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Declaration-Signer Stephen Hopkins and Former Rival Samuel Ward, Both Representatives of Rhode Island in the Continental Congress, Sign a Joint Letter Twice
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“Mr. [Henry?]Wards Sentiments & Conduct relative to the Slave Trade are so universally known that it is unnecessary to say anything on that head…. We have therefore no Time to loose but ought to improve every moment in making all possible Preparations for the Defence of the Colonies in general”

This letter from Rhode Island’s delegates to the Second Continental Congress may have been directed to Acting Governor or Governor Nicholas Cooke in late 1775 or early 1776. It discusses the needs of the colonies to defend themselves against British incursions and criticizes a Rhode Islander who refused to support the Revolution.

The shakiness of Hopkins’s signatures is apparent. When he signed the Declaration of Independence, Hopkins said, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”

STEPHEN HOPKINS and SAMUEL WARD. Fragment of Letter Signed twice by each, to [Rhode Island Governor Nicholas Cooke?], n.d. (ca. October 1775-March 1776), n.p. 2 pp., 7.75 x 12.75 in.

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Complete Transcript
Have the good of his Country so little at Heart as not only to decline entering into her Service but to violate her most sacred Resolutions and endeavor to fix a Stigma on the Colony which gave him Birth & hath always afforded him Protection:[1] Mr. Wards Sentiments & Conduct relative to the Slave Trade are so universally known that it is unnecessary to say anything on that head.[2]

            With Regard to the Prices of West India Goods, the Intention of the Resolve of the last Congress that Goods should be sold at the same Rates as they had been for a year preceeding meant nothing more than that the Importers of them should sell them at the same Profits as they had done & not make unreasonable advantages of the Scarcity of those Articles.

            The Comee will give you all the news we have here  We shall therefore only add that every thing confirms the Opinion we some time since wrote You that our Enemies will make their greatest possible Efforts against us early in the Spring: We have therefore no Time to loose but ought to improve every moment in making all possible Preparations for the Defence of the Colonies in general <2> and for our own immediate Defence in particular  We doubt not but that every proper measure for those important Purposes will be adopted and we shall be happy in doing everything within our Sphere for the Safety and Interest of the Colony

            We are with very great Regard / Sir / Your most obedient / and very humble Servants

                                                                        Step Hopkins

                                                                        Sam: Ward


            Being obliged to attend Congress much longer than was expected when the colony empowered us to receive two hundred Dollars each out of the money due from the Continen[t?]to the Colony  We were under a necessity of receiving four hundred Dollars each  We doubt not but it will be agreable & desire that we may be respectively charged with that Sum

400 Dollars each

                                                                        Step Hopkins

                                                                        Sam: Ward

Stephen Hopkins (1707-1785), was born in Rhode Island into a prominent colonial family. He was a largely self-educated voracious reader. He developed skills in surveying and was interested in astronomy and other sciences. After holding local offices, he was elected to the House of Deputies in 1744. He became a merchant in Providence and was elected to his first term as governor of the colony in 1755. For many years, Hopkins was a political opponent and rival of Samuel Ward, and the two traded the office of governor until 1768, when Hopkins suggested a compromise candidate, and the two thereafter became friends and allies. Hopkins served as the first chancellor of Rhode Island College (Brown University) from 1764 until his death. Hopkins built his reputation as a revolutionary leader by writing a pamphlet, The Rights of the Colonies Examined (1764), opposing the Stamp Act. He served as a justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court of Judicature, becoming its chief justice in 1751; he resigned in 1755 when he became governor but resumed the position from 1770 to 1775. Hopkins represented Rhode Island in the First and Second Continental Congresses and signed the Declaration of Independence. Although he owned slaves early in his life, he grew increasingly opposed to slavery and introduced the 1774 bill that prohibited the importation of slaves into Rhode Island. Ill health forced him to resign from the Continental Congress in September 1776, but he again served in the Rhode Island General Assembly from 1777 to 1779.

Samuel Ward (1725-1776) was a direct descendant of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams. He was educated at a local grammar school and perhaps tutored by an older brother who had graduated from Harvard College in 1733. He married Anne Ray; they had eleven children, and settled in Westerly, where he devoted himself to livestock breeding. He was first elected to the House of Deputies in 1756. He supported hard money while Gov. Stephen Hopkins favored paper currency. The Assembly appointed Ward as chief justice of the Superior Court of Judicature in 1761. He served for a year before being elected governor, serving from 1762 to 1763, and again from 1765 to 1767, preceded and succeeded each time by Hopkins. In 1768, they agreed on Josias Lyndon as a compromise candidate and became good friends. Ward retired to his estate, returning to politics in 1774 when he and Hopkins were both elected to the First Continental Congress. They served together until Ward died of smallpox in Philadelphia three months before Hopkins signed the Declaration of Independence.

Condition: Separations at the folds repaired.

Provenance: From an album apparently compiled by Horatio Gates Jones Jr. (1822-1893), a Philadelphia politician who received an honorary degree from Brown University in 1863. His father graduated from Brown in 1812. The volume was later the property of the Crozer Theological Seminary and then deaccessioned.

[1] This may refer to Joseph Wanton Sr., colonial governor of Rhode Island from 1769 to 1775. Though elected for the seventh time in 1775, Wanton would not raise an army, leading the Assembly to refuse to seat him as governor and formally to remove him a few months later. Patriot and Deputy Governor Nicholas Cooke took his place as the final governor of the colony of Rhode Island and the first of the new state of Rhode Island.

[2] This may refer to Henry Ward, who served as Secretary of the State of Rhode Island from 1760 to 1797. He was a brother of Samuel Ward.