Gov. Stephen Hopkins, signer of the "Declaration of Independence"

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Stephen Hopkins

Birthdate: (78)
Birthplace: Smithfield Rd, Providence, RI
Death: July 13, 1785 (78)
Providence, Providence, RI
Place of Burial: North Burial Ground Providence Providence County Rhode Island, USA Plot: AC-01521 GPS (lat/lon): 41.84538, -71.40762
Immediate Family:

Son of William Hopkins and Ruth Hopkins
Husband of Sarah Hopkins and Anne Hopkins
Father of Capt. Rufus Hopkins; Captain John Hopkins; Ruth Hopkins; Lydia Tillinghast; Captain Sylvanus Hopkins, Capt. and 3 others
Brother of William Hopkins, III; Rufus Hopkins; Capt. John Hopkins; Hope Hawkins; Commodore Esek Hopkins, Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy and 4 others

Occupation: Member and Speaker of the Rhode Island General Assembly. Four time governor of Rhode Island. Member of 1st Continental Congress. Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. 1st chancellor of Brown Univ.
Managed by: Private User
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About Gov. Stephen Hopkins, signer of the "Declaration of Independence"

Stephen Hopkins (March 7, 1707 – July 13, 1785) was a governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, a Chief Justice on the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Signed the Declaration of Independence representing Rhode Island.

"Stephen Hopkins, another son of William Hopkins, was still more distinguished that his brother, the commodore. He was born March 7, 1707. But little is known of his early boyhood, but, doubtless, like his other brothers, he was early taught to labor on the farm. There were no schools in that early day, but his mother, it is said, was a woman of marked ability, and, no doubt, instructed him in many things. Stephen Hopkins married June 27, 1726, Sarah Scott, the youngest daughter of Major Sylvanus Scott of Providence. He was but nineteen years of age, and for the support of this newly-married couple, his father gave him seventy acres of land, and his grandfather, Thomas Hopkins, bestowed upon his 'loving grandson', as the will reads, an additional grant of ninety acres.

Four years after this marriage, or in 1730, the portion, now Scituate, was set off from Providence, and Stephen Hopkins, then only twenty-three years of age, was chosen its first moderator. Joseph Brown was chosen town clerk for the first year, an office which included the registration of deeds. Mr. Hopkins held this office the next year, and continued for ten consecutive years, when he resigned. The records of the town, as kept by him, are still preserved, and, for neatness and exactness, they have not been surpassed by any of his successors.

Mr. Hopkins removed to Providence in 1744, and purchased an estate on South Main Street, at the corner of what is now known as Hopkins Street, named after him. He engaged in commerce at Providence, but was soon called to fill important places in the State, as chief justice and governor, being appointed to the judgeship in 1739. Born and educated in Rhode Island, his whole life was spent within its boundaries, and in its early history, he stands forth pre-eminent as the representative of the people. It is to the honor of Scituate, and to the State, that they produced such a man as Stephen Hopkins. The existence of such a man, under such circumstances, may certify, as a volume of true history may declare, to the character of her settlers, and the influence of her institutions. He died July 13, 1778, and was buried in North Burying-ground at Providence, and there his grateful State has erected a monument to his memory, on which is inscribed, with other commendations, these words: 'His name is engraved on the immortal record of the Revolution, and can never die.' "

Stephen Hopkins (March 7, 1707 – July 13, 1785) was an American political leader from Rhode Island who signed the Declaration of Independence. He served as the Chief Justice and Royal Governor of the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and was a Delegate to the Colonial Congress in Albany in 1754 and to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776. Hopkins was also the first chancellor of the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (predecessor to Brown University) in conjunction with the presidency of the Reverend James Manning.

Stephen Hopkins (March 7, 1707 – July 13, 1785) was an American political leader from Rhode Island who signed the Declaration of Independence. He served as the Chief Justice and Governor of colonial Rhode Island and was a Delegate to the Colonial Congress in Albany in 1754 and to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776.

Hopkins was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of William and Ruth (Wilkinson) Hopkins. Hopkins' younger brother, Esek Hopkins, became the first commander in chief of the Continental Navy. He grew up on a farm in Scituate, Rhode Island and attended a public school. He moved back to Providence in 1742 and worked as a foundryman, merchant, ship owner, and surveyor.

At 19, he married Sarah Scott, with whom he would have seven children. Following her death, he would marry a widow named Anne Smith, but they would have no children together.

When Scituate Township separated from Providence in 1731, Hopkins plunged into politics. During the next decade, he held the following elective or appointive offices: moderator of the first town meeting of Scituate, town clerk, president of the town council, town solicitor, justice of the peace, justice and clerk of the Providence County Court of Common Pleas (in 1733, he became Chief Justice of that court).

He served in Rhode Island's colonial assembly (1732-1752, 1770-1775) and was its Speaker from 1738 to 1744, and again in 1749. In 1754, he represented Rhode Island at the Albany Congress in New York, where he and others considered Benjamin Franklin's early plan for uniting the colonies and arranging an alliance with the Indians, in view of the impending war with France. He was elected Governor of Rhode Island nine times (1755-1756, 1758-1761, 1763-1764, and 1767).

Hopkins spoke out against British tyranny long before the revolutionary period. In 1764 he published a pamphlet "The Rights of the Colonies Examined" whose broad distribution and criticism of taxation and Parliament built his reputation as a revolutionary leader.

In 1773, he freed his slaves, and the following year, while serving in the Rhode Island Assembly in 1774, he introduced a bill that prohibited the importation of slaves into the colony. This became one of the first anti-slavery laws in the new United States.

He led the colony's delegation to the Continental Congress later in 1774, along with Samuel Ward, and was a proud signer of the Declaration of Independence. He recorded his name with a trembling right hand, which he had to guide with his left. Hopkins had cerebral palsy, and was noted to have said, as he signed the Declaration, "My hand trembles, my heart does not." Hopkins is easily distinguishable in John Trumbull's famous painting as the gentleman standing in the back wearing a hat.

Stephen Hopkins house pictured in 1918Hopkins' knowledge of the shipping business made him particularly useful as a member of the naval committee established by Congress to purchase, outfit, man and operate the first ships of the new Continental Navy. Through his participation on that committee, Hopkins was instrumental in framing naval legislation and drafting the rules and regulations necessary to govern the fledgling organization during the American War for Independence. The first American naval squadron was launched on February 18, 1776. Hopkins used his influence to secure the position of commander in chief of the new navy for his brother Esek Hopkins, an appointment that proved to be unfortunate.

In September 1776, his poor health forced him to resign from the Continental Congress and return to his home in Rhode Island. From 1777 to 1779, Hopkins remained an active member of Rhode Island's general assembly.

Hopkins helped to found a subscription library, the Providence Library Company, in 1753, and was a member of the Philosophical Society of Newport. Although largely self-educated, Hopkins served as chancellor of Rhode Island College (now Brown University) from 1764 to 1785. His home, the Gov. Stephen Hopkins House, is now a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Stephen Hopkins died at his home in Providence on July 13, 1785, at the age of 78 and is interred in the North Burial Ground there. The town of Hopkinton, Rhode Island, was later named after him.

Stephen, b Mar 7 1707, m Oct 9 1726, Sarah(+) Scott by whom he had 7 children, as follows:

1. Rufus, b Feb 10 1727-8, m Nov 11 1759, Sarah Olney,had a family. He was master of ship & ship owner; also agent in managing Hope Furnace. Died in Scituate, RI.

2. John, b Nov 6 1728, was sea captain; died of smallpox 1752 at St Andero in Spain while in his father's employ.

3. Ruth, b Oct 11 1731, died young.

4. Lydia, b Jan 6 1733, m in Providence; left a large family.

5. Sylvanus, b Nov 30 1734, was commander of vessel, shipwrecked on island of Cape Breton, was surprised & barbarously murdered by Indians. Although but 18 yrs of age his skill as navigator was acknowledged by all who knew him. Tempest that burst upon his ship with such violence as to render aid of human skill & power unavailing, & caused his shipwreck has been vividly described by Falconer.

But striking upon the rocks the ship was dashed to pieces by the violence of the waves. Sylvanus reached shore alive only to meet a more horrid death by the hands of the savages. The following appears upon his tombstone in the North Burying ground in Providence:

In Memory of SYLVANUS, Son of Stephen Hopkins Esq, & Sarah his wife, Was cast away on Cape Breton shore & inhumanly Murdered by cruel savages on the 23th of Apr 1753. Aged 18 years, 5 mos, 23 days.

6. Simon died, age 7 or 8.

7. George, sea-captain, sailed from Port of Providence, & was never heard from! Thus perished the children of this immortal signer of the Declaration of Independence.

2. STEPHEN HOPKINS was the most distinguished public man of this generation. RI has never produced a man of more native ability, nor greater statesman. For more than 50 yrs he was a public officer, holding a variety of positions from town clerk of Scituate to member of 1st Congress. He was Governor of his native state 9 yrs, & 21 yrs Chancellor of RI College. When it is remembered that he never attended school, his attainments in scholastic lore become more remarkable & praiseworthy. His writings will bear theorical designation of neat in regard to style, & bespeak well-balanced & well cultivated mind endowed with high & noble impulses. Withal he was a patriot worthy of his age & country. His gravity was proverbial, & Whittier has honored him with the following notice:

In 1765, he commenced "History of the Plantations & Growth of Providence," but never completed the work. It is printed in MA Historical Collection, 2nd Series, Vol 9, p 197, et seq. In the same year he wrote & published by order of General Assembly of RI, a work entitled "Rights of Colonies Examined," which was reprinted in London. He held 3 honorable & important offices of Member of Assembly, Delegate to Congress, & Chief Justice of RI at the same time. He manumitted his slaves at an early period, & advocated universal freedom for human race regardless of color. Providence is indebted to him for its public library, & every enterprise which had for its object elevation & improvement of mankind received his hearty support.

He always attended the Quaker meeting, & among Signers of the Declaration of Independence he may be distinguished as being the only one with a hat on. In town records of Scituate, names & births of 4 of his children are found. His 1st wife died shortly after the death of son Sylvanus, & her tombstone bears the following inscription:

In Memory of SARAH, Wife of Stephen Hopkins, Esq; Youngest daughter of Major Sylvanus Scott; Departed this life, Sept. 9, 1753. Aged 46 years, 2 mos., 15 days.

He closed his eventful career, July 13, 1785, aged 78 yrs, 4 mos, 6 days, going down to the grave like a shock of corn fully ripe. He was prepared for the change by Divine grace, & died crowned with honor in the triumphs of the faith, & in the hope of a glorious resurrection, & a blissful immortality. His native state has erected a monument "in honor of her favorite son," & his memory is still cherished by an appreciating posterity.

Stephen Hopkins (Mar 7 1707–Jul 13 1785) was American political leader from RI who signed Declaration of Independence. He served as Governor of Colonial RI and was Delegate to Colonial Congress in Albany in 1754 & to Continental Congress 1774-1776.

Stephen was born in Providence, RI, only son of William & Ruth (Wilkinson) Hopkins. He grew up on a farm in Scituate, RI & attended public school. He moved back to Providence in 1742 & worked as a merchant, ship owner, & surveyor.

Hopkins helped to found a subscription library in 1754, & was member of Philosophical Society of Newport. Although largely self-educated Hopkins served as chancellor of RI College (now Brown Univ) 1764-1785. In 1764 he published pamphlet "Rights of Colonies Examined" whose broad distribution & criticism of taxation & parliament built his reputation as revolutionary leader.

Political Career

Hopkins served in RI's Colonial Assembly (1732-1752, 1770-1775) & was its Speaker 1738-1744 & 1749. He represented RI at Albany Congress in 1754. He was elected Governor of RI 9 times (1755-1756, 1758-1761, 1763-1764, & 1767). He led the state's delegation to Continental Congress until Sep 1776, when his health forced him to resign the post.

While serving in RI Assembly in 1774 he introduced the bill that outlawed import of slaves to the Colony. This became one of the 1st anti-slavery laws in US.

Stephen died at his home in Providence Jul 13 1785 & is interred in North Burial Ground there. Town of Hopkinton, RI was later named after him.

Born: Mar 7 1707

Birthplace: Providence, RI

Education: Lawyer, Educator

Work: Speaker of RI Assembly, (c1750-2); Delegate to Albany Convention, 1754; Member of Continental Congress, 1774-78; Member of RI Legislature.

Died: Jul 13 1785

Stephen Hopkins was born in Scituate (then part of Providence), RI, 07 Mar 1707. He was apparently self-educated. He was member & speaker of RI Assembly, & in 1754 was delegate to Albany Convention in NY where he considered Franklin's early plan of Union. Hopkins spoke out against British tyranny long before revolutionary period. He attended 1st Continental Congress in 1774, & was party to Declaration of Independence in 1776. He left that congress in 1778 & returned to his native state to serve in its Legislature. He died 13 Jul 1785 at age 78.

Birth: Mar 7 1707

Death: Jul 13 1785

Signer of Declaration of Independence from RI. Born in Providence, RI, grew up in Scituate, RI, son of a farmer. His mother was Quaker. For much of his life, Stephen was a Quaker, adopting their plain dress & many of their beliefs. He never attended school, but learned to read & write from his mother. When he wasn’t working on the farm, he would read history & law, his 2 favorite subjects. At 19 he married Sarah Scott, with whom he would have 7 children. Following her death, he would marry a widow named Anne Smith, but they would have no children together. At age 25, he was chosen to be Scituate’s Town Clerk, & would later serve in the RI Legislature. He founded a patriotic newspaper, the “Providence Gazette” & served as 1st chancellor of what is now Brown University. In 1755 he was elected Gov of RI. In 1764 Gov Hopkins wrote a pamphlet called “Rights of the Colonies Examined” in which he wrote that “Liberty is the greatest blessing that men enjoy,” & went on to explain that Britain could not govern colonies without people’s consent. These were strong words, especially from a colonial governor, but they made Hopkins a national figure. In 1771 he was appointed Chief Justice of Superior Court of RI. Next year, when Americans burned a British ship, Gaspee, off RI shore, shooting a British officer, Hopkins helped the culprits escape. This again made him popular in patriotic groups. In 1774, he was elected to 1st Continental Congress, & again in 1775, to 2nd Continental Congress. From the beginning, Hopkins supported the cause of independence. At 69 years old, he was the 2nd oldest delegate (after Benjamin Franklin), & when it came time to sign the Declaration of Independence, his hand began to tremble. He then used his left hand to guide his right hand while he made his signature, & then quipped to his fellow delegates, “My hand may tremble but my heart does not!” During the war, he served on the Navy committee, helping to establish the US Navy. In 1774, thanks to his efforts, RI became 1st state to outlaw importation of slaves. Stephen Hopkins died at his home in Providence, RI, in 1785, at age 78. (bio by Kit & Morgan Benson)

Burial: North Burial Ground, Providence, Providence Co, RI, USA

Plot: AC-01521

Stephen Hopkins

Rhode Island



SOURCE: Lives of Signers to Declaration of Independence, 1829, Rev Charles A. Goodrich

Signed: Declaration of Independence

Stephen Hopkins was native of part of Providence now called Scituate, where he was born 07 Mar 1707. His parentage was very respectable, being a descendant of Benedict Arnold, 1st Gov of RI. [Not Benedict Arnold of Revolutionary War fame.] His early education was limited, being confined to instruction imparted in common schools of the country. Yet it is recorded he excelled in knowledge of penmanship, & in practical branches of mathematics, particularly surveying. For several yrs he followed profession of farmer. At an early period, he was elected town clerk of Scituate, & some time after was chosen representative from that town to Gen'l Assembly. He was subsequently appointed justice of peace, & justice of one of the courts of common pleas. In 1733, he became chief justice of that court. In 1742, he disposed of his estate in Scituate, & moved to Providence, where he erected a house, in which he continued to reside until his death. In this latter place he entered into mercantile business, & was extensively engaged in building & fitting out vessels. While representative from Scituate, he was elected speaker of House of Representatives. To this office he was again chosen after his move to Providence, & continued to occupy the station for several successive yrs, being a representative from the latter town. In 1751, he was chosen chief justice of Superior Court, in which office he continued until 1754. In this latter yr he was appointed commissioner from RI, to the celebrated convention which met at Albany; which had for its object securing friendship of 5 nations of Indians, in the approaching French war, & union between several colonies of America. In 1756, he was elected chief magistrate of Colony of RI, which office he continued to hold, with but few intervals, until 1767. In discharge of duties of this responsible station, he acted with dignity & decision. Prosperity of his country lay near his heart. He did not hesitate to propose & support measures, which appeared best calculated to promote interests of Colonies in opposition to encroachments of British power. At an early period of difficulties between Colonies & Great Britain, he took active & decided part in favor of the former. In pamphlet, entitled, "Rights of Colonies Examined," he exposed injustice of Stamp Act, & various other acts of British government. This pamphlet was published by order of Gen'l Assembly in 1765. Siege of Ft William Henry by Marquis de Montcalm, 1767, & its surrender to force under that general, with subsequent cruel outrages & murders committed by savages of the French army, are too well known to need recital in this place. It is necessary only to state, greatest excitement prevailed throughout all the colonies. In this excitement, inhabitants of RI largely participated. Agreement was entered into by volunteer corps, couched in following terms:

"Whereas the British colonies in America are invaded by a large army of French and Indian enemies, who have already possessed themselves of fort William Henry, and are now on their march to penetrate further into the country, and from whom we have nothing to expect, should they succeed in their enterprise, but death and devastation; and as his majesty's principal officers in the parts invaded, have in the most pressing and moving manner, called on all his majesty's faithful subjects, for assistance to defend the country:-Therefore, we, whose names are underwritten, thinking it our duty to do every thing in our power, for the defence [sic] of our liberties, families, and property, are willing, and have agreed to enter voluntarily into the service of our country, and go in a warlike manner against the common enemy; and hereby call upon, and invite all our neighbours, who have families and property to defend, to join with us in this undertaking, promising to march as soon as we are two hundred and fifty in number, recommending ourselves and our cause to the favourable protection of Almighty God."

To this agreement, Hopkins was 1st to affix his name, & chosen to command company thus raised, which consisted of most distinguished men in Providence. Preparations for speedy departure for field of action were made, but on eve of their march, intelligence arrived that their services were no longer necessary, as progress of hostilities towards the south was not to be expected.

In 1774, Hopkins received appointment of delegate from RI to the celebrated congress, which met at Philadelphia that yr. In this assembly he took his seat 1st day of the session, where he became one of most zealous advocates of measures adopted by that illustrious body of men.

In 1775 & 1776, he again represented RI in the Continental Congress. In this latter yr he had the honor of affixing his name to imperishable instrument, which declared Colonies to be free, sovereign, & independent states. He recorded his name with trembling hand, the only instance in which tremulous hand is visible among 56 patriots who wrote their names. But it was in this case only the flesh that was weak. Hopkins had for some time been afflicted with a paralytic affection, which compelled him, when he wrote, to guide his right hand with his left. The spirit of the man knew no fear, in a case where life & liberty were at hazard. In 1778, Hopkins was delegate to Congress for last time. But in several subsequent yrs, he was member of Gen'l Assembly of RI. Last year in which he thus served, was 1779, at which time he was 72 yrs of age. Hopkins lived to 13 Jul 1785, when he closed his long & honorable & useful life, at advanced age of 78. His last illness was long, but to the period of his dissolution, he retained full possession of his faculties. Vast assemblage of persons, consisting of judges of courts, president, professors & students of the college, together with citizens of the town, & inhabitants of the state, followed the remains of this eminent man to his resting place in the grave. Although early education of Hopkins was limited, vigor of his understanding enabled him to surmount his early deficiencies, & assiduous application to pursuit of knowledge, at length, placed him among distinguished literary characters of the day. He delighted in literature & science. He was attentive to books, & close observer of mankind; thus he went on improving, until his death. As public speaker, he was always clear, precise, pertinent, & powerful.

As mathematician, Hopkins greatly excelled. Until in advanced age, he was extensively employed in surveying land. He was distinguished for great exactness in his calculations, & unusual knowledge of his business. As statesman & patriot, he was not less distinguished. He was well instructed in science of politics; had extensive knowledge of rights of his country, & proved himself, through longer life than falls to lot of most men, unshaken friend of his country, & enemy to civil & religious intolerance. He went to his grave honored as skillful legislator, righteous judge, able representative, ignited & upright governor. Charity was an inmate of his habitation. To the cry of suffering his ear was ever open, & in relief of affliction he ever delighted.

In 1763, The Reverend James Manning, a Baptist minister and an alumnus of the College of New Jersey (predecessor to today's Princeton University), was sent to Rhode Island by the Philadelphia Association of Baptist Churches in order to found a college.[1] Providence Plantations, having been the colony founded by Baptist exile and church founder, Roger Williams in the 1630s. At the same time, local Congregationalists, led by future Yale College president Ezra Stiles, were working toward a similar end. The inaugural board meeting of the Corporation of the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations was held in the Old Colony House in Newport, Rhode Island. Former Royal Governors of Rhode Island under King George III Stephen Hopkins and Samuel Ward as well as leading Baptists the Reverend Isaac Backus and the Reverend Samuel Stillman were among those who played an instrumental role in Brown's foundation and later became American revolutionaries.


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Stephen Hopkins (March 7, 1707 – July 13, 1785) was a governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, a Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. From a prominent Rhode Island family, Hopkins was a grandson of William Hopkins who served the colony for 40 years as Deputy, Assistant, Speaker of the House of Deputies, and Major. His great grandfather, Thomas Hopkins, was an original settler of Providence, sailing from England in 1635 with his first cousin, Benedict Arnold, who became the first governor of the Rhode Island colony under the Royal Charter of 1663.

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Gov. Stephen Hopkins, signer of the "Declaration of Independence"'s Timeline

March 7, 1707
Providence, RI
February 10, 1727
Age 19
Providence, Providence County, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
November 6, 1728
Age 21
Scituate, Providence County, Rhode Island, Colonial America
October 3, 1731
Age 24
Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, United States
- 1752
Age 24
And 1770-1775 RI colonial assembly
January 6, 1733
Age 25
Scituate, Providence, RI
November 30, 1734
Age 27
Rhode Island, United States
August 26, 1736
Age 29
Providence, Rhode Island, United States
January 11, 1739
Age 31
Scituate, Providence, RI