- 28th, 30th, 32nd and 34th Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island
- 3rd, 5th and 17th Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court
- Signer of the US Declaration of Independence
- Delegate to Continental Congress
- First Chancellor of Brown University
Gov. Stephen Hopkins was born 7 March 1707 in Smithfield, Providence County, Rhode Island to William Hopkins (1686-1736) and Ruth Wilkinson (1686-1726) and died 13 July 1785 Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island of unspecified causes. He married Sarah Scott (1707-1753) 9 October 1726 in Scituate, Providence County, Rhode Island. He married Anne Smith (1717-1782) 2 January 1755 in Providence County, Rhode Island.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Marriage and Family
- 3 Children
- 4 Siblings
- 5 Ancestry
- 6 Residences
- 7 Footnotes (including sources)
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 the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 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.
Scituate RI Founder
As a child, Stephen Hopkins was a voracious reader, becoming a serious student of the sciences, mathematics, and literature. He became a surveyor and astronomer, and was involved in taking measurements during the 1769 transit of Venus across the sun. Hopkins began his public service at the early age of 23 as a justice of the peace in the newly established town of Scituate, Rhode Island. He soon became a justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, while also serving at times as the Speaker of the House of Deputies and President of the Scituate Town Council. While active in civic affairs, he also was part owner of an iron foundry and was a successful merchant who was portrayed in John Greenwood's 1750s satirical painting Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam. In May 1747, Hopkins was appointed as a justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and he became the third Chief Justice of this body in 1751.
In 1755, he was elected to his first term as governor of the colony, and served a total of nine of the next 15 years in this capacity.
One of the most contentious political issues of his day was the use of paper money versus hard currency. His bitter political rival Samuel Ward championed hard currency, whereas Hopkins advocated the use of paper money. The rivalry between the two men became so heated that Hopkins sued Ward for £40,000, but lost the case and had to pay costs. By the mid-1760s, the contention between the two men became a serious distraction to the government of the colony and, realizing this, they attempted to placate each other—initially without success. Ultimately, both agreed to not run for office in 1768, and Josias Lyndon was elected governor of the colony as a compromise candidate.
Supreme Court Justice
In 1770, Hopkins once again became Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and, during this tenure, became a principal player in the colony's handling of the 1772 Gaspee Affair, when a group of irate Rhode Island citizens boarded a British revenue vessel and burned it to the waterline. In 1774, he was given an additional important responsibility as one of Rhode Island's two delegates to the First Continental Congress, Samuel Ward being the other. Hopkins had become well known in the 13 colonies ten years earlier when he published a pamphlet entitled "The Rights of Colonies Examined," which was critical of British Parliament and its taxation policies.
Declaration of Independence
Hopkins signed the Declaration of Independence in the summer of 1776 with worsening palsy in his hands, holding his right hand with his left and saying, "my hand trembles, but my heart does not." He served in the Continental Congress until September 1776, when failing health forced him to resign.
First Chancellor of Brown University
He was a strong backer of the College of the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (later named Brown University), one of the school's most ardent supporters, and became the institution's first chancellor. He died in Providence in 1785 at the age of 78, and is buried in the North Burial Ground there. Hopkins has been called Rhode Island's greatest statesman.
Marriage and Family
Hopkins was born in Providence, Rhode Island in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the second of nine children of William and Ruth (Wilkinson) Hopkins.
1st Marriage: Sarah Scott
In 1726, at the age of 19, Hopkins married Sarah Scott, the daughter of Sylvanus Scott and Joanna Jenckes Hopkins and Sarah had seven children, five of whom lived to maturity. Hopkins' younger brother, Esek Hopkins, became the first commander in chief of the Continental Navy, and another brother, William, became a celebrated merchant.
Hopkins' seven children with his first wife included:
- William Hopkins (1726-1793)
- Rufus Hopkins (1727-1813) - who married first on October 18, 1747 Abigail Angell, a great granddaughter of Thomas Angell who was one of five men who came with Roger Williams to found Providence. Rufus married second Sarah Olney.
- John Hopkins (1728-1752) - married a cousin, Mary Gibbs, and died of smallpox at St. Andrews, Spain. His wife was a daughter of Robert and Amey (Whipple) Gibbs, a granddaughter of wealthy Providence merchant Joseph Whipple, and a great granddaughter of early Providence settler John Whipple.
- Ruth Hopkins (1731-1735) - Ruth died in infancy in 1731,
- Lydia Hopkins (1732-1816) - married Daniel Tillinghast, a great-grandson of early Providence Baptist minister Pardon Tillinghast.
- Silvanus Hopkins (1734-1753) - was killed by Indians at St. Peter's Island in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
- Simon Hopkins (1737-1744) - Simon (1736-1743) died as a boy
- George Hopkins (1739-1775) - married Ruth Smith, the daughter of his father's second wife
2nd Marriage: Anne Smith
Sarah died on September 9, 1753 at the age of 46, and following her death, Hopkins married Anne Smith, the daughter of Benjamin Smith, and the widow of an unrelated Benjamin Smith. Hopkins and Anne did not have children together.
|Offspring of Gov. Stephen Hopkins and Sarah Scott (1707-1753)|
|William Hopkins (1726-1793)|
|Rufus Hopkins (1727-1813)|
|John Hopkins (1728-1752)|
|Ruth Hopkins (1731-1735)|
|Lydia Hopkins (1732-1816)|
|Silvanus Hopkins (1734-1753)|
|Simon Hopkins (1737-1744)|
|George Hopkins (1739-1775)||1739 Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island||1775 Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina||Ruth Smith (1745-1812)|
His grandfather William Hopkins was very prominent in colonial affairs, having served for more than 40 years as a Deputy from Providence, Assistant, Speaker of the House of Deputies, and Major. His grandmother Abigail Whipple Hopkins was a daughter of Providence settler John Whipple, sister of the wealthy Providence merchant Joseph Whipple, and aunt to Deputy Governor Joseph Whipple, Jr.
Stephen Hopkins' great grandfather was Thomas Hopkins, who was baptized in Yeovilton, Somerset, England in 1616, the son of William and Joanne (Arnold) Hopkins. Thomas Hopkins was orphaned at an early age and raised by his uncle William Arnold, and he sailed to New England in 1635 with his Arnold relatives, including his first cousin Benedict Arnold, who became the first governor of the colony under the Royal Charter of 1663.
His wife's ancestry: Sarah Scott, the daughter of Sylvanus Scott and Joanna Jenckes, and a great great granddaughter of early Providence settler Richard Scott whose wife was Katharine Marbury, the youngest sister of the famed Puritan dissident minister Anne Hutchinson. Richard Scott was said to be the first Quaker in Providence.