March 7, 1707, was the birthday of Stephen Hopkins, perhaps the most famous Rhode Islander from the colonial period. One of the most accomplished politicians in the state’s history, Hopkin’s resume was impressive. It included four terms as Governor of the Rhode Island colony, President of the Scituate Town Council, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, delegate to the Continental Congress, and signer of the Declaration of Independence.
He was a founder of the College of the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (later Brown University) where he served as Chancellor. He has business interests throughout his life, including co-ownership of the Hope Furness, where, along with the Brown brothers, he produced arms for the Revolutionary War.
Like many leading Rhode Islanders of his time, Hopkins was a slave owner. According to records, he owned five slaves when he wrote his will in 1760. He later freed several and in 1774, was instrumental in passing a state law banning the importation of slaves.
Hopkins died in 1785 and is buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence. The town of Hopkinton is named for him.