Cover for The Papers of Robert Treat Paine
The Papers of Robert Treat Paine
1778-1786
Robert Treat Paine. Edited by Edward W. Hanson
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The fourth volume of this series encompasses Robert Treat Paine’s time as Massachusetts attorney general. Paine, best known as a signer of the Declaration of Independence, spent the remainder of his public career in state service. The documents in this volume highlight the quest for order in a nation gripped by violence and upheaval. Paine focused on reforming and enforcing the laws. He prosecuted crimes directly and indirectly tied to the Revolution, including treason, an uprising by prisoners of war, piracy, and tax riots, which are detailed in his opaque but fascinating trial notes. He also confronted the bounds of revolutionary citizenship when he was tasked with confiscating loyalist estates, some of which had belonged to former friends and neighbors. Outside of the courtroom, Paine obsessed over stabilizing the economy, and this volume showcases his fiery views on seemingly mundane topics such as price control and counterfeiting. While Paine focused on controlling and stabilizing the state, he often neglected his family life. His correspondence with his wife reveals her dissatisfaction when faced with wartime shortages and the challenges of raising a growing brood of children on her own. The volume concludes with one of Paine’s most influential cases, the first of many treason trials in the aftermath of Shays’ Rebellion.

Distributed for the Massachusetts Historical Society

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