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Stephen Hopkins was a native of that part of Providence which is now called Scituate, where he was born on the 7th of March, 1707. His parentage was very respectable, being a descendant of Benedict Arnold, the first governor of Rhode Island.
His early education was limited, being confined to the instruction imparted in the common schools of the country. Yet it is recorded of him, that he excelled in a knowledge of penmanship, and in the practical branches of mathematics, particularly surveying.
For several years he followed the profession of a farmer. At an early period, he was elected town clerk of Scituate, and some time after was chosen a representative from that town to the general assembly. He was subsequently appointed a justice of the peace, and a 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, and removed to Providence, where he erected a house, in which he continued to reside till his death. In this latter place he entered into mercantile business, and was extensively engaged in building and fitting out vessels,
When a representative from Scituate, he was elected speaker of the house of representatives. To this latter office he was again chosen after his removal to Providence, and continued to occupy the station for several successive year, being a representative from the latter town. In 1751, he was chosen chief justice of the superior court, in which office he continued till the year 1754.
In this latter year he was appointed a commissioner from Rhode Island, to the celebrated convention which met at Albany; which had for its object the securing of the friendship of the five nations of Indians, in the approaching French war, and an union between the several colonies of America.
In 1756, he was elected chief magistrate of the colony of 'Rhode Island, which office he continued to hold, with but few intervals, until the year 1767. In the discharge of the duties of this responsible station, he acted with dignity and decision. The prosperity of his country lay near his heart, nor did he hesitate to propose and support the measures, which appeared the best calculated to promote the interests of the colonies in opposition to the encroachments of British power.
At an early period of the difficulties between the colonies and Great Britain, he took an active and decided part in favor of the former. In a pamphlet, entitled, "The rights of colonies examined," he exposed the injustice of the stamp act, and various other acts of the British government. This pamphlet was published by order of the general assembly, in 1765.
Designed and Edited by John Vinci
Last modified January 2, 2004