Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Francis Hopkinson


   Mr. Hopkinson published several poetical pieces. His chief merit as a poet consisted in an easy versification. His poetical productions were chiefly designed to amuse. This object they effected. They attracted no small attention, throughout the country; but none was more popular than the humorous and well known ballad, called "The Battle of the Kegs."

   The life of Mr. Hopkinson was suddenly terminated, while in the midst of his usefulness, on the eighth of May, 1791, in the fifty-third year of his age. He died of an apoplectic fit, which, in two hours after the attack, put a period to his mortal existence. In stature, Mr. Hopkinson was below the common size. His countenance was extremely animated, though his features were small. In speech he was fluent, and in his motions he was unusually quick. Few men were kinder in their dispositions, or more benevolent in their lives. He was distinguished for his powers of taste, and for his love and devotion to science. He possessed a library, which contained the most distinguished literary productions of the times; and in his library room was to be found a collection of scientific apparatus, with which he amused himself in his leisure hours, and added greatly to his stock of knowledge, The following anecdote furnishes evidence of the estimation in which he was held, as a philosopher, and a man of letters. Sometime during the revolutionary war, Bordentown, the place where Mr. Hopkinson and family resided, was suddenly invaded by a party of Hessians. The family had hardly time, to escape before the invaders began the plunder of the house. After the evacuation of Philadelphia, by the British, a volume, which had been taken from the library of Mr. Hopkinson, at the above period, fell into his hands. On a blank leaf, the officer, who took the book, had written in German an acknowledgment of the theft, declaring that although be believed Mr. Hopkinson to be an obstinate rebel, the books, and philosophical apparatus of his library were sufficient evidence, that he was a learned man.

   Mr. Hopkinson, at his decease, left a widow and five children. The eldest of these, Joseph Hopkinson, who still lives, strongly resembles his father, in the endowments of his mind, and the brilliancy of his genius. He occupies an enviable rank among the advocates of the American bar.

Source: Rev. Charles A. Goodrich Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence. New York: William Reed & Co., 1856. Pages 222-225. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)

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