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Hopkins, Stephen

Hopkins, Stephen

HOPKINS, STEPHEN. (1707–1785). Signer. Rhode Island. Born in Scituate, Rhode Island, on 7 March 1707, Stephen Hopkins sat in the general assembly all but four of the years from 1732 to 1752, and held several other public offices before moving to Providence in 1742 to join his brother Esek in business. He served on the superior court from 1747 to 1749, and became chief justice in 1751. In 1755 he became governor, and held this office until 1768 with the exception of three years when he was defeated by Samuel Ward of Newport, his bitter rival. An early champion of colonial rights and union, Stephen attended the Albany Congress of 1754. In 1764 he wrote Rights of the Colonies Examined, in which he argued against the Stamp and Sugar Acts and foreshadowed John Dickinson's theory of colonial home rule. As chief justice of the superior court, he frustrated Crown authorities in the Gaspée affair of 1772. He was a delegate to the first and Second Continental Congresses, signed the Declaration of Independence, and was a member of the committee to organize the navy. In this capacity he would appear to have done his country a disservice in supporting the selection of his brother Esek as naval commander in chief. Presumably he was not an innocent bystander when Esek's son, John B. Hopkins, was appointed one of the four captains in the new navy. After serving on the committee for preparing the Articles of Confederation, Stephen Hopkins returned home because of ill health in September 1776. He served in the assembly from 1777 through 1779, and then retired from politics. He died in Providence on 13 July 1785.

SEE ALSO Gaspée Affair; Hopkins, Esek; Hopkins, John Burroughs.


Hopkins Papers. Brown University Library, Providence, R.I..

Lovejoy, David S. Rhode Island Politics and the American Revolution, 1760–1776. Providence, R.I.: Brown University Press, 1958.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles

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