Salary Troubles in a Contentious Congregation

    The letters below illustrate both Cotton’s salary troubles and his often difficult relationship with the Cushman family. New England ministers seemed to complain regularly about their salaries, but Cotton’s situation was certainly exacerbated by the policies of the new Dominion of New England. As part of enforced religious toleration, Sir Edmund Andros made the clergy completely dependent on money that the congregations would give voluntarily, instead of on a standard tax that would support a town’s established church. Cotton had hoped for just such a tax “rate,” for under the new policy Cotton’s allies would help him to obtain a salary, but his enemies could choose not to support it. The records indicate a divided town: “it was propounded to the town whether they Judged them selves able to pay Mr Cotton the sume of 90 pd as they had done of late years the affirmative being put to voate but som hands were held up the Nagative vote being Called for many more hands were held up upon which it Was farther voted that the maintenance of the minster for this present yeare 1687 should be by the free subscription of Every one.”839 Cotton’s salary suffered greatly under this new method.840

    Making matters worse, church elder Thomas Cushman and Cotton often battled, as some earlier letters indicate.841 Isaac Cushman, the elder’s Cushman’s son, would later prove even more bothersome to Cotton. In the 1690s, Isaac Cushman began preaching to the new church at Plympton, in part made up of defectors from Cotton’s congregation. The younger Cushman was ordained by the Plympton Church in 1698, and Cotton claimed that his conflicts with Cushman were the main cause of his decision to leave Plymouth in 1699. Cushman also served as a deputy to the Plymouth General Court.842

    To Rowland Cotton,

    2 September 1687

    Plimouth September, 2: 1687:

    Son Rowland

    yours dated, Aug: 10: your uncle delivered,843 Aug: 25: & by your writing for things to be sent to you, I perceive you had not received my two letters I sent you not long since,844 an answer unto which I much desire, for if this motion to Bristoll845 should succeed it would be greatly advantaging for your learning & save me much charge; & therefore I doe desire your coming home in order to being at Mr Danforths ordination this Sep: 21: & soe to Bristoll; & providence soe disposes that noe boates of ours are likely this moneth to fraight the[m] for Boston & soe your things cannot be sent you; I would gladly come to the Bay & speake with Roger but I see noe hopes of effecting it til about the second monday in october; it will be to me very accepta[ble?] if he can handsomely hinder a division of the farme & I not be seen in it, for I conclude a present division will be very damnifying to me & my heires: one Bible wee received; if providence [. . .] for your living at the Colledge, I hope if any gratuity be attaineable not to loose it by my present not coming: your un[cle] preached for me the whole Sabbath & went hence on Tuseday last Lydia Nelson’s young daughter was buried846 before it was a fortnight old. Aged Mr Alden I went yesterday to see, I judge he is on his deathbed;847 your letter Aug: 12:848 your uncle forgot to give it me till saturday Evening, Aug: 27: remember my love to Roger & tell him, I doe well approove of his designe to repaire the old Barne, so far as my Interest is concerned in it, viz, halfe: provided that it may last long enough to prevent any further trouble about a Barne; he will doe well to have cousen Johns consent to his motion also.849 As for shingles I doubt not but to obtaine them, but I cannot by your lines understand the dimensions of them, you say short broad shingles 20 thousand, desire him to send me word, how many inches long & [last?] october be cut to send them to him; though I doe not understand about that. If I had any shingles by me I cannot gratify your particular request for want of a boate; the people a majority at towne meeting last weeke (Isaac Cushman being ring leader) voted downe a Rate, & appointed men for to get subscriptions for my maintenance this yeare, whether it will amount to 40 or 50 pd is uncertaine, & then I shall be poorely able to maintaine you at Colledge: I hope you have sent John his letter, when will he come & let us heare of the successe of his motion? I designe to send this by Mr will clarke to leave (as I did the 2 other) it Mr Ellistons for you, & next weeke Caleb Cooke850 intends for Boston in a marshfeild Boate, by one or other, if it be possible, let us heare from you, my prayers are for you, that such grace may be given to you as you desire in your letters, the good Lord says Amen, mother & [sisters & brothers?] salute you

    September, 6.

    your Brother John meeting Mr Clarke on the road brought back this letter as also one from your selfe;851 what you write concerning Mr Medcalfe his preaching at Bristoll852 & your owne being comfortably settled at colledge inclines me at present to dispense with your staying there & to cease calling you to Taunton & Bristoll; only be you conscientiously carefull to improove your time with utmost diligence in your studies, that I may not have cause to repent the charge I am at to render you serviceable to your generation: your mother sent a pillow beere853 by caleb cooke full of such things as you wrote for, the boat was soe full there was noe room to put your chest in: I suppose about the first week in october some of our owne boats will fraight for Boston, & then your Brothers things will come & ought else that is here necessary for you, my coming to Boston I designe, God willing about the tenth of october, soe long I stay, because I would see if I can get any thing to bring with me; I cannot adde to your 6 pence, only the 5 shil: you lent your Brother John I have repaid him, & have not soe much more in the world to give him, if it were to save my life: I have but a 1000 & 1/2 of shingles at my doore, choice ones, them I would have sent you by Caleb Cooke but he could not carry them: minde the matter to Roger & write to me thereabouts, if noe opportunity present before, you may be sure of one by some of the Gentlemen that come from Boston to our Grand Assize the last weeke of this moneth.

    Betty sends you now three hankercheifs

    Thomas Prince Collection, Massachusetts Historical Society. Addressed “These For Mr Rowland Cotton, Living at Harvard College in Cambridge. Leave these with Mr George Elliston for speedy conveyance.” Torn right margin and water stains on bottom third.

    From Walter Deane854 et al,

    5 September 1687

    To the Reverend Pastor & Elder & our beloved Brethren of the Church of Christ in Plymouth we wish grace, mercy & peace.

    RD. & beloved!

    Having appointed the 21: day of this instant Septemb. for the ordination of Mr Samuel Danforth unto the office of a Pastor over us, according to the order of the Gospell wee intreat yor prayrs to God for a blessing on us & him & yor joynt-Concurrence wth us herein; & for that end desire the presence of yor Revd. Pastor & Elder to witness yor consent & to joyn wth us in the prayr, & service of the day; & also of a Messenger from yor church, if you see meet. we purpose double exercise on y da[y] [. . .]855 you to suit yor coming in Complyance [. . .]856 of the plans for yor Enterteynmt, [. . .]857 to or poor ability we have provided, you [. . .]858 acquainted at the house of Mis Shov[ ] [. . .]859 ever desire yo[ ] [. . .]860 in ye morning of the day appointed for [the] ordination. wishing [. . .] divine presence & blessing upon yor sacred Administrations, wee remaine

    Yor affectionate Brethren

    Walter Deane

    William Harvey861

    James Walker862

    In behalfe of the Church

    dated. 5d. 7m. 1687

    Thomas Prince Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. Addressed “To the Reverend Mr John Cotton. Pastor of the Church in Plimouth, to be communicated to ye Church.” Cotton’s note: “In answer to this letter the brethren chosen were George Bonum863 & Nathaniel Ward,864 who went with the Pastour to that Solemnity, the Elder went not:” Deep tear near middle of right margin.

    [To Rowland Cotton],

    30 January 1688

    Deare child

    Yours by Tom:865 received, wee blesse God for your recovery; Last Tuesday Sarah was taken866 & hath had a very dangerous time of it, wee feared last Saturday would have bin her last in this world, but through mercy wee hope the worst is now past, wee long for your coming home but cannot send a horse, if the weather keep moderate, John Morton867 will speedily come. This note to Capt Davis868 carry to him & send an answer, & the thing I write to him for, send by Leift: Morton or by mr will: Clarke. I now send 10 shil: you must give to Capt Davis & 5 shil: for your selfe: Tho: Hinckley left your letter at Mr Ellistons, that will direct you, give this letter to Mr Cooke & leave him not till he sends answer to the former letter & this also: get one also from [. . .] Cos: mather: God preserve you. All salute you, I am

    your Lov: fath:

    J: Cotton.

    Jan: 30: 87: /88:

    Multitudes more now full of measles in towne.

    Thomas Prince Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. Addressed “These For Sir Cotton, at Harvard Colledge in Cambridge. With 15 shillings. Per Leift: Morton Leave these with Mr George Elliston at Boston.”

    From Samuel Danforth,869

    3 March 1688

    March. 3. 1687/8

    RevD SR

    Your loving lines datd feb. 24. 1687/8870 I recd March 3d. following, but not by yt messenger you spake of & therefore Cannot accomplish yor desire in making returnes by his hand: but hope it will not be long before these do humbly present my service to you by some other means of Conveyance—I rejoyce yt God has to yor flock manifested so mch mercy in the midst of his severe stroke & that for yor own family you have had such Experience of divine Goodness in recovering to health, & succeding advice & Councell for the benefit of so many others also. I doubt not but that yor prayers will reach this poor Plantation also, among wm the Common Disease871 spreads wonderfully beyond all Expectation; This morning I heard of the 36th person on wm it has seized. It has md a near approach to us in this house; the next neighbors (save one) on both sides of us being infected therewith. I have no other security agt it but humble Prayr to God to spare me, wch yet is not be md but wth submission to his will; wr I fortifyed wth some of yor deare Ladyes Advice & Directions872 (to wm I present most humble service wth thanks for her gt kindness to me wn last at yor house) I should the mr couragiously prepare for a Conflict therewth wn God shall see meet to give it a Commission to seize me—

    The Lives of all wth us who have had it are spared, thru’ mercy: tho’ by other Causes & diseases we have buryed 5 persons within this winter past.—As to yor kind & christian Expressions referring to or Ecclesiasticall Concernes, I thankfully embrace them together wth yor Cordiall Councell annexed: & beg yor prayers yt I may be kept humble & upright before God: who am unworthy to be a Reaper of his Harvest; the work is the Lords & its an awfull thing to be Employd in the servive of so holy & Jealous an one as or God is—for yor Satisfaction, Revd Sr, to wm I am obliged to gratify on all lawfull things to my powr, (as Gd shall direct me) I have annexed the Number of the persons admitted since ordination


    Nov. 6th—1: person.


    Nov. 27—2: persons, of wch Mrs Elizab: Shove873 was one


    Dec. 18—6: persons.


    Jan. 8—3: persons.


    Jan. 22—4: persons


    Jan. 29—7: persons


    March. 4.—5. persons to be received


    March. 11—7. persons to be admitted (si Deo placit874)

    Leift Macey875 has not yet offred himselfe but I am not wthout some Secret Expectation of him in time. There is a prospect of some more yet coming. Three persons besides these; found not acceptance at present wth the Church, but we pray for ym & hope God will fitt ym for Church fello’ship. It is sd that he yt soweth & he yt reapeth shall both rejoyce together: I would off[er] this Quere for yor Candid Resolve, whether this (together) may not mean, Simul tempore as well as Simul Eternitate?876 whether the snts in Heaven do not now kno’ of this Addition to the Church, even at the same time wn the snts on Earth do kno’ of it: So that there may be a Symphony of Prayers to Gd on this behalfe at the same time both for the Church militant & triumphant. There is another Text seems to favor this, nly,877 That there is joy in Heaven at the Conversion of a soul: but I submit to wiser ju[dg]mts! begging yor prayrs, & kind Correspondence wth humble servic to yorselfe & all yours

    I rest your unworthy ffrd. &c

    S. Danforth

    Sr there is a report yt one Mr Hoskins878 an ancient persons of one of or Villages desires to remove hither will you favor me wth yor Judgment of the man & the matter

    I was at Rehoboth February Lecture Mr Angier879 was then well

    I was at Mr Keiths880 a fortnight after, who expected a Visit by this distemper Every day, but I have not heard yt yet he labors under it.

    Curwen Family Papers, American Antiquarian Society. Neither address nor endorsement remain.

    To Increase Mather,

    8 March 1688

    Plimouth March, 8: 1687:/88:

    Revd & Deare Brother

    I wrote to you this winter,881 but know not whether you have received it; I waite with some earnestnesse of spirit to heare of the progresse of your Motions towards o: E:882 resolving I must come & see you (if God permit) before your going; This day past, our congregation kept a Fast883 with reference to the present visitation, soe that I am too weary now to write, but Rowl: going to night, I have but leisure to salute you & to request if the 5 pd for his scholler-ship884 be attaineable, that you would now favour him with it to discharge his Colledge-debt; it would be a seasonable mercy from God to me if it be now to be had, if it cannot I desire to be contented, & must seeke some other way, but I conclude if it lye in your power, your brotherly kindnesse will helpe.

    The distemper885 is almost removed out of our towne, hardly any have escaped: Due salutations to you & all yours Respectively, o pray for me & mine, I am,

    your Affectionate Brother

    John Cotton

    Mather Papers 7:4, Prince Library, Rare Book and Manuscripts, Boston Public Library. Addressed “These For the Reverend, his Deare Brother, Mr Increase Mather, Teacher of a church, in Boston.”

    To John Chipman,886

    9 March 1688

    March, 9 1687:/8: Plimouth

    Good Friend

    I have a selfish errand that invites me to salute you with this paper-messenger; my Deare mate (whom I know you have not forgotten) is troubled with her old distemper of the spleene, & therefore doth earnestly request you, & soe doe I on her behalfe, that according to your wonted way of shewing kindnesse to your friends, you will make diligent enquiry throughout all Sandwich & Barnstable for spleene-wort,887 & get as much as you can possible, to send to her for releife in this her malady, it was the greatest helpe formerly of any meanes she used, & therefore wee intreat you what money soever it cost to get it, if you can heare of any body that hath bin soe carefull as to preserve it; moreover, my Dearest would have me assure you, that when the season of the yeare is come that spleene-wort is fit to gather, she doth resolve (if God permit) to visit you & that part of his Majesties Territory that is neere you & under your inspection, that she may her selfe see & gather soe necessary an helpe for the good of afflicted bodies:

    wee both heartily salute you both, wishing you all prosperity,

    I rest your reall friend perpetually

    John Cotton

    The Governour is going quickly his progresse to Pemmaquid;888 Mr Randolph hath petitioned for 700 acres of Land in Cambridge, viz, the Common & part of the Colledge-Lott.889

    Thomas Prince Collection, Massachusetts Historical Society. Addressed “These For Elder Chipman, at Sandwich.”

    To Rowland Cotton,

    10 April 1688

    Plimouth April, 10: 1688:

    Deare son Rowland

    It was noe small exersise to me, that I found you not returned last weeke to Boston, I blame you not, concluding you had cause enough to stay; faile not to hasten word to us how it fares with your Brother & sisters as to the measles; & whether there be noe hopes of making his peace with Mr Mason; Major Walden told me of your travelling in it oh that there were a good issue; It seemes to me impossible, your Bro: should live any longer to doe service to that people, unlesse reconciled to him who is soe greatly offended with him, & therefore I heartily wish he would owne his failing in word or deed, that he may be againe at liberty to serve God & his people; send him my minde if you have opportunity, withall tell him, that I am willing to send Tim: to helpe him againe for some time, if I can heare of any freedome he hath to improve him & serve his owne interest. I spake not with Roger last weeke, but if I had I should have ordered him to deliver you three pds for the steward, & if I can but heare from you, I shall speedily <to> give you order to call else where for 4 pd to discharge Colledge-debts also: I am waiting to heare from you, all particular & generall newes, God preserve you, all salute you,

    I am your Affection father

    John Cotton

    Doubtlesse Roger will now pay, if you aske him.

    Next Sabbath John churchel & his wife & Eliz: Kenedy890 are to be admitted into Church. Thomas Clark’s wife is dead.891

    Thomas Prince Collection, Massachusetts Historical Society. Addressed “These For Mr Rowland Cotton, at Harvard Colledge, in Cambridge. Leave these with Mr George Elliston at Boston for conveyance.”

    From Cotton Mather,

    11 April 1688

    Revrend and Dear Syr.

    Last Saturday was with us a Day of many Fears, & of many Prayers.892 Before ye Sabbath, or good god answered ye Latter & removed ye Former. The Wind came about so far Easterly on ye sudden, That the vessels which were hastening after ye Ship of or Hope, were forced into Nantasket, whil[e] that Ship very happily being gott a little beyond ye point, bore away, til about 6h p.m. When with ye Joyful Acclamations of all ye Ships company, or Friend was received aboard, and <is gone> so hee is now gone, not Without fresh Testimony of gods presence with him. Praises, many Praises do wee now owe, unto ye keeper of Israel. The Designs laid against <or> my Father, were very many and malicious. His pursuers (who are now Exposed unto all manner of Derision) had a particular Intent to sieze and search his papers, and this ye rather, because they had gott a Notion (How or Why, I cannot imagine) that hee had certain Plymouth Papers with him. But, Blessed be ye Lord, Who has not given Him as a Prey to their teeth. A vessel is Within a Day or Two bound for London; by wch I shall send your Letter.893 The public service my Father is upon, in carrying or Address of Thanks to ye King, makes it but an Equal Thing, as his other Circumstances make it a Needfull Thing, for us to do somewhat about Supporting his Personal Expences. I earnestly Recommend [. . . .]to Your consideration and pro[. . . .]894

    I thank you for your kind offers, about ye Sabbath you mention, & very readily Accept ym. Let mee bee Remembred to my Friends, and in your Prayers. Wee are Well, Heaven make us good,—and mee especially, Who am,

    Syr, Entirely yours.

    11.d 2.m 1688.

    Gazets of January tell us, That or Queen is with child:895 That ye Pope & French King ar so at odds, that the Pope has Excommunicated ye French Embassador, & Interdicted ye Church in wch hee heard Mass at Rome:896 That ye Swissers are like to Quarrel ye French, wch will bee a thing strangely affecting ye Circumstances of ye French Protestants.

    That ye Grand Seignour, is deposed, by his Subjects, for his Ill government,—All wch are great Things.

    Special Collections, University of Virginia Library. Addressed “To the Reverend Mr J. Cotton, Pastor of Plymouth.” Endorsed “From my Cousen, Mr Cotton Mather, April, 11: 1688:.”

    To Rowland Cotton,

    5 May 1688

    Plimouth May, 5: 1688

    Deare child

    Yours of Apr: 26: & 27:897 came yesterday by Ed: Dotey,898 I am glad 3 qrters are well discharged, if you minde Indian-studies, I hope what remain[s at?] the end of the commencement will be done by Mr stoughton;899 Capt winthrop told me the goodness of your moderator: John Moses900 dyed this day fortnight; [. . .] [G]oodwife King901 is this day buried: wee had the Fast on Thursday902 for Raine, & that day had plenty of it: you did well to h[ ]n newes of Exceter, now your mother concludes her daughters have it903 & is much concerned for them, I expect Mr Moodey904 to preach my Lecture next Wednesday, if it be possible: send word by him (however as soone as you can) how it fares with them: if I knew Mr Mason were at Boston, I would endeavour Joh[ ] peace, the 21st of this Instant I intend to travell towards Boston, 22d, to be at weymouth Lecture,905 23d to be at cambridge Lecture,906 (I suppose it will be Wednesday morning before I arrive there) the sabbath ensuing I intend to be with your cousen at Boston, & in that weeke to doe all that is necessary, to fit you for your Commencement, quod [. . .];907 & to goe to Cos: Tufts908 then also; concluding the measles will keep my children from us till June, which indeed is our great affliction; salute, meo nomine909 Mr Leveret [&] Brattle The Lord blesse you,

    Your Lov: Fath.


    Your newes of Mr oakes910 is good, but of—Gilman911 very sad to us.

    Thomas Prince Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. Addressed “These For Sir Cotton, at Harvar[d] Colledge in Cambridge [torn] Leave these with Mr Elliston for conveyance.”