Stephen was born in Providence on March 7, 1707, the only son of William and Ruth (Wilkinson) Hopkins. He grew up on a farm in Scituate, Rhode Island and attended a public school. He moved back to Providence in 1742 and worked as a merchant, ship owner, and surveyor.
Hopkins helped to found a subscription library in 1754, and was a member of the Philosophical Society of Newport. Although largely self educated Hopkins served as chancellor of the College of Rhode Island (later Brown University). In 1764 he published a pamphlet "The Rights of the Colonies Examined" whose broad distribution and criticism of taxation and parliament built his reputation as a revolutionary leader.
Hopkins served in Rhode Island's colonial assembly (1732-1752, 1770-1775) and was its Speaker in 1738 to 1744 and in 1749. He represented Rhode Island at the Albany Congress in 1754. He was elected Governor of Rhode Island nine times (1755-1756, 1758-1761, 1763-1764, and 1767. He led the state's delegation to the Continental Congress until September of 1776, when his health forced him to resign the post.
While serving in the Rhode Island Assembly in 1774 he introduced the bill that outlawed the import of slaves to the colony. This became one of the first anti-slavery laws in the United States.
Stephen died at his home in Providence on July 13, 1785.
His Congressional Biography