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Stephen Hopkins

Hopkins, as Governor of Rhode Island colony,

authorizes payment for postage

Stephen Hopkins, 1707–1785.  Signer of the Declaration of Independence; four-time Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island.  Manuscript Document Signed, Step Hopkins Govr, one page (recto and verso), 5¾” x 6½”, no place, 1759.

Hopkins, during his second term as Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island, sets forth calculations for postage at the Newport post office and directs Thomas Richardson, the General Treasurer, to “pay Thomas Vernon or his order the . . . sum of Nineteen pounds old Tenor & charge the same to the colony.”  He has signed at the lower right.  Vernon signed on the back to note that he had “Rec:d the Contents.”   

Hopkins served four terms as Governor under the Royal Charter of King Charles II:  1755–1757, 1758–1762, 1763–1765, and 1767–1768.  This document is dated 1759 at the upper left.  Richardson, of Newport, was the colony’s General Treasurer 1748–1761. 

Hopkins’s signature on this document reflects the palsy that had already begun to affect him.  This signature is not nearly as shaky, though, as the one that Hopkins signed on the Declaration of Independence 17 years later.  When the Second Continental Congress convened in 1775, author and orator Henry Arniett Brown wrote that “yonder sits the oldest of them all.  His form is bent, his thin locks, fringing a forehead bowed with age and honorable service, and his hands shake tremulously as he folds them in his lap.  It is Stephen Hopkins.”  Hopkins himself noted his shakiness as he signed the Declaration:  At 69 years old, he steadied his right hand with his left as he signed, commenting, “my hand trembles, but my heart does not.” 

Indeed, Hopkins had long advocated independence from Britain and had warned his colleagues that war was inevitable.  “Powder and ball will decide this question,” he said.  “The gun and bayonet alone will finish the contest in which we are engaged, and any of you who cannot bring your minds to this mode of adjusting the quarrel, had better retire in time.”

Hopkins has signed this pay warrant in brown.  There are small ink splatters to the capital letters in the signature and title, perhaps from Hopkins’s palsy.  The document is slightly irregularly trimmed and has a few folds, one of which affects the “e” in Hopkins’s first name.  Overall the piece is in fine to very fine condition.




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