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 Stephen Hopkins

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Stephen Hopkins

Declaration of Independence Signer. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, he grew up in Scituate, Rhode Island, the son of a farmer. His mother was a Quaker. For much of his life, he was a Quaker, adopting their plain dress and many of their beliefs. He never attended school, but learned to read and write from his mother. When he wasn't working on the farm, he would read history and law, his two favorite subjects. At the age of 25, he was chosen to be Scituate's Town Clerk, and would later serve in the Rhode Island Legislature. He founded a patriotic newspaper, the "Providence Gazette" and served as the first chancellor of what is now Brown University. In 1755, he was elected Governor of Rhode Island. In 1764, Governor Hopkins wrote a pamphlet called "The Rights of the Colonies Examined", in which he wrote that "Liberty is the greatest blessing that men enjoy," and went on to explain that Britain could not govern the colonies without the 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 the Superior Court of Rhode Island. The next year, when Americans burned a British ship, Gaspee, off the Rhode Island shore, shooting a British officer, Hopkins helped the culprits to escape. This again made him popular in patriotic groups. In 1774, he was elected to the First Continental Congress, and again in 1775, to the Second Continental Congress. From the beginning, Hopkins supported the cause of independence. At 69 years old, he was the second oldest delegate (after Benjamin Franklin), and 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, and 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 United States Navy. In 1774, thanks to his efforts, Rhode Island became the first state to outlaw the importation of slaves. He died at his home in Providence, RI, in 1785, at the age of 78.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 502
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Stephen Hopkins (7 Mar 1707–13 Jul 1785), Find A Grave Memorial no. 502, citing North Burial Ground, Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .