Stephen Hopkins was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1707. He received a mediocre education while growing up, but this did not prevent him from becoming involved in politics very early on in life. Starting in 1731, when he was just twenty-four years old, he held numerous positions ranging from town clerk, president of the town council, justice of the peace, justice and clerk of the Providence County court of common pleas, legislator, and speaker of the house. Some ten years later, his success in the business world grew when he opened a mercantile-shipping firm with his brother.
The leader of a Rhode Island’s radical faction, Hopkins was involved in a long battle with the conservatives of his state. He is additionally famous for his strong opposition to slavery. In 1774, in fact, Rhode Island enacted a bill he authored - one of the United States’ first anti-slavery laws.
While attending the Continental Congress, where he served from 1774 until 1776, Hopkins helped to draft the Articles of Confederation and served on the committee responsible for the development of the Continental Navy. He also remained active in Rhode Island’s committee of correspondence, as well as on its legislature and on Superior Court.
Due to poor health, Hopkins was forced to leave the Congress in September of 1776, just one month after he had signed the Declaration of Independence. He continued to serve his state during the year that followed and even attended several New England political conventions. In 1780, however, he left politics all together. He died five hears later at the age of seventy-eight, and was laid to rest in Providence’s North Burial Ground.