Monday, May 03, 2010

The Correspondence of John Cotton Junior

In today's world of email, cell phones and electronic media it is not uncommon for a private correspondence to reach the masses.  Though it may happen quite a bit by error, there are times when the viral nature of one's "private" correspondence was released on purpose.

John Cotton Jr. (1639-1699) was born to one of New England's most famous clergymen.  By the age of 22 he was already the pastor of a church in Wethersfield, Connecticut and trying to put out the fire of a sexual scandal.  Already excommunicated from the First Church in Boston, for sinfulness with a woman other than his wife, Cotton diligently contested the charges brought against him.

Jobless, embarrassed and disgraced, Cotton moved his family from Connecticut to Martha's Vineyard, where he became a missionary to the Indians.  This move allowed him back into the good graces of the Church and soon accepted a job to the church in Plymouth.  For nearly 30 years he avoided scandal, until Church politics got the best of him once again.

What makes John Cotton Juniors story so fascinating is that his letters and writings were written in an era when it was widely accepted that his correspondence would reach far more than the intended recipient.  It is because of this that many letters addressed to him and written by him often read as newsletters and political propaganda.  These writings help to document some of the most dramatic happenings of the late 17th century in New England and the American colonies. 

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