Joseph Hopkinson

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Joseph Hopkinson (November 12, 1770 – January 15, 1842) was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, and later a United States federal judge.

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Joseph Hopkinson (son of Francis Hopkinson) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received an A.B. from the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia in 1786, and read law to be admitted to the bar in Philadelphia in 1791. He practiced his profession there until 1814, except for the period of one year at Easton, Pennsylvania. He served as secretary of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania in 1790 and 1791. In 1798, he wrote lyrics to the anthem "Hail, Columbia" (music by Philip Phile), and was associated with Daniel Webster in the Dartmouth College case. He served as counsel for Justice Samuel Chase in his impeachment trial before the United States Senate in 1804 and 1805. He became a trustee on the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania in 1806, holding that position for much of his life, from 1806 to 1819 and again from 1822 to 1842.

Congressional service and later political activities[edit]

Hopkinson was elected as a Federalist to the Fourteenth Congress, in 1816. He was reelected to the succeeding Fifteenth Congress. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1818.

On February 22–27, 1819, he argued before the United States Supreme Court in the McCulloch v. Maryland case as part of the defense counsel. In this case he argued against Daniel Webster, speaking directly after him, and specifically his idea of equating taxation with the power to destroy. He argued strongly for States' rights: claiming a United States Bank Branch was unconstitutional based on the prohibition of congress to delegate power, a co-equal taxation power between the federal and state governments, the enumerated nature of the federal government and the reserved powers of the states (declared in the 10th amendment).

He moved to Bordentown, New Jersey, in 1820, and served as a member of the New Jersey House of Assembly from 1821 to 1822.

Federal judicial service[edit]

Hopkinson returned to Philadelphia in 1823, resuming his private practice there until 1828.

On October 23, 1828, Hopkinson received a recess appointment from John Quincy Adams to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania vacated by the death of Richard Peters. Formally nominated on December 11, 1828, Hopkinson was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 23, 1829, and received his commission the same day. During his service on the court, he also served as chairman of the State constitutional convention in 1837. He served on the court until his death, in Philadelphia, in 1842, and was interred in the old Borden-Hopkinson Burial Ground in Bordentown, New Jersey.


  • Konkle, Burton Alva. Joseph Hopkinson, 1770-1842, Jurist-Scholar-Inspirer of the Arts: Author of Hail Columbia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931.


External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Adam Seybert
William Anderson
John Conard
Charles J. Ingersoll
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district

1815 - 1819

1815 - 1817 alongside: William Milnor and Thomas Smith
1815 alongside: Jonathan Williams
1815 - 1819 alongside: John Sergeant
1817 - 1819 alongside: William Anderson and Adam Seybert

Succeeded by
Samuel Edwards
Thomas Forrest
John Sergeant
Joseph Hemphill