antinomian crisis , during which she mentioned him with respect, though he turned strongly against her with the further course of the trial. He is also remembered for his role in the banishment of Roger Williams regarding the role of democracy and the separation of church and state in the Puritan theocratic society, both of which Williams tended to advocate. Cotton grew still more conservative in his views with the years but always retained the estimation of his community.
Cotton’s written legacy includes a body of correspondence, a catechism, an attempt to create a theocratic legal code, which was not adopted, and numerous sermons.
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