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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor



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Robert Treat Paine

PAINE, Robert Treat, signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 11 March, 1731; died there, 11 May, 1814. His father, Thomas (born about 1697; died in 1757), was for several years pastor of a church in Weymouth, Massachusetts, but, owing to impaired health, resigned his charge and engaged in mercantile pursuits in Boston. He published an "Ordination Sermon" (1719); a "Lecture on Original Sin" (1724); and a "Lecture on Earthquakes" (1728). The son was graduated at Harvard in 1749, went to Europe on mercantile business, studied theology, acted as chaplain of the troops on the northern frontier in 1755, and subsequently preached in the pulpits of the regular clergy in Boston and in its vicinity. He then studied law, supporting himself by teaching, was admitted to the bar in 1759, and practised for a time in Boston. He afterward removed to Taunton, Massachusetts, and was a delegate from that town in 1768 to the convention that was called at Boston after the dissolution of the general court by Sir Francis Bernard, governor of Massachusetts, for refusing to rescind the circular letter to the other colonies requesting them to act in concert for the public good. In 1770 he came more prominently into public notice by conducting with ability and ingenuity, in the absence of the attorney-general, the prosecution against Captain Thomas Preston and his men for firing on inhabitants of Boston on 5 March, 1770. In 1773-'4 he was a delegate from Taunton to the general assembly of Massachusetts, and was one of the members that were chosen to conduct the impeachment of Peter Oliver, then chief justice of the province, who was charged with receiving his stipend from the king instead of a grant from the assembly. He was a delegate to the Provincial congress in 1774-'5, and to the Continental congress from 1774 till 1778, serving on important committees and signing the Declaration of Independence. In the autumn of 1775 he was appointed one of a committee of three to visit General Philip Schuyler's army on the northern frontier. During his term in congress he was chairman of a committee to make contracts for muskets and bayonets and for encouraging the manufacture of fire-arms, and held important offices in Massachusetts, being in 1777 speaker of the house of representatives and attorney-general. In 1778 he was one of a committee on the part of Massachusetts to meet others from the northern states in New Haven to regulate the price of labor, provisions, and manufactures, and presented the case to the legislature, which soon passed a bill to prevent oppression and monopoly. In 1779 he was a member of the executive council and a delegate to the State constitutional convention and the adoption of the new constitution. In the following year he was chosen attorney-general of Massachusetts. He held this office until 1790, when he became a judge of the supreme court, which post he resigned in 1804. In that year he was again a state councillor. His legal attainments were great, and he was an able and impartial judge, an excellent scholar, and noted for the brilliancy of his wit. Mr. Paine received the degree of LL.D. from Harvard in 1805, and was a founder of the American academy of arts and sciences in 1780.--His son, Robert Treat, poet, born in Taunton, Massachusetts, 9 December, 1773 ; died in Boston, Massachusetts, 13 November, 1811, was originally named Thomas, but in 1801 assumed the name of his father, by act of legislature. He was accustomed to say that he now had a "Christian" name, alluding to the deistic doctrines of his namesake, Thomas Paine. He was graduated at Harvard in 1792, and entered a counting-house in Boston. During this period he was a frequent contributor to the "Massachusetts Gazette." In 1794 he established a semi-weekly newspaper called the "Federal Orrery," which he conducted for two years without discretion or profit, and in which appeared "The Jacobiniad" and "The Lyars," whose personalities made him many enemies and occasioned assaults upon his person. In 1792 professional actors made their first appearance in Boston arid, in order to avoid collision with the law forbidding " stage plays," their performances were termed dramatic recitations. This law was repealed in 1793, and in the next year the Federal theatre was built and opened with a prize prologue by Paine, who became intimate with those connected with the stage, and married an actress. This led to a disagreement with his father and his exclusion from fashionable society. Resigning the office of "master of ceremonies," which post had been created for him at the theatre, he removed to Newburyport and studied law under Theophilus Parsons, with whom he practised in Boston in 1802. Although he achieved success and had brilliant prospects, he resumed his intimacy with actors, wrote criticisms of the theatre, and returned to his unsettled mode of life, passing his latter days in destitution and misery. On taking his degree of A. M. at Cambridge in 1795, he delivered a poem entitled "The Invention of Letters," containing some lines on Jacobinism, which he spoke, notwithstanding they had been crossed out by the college authorities. It is dedicated to Washington and closes with a rapturous eulogy of him. For this composition he received $1,500, or more than $5 a line. He gained $1,200 on the publication of "The Ruling Passion" in 1797, and $750 for the famous song "Adams and Liberty," written in 1798 at the request of the Massachusetts charitable fire society. When he showed this to a friend in whose house he was visiting, his host pronounced it imperfect, as the name of Washington was omitted, and declared that Paine should not approach the sideboard, on which wine had just been placed, until he had written an additional stanza. In a few moments Paine wrote the verse, which is considered the best in the song. In 1799 he delivered an oration on the first anniversary of the dissolution of the alliance with France, for which he was complimented by General Washington. He delivered a eulogy on Washington at Newburyport on 2 January, 1800. Although possessing a prolific imagination, bold views, wit, and sarcasm, Paine's writings are all commonplace. In searching for effect he became tawdry. A collection of his writings was published by Charles Prentiss (Boston, 1812).--His great-grandson, Charles Jackson, soldier, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 26 August, 1833, was graduated at Harvard in 1853, and entered the National army as captain in the 22d Massachusetts volunteers on 8 October, 1861. He became major of the Eastern Bay State regiment on 14 January, 1862, was sent to Ship island, Mississippi, was made colonel of the 2d Louisiana volunteers in September, 1862, and led a brigade during the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, 24 May till 8 July, 1863. He then joined General Benjamin F. Butler in the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, participating in the battle of Drewry's Bluff, Virginia, 12-16 May, 1864, and commanded a division of colored troops in the attack at Newmarket, Virginia, 29 September, 1864. He also participated in the expedition against Fort Fisher, 15 January, 1865, was afterward with Sherman's army in North Carollna, and was in command of the district of New Berne. He was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers on 4 July, 1864, received the brevet of major-general of volunteers on 15 January, 1865, and was mustered out on 15 January, 1866. General Paine has taken much interest in yachting, is a member of the New York yacht club, and has three times successfully defended the "America's" cup, for which service the club, in February, 1888, presented him the silver cup represented in the illustration. The original is twenty-seven inches high. In 1885 he was one of the syndicate that built the "Puritan," with which he defeated the "Genesta," and in 1886-'7 built alone the "Mayflower," which contested the cup with the "Galatea," and the "Volunteer," which defeated the "Thistle" in September, 1887.

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