Their ashes lie in cemeteries and unmarked graves along the Atlantic seaboard where it all happened over 230 years ago. Their deeds of individual courage and sacrifice, built upon a Christian belief, would point the way for the liberty of future generations. Don’t we, the modern benefactors of their personal brushes with tragedy, have an obligation to remind our contemporaries that the freedoms we enjoy are partially due to the perils our nation’s Christian founders faced?
Robert Paine- Christian, Lawyer & Judge
Robert Treat Paine was born in Boston in 1731. His father was a minister and his mother a minister’s daughter. The Paine family wasn’t wealthy but young Robert entered Harvard College when he was 14 years old and graduated with honors in 1749. He supported himself by teaching in area schools for several years until he could afford a tour of Europe; a practice many new world graduates undertook to broaden their educational horizons.
Upon returning he pursued his family’s professional tradition and studied the ministry eventually serving a year commitment as a military chaplain during the French and Indian War. After that his career interest turned to the practice of law and he returned to teaching school to finance his legal studies from 1756 to 1757, when he was admitted to the Boston bar.
On the eve of the trial in 1770, of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre the district attorney was too ill to prosecute the case. Paine’s reputation for fairness, despite publicly holding sympathies for the growing rebellious mood of his fellow colonists, made him the crown preferred choice to act as a substitute. The soldiers were eventually acquitted but Paine’s reputation as a man who acted with reason and even-handedness was enhanced.
He was elected to the Massachusetts provincial Congress in 1774, and was a co-signer to the final appeal to King George III to acknowledge the rightful status of his British subjects in the Americas. When that effort failed he attended as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776, and gambled his life, fortune and honor by signing the Declaration of Independence.
In 1777 he was chosen to serve as Attorney General of Massachusetts and he served there until 1790. But until the Revolutionary War’s end he was regarded by the British as a traitor. His home, business and land could be confiscated or destroyed. He and his entire family, could be hunted down, executed, or jailed indefinitely. This was a single minded objective (in addition to routing any armies they met in opposition) of every English general sent to the America’s; to make any prominent colonists pay dearly and personally for crossing King George III. In some cases they were successful. In the case of Paine they were not but being a hunted person must have taken its toll on his mind until the end of the fighting.
When the war ended he served as a state Supreme Court judge until stepping down in 1804, when his aging mind and body required him to. He died ten years later, at the age of 83 years.
Robert Treat Paine was a Christian man who risked it all when so many would not. Estimates are that only about 15-20% of the colonists took an active part in the Revolutionary War. Most of those who didn’t were well-meaning Christians. They chose the “Tory” way, forgetting that Christ commands that we give Him our loyalty first ahead of a government that has forsaken His teachings.
Paine is buried in Boston’s Granary Burying Ground, the third-oldest cemetery in the city. Others, like Paul Revere and the five victims of the Boston Massacre are resting there as well. They were all real men of flesh and bone who rose to say “No” to a tyrannical government that wanted to deny what we take for granted today. They wanted peace and the freedom to determine and achieve their own individual destinies but had to endure a war to achieve it.