Stephen Hopkins, a name not as immediately recognizable as some of his contemporaries, played a vital role in the founding of the United States. As one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Hopkins left an indelible mark on American history through his unwavering dedication to the cause of liberty and his contributions as a statesman.
Early Life and Background
Stephen Hopkins was born on March 7, 1707, in Scituate, a town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He hailed from a family of moderate means and received limited formal education. Nevertheless, his natural intellect and curiosity drove him to become an autodidact, and he developed a keen interest in various fields, including science, philosophy, and theology.
Hopkins began his political career in Rhode Island, where he had moved to work as a merchant. His talent for public service soon became evident, and he was elected to various positions within the Rhode Island government. Over the years, he held several roles, including town moderator, justice of the peace, and speaker of the Rhode Island House of Deputies.
Rhode Island's Representative
Stephen Hopkins' involvement in the broader colonial affairs grew as he represented Rhode Island in the Albany Congress of 1754. This congress aimed to discuss a unified approach to colonial defense against French and Native American threats. Hopkins' participation highlighted his willingness to work cooperatively with other colonies for the common good.
The Stamp Act and Resistance
The Stamp Act of 1765, which imposed taxes on various documents and printed materials in the American colonies, met with strong resistance. Stephen Hopkins was one of the leading voices against the act in Rhode Island. He authored a forceful protest against the Stamp Act, declaring it unconstitutional. His stance helped galvanize opposition to the British Crown's taxation policies and contributed to the growing sense of colonial unity.
Declaration of Independence
In 1774, Stephen Hopkins was appointed as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He arrived in Philadelphia with a reputation as a strong advocate for colonial rights. While he did not initially endorse independence, Hopkins ultimately supported the cause wholeheartedly.
On August 2, 1776, Stephen Hopkins joined the other delegates in signing the Declaration of Independence. By that time, he was suffering from palsy, a condition that made the simple act of signing his name a significant physical challenge. Legend has it that he quipped, "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."
Stephen Hopkins' commitment to the principles of liberty and self-determination never wavered. He continued to serve his state until his health declined further, forcing him to retire from public life. Hopkins passed away on July 13, 1785, leaving behind a legacy of principled leadership and dedication to the American cause.
While his name may not be as widely recognized today, Stephen Hopkins' contributions to American independence and governance are undeniable. His unwavering support for the principles of freedom and his role in the signing of the Declaration of Independence cement his place among the Founding Fathers of the United States. Stephen Hopkins stands as a testament to the diverse backgrounds and talents of those who came together to create a nation built on the ideals of liberty and self-government.
Submitted by: Raymond E. Foster