First President of the United States  

 

Quick - Who was the first President of the United States? 

I'm sure that George Washington was your best guess. 

After all, no one else comes to mind. 

 

But think back to your history books - George Washington is revered as the father of our country. He was not, however, our first president. Washington was the first president elected under the Constitution. But the United States existed as a nation for several years before the Constitution was enacted, held together by the Articles of Confederation. The United States declared its independence in 1776, yet Washington did not take office until April 30, 1789. So who was running the country during these initial years of this young country? 

Who Was the First President of the United States?

The United States of America was actually formed on March 1, 1781 with the adoption of The Articles of Confederation by Maryland whose delegates delayed its ratification over a western border dispute with Virginia and New York. Upon the March 1 ratification the President of the Continental Congress officially became President of the United States in Congress Assembled.  

John Hanson was the first President of the United States to serve the full one-year term (178182), under the ratified Articles of Confederation. 

However, the ratification occurred during the term of Samuel Huntington who served as President from September 28, 1779 to July 6, 1781. Consequently, Samuel Huntington was the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled and was followed by Thomas McKean (July 10, 1781 to November 5, 1781), and John Hanson (the first President to serve the full term of one year - November 5, 1781 to November 4, 1782).

 

See the following for proper progression 

 

Presidents of the Continental Congress as
The United Colonies of America

Peyton Randolph
September 5, 1774 to October 22, 1774 
and May 20 to May 24, 1775

Henry Middleton

October 22, 1774 to October 26, 1774

John Hancock
October 27, 1775 to July 1, 1776

 

Presidents of the Continental Congress
United States of America

John Hancock
July 2, 1776 to  October 29, 1777

Henry Laurens
November 1, 1777 to December 9, 1778

John Jay
December 10, 1778 to September 28, 1779

Samuel Huntington
September 28, 1779 to February 28, 1781

 

The new country was actually formed on March 1, 1781 with the adoption of The Articles of Confederation

Presidents of the United States
In Congress Assembled
 

Samuel Huntington
1st President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
March 1, 1781 to July 6, 1781

By May of 1781, President Huntington's health began to fail. Huntington, despite the pleadings of the delegates tendered his resignation as President on July 6, 1781. The United States in Congress Assembled Journals reported:

"The President having informed the United States in Congress assembled, that his ill state of health" ... not permit him to continue longer in the exercise of the duties of that office".

Thomas McKean
2nd President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
July 10, 1781 to November 5, 1781

Congress held off electing a new President until July 10th in the hope that Huntington would recover and reconsider. On July 10th Delegate Thomas McKean was elected as the second President of the United States in Congress Assembled and was first to be elected under the Articles of Confederation as President Huntington assumed the position as the former President of the Continental Congress.

McKean was president of congress in 1781, and in that capacity received Washington's dispatches announcing the surrender of Cornwallis.

So revered was this office by Thomas McKean (Signer of the Declaration of Independence) that the Presidency was used to turn down his party's 1804 nomination for Vice President under Thomas Jefferson saying:

"... President of the United States in Congress Assembled in the year of 1781 (a proud year for Americans) equaled any merit or pretensions of mine and cannot now be increased by the office of Vice President.

 

John Hanson   (1st. President to serve a full one year term)
3rd President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
November 5, 1781 to November 4, 1782

Elias Boudinot
4th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
November 4, 1782 to November 3, 1783

Thomas Mifflin
5th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
November 3, 1783 to June 3, 1784

Richard Henry Lee
6th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
November 30, 1784 to November 23, 1785

John Hancock
7th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
November 23, 1785 to June 6, 1786

Nathaniel Gorham
8th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
June 1786 - November 13, 1786

Arthur St. Clair
9th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
February 2, 1787 to October 29, 1787

Cyrus Griffin
10th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
January 22, 1788 to March 4, 1789


 

First President of the United States 
United States Constitution

George Washington (F)

 

 

 

 

John Hanson, American Patriot and First President of the United States to serve a full one year term (1715-1783)
John Hanson Image  

He was the heir of one of the greatest family traditions in the colonies and became the patriarch of a long line of American patriots his great-grandfather died at Lutzen beside the great King Gustavus Aldophus of Sweden; his grandfather was one of the founders of New Sweden along the Delaware River in Maryland; one of his nephews was the military secretary to George Washington; another was a signer of the Declaration; still another was a signer of the Constitution; yet another was Governor of Maryland during the Revolution; and still another was a member of the first Congress; two sons were killed in action with the Continental Army; a grandson served as a member of Congress under the new Constitution; and another grandson was a Maryland Senator. Thus, even if Hanson had not served as President himself, he would have greatly contributed to the life of the nation through his ancestry and progeny.

As a youngster he began a self-guided reading of classics and rather quickly became an acknowledged expert in the juridicalism of Anselm and the practical philosophy of Seneca both of which were influential in the development of the political philosophy of the great leaders of the Reformation. It was based upon these legal and theological studies that the young planter his farm, Mulberry Grove was just across the Potomac from Mount Vernon began to espouse the cause of the patriots.

In 1775 he was elected to the Provincial Legislature of Maryland. Then in 1777, he became a member of Congress where he distinguished himself as a brilliant administrator. Thus, he was elected President in 1781. 

The new country was actually formed on March 1, 1781 with the adoption of The Articles of Confederation. This document was actually proposed on June 11, 1776, but not agreed upon by Congress until November 15, 1777. Maryland refused to sign this document until Virginia and New York ceded their western lands (Maryland was afraid that these states would gain too much power in the new government from such large amounts of land). Once the signing took place in 1781, a President was needed to run the country. After the service of Samuel Huntington and Thomas McKean, John Hanson was chosen unanimously by Congress as the 3rd. President (which included George Washington). In fact, all the other potential candidates refused to run against him, as he was a major player in the Revolution and an extremely influential member of Congress. 

As President, Hanson had quite the shoes to fill.  The role was still poorly defined. His actions in office would set precedent for all future Presidents. He took office just as the Revolutionary War ended. Almost immediately, the troops demanded to be paid. As would be expected after any long war, there were no funds to meet the salaries. As a result, the soldiers threatened to overthrow the new government and put Washington on the throne as a monarch. All the members of Congress ran for their lives, leaving Hanson running the government. He somehow managed to calm the troops and hold the country together. If he had failed, the government would have fallen almost immediately and everyone would have been bowing to King Washington. 

Hanson, as President, ordered all foreign troops off American soil, as well as the removal of all foreign flags. This was quite a feat, considering the fact that so many European countries had a stake in the United States since the days following Columbus. Hanson established the Great Seal of the United States, which all Presidents have since been required to use on all official documents. President Hanson also established the first Treasury Department, the first Secretary of War, and the first Foreign Affairs Department. Lastly, he declared that the fourth Thursday of every November was to be Thanksgiving Day, which is still true today. 

The Articles of Confederation only allowed a President to serve a one-year term during any three-year period, so Hanson actually accomplished quite a bit in such little time. He served in that office from November 5, 1781 until November 3, 1782. He was the first President to serve a full term after the full ratification of the Articles of Confederation and like so many of the Southern and New England Founders, he was strongly opposed to the Constitution when it was first discussed. He remained a confirmed anti-federalist until his untimely death.

Six other presidents were elected after him - Elias Boudinot (1783), Thomas Mifflin (1784), Richard Henry Lee (1785), Nathan Gorman (1786), Arthur St. Clair (1787), and Cyrus Griffin (1788) - all prior to Washington taking office. Why don't we ever hear about the first seven Presidents of the United States? It's quite simple - The Articles of Confederation didn't work well. The individual states had too much power and nothing could be agreed upon. A new doctrine needed to be written - something we know as the Constitution. 

George Washington was definitely not the first President of the United States. He was the first President of the United States under the Constitution we follow today. And the first nine Presidents are forgotten in history. 

 

John Hanson (first U.S. president under Articles of Confederation to serve one full year term) Hanson, whose father was a Lutheran pastor, was born and reared on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay and later moved to Mulberry Grove in Maryland's frontier Frederick County. In the summer and fall of 1774 he joined his fellow citizens in opposing the Boston Port Bill passed in March by the British Parliament. His leadership was noted in elections to the county's Committee of Correspondence and Committee of Observation. He was one of their delegates to the Provincial Convention at Annapolis in July 1775 and in 1779 was elected a Maryland delegate to the Continental Congress. On March 1, 1781, he signed the Articles of Confederation on behalf of Maryland, the last of the 13 states to sign. On November 5, 1781, he was elected and served for one year as the first president of the Continental Congress. Hanson was chosen by Maryland as one of its two citizens to be honored by placing their statues in Statuary Hall in our nation's capitol. He died in 1783.

 

John Hanson:

Born
3 April 1715 (o.s.)
Mulberry Grove, Charles County, Maryland
Died
22 November 1783
Residence of Hanson's nephew
Oxon Hill, Prince Georges County, Maryland
Buried
Prince Georges County, Maryland
Parents
Samuel Hanson
Married
Jane Contee (b. 28 September 1728) (d. 21 February 1812)
1747
Children
Samuel Hanson
Jane Contee Hanson (b. 23 February 1744)
John Hanson Jr.
Alexander Contee Hanson (b. 1749) (d. 16 January 1806)
Peter Contee Hanson (b. 1776)
In Office
5 November 1781 to 4 November 1782
Vice President
 
Other Political Offices
Maryland State House of Delegates
Maryland State Senate (1757 - 1773)
Delegate to the General Congress at Annapolis (1774)
Treasurer of Frederick County, Maryland (1775)
Member of Maryland Convention (1775)
Member of the Continental Congress (1780 - 1782)
Signer of the Articles of Confederation of the United States

 

 

The Articles of Confederation (1781)
 

To all to whom these presents shall come, we the undersigned delegates of the states affixed to our names, send greeting:

Whereas the delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled, did, on the fifteenth day of November in the year of our Lord seventeen seventy-seven, and in the second year of the Independence of America, agree to Certain Articles of Confederation and perpetual union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia in the words following, viz:

Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union Between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

ARTICLE I. The style of this Confederacy shall be "The United States of America."

ARTICLE II. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.

ARTICLE III. The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other for their common defence, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence whatever.

ARTICLE IV. The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these states, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states; and the people of each state shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other state, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively; provided, that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any state, to any other state of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also, that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any state on the property of the United States, or either of them.

If any person guilty of or charged with treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any state, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall upon demand of the governor or executive power of the state from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the state having jurisdiction of his offense.

Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these states to the records, acts and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other state.

ARTICLE V. For the more convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislature of each state shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power, reserved to each state, to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead, for the remainder of the year.

No state shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor by more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.

Each state shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the states, and while they act as members of the committee of the states.

In determining questions in the United States, in Congress assembled, each state shall have one vote.

Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any court, or place out of Congress, and the members of Congress shall be protected in their persons from arrests and imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from, and attendance on Congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.

ARTICLE VI. No state without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, alliance or treaty with any king, prince or state; nor shall any person holding any office of profit or trust under the United States, or any of them, accept of any, present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince or foreign state; nor shall the United States in Congress assembled, or any of them, grant any title of nobility.

No two or more states shall enter into any treaty, confederation or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress asembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.

No state shall lay any impost or duties, which may interfere with any stipulations in treaties, entered into by the United States in Congress assembled, with any king, prince or state, in pursuance of any treaties already proposed by Congress to the courts of France and Spain.

No vessels of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any state, except such number only as shall be deemed necessary by the United States in Congress assembled, for the defence of such state, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any state, in time of peace except such number only, as in the judgment of the United States, Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such state; but every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.

No state shall engage in any war without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, unless such state be actually invaded by enemies, or shall have received certain advice of a resolution being formed by some nation of Indians to invade such state, and the danger is so imminent as not to admit of a delay, till the United States in Congress assembled can be consulted: nor shall any state grant commissions to any ships or vessels of war, nor letters of marque or reprisal, except it be after a declaration of war by the United States in Congress assembled, and then only against the kingdom or state and the subjects thereof, against which war has been so declared, and under such regulations as shall be established by the United States in Congress assembled, unless such state be infested by pirates, in which case vessels of war be fitted out for that occasion, and kept so long as the danger shall continue, or until the United States in Congress assembled shall determine otherwise.

ARTICLE VII. When land forces are raised by any state for the common defence, all officers of or under the rank of colonel, shall be appointed by the Legislature of each state respectively by whom such forces shall be raised, or in such manner as such state shall direct, all vacancies shall be filled up by the state which first made the appointment.

ARTICLE VIII. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states, in proportion to the value of all land within each state, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint.

The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several states within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled.

ARTICLE IX. The United States in Congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article; of sending and receiving ambassadors; entering into treaties and alliances; provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective states shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners, as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever; of establishing rules for deciding in all cases, what captures on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated; of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace; appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures, provided that no member of Congress shall be appointed a judge of any of said courts.

The United States in Congress assembled shall also be the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences now subsisting or that hereafter may arise between two or more states concerning boundary, jurisdiction or any other cause whatever; which authority shall always be exercised in the manner following. Whenever the legislative or executive authority or lawful agent of any state in controversy with another shall present a petition to Congress, stating the matter in question and praying for a hearing, notice thereof shall be given by order of Congress to the legislative or executive authority of the other state in controversy, and a day assigned for the appearance of the parties by their lawful agents, who shall then be directed to appoint by joint consent commissioners or judges to constitute a court for hearing and determining the matter in question: but if they can not agree, Congress shall name three persons out of each of the United States, and from the list of such persons each party shall alternately strike out one, the petitioners beginning, until the number shall be reduced to thirteen; and from that number not less than seven, nor more than nine names, as Congress shall direct, shall in the presence of Congress be drawn out by lot, and the persons whose names shall be so drawn or any five of them, shall be commissioners or judges, to hear and finally determine the controversy, so always as a major part of the judges who shall hear the cause shall agree in the determination: and if either party shall neglect to attend at the day appointed, without showing reasons, which Congress judge sufficient, or being present shall refuse to strike, the Congress shall proceed to nominate three persons out of each state, and the Secretary of Congress shall strike in behalf of such party absent or refusing; and the judgment and sentence of the court to be appointed, in the manner before prescribed, shall be final and conclusive; and if any of the parties shall refuse to submit to the authority of such court, or to appear or defend their claim or cause, the court shall, nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence, or judgment, which shall in like manner be final and decisive, the judgment or sentence and other proceeds being in either case transmitted to Congress, and lodged among the acts of Congress for the security of the parties concerned: provided that every commissioner, before he sits in judgment, shall take an oath to be administered by one of the judges of the supreme or superior court of the state where the cause shall be tried, "well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question, according to the best of his judgment without favor, affection, or hope of reward": provided also that no state shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.

All controversies concerning the private right of soil claimed under different grants of two or more states, whose jurisdiction as they may respect such lands, and the states which passed such grants are adjusted, the said grants or either of them being at the same time claimed to have originated antecedent to such settlement of jurisdiction, shall on the petition of either party to the Congress of the United States, be finally determined as near as may be in the same manner as is before prescribed for deciding disputes respecting territorial jurisdiction between the different states.

The United States in Congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of respective state fixing the standard of weights and measures throughout the United States regulating the trade, and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the states, provided that the legislative right of state within its own limits be not infringed or violated; establishing and regulating post offices from one state to another, throughout all the United States, and exacting such postage on the papers passing through the same as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office; appointing all officers of the land forces, in the service of the United States, excepting regimental officers; appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States; making rules for the government and regulation of said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.

The United States in Congress assembled shall have authority to appoint a committee, to sit in the recess of Congress, to be denominated "a Committee of the States," and to consist of one delegate from each state; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the United States under their direction; to appoint one of their number to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years; to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses; to borrow money, or emit bills on the credit of the United States, transmitting every half year to the respective states an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted; to build and equip a navy; to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each state for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such state; which requisition shall be binding, and thereupon the legislature of each state shall appoint the regimental officers, raise the men and clothe, arm and equip them in a soldier like manner, at the expense of the United States; and the officers and men so clothed, armed and equipped shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled: but if the United States in Congress assembled shall, on consideration of circumstances judge proper that any state should not raise men, or should raise a smaller number than its quota, and that any other state should raise a greater number of men than the quota thereof, such extra number shall be raised, officered, clothed, armed and equipped in the same manner as the quota of such state, unless the legislature of such state shall judge that such extra number can not be safely spared out of the same, in which case they shall raise, officer, clothe, arm and equip as many of such extra number as they judge can be safely spared. And the officers and men so clothed, armed and equipped, shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled.

The United States in Congress assembled shall never engage in war, nor grant letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defense and welfare of the United States, or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the United States, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war, to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander-in-chief of the army or navy, unless nine states assent to the same: nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day be determined, unless by the votes of a majority of the United States in Congress assembled.

The Congress of the United States shall have power to adjourn to any time within the year, and to any place within the United States, so that no period of adjournment be for a longer duration than the space of six months; and shall publish the journal of their proceedings monthly, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances or military operations, as in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each state on any question shall be entered on the journal, when it is desired by any delegate; and the delegates of a state, or any of them, at his or their request, shall be furnished with transcript of the said journal, except such parts as are above excepted to lay before the legislatures of the several states.

ARTICLE X. The Committee of the States, or any nine of them shall be authorized to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States in Congress assembled, by the consent of nine states, shall from time to time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said committee for the exercise of which, by the Articles of Confederation, the voice of nine states in the Congress of the United States assembled is requisite.

ARTICLE XI. Canada acceding to this Confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union: but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine states.

ARTICLE XII. All bills of credit emitted, moneys borrowed and debts contracted by, or under the authority of Congress, before the assembling of the United States, in pursuance of the present Confederation, shall be deemed and considered as a charge against the United States, for payment and satisfaction whereof the said United States and the public faith are hereby solemnly pledged.

ARTICLE XIII. Every state shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this Confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every state.

AND WHEREAS it hath pleased the Great Governor of the world to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. Know ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: and we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States Congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said Confederation are submitted to them. And that the articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the states we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF we have hereunto set our hands in Congress. Done at Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania the ninth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, and in the third year of the independence of America.

On the part and behalf of New Hampshire.

Josiah Bartlett John Wentworth, Junr. August 8th, 1778

On the part and behalf of the State of Massachusetts Bay.

John Hancock Francis Dana Samuel Adams
James Lovell Elbridge Gerry Samuel Holton

On the part and behalf of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

William Ellery John Collins Henry Marchant

On the part and behalf of the State of Connecticut.

Roger Sherman Titus Hosmer Samuel Huntington
Andrew Adams Oliver Wolcott

On the part and behalf the State of New York.

Jas. Duane Wm. Duer Fra. Lewis
Gouv. Morris

On the part and behalf of the State of New Jersey (Novr. 26, 1778.)

Jno. Witherspoon Nathl. Scudder

On the part and behalf of the State of Pennsylvania.

Robt. Morris William Clingan Daniael Roberdeau
Joseph Reed Jona. Bayard Smith 22d July 1778

On the part and behalf of the State of Delaware.

Tho. M'Kean John Dickinson Nicholas Van Dyke
Feby. 12, 1779 May 5th, 1779

On the part and behalf of the State of Maryland.

John Hanson Daniel Carroll March 1, 1781

On the part and behalf of the State of Virginia.

Richard Henry Lee Jno. Harvie John Banister
Francis Lightfoot Lee Thomas Adams

On the part and behalf of the State of North Carolina.

John Penn Conrns. Harnett
July 21st, 1778 Jno. Williams

On the part and behalf of the State of South Carolina.

Henry Laurens Richd. Hutson William Henry Drayton
Thos. Heyward Junr. Jno. Mathews

On the part and behalf of the State of Georgia.

Jno. Walton Edwd. Telfair 24th July, 1778
Edwd. Langworthy

 

Biographies of the signers of The Articles of Confederation can be seen at: www.colonialhall.com  

 


The Continuum Digest
a NewsBookzine
Copyright 1997, John Snider
Hanson Day

      April 14th should be declared a National Holiday. After all, we celebrate the birthdates of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington (although we combine them into a Presidents Day) do we not? So why do we, as a nation, not celebrate the birthday of our distinguished first President?
      Oh- you think George Washington was our first president? He was. After a fashion. So was John Hanson. After a fashion
      Its really simple. John Hanson was the president of the United States because he held the position of President of the continental Congress under the government established by The Articles of Confederation. Those articles made no provision for an executive branch or head of state, leaving a weak one-house Congress as the only source of Federal Authority.
      Hanson, a long-time member of the Maryland House of Delegates, was elected by the members of the Continental Congress to be its President on November 5th, 1781. He served for one year. Officially the presiding officer of the Continental Congress, Hanson did not have many of the powers the office of President under the new Constitution would. After that one year of service, he retired to what was mostly a life of seclusion. There are a few John Hanson monuments. There is a statue in the Capitol building. There is another one on US route 50 between Washington and Annapolis, Maryland.
      Getting him his deserved recognition would take an act of Congress. Guess that kills the idea...

 

 

John Hanson  ( as seen at: www.constitutionfacts.com )
(1721-1783)


The Articles of Confederation DID provide for the office of President even though his powers would not be at the level of those who have served under the Constitution. The Articles of Confederation stated that the " ... United States in Congress assembled shall have authority to .... appoint one of their members to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years ...."* There were eight men elected for that one year term under the conditions set by the Articles of Confederation and John Hanson was the FIRST in 1781. His exact title was the "President of the United States in Congress Assembled (not bad considering that the United States Senate in debating what to call the President under the Constitution considered "His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of their Liberties!") George Washington even acknowledged Hanson's position of prominence in a letter to him stating that : " I congratulate your excellency on your appointment to fill the most important seat in the United States."

John Hanson was of Swedish ancestry and his ancestors came to the "New World" in 1642 as emissaries of Queen Christina. He was born in Mulberry Grove, Maryland in 1721. He served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1757 until 1773 before finally being elected to the Continental Congress in 1780. During his political career he was an early supporter of independence for the colonies and patriotic principles. He was instrumental in convincing the Maryland (his home state) legislature to finally approve the Articles of Confederation on March 1, 1781. Hanson was followed in the office by Richard Henry Lee, Elias Boudinot, Thomas Mifflin, John Hancock, Nathaniel Gorham, Arthur St. Clair, and Cyrus Griffin.

The Articles of Confederation did no specifically "define" the powers of the President, and so under John Hanson's leadership he began to form various departments of the government. He alone had the authority to correspond and negotiate with foreign governments. During Hanson's one year in office, he approved the Great Seal of the United States that is still used today, gave orders to the military forces toward the end of the American Revolution, officially "received" General George Washington after the American victory at Yorktown, helped establish the first U.S. Treasury Department, the first Secretary of War, and the first Foreign Affairs Department. He led the fight to guarantee the statehood of the western territories beyond the Appalachian Mountains that had been controlled by some of the original thirteen colonies. There are even claims that he unofficially set aside the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving!

Comparing the "powers" that Hanson had as President under the Articles of Confederation to the "powers" that Presidents have had under the Constitution would be unfair. However, the Articles of Confederation WAS our first constitution, and John Hanson was the first to hold the highest office in the land at the time . A rare biography of John Hanson entitled John Hanson: Our First President was written in 1932 by Seymour Wemyss. The author stated that "on his (Hanson's) shoulders rested the difficult task of falling the timbers and hewing them into shape for use in the immediate erection of the national structure. He can well be compared to a Caesar, an Alexander, a Washington or a Lincoln when it comes to measure his power of leadership, or when it comes to count the steps taken to perfect a workable government." In 1981 the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the 200th anniversary of the appointment of Hanson as President of the United States Assembled.

To forget the eight men who held that office of President prior to George Washington would be to forget the years between the end of the American Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution. These were difficult and critical years for the young nation that called for bold leadership. John Hanson was the first to take on that incredible responsibility! He served his one year term in office faithfully before retiring from public service. Upon his death on November 21, 1783, the following eulogy appeared in the Maryland Gazette:

"Thus was ended the career of one of America's greatest statesmen. While hitherto practically unknown to our people, and this is true as to nearly all the generations that have lived since his day, his great handiwork, the nation which he helped to establish, remains as a fitting tribute to his memory. It is doubtful if there has ever lived on this side of the Atlantic, a nobler character or shrewder statesman. One would search in vain to find a more powerful personage, or a more aggressive leader, in the annals of American history. and it is extremely doubtful if there has ever lived in an age since the advent of civilization, a man with a keener grasp of, or a deeper insight into, such democratic ideals as are essential to the promotion of personal liberty and the extension of human happiness. He was firm in his opinion that the people of America were capable of ruling themselves without the aid of a king."


Footnote:

*George Washington was elected president under the Constitution when only 25% of the male population could vote. In effect, the framers of the Constitution never intended for the "people" to elect the president. The feeling was that in each presidential election, the states would choose a "favorite son" candidate and no candidate would ever receive the necessary majority in the Electoral College to win the election. In that case the House of Representatives would choose the president from the top three candidates. The elections of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 (due to an electoral "tie" with Aaron Burr) and John Quincy Adams in 1824 (due to a lack of a majority of the electoral votes by the candidates) were both "elected" by the House of Representatives. When devising the electoral "scheme" during the Constitutional Convention, there were no political parties.


LINKS

The American Presidency

Democracy in America

Historical Maps of the U.S.

National Archives

The Library of Congress

Continental Congress

Study Web: Presidents

U.S. Capitol

 

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