Hopkinson, Francis

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Hopkinson, Francis,

1737–91, American writer and musician, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Philadelphia. A practicing lawyer, Hopkinson was also an accomplished poet, essayist, and musician and is considered the first native American composer of a secular song, My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free (1759). Hopkinson represented (1776) New Jersey in the Continental Congress and later (1776–78) served as chairman of the Navy Board (as such he may have designed the American flag) and as treasurer of the Continental Loan Office (1778–81). He wrote in support of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and returned to public office in Pennsylvania, where he served as judge of the U.S. District Court (1789–91).


See his essays and writings (3 vol., 1792; repr. 1968); biographies by G. E. Hastings (1926, repr. 1968) and O. G. Sonneck (1905, repr. 1966).

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Hopkinson, Francis

(1737–91) public official, author, musician, judge; born in Philadelphia. The first graduate of what is now the University of Pennsylvania, he became a lawyer, operated a dry goods store, then moved to New Jersey and returned to practicing law. He represented New Jersey at the First Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. He helped design the first national flag (1777). He also published many political satires and pamphlets, most aimed against the British. A minor poet, he was an accomplished harpsichordist; he wrote music for this instrument and is arguably the first native-born American composer of classical music. After serving on the Pennsylvania admiralty court (1779–89), he was a U.S. district judge in Pennsylvania from 1789 until his death.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.