J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Robert Treat Paine's New Clothes

Last November I quoted a letter from Robert Treat Paine’s sister Abigail reminding him to send his laundry home from college. Paine went on to try schoolteaching and merchant sailing before he became one of the province’s leading lawyers. He married at age thirty-nine to Sally Cobb, a young woman from a prominent Taunton family.

The Papers of Robert Treat Paine, published by the Massachusetts Historical Society, offers a few more glimpses of their family life. Here’s a letter that Sally wrote to Robert on 9 Apr 1775. He was then at the Massachusetts Provincial Congress meeting in Concord, looking ahead to returning to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia after a stop in Taunton. Sally contacted Robert with a familiar spousal reminder: errands he shouldn’t forget on his way home.

Dear Husband,

I have Sent your Breeches to be Colour:d. I am in hopes they will be done for you to Bring home. You must Call upon Allen Crocker for them and pay him for the Colouring. If your Cloaths should be wove befor your return I Shall Send it to Liscumb to be Colour:d pea Green unless I hear from you.

I am in Great want of that Cambrick if you have an opportunity due Send it up.

I want to know when you expect to come home, I hope I Shall See you with your head on your Shoulders once more but my Stout heart begins to quiver for fear of blood Shed. I hear their is a great number going to see Col G—— to night with a Desire to carry him to providence but what the event of this will be I do not know.

Our family are well at present. Give my Love to your Sisters. I am in haste your Loving wife,

Sally Paine

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