Paine, Robert Treat

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Paine, Robert Treat

Robert Treat Paine was born March 11, 1731, in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1749 and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1757. After a brief career in the ministry, he became an eminent lawyer, politician, and judge.

Paine first won fame as an associate prosecuting attorney in the boston massacre trial. The Boston Massacre, which occurred in 1770, was a violent response to the passing of the Townshend Acts by Great Britain. These acts decreed that Customs Duties would be imposed on the importation of tea, lead, glass, paints, and paper. When British troops were sent to Boston to enforce payment of the duties, the colonists harassed them to such an extent that they fired into a crowd, killing five men.

Subsequently Paine served two terms as a member of the Massachusetts Provincial Assembly, from 1773 to 1775 and from 1777 to 1778, acting as speaker during 1777 and 1778. During the next four years, he was an active member of two congresses: the Provincial Congress, in 1774 and 1775, and the Continental Congress, from 1774 to 1778. In 1776 he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Paine continued to be active in Massachusetts government after the American Revolution. In 1777 he became the first attorney general of Massachusetts and held that office until 1790. From 1778 to 1780, he was involved in the enactment of the Massachusetts constitution and was instrumental in the establishment of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780.

In 1790, Paine became a justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, where he remained until 1804. Paine died May 11, 1814, in Boston, Massachusetts.


Boston Massacre Soldiers; Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.