A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Volume 4 is now in print!

This volume covers years 1778 through 1786 and encompasses Robert Treat Paine’s time as Massachusetts Attorney General. It highlights the quest for order in a nation gripped by violence and upheaval. Purchase online.


Printed Edition

The Papers of Robert Treat Paine (vols. 1-5) is a selected edition of documents primarily from the Robert Treat Paine collection at the MHS. Covering his public and private lives, the published Papers draws together Paine’s correspondence beginning with his days at Harvard and extending through and beyond his time as a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court justice. This collection, which spans almost seven decades, supplies an important documentary record of events leading up to American independence and the formation of national law and policy in the years following. Four of five projected volumes are now published in print.

With the assistance of a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant, the Publications Department completed volume four of the five-volume set, with volume 5 (covering 1787-1814) scheduled to debut in fall 2018. The lead editor and scholar of the edition is Edward W. Hanson, who worked alongside the edition’s first editor, Stephen T. Riley. The five-volume edition will include all of RTP’s extant correspondence with family, friends, clients, and fellow lawyers. Selected pieces also provide examples of his allegorical writings, his sermons, his Harvard undergraduate club writings, and his extensive trial notes from his time as attorney general.

Ordering & Availability

Volume 1 (1746-1756) and volume 2 (1757-1774), edited by Stephen T. Riley and Edward W. Hanson, were published in 1992. Volume 3 (1774-1777) and volume 4 (1778-1786), edited by Edward W. Hanson, were published in 2005 and 2018. These volumes can be ordered from the Society's distributor, the University of Virginia Press.

Volumes 5, also edited by Edward W. Hanson, is forthcoming.

Robert Treat Paine Papers in the Archive

The Paine family donated RTP’s papers to the MHS beginning in the 1940s. To read about the Society's manuscript collections, which encompass many of the Paine documents in the published edition, please visit the Collections web pages. The microfilm edition of the complete Robert Treat Paine Papers includes a detailed Collection Guide with full item listing of the contents of the Robert Treat Paine Papers at the Society and a name index.