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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 291


This is the grave of Robert Treat Paine.

Born in 1731 in Boston to a minister father and the daughter of the minister who had founded Newark, New Jersey, Paine attended the Boston Latin School. He entered Harvard at the age of 14, which was not so uncommon in the 18th century. After graduation, he surprised his family by not going into the ministry. Instead, he taught school for several years before trying to make a go of it as a merchant, which also created travel opportunities for him. He visited the Carolinas, the Azores, Spain, and even Greenland on a whaling voyage. Part of the reason for that was that his health was not good and so warmer climes were recommended to him. In 1755, he got serious about settling down, plus his father had died and left the family debts, and began studying the law and was admitted to the bar in 1757, establishing a practice in Taunton, Massachusetts.

He became involved in the Patriots movement in the 1760s and was one of the prosecuting attorneys against the soldiers who killed the protestors at the Boston Massacre. He was a signer of the Olive Branch Petition, the last ditch effort to rebuild the relationship between Boston and London. He also went to Philadelphia in 1776 as a member of the Continental Congress, where he was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In the aftermath, he went back to Boston and long played an important role in its politics. He was speaker of the Massachusetts House in 1777, helped draft the state constitution in 1780, was Massachusetts attorney general from 1777-1790 and prosecuted the cases around Shays’ Rebellion, the movement by rebellious western Massachusetts farmers that finally convinced people the nation needed a real central government. He left that position for a seat on the state Supreme Court, where he served until he retired in 1804. He died in 1814, at the age of 83.

Robert Treat Paine is buried in Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts.

If you would like this series to visit more of the Founding Fathers, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Patrick Henry is buried on his Virginia estate while Benjamin Franklin is in Philadelphia. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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