Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Joseph Hopkinson, Puerile Essays

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, May 2012

Summary Information
Title: Joseph Hopkinson, Puerile Essays
Creator: Hopkinson, Joseph, 1770-1842
Inclusive dates: 1787-1789
Extent: 1 volume
Abstract:
This volume, titled "Puerile Essays addressed to the Philomathian Society," contains 11 essays (93 pages) composed by Joseph Hopkinson for the Philomathian Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and for other debating societies between March 17, 1787, and October 1789. He discussed a variety of topics related to contemporary American social customs, such as dancing, happiness, the desirability of luxury, family relationships, and astronomy.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1937. M-363.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Provenance:

Lathrop C. Harper gave the book to Randolph G. Adams around 1930. Adams donated the book to the Clements Library in 1937.

Preferred Citation:

Joseph Hopkinson, Puerile Essays , William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

Joseph Hopkinson, the son of Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791) and Ann Borden, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 12, 1770. Hopkinson graduated from the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) in 1786. Following his admittance to the bar in 1791, he briefly practiced law in Easton before returning to Philadelphia, where he participated in several high-profile trials. Hopkinson was elected as a Federalist to the United States House of Representatives between 1815 and 1819, and practiced law in Bordentown, New Jersey, between 1820 and 1822, during which time he served as a member of the New Jersey General Assembly. In 1828, he was appointed a federal judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a position he held until his death in Philadelphia on January 15, 1842. He and his wife, Emily Mifflin, had nine children.


Collection Scope and Content Note

This volume, titled "Puerile Essays addressed to the Philomathian Society," contains 11 essays (93 pages) composed by Joseph Hopkinson for the Philomathian Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and for other debating societies between March 17, 1787, and October 1789. He discussed a variety of topics related to contemporary American social customs, such as dancing, happiness, the desirability of luxury, family relationships and astronomy.

Joseph Hopkinson joined the Philomathian Society on March 14, 1787, and left in June 1788, shortly after the Philomathians joined with the Commercial Society to form the Literary and Commercial Society. The essays, each between 5 and 12 pages long, record Hopkinson's views on a diverse array of topics, many of which reflect contemporary social customs and concerns. Hopkinson defended dancing as a method to develop gracefulness and good health, denounced the development of national prejudices, and discussed development of customs as individual habits and as societal norms. He reflected on the idea of universal happiness, suggesting that it is tied to wealth, and supported the pursuit of luxury as a desirable moral aim. Two essays pertain to relationships between parents and their children, and one briefly relates the history of astronomy. Though Hopkinson left the literary society in 1788, he continued to compose essays until October 1789. In one piece, addressed to the Belles Lettres Society, Hopkinson gave his negative opinion of juvenile debating societies, arguing that they foster disagreement rather than promote original thought. In another, he countered an argument about the desirability of periodical publications, originally presented by a man named Wilkins.

The volume has Randolph G. Adams's bookplate. An obituary for Major Charles Biddle Hopkinson, Joseph Hopkinson's grandson, is pasted in the inside front cover.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Astronomy--History--Early works to 1800.
    • Debates and debating--Societies, etc.
    • Happiness--Early works to 1800.
    • Luxury.
    • Parent and child.
    • Philomathian Society (Philadelphia, Pa.)
    • United States--Social life and customs--1783-1865.
    Genre Terms:
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Essays.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Joseph Hopkinson Puerile Essays addressed to the Philomathian Society [series]
    Pages   1-9  
    "On Astronomy,"  March 17, 1787
    Pages   9-14  
    "On Dancing,"  April 7, 1787
    Pages   15-21  
    "On Custom,"  June 2, 1787
    Pages   22-30  
    "On the advantage of allowing Children Reasonable Amusements,"  July 21, 1787
    Pages   31-39  
    "Happiness[:] Not equal and universal,"  undated
    Pages   40-44  
    "The Folly and Absurdity of National Prejudice,"  undated
    Pages   44-52  
    "On the Affections subsisting between Parent and Child,"  February 9, 1788
    Pages   53-63  
    "A Defence of Luxury,"  May 3, 1788
    Page   64-75  
    "The Disadvantages of Juvenile Societies," delivered before the Belles Lettres Society,  July 25, 1789
    Page   70-81  
    "On Solitude,"  September 1789
    Page   82-93  
    "A Reply to an Essay read by Mr. W[ilkin]s,"  October 1789
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds additional works by and about Joseph Hopkinson. The following manuscript collections contain manuscripts by Joseph Hopkinson:

    Bibliography

    Bloomfield, Maxwell. "Hopkinson, Joseph."American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000. DOI: 11-00425

    "Hopkinson, Joseph." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Online edition. 2012.

    Spiller, Robert E. "The Juvenile Essays of Judge Joseph Hopkinson," The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle 29, no. 3 (1927): 356-359.