chapter  4
57 Pages

Cotton Mather and the Vision of America

Cotton Mather had received many visits and messages from his 'particular angel'. Whitman's vision leads back through Barlow's Columbiad to Edwards's Thoughts on the Revival. As historiography, the Magnalia's definition of the dream may be traced in all its basic elements, such as the contrast between old Babylon and New Israel, or the divine scheme behind the continent's 'discovery', in the exuberant national eschatology that runs from the Revolution through the Civil War. What Mather's achievement reveals is the self-contained coherence of his vision. Built as a monument against history, the Magnalia survives as a testament to its author's ability to incorporate New England, the world, and time itself within the symbol-making imagination. Mather's significance consists in his resolution of a profoundly cultural dilemma in a way that was dictated by his cultural allegiances and by the dilemma itself. As it turned out, this was also the way Puritanism came most fully to be absorbed in the national consciousness.