Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Massachusetts. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Paine graduated from Harvard University in 1749 at the age of 18, and taught school in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. Discovering he lacked the patience to teach, after one year, he began to sail about the Atlantic, going to Spain, the Azores, and Greenland. Returning home in 1754, he began to study law, and became a lawyer in 1757 in Taunton, Massachusetts. There he married Sally Cobb, who was already pregnant with their first child, and eventually they would have eight children. In the 1760s and early 1770s, he was active in the resistance movement to the hated Stamp Act and Townshend Acts, and quickly became a patriot for the cause of independence. In 1770, Boston hired him to prosecute the British soldiers involved with the "Boston Massacre," and although he only convicted two of the eight soldiers (who were dismissed from the Army), he became popular among the patriots. In 1775, he was elected to the Second Continental Congress as a delegate from Massachusetts, and supported the move for independence. Following the war, he returned to his Massachusetts legal profession, and in 1779-80, he helped to write the Massachusetts constitution. In 1790, he because a justice of the state court, where he served until retiring in 1804 when he became too deaf to hear the cases. He was considered a conservative justice and very judgmental. When one of his sons, Robert Jr, married a stage actress, he disavowed his son (in those days, many people considered actors and actresses as morally corrupt people), reconciling just before his son died in 1811. He died at his home in 1814.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson