By John D. Cushing


    In its almost two hundred years of existence the Massachusetts Historical Society has amassed an impressive collection of source materials for the study of American history that has made it one of the leading repositories in the country. It has been estimated that there are ten million items in its manuscript collections, while its library, though not so astronomical in size, has an extraordinary collection of printed material with many items that are unique. The Society’s holdings relevant to a study of law in colonial Massachusetts are extremely rich, in part because many members of the Society in its early years were judges, attorneys, and governmental officials, in part because members of the Society played a prominent part in collecting and publishing many of the great nineteenth-century documentary works dealing with the early history of Massachusetts.

    While the Society’s holdings of materials for the study of law in colonial Massachusetts represent only a small fraction of the total, they are nonetheless substantial—far too extensive to be listed by individual items here. During the period 1969–1980 the Society published nine large volumes (Boston: G. K. Hall) listing some four hundred thousand items in its manuscript collections, arranged alphabetically. Though this listing covers only the cream of the crop, so to speak, a student of law in colonial Massachusetts will find a careful examination of these volumes very rewarding. The Society has not published a similar listing of its printed material, but the card catalogue of its library is readily available to scholars.

    A high point of the Colonial Society’s Conference on Law in Colonial Massachusetts was a reception and exhibition held at the Massachusetts Historical Society in the late afternoon of the first day of the conference. The exhibition had been prepared by our fellow-member, John D. Cushing, Librarian at the Society. Included here are samples of some of the extraordinarily interesting titles that made up part of the exhibition, arranged under three headings—Legislature, Executive, and The Courts and The Bar. This will record one of the important parts of the Colonial Society’s conference, and demonstrate the richness of the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. What follows, then, is a listing of the descriptions of some of the items exhibited for the conference, prepared by John Cushing; and his staff.1687

    Frederick S. Allis, Jr.


    An Abstract Or the Lavves of Nevv England, As they are novv established.

    London, Printed for F. Coules, and W. Ley at Paules Chain, 1641.

    This little book, attributed to John Cotton, was long thought to be the first compilation of Massachusetts laws. Modern scholarship has demonstrated that it never served that purpose, but may have been prepared by Cotton, ca. 1636–1639, when he and Nathaniel Ward were appointed by the General Court to draw up a body of fundamentals upon which a code of laws could be based. It has been assumed that one of Cotton’s London correspondents received a copy of the manuscript, supposed it to be the law of the Bay colony, and had it printed. It was Ward’s contribution, known as “The Body of Liberties,” that served as the basis for the first compilation of Massachusetts laws in 1648.

    An Abstract Of Laws and Government. Wherein as in a Mirrour may be seen the wisdome & perfection of the Government of Christs Kingdome . . . Collected and digested into the ensuing Method, by that Godly, Grave and Judicious Divine, Mr. John Cotton, of Boston in New-England, in his Life-time, and presented to the Generall Court of the Massachusets. And now published after his death, by William Aspinwall.

    London, Printed by M.S. for Livewel Chapman, and are to be sold at the Crown in Popes-head Alley, 1655.

    Aspinwall’s edition of Cotton’s Abstract confirmed the latter’s authorship, and lamented that the work had not been adopted as the law of the Massachusetts colony. Aspinwall inserted numerous scriptural citations in support of various temporal laws, and thus enlarged the edition by 23 pages.

    The Book of the General Lavves and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of the Massachusets, Collected Out Of The Records Of The General Court, For the Several Years Wherein They Were Made And Established.

    Cambridge, Printed according to Order of the General Court. 1660.

    Until the discovery in 1909 of the still unique copy of the 1648 edition of the laws, this was considered to be the first plenary compilation of Massachusetts statute law. The title page contains a quotation from Romans XIII: “Whosoever therefore resisteth the Power, resisteth the Ordinance of God, and they that resist, receive to themselves damnation.” The passage was intended to support the discretionary, even arbitrary, power of the colony magistrates in administering justice.

    The General Laws And Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony: Revised & Re-printed. . . .

    Cambridge Printed by Samuel Green, for John Usher of Boston. 1672.

    When the laws of 1660 and their supplements (of which no copies survive) became too cumbersome to use, the General Court appointed John Usher, of Boston, to see a revised edition through the press. Usher’s compensation was a monopoly on the distribution and sale of the edition; thus it was the first book to be copyrighted in North America.

    The Book of the General Laws of the Inhabitants of the Jurisdiction of New-Plimoth; Collected out of the Records of the General Court And lately revised, and with some Emendations and Additions, Established and Disposed into such Order as they may readily conduce to general use and benefit, And published by the Authority of the General Court for that Jurisdiction, held at Plimouth, the sixth of June, Anno Dom. 1671.

    Cambridge: Printed By Samuel Green. 1672.

    The first printed laws issued by the Plymouth settlement did not appear until the year that Massachusetts issued its third edition. Because the settlement was never granted a charter, the government was not always certain of the extent of its authority, as is attested by the use of the term “Jurisdiction of New-Plimouth,” rather than the “colony” of New-Plimouth.

    [Colony Seal.] At A Council Held at Boston the 22d. of August 1678. [A special tax act to provide for ransoming prisoners taken by the Indians.] Broadside.

    [Cambridge: Samuel Green, 1678.]

    The unique copy of this special tax act was once used as a wrapper for pamphlets, hence its battered appearance, with portions missing at the former fold.

    The order made provision for defraying the expenses of a party appointed to ransom the captives taken by the Indians at Hatfield in September 1676. Because the order does not appear in the records of the General Court, this is the sole source of detailed information on the episode.

    [Dominion Seal.] A Proclamation By The President and Council For the Orderly Solemnization of Marriage. Broadside.

    Boston Printed by Richard Pierce, Printer to the Hounourable His Majecty’s President & Council of His Majesties Teritory & Dominion of N-England. [1686.]

    This broadside act was issued by the Dominion of New England after the revocation of the Massachusetts Colony charter, and was intended to make the “Solemnization of Marriage” more conformable to the practice of the Church of England, thus eroding the Puritan view of marriage as a civil contract. Very little of the legislation of the Dominion of New England was ever printed, and very little of that survives.

    Acts And Laws, of Her Majesties Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England.

    Boston in New-England: Printed by B. Green, Printer to His Excellency the Governour & Council, for Benjamin Eliot and Sold at his Shop on the North side of King’s Street. 1714.

    This volume is representative of the various compilations of province laws that were issued at irregular intervals between 1692 and 1759.

    Journal of the Honourable House of Representatives of His Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Begun and Held at Boston, on Wednesday the Twenty-Seventh Day of May, Anno Domini, 1724.

    Boston: Printed by Bartholomew Green and Samuel Kneeland, Printers to the Hounourable House of Representatives. 1724.

    The Journal records the day-to-day business conducted in the House, including votes, memorials, orders, and ordinary “housekeeping” activities. It was regularly published from 1715 to 1776, and was later resumed by the Commonwealth government.

    The Committee of the General Court appointed the 21st of February last, to Receive and Consider any Scheme or Projection, for Retrieving the Value of Bills of Credit. . . . Broadside.

    Boston, March 15. 1727,8.

    This broadside appears to be the only surviving evidence of a scheme to provide the province with a circulating medium of exchange at a time when hard money was in short supply.

    Acts & Laws, of His Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England.

    Boston, in New-England: Printed by S. Kneeland, by Order of His Excellency the Governor, Council and House of Representatives. M,D,CC,LIX.

    The 1759 edition of the province laws was the last plenary retrospective compilation to be issued before the outbreak of the American Revolution.

    The County and Town Officer: Or An Abridgment of the Laws Of The Province of the Massachusets-Bay. . . . By a Gentleman.

    Boston: Printed by T. and J. Fleet, and Sold at the Book-Store in Union-Street, 1768.

    This 149-page manual was intended as a working guide for Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, Selectmen, and a spate of other town and county officers. It abstracts from the statutes the duties of those officers, listed in alphabetical order, from Assay Masters to Wood Corders.

    State Of Massachusetts-Bay. In the House of Representatives, February 6, 1777. Whereas there may be . . . an Omission to renew the Appointment of Committees of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety. . . . Broadside.

    [Boston: 1777.]

    This is one example among many in the Society’s collections of legislation issued in broadside format during the Revolutionary years.

    In Pursuance of an Act of the General Assembly of this State, entitledAn Act to prevent Monopoly and Oppression”. . . . Broadside.

    Boston, Feb. 19th, 1777.

    The Revolutionary state government endowed the towns with the authority to fix prices. The Society’s collections are very rich in such materials.

    An Act, Laying Duties of Impost and Excise, on Certain Goods, Wares and Merchandize, Therein Described; And for repealing the several Laws heretofore made for that Purpose.

    Boston: Printed by Adams and Nourse, in Marlborough Street, 1783.

    A separate printing of an act that established a customs service and tariff scheduled for the newly formed commonwealth. The text of the act eventually appeared as chapter 12 of the legislation enacted at the May session of the legislature; this advance printing made its substance immediately available to all who were concerned with its provisions.

    The Perpetual Laws Of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, From the Commencement Of The Constitution . . . To The Last Wednesday in May, 1789.

    Boston: Printed By Adams and Nourse, Printers to the Honourable General Court. M,DCC,LXXXIX.

    This folio publication was one of several retrospective editions designed to publish all viable public acts and thus supplant the session laws. It contrasts markedly with commercial editions, such as a pocket-size volume issued by Isaiah Thomas.

    Private and Special Statutes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, From The Year 1780, to the Close of the Session of the General Court, Begun And Held on The Last Wednesday In May, A. D. 1805. . . . 3 vols.

    Boston: Printed For The State, By Manning & Loring. 1805.

    This special compilation, issued according to a resolve of 1803, selected from the morass of Session Laws and Resolves all then viable private and special legislation. The work, executed chiefly by John Davis, was carefully done, well indexed, and contains a useful list of then obsolete acts.


    The governor dep: govr. & assistants doe hereby declare . . . [1644].

    From the Winthrop Papers.

    This declaration proclaimed that the Magistrates were to administer the law of the colony, and that the Governor and Assistants were to be the duly elected legislators. It was the first approach, however feeble, to defining the separation of powers.

    [Colony Seal.] At A Council Held at Charlestown, June the 20th, 1676. Broadside.

    [Cambridge: Samuel Green, 1676.]

    Although the proclamation of 1644 separated the judicial and administrative functions of government, the executive powers were exercised by the Council and the Governor, as this thanksgiving broadside attests. Accompt of John Usher Esqr Treasurer and Receiver Generall of all of His Majesty’s Revenues, Arising within His Majesty’s Territory and Dominion of New England . . . From the first day of July 1688. To the First Day of January 1688/9.

    This treasurer’s report, a parchment more than eighteen feet in length, was the last to be issued under the government of the Dominion of New England. It appears to have been Usher’s retained copy and was purchased by the Society in 1853 for twenty dollars.

    Anno Regni Regis & Reginae Gulielmi & Mariae Secundo. By The Governour & Council. Broadside.

    [Boston: 1690.]

    Following the overthrow of the Dominion of New England, and before the establishment of the province government, the officers of the former colony formed a temporary administration. Here the Governor and Council prepare for a military expedition to Canada under the command of Sir William Phips, who became governor the following year.

    [William Stoughton, et al.] A Narrative Of The Proceedings Of Sir Edmond Androsse and his Complices. . . .

    [Boston:] Printed in the Year 1691.

    This twelve-page pamphlet contains a critical analysis of the arbitrary government of Sir Edmund Andros and the Council of the Dominion of New England. It purports to treat “but a small part of the Grievances justly complained of by the people . . . ,” and was written “to vindicate Their Majesties Loyal Subjects.”

    [Royal Arms.] By the Honourable the Council of His Majesties Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. A Declaration. Broadside.

    Boston: Printed by B. Green, Printer to the Honourable Council. 1714.

    Upon the death of Queen Anne, all commissions issued by her authority became vacant at the end of six months. In February 1715, Governor Paul Dudley was ousted by the Council because his new commission from George I had not arrived. On 14 March Dudley, who had served since 1702, published a critique of the Council, which was answered on the 18th. The new commission arrived on the 21st.

    The Accompt of Jeremiah Allen Gent: Treasurer and Receiver General of his Majties Revenue within the Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. [1714–1716.]

    This is a meticulous account of revenues received from all sources, and expenditures made by order of the Governor and Council.

    Jonathan Belcher. Letterbook. Volume II. September 1731–November 1732.

    The twelve volumes of Belcher letterbooks document many phases of provincial political activity, and contain source materials not easily found elsewhere.

    Province of the Massachusetts-Bay, ss. [Royal Arms.] Harrison Gray, Esq; Treasurer & Receiver General for His Majesty’s said Province. . . . [Tax warrant for £412:3:3, levied on the town of Dorchester.] Broadside.

    [Boston: 1757.]

    This is the only known copy of a tax warrant dated 2 November 1757, and is representative of a very large number in the Society’s collections. Equally rich is the collection of tax acts, companion pieces to the warrants.

    Copy of the Complaint Of the House of Representatives of Massachuset’s-Bay, against Sir Francis Bernard: With Sir Francis Bernard’s Answer.

    [Boston: 1770.]

    Harbottle Dorr, sometime Boston Selectman and a keen observer of the political scene, kept a collection of newspapers and pamphlets published during the years of the American Revolution, which he carefully annotated. His marginal notes are valuable in leading the researcher to other sources.

    Copy Of Letters Sent to Great-Britain, by his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, the Honourable Andrew Oliver, and several other Persons, Born And Educated Among Us.

    Boston: Printed. Salem: Re-printed and sold by S. & E. Hall. 1773.

    Many Massachusetts governors have been unpopular with their constituents, and Thomas Hutchinson was no exception. These letters, intercepted in England by Benjamin Franklin and published in Boston, hopelessly tarnished his career.

    In Provincial Congress, Watertown, April 30, 1775. Whereas an Agreement has been made between General Gage and the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, for the Removal of the Persons and Effects of such . . . as may be so disposed. . . . Broadside.

    [Watertown: Benjamin Edes, 1775.]

    With the standard machinery of government dismantled, both legislative and executive functions came to be exercised by the Provincial Congress.

    Thomas Gage. [Royal Arms.] By The Governor. A Proclamation, [requiring Boston inhabitants to surrender their firearms to the government.] Broadside.

    [Boston: 19 June 1775.]

    Thomas Gage, although commandant of Boston and holding all reins of government in his hands, issued proclamations under his authority as civil governor.

    Commonwealth [State Seal] of Massachusetts. By His Excellency James Bowdoin, Esquire, Governour of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A Proclamation. Broadside.

    [Boston: 1786.]

    Executive proclamation seeking support for the government at the outbreak of Shays’ Rebellion.

    The Courts and The Bar

    James Russell’s Commonplace Book, ca. 1680–1710. Manuscript.

    This book, compiled by James Russell, of Charlestown, sometime colony Treasurer, Justice of the Peace, and Councilman, is characteristic of similar compilations made by many justices of the peace for their own guidance. It contains forms of writs and warrants, copies of important legislation, assignments of wills and administrations, and other useful information.

    We whose nams Are heareunto subscribed being desired by goodman Nurse to Declare what we know concerning his wives conversation for time past. . . . [1692.] Manuscript.

    The deposition of Israel Porter and 38 other brave Salem residents attesting the good character of Rebecca Nurse, an accused witch. Despite this impressive support, Mrs. Nurse was convicted and executed.

    The Examination of Alice Parker 12 May. 1692. Manuscript.

    This is a summary of the testimony given by several neighbors who advanced spectral evidence attesting the guilt of Alice Parker, indicted for witchcraft.

    The Jurors for our Soveraigne Lord and Lady the King and Queen. . . . [1692.] Manuscript.

    The indictment of George Burroughs by the special inquest upon the accusation of Elizabeth Hubbard, who was “tortured, afflicted . . . Consumed, wated and tormented” by Burroughs’ practice of “detestable Arts called Witchcraft or Socery.”

    Cotton Mather. The Examination of Geo: Burroughs. 9. May. 1692. Manuscript.

    Cotton Mather here summarized the spectral evidence presented against George Burroughs during his trial for witchcraft. Burroughs was convicted and executed.

    Cotton Mather. The Wonders of the Invisible World. Observations As well Historical as Theological, upon the Nature, the Number, and the Operations of the Devils.

    Boston Printed by Benj. Harris for Sam. Phillips. 1693. [i.e., 1692.]

    When the Salem witchcraft trials cast a pall over New England in the summer of 1692, Mather was commissioned by the province government to write an account of the affair that would demonstrate the fairness of the trials. This account considers the broader aspects of witchcraft, and also reports the trials of five of the accused. The reports, the first court reports printed in North America, contain detailed information that would not necessarily appear in the file papers, most of which have long since been “expurgated” by descendants of the accused.

    Thomas Maule. New-England Pesecutors Mauld With their own Weapons.

    [New York: William Bradford, 1697.]

    Thomas Maule, a much persecuted Salem Quaker, was arrested in 1695 on charges of publishing a book containing “notorious and wicked Lyes and scandals” against the Province government. Called to Boston to answer before the Governor and Council, he denied their authority to examine him and demanded a trial in his own county. When tried before the Essex County session of the Superior Court, he managed his case with sufficient adroitness to convince the jury to acquit him. Tried forty years before the celebrated Zenger case, this may have been the first American case involving freedom of the press that resulted in the acquittal of the defendant.

    Samuel Sewall. “Arithmetick and Common Place Book.” Manuscript.

    Commonplace books abound at the Society, and frequently contain a variety of data concerning legislation and litigation that cannot be found elsewhere, as attests a humble example in this manuscript, in Judge Sewall’s hand: “a Copy of the Bounds Levied by execution upon 500 acres of Land at Dudley by Danl Gookin Sheriff.”

    Deposition of Zachariah Collman, of Scituate, 25 December 1701. Manuscript.

    The aged Collman was cheated out of a parcel of land and here begins an action with a complaint to the local justices of the peace. No evidence survives that this matter ever was tried in any court, but the Plymouth County court papers have been ravaged by fire.

    The Trials Of Eight Persons Indited for Piracy &c.

    Boston: Printed by B. Green, for John Edwards, and Sold at his Shop in King’s Street. 1718.

    Eight would-be pirates captured a coastal trader, imprisoned the crew, impounded the cargo, and drank so freely of wine that they were ingloriously shipwrecked and apprehended by the authorities. This account is a detailed report of the trials.

    “Rich[ar]d Dana’s Writ-Book for Suffolk County. July 1752–July 1756.” Manuscript.

    Writ books or dockets, such as this one, although not indexed, can be of assistance to the patient researcher tracing litigation that originated in the Court of General Sessions of the Peace and that may, or may not, have subsequently been heard by the Superior Court of Judicature.

    Josiah Quincy, Junior. Law Reports, 1762–1763. Manuscript.

    Although Massachusetts has the oldest judicial system in continuous existence in North America, it was not until 1804 that there was a reporting system. Attorneys kept their own notes of trials. Shown here are the notes kept by the youthful Josiah Quincy, Jr. (1744–1775). Quincy’s notes, which included the years 1761–1772, were recorded in such a formal manner that one suspects the reporter intended to publish them. If that was his intent, it was frustrated by an early death. They were not fully published until 1865.

    Samuel M. Quincy, ed. Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged In The Superior Court of Judicature of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay. . . . By Josiah Quincy, Junior.

    Boston: Little Brown, And Company. 1865.

    Josiah Quincy’s reports for 1761–1772 finally saw print nearly a century after they were compiled, when his grandson issued this edition.

    51. Samuel Quincy (1734–1789) by John Singleton Copley (circa 1767). Solicitor General, Justice of the Peace. Proscribed in 1778. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

    Robert Treat Paine. Papers on the Cause of Tyng vz. Gardiner (1763). Manuscript.

    Tyng vz. Gardner was one suit in a tangled web of litigation that became the most complex civil action in the annals of early Massachusetts law. At stake was a huge tract of land in Maine, originally owned by the Plymouth Company and later sold to the Kennebec Proprietors.

    [Richard Dana] “Records of judgmts & Proceedings before me in the county of Suffolk begining ye 20th day of April I 767. . . .” Manuscript.

    This is one of a series of record books kept by Richard Dana as a justice of the peace. Because J.P. courts were courts of no record, the proceedings were the property of the individual J.P. There was no system for preserving them, and thus very few have survived.

    Most cases involved assault and battery, jumping ship, petty larceny, and violation of the license laws. Note case number 101, a complaint against one Elizabeth Clark for selling a mug of cider without a license, and continued to the following day at six o’clock—a.m. or p.m.?

    John Adams. Notes for use in the Boston Massacre Trials. Manuscript.

    Adams undertook the unpopular assignment of defending the British Captain Thomas Preston, wherein the central question was whether Preston had ordered the troops to fire on the civilian mob at the “Boston Massacre.”

    Dom. Rex v Capt. Thos. Preston, for Murder of Saml. Maverick & Lemuel Gray. . . . 1770–1771. Manuscript.

    Notes taken by Robert Treat Paine (1770) who represented the Crown at the Boston Massacre trials. The testimony recorded in these notes alone is sufficient to reconstruct in detail the events that transpired on the night of the massacre.

    Robert Treat Paine’s address to the jury at the conclusion of the trial of Captain Preston. Manuscript.

    Paine’s summary of the evidence, documented in his notes of the trial, reduced the question to whether or not Preston had ordered the troops to fire on the civilians and, if so, whether extenuating circumstances could reduce “the crime to a lower species of homicide than Murder.”

    Robert Treat Paine. Minutes of Law Cases, 1760–1774. Manuscript.

    Robert Treat Paine (1730–1814) and his contemporaries kept notes of important law cases in addition to those in which they participated. The pocket-size notebooks were crudely bound together to form a series by a nineteenth-century descendant.

    Edmund Trowbridge. Notes on legal actions and extracts from cases. (Undated.) Manuscript.

    Edmund Trowbridge (1709–1793) was considered to be the most able Massachusetts attorney of his times. His notes on legal actions, of which the item shown is but one example, are copious, extensive, and detailed.

    Francis Dana. Law Minutes. (Undated.) Manuscript.

    Both as an attorney and a jurist, Francis Dana (1743–1811) made notes on many points of law and sought accurate definitions and detailed precedents, all of which he arranged in one alphabetical sequence for future reference.

    Robert Treat Paine. Law Notes. (Undated.) Manuscript.

    Paine, like most attorneys of his time, also kept small notebooks which were, in effect, miniature law dictionaries, containing definitions, rules, and useful precedents.

    William Cushing. Judicial Notebook, 1783. Manuscript.

    In 1783 a series of lawsuits involving a Negro slave, Quock Walker, culminated with the case of Commonwealth v. Jennison, tried by the Supreme Judicial Court sitting at Worcester. In summing up the evidence for the jury, Chief Justice Cushing noted that slavery had never been officially instituted in Massachusetts, and that the Constitution of 1780 “sets out with declaring that all men are born free and equal. . . . The Idea of Slavery is inconsistent with our . . . constitution & there can be no such thing as perpetual servitude of a rational creature.” The Jury returned a verdict accordingly.

    Chief Justice William Cushing to an unknown correspondent. [December, 1785?] Manuscript.

    With a piracy case pending before the Supreme Judicial Court at Salem, the Chief Justice combed Coke, Blackstone, Wood, Selden, State Trials, and other sources in an effort to distinguish between, and define, mutiny and piracy. This is representative of efforts made by many jurists to evaluate the customary English law against the needs of a new republic. Cushing later became one of the first appointments to the new Supreme Court of the United States.

    Francis Dana. Advisory opinion of the Supreme Judicial Court to the Massachusetts Senate. [1787.] Manuscript.

    The Massachusetts Constitution empowers the legislative and executive branches of the government to request advisory opinions from the Supreme Judicial Court on important questions of law. Exhibited here is an opinion, requested by the Senate, on the locus of the pardoning power. In later years the court would deliver opinions on such matters as veterans’ benefits, the eight-hour day, and the exclusion of women from Chinese restaurants.

    52. William Cushing (1732–1810) by Max Rosenthal (1889) from a portrait by James Sharpies. Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States; Chief Justice, Supreme Judicial Court. Cushing was appointed Chief Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, but could not serve for health reasons. Courtesy, Harvard Law School Art Collection.

    Robert Treat Paine. Attorney General Papers. 1787. From the Paine Family Papers.

    Attorney General Paine kept full records of all cases prosecuted for the Commonwealth. In the nineteenth century his descendants gathered those records together to form rather crude notebooks, such as this one concerning Shays’ Rebellion.

    Robert Treat Paine. Charges to Grand Juries, 1790–1804. Manuscript.

    All sessions of the Supreme Judicial Court opened with charges to the Grand Juries from the bench. The charges usually began with a short discourse on the nature of government, surveyed the nature of criminal and capital offenses, and sometimes took cognizance of current civil or political disturbances.

    This is one of Justice Paine’s charges, wherein he extols the virtues of the social compact and the obligations of citizens in a republican government.

    Reports of Cases Argued And Determined In The Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Massachusetts, From September 1804 To June 1805. By Ephraim Williams, Esq. [Williams’ Reports.]

    Northampton, Published By S. & E. Butler. 1805.

    In response to an increasing demand for a reporting system the legislature, in March of 1804, authorized the appointment of a reporter of decisions for the Supreme Judicial Court. Williams produced the first volume in a series that continues to the present day.

    53. Attorney’s Bill, 1760. When this volume was in page proof, the editors discovered that there was no illustration and almost nothing in the text to indicate that colonial lawyers ever got paid. To remedy this oversight we close the volume with an attorney’s bill. The litigious Samuel Phillips, who owed this substantial sum for legal expenses, was “Esquire” Phillips, the father of the founder of Phillips Academy, Andover, and one of the wealthiest men in the Province. Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Suffolk, 1760 APR 166. Courtesy, Social Law Library.