George Washington was really the 8th President of the United States!
George Washington was not the first President of the United States. In fact, the first President of the United States was one John Hanson. Don't go checking the encyclopedia for this guy's name - he is one of those great men that are lost to history. If you're extremely lucky, you may actually find a brief mention of his name.
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. John Hanson was chosen unanimously by Congress (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 the first President, Hanson had quite the shoes to fill. No one had ever been President and the role was 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 as the only guy left running the government. He somehow managed to calm the troops down 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. In fact, Hanson sent 800 pounds of sterling siliver by his brother Samuel Hanson to George Wasington to provide the troops with shoes.
Hanson, as President, ordered all foreign troops off American soil, as well as the removal of all foreign flags. This was quite the 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.
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.
So what happened?
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.
And that leads us to the end of our story.
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 seven Presidents are forgotten in history.
John Hanson, American Patriot and First President of the United States (1715-1783)
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. Was John Hanson the first President of the United States?
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. John Hanson was chosen unanimously by Congress (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 the first President, Hanson had quite the shoes to fill. No one had ever been President and the role was 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 seven Presidents are forgotten in history.
Portrait of John Hanson, attributed to John Hesselius, c. late 1760s
The bronze statue that stands in the United States Capitol.
The above book has created great confusion making the founding U.S. History even more perplexing. This is one of many historians who recognize the U.S. Presidency under the 1st U.S. Constitution but incorrectly maintain that John Hanson was the first President of the United States. This error is pervasive in some of our most venerable educational institutions including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.
Smithsonian Exhibit on the U.S. Presidency incorrectly starting the lineage with John Hanson labeling him as the 1st President of the Continental Congress. In the background is the author's exhibit including a 18th Century printing of the Journals Of The United States in Congress Assembled proving John Hanson was the 3rd President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation.
During the above exhibit unveiling on January 29th, 2004 receiving a rather frantic call from David Halaas, the Chief Historian of the Heinz History Center which is a branch of the Smithsonian Institute in Pittsburgh. Our family had just consigned several presidential letters of John Hancock, Thomas McKean, Thomas Mifflin, Elias Boudinot and Arthur St. Clair as well as the first public printing of the U.S. Constitution to the Smithsonian's traveling exhibit "A Glorious Burden, The American Presidency,". The exhibit was due to open two days later and the section on the Continental Congress or the early presidency had just arrived at the museum. The Smithsonian had no account of the United States in Congress Assembled and surprisingly had John Hanson prominently displayed as the first President of the Continental Congress. The Smithsonian's historians were incorrect on both accounts.
After a brief discussion on historical accuracy, Dr. Halaas said, " Are you sure Hanson was not the first President as either you are mistaken or this Smithsonian Exhibit (which had already has been half way around the Country) is incorrect?" I assured him the record was irrefutable reading from the original Journal of the United States in Congress Assembled. Dr. Halaas responded, "I thought you were correct but needed to hear it again before I contacted the Smithsonian."
Born in a Tavern and ending in a Tavern The United States Founding governments occupied 11 different capitol buildings experienced 15 years of challenges that included war, hyper-inflation, a failed constitution, judicial corruption, armed citizen and U.S. Army rebellion.
John Hanson (April 14 [O.S. April 3] 1721 – November 22, 1783) was a merchant and public official from Maryland during the era of the American Revolution. After serving in a variety of roles for the Patriot cause in Maryland, in 1779 Hanson was elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He signed the Articles of Confederation in 1781 after Maryland finally joined the other states in ratifying them. In November 1781, he became the first President of Congress to be elected under the terms of the Articles of Confederation. Because of this, some people claimed that he was the first President of the United States
John Hanson, Jr. was born at "Mulberry Grove" in Port Tobacco Parish in Charles County in the British Province of Maryland. The American National Biography lists Hanson's birth date as April 3, 1721, which in the modern calendar system is equivalent to April 14, although the older Dictionary of American Biography gives the date as April 13, 1721. Some older sources list a birth year of 1715. Hanson's parents were Samuel and Elizabeth (Story) Hanson. Samuel Hanson was a planter who owned more than 1,000 acres, and held a variety of political offices, including serving two terms in the Maryland General Assembly.
John Hanson was of English ancestry; his grandfather, also named John, came to Charles County, Maryland, as an indentured servant around 1661. In 1876, a writer named George Hanson placed John Hanson in his family tree of Swedish Americans descended from four Swedish brothers who emigrated to New Sweden in 1642. This story was often repeated over the next century, but scholarly research in the late 20th century suggested that John Hanson was of English heritage and not related to these Swedish American Hansons.
Hanson had no extended formal education while growing up in Maryland, but he read broadly in both English and Latin. He followed the family tradition as a planter, extending and improving his holdings. About 1744 he married Jane Contee, with whom he would have eight children. Their son Alexander Contee Hanson, Sr. (1749–1806) was a notable essayist. Alexander Hanson is sometimes confused with his son, Alexander Contee Hanson, Jr., who became a newspaper editor and US Senator.
Hanson's career in public service began in 1750, when he was appointed sheriff of Charles County. In 1757 he was elected to represent Charles County in the lower house of the Maryland General Assembly, where he served over the next twelve years, sitting on many important committees.Maryland was a proprietary colony, and Hanson aligned himself with the "popular" or "country" party, which opposed any expansion of the power of the proprietary governors at the expense of the popularly elected lower house. He was a leading opponent of the 1765 Stamp Act, chairing the committee that drafted the instructions for Maryland's delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. In protest of the Townshend Acts, in 1769 Hanson was one of the signers of a nonimportation resolution that boycotted British imports until the acts were repealed.
Hanson changed course in 1769, apparently to better pursue his business interests. He resigned from the General Assembly, sold his land in Charles County, and moved to Frederick County in western Maryland. There he held a variety of offices, including deputy surveyor, sheriff, and county treasurer.
When relations between Great Britain and the colonies became a crisis in 1774, Hanson became one of Frederick County's leading Patriots. He chaired a town meeting that passed a resolution opposing the Boston Port Act. In 1775, he was a delegate to the Maryland Convention, an extralegal body convened after the colonial assembly had been prorogued. With the other delegates, he signed the Association of Freemen on July 26, 1775, which expressed hope for reconciliation with Great Britain, but also called for military resistance to enforcement of the Coercive Acts.
With hostilities underway, Hanson chaired the Frederick County committee of observation, part of the Patriot organization that assumed control of local governance. Responsible for recruiting and arming soldiers, Hanson proved to be an excellent organizer, and Frederick County sent the first southern troops to join George Washington's army.
Hanson was elected to the newly reformed Maryland House of Delegates in 1777, the first of five annual terms.In December 1779, the House of Delegates named Hanson as one of its delegates to the Second Continental Congress. He began those duties when he took his seat in Philadelphia on June 14, 1780, serving until 1782. While Hanson was in Congress, the Articles of Confederation were at last ratified by all the states. When the Congress received notice of this on March 1, 1781, he joined Daniel Carroll in endorsing them for Maryland.
President of Congress
In November 1781, Hanson became the first President of Congress to be elected for an annual term as specified in the Articles of Confederation, although Samuel Huntington and Thomas McKean had served in that office after the ratification of the Articles. Under the Articles of Confederation, the United States had no executive branch; the President of Congress was a mostly ceremonial position within the Confederation Congress, but the office did require Hanson to handle a good deal of correspondence and sign official documents. Hanson found the work tedious and wished to resign, but his departure would have left Congress without a quorum to select a successor, and so, out of a sense of duty, he remained in office.
Because Hanson was the first president under the Articles of Confederation, one of his grandsons later promoted him as the first President of the United States. This ultimately resulted in Hanson's statue being one of two representing Maryland in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, even though, according to historian Gregory Stiverson, Hanson was not one of Maryland's foremost leaders of the Revolutionary era. The claim that Hanson was the forgotten first President of the United States was further promoted in an 1932 biography of Hanson by journalist Seymour Wemyss Smith. Smith's book, which contained no footnotes or references, made expansive claims about Hanson's role, asserting that the American Revolution had two primary leaders: George Washington in the military sphere, and John Hanson in politics.
The myth was revived in the age of the Internet, sometimes with a new claim that Hanson was actually a black man. Some Internet sites use a photograph of Senator John Hanson of Liberia to support the claim.
Death and legacy
Hanson retired from public office after his one-year term as President of Congress. In poor health, he died a year later at his nephew's plantation Oxon Hill Manor in Prince George's County, Maryland, on November 22, 1783. The grave site is lost.
Maryland law specifies that "the Governor annually shall proclaim April 13 as John Hanson's birthday and dedicate that day to the statesman." Also, the John Hanson Highway is named in his honor. There are also middle schools located in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and Waldorf, Maryland, named after him. A former savings bank named for him was merged in the 1990s with Industrial Bank of Washington, DC. A namesake, John Hanson Briscoe, was a circuit judge and Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.
In 1903 the state of Maryland donated a bronze statue by Richard E. Brooks to the United States Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection. It is currently located on the 2nd floor of the Senate connecting corridor. A maquette of the Hanson statue by Brooks resides on the President's dais in the Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House.
John Hanson was really the 3th President of the United States!
John Hanson's letter to former President Thomas McKean reads:
"It is always a pleasing task to pay a just tribute to distinguished Merit. Under this impression give me leave to assure you, that it is with inexpressible satisfaction that I present you the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, in testimony of their approbation of your conduct in the Chair and in the execution of public business; a duty I am directed to perform by their Act of the 7th instant, a copy of which I have the honor of enclosing.
When I reflect upon the great abilities, the exemplary patience and unequalled skill and punctuality, which you so eminently displayed in executing the important duties of a President, it must unavoidably be productive of great apprehensions in the one who has the honor of being your Successor. But the Choice of Congress obliges me for a moment to be silent on the subject of my own inability: And altho' I cannot equal the bright example that is recently set me, yet it shall be my unremitting study to imitate it as far as possible; and in doing this the reflection is pleasing that I shall invariably pursue the sacred path of Virtue, which alone ought to preserve me free from censure.
I have the honor to be, with the highest sentiments of respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedient And most humble Servant,
John Hanson Presidt."
John Hanson Letter as the 3rd President of the United States in Congress Assembled congratulating Thomas McKean for his service is irrefutable proof that he was not the 1st president of the United States or the 1st President of Continental Congress as maintained by the Smithsonian Institute in their Presidential Exhibit - Courtesy of the Author
By Stan Klos
When I discovered this Hanson letter in the archives of the Library of Congress, like a little child, I rushed to the librarian in the special collections room and stated that "I found irrefutable proof in his own hand that the John Hanson knew he was not the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled." The librarian looked-up at me like I was nuts and said "Of course he isn't, he was the first President of the Continental Congress." I shook my head and smiled assuming the learned man believed the United States in Congress Assembled was the joint body of the current U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Since the House and Senate's formation in 1789 both have jointly referred to themselves as the United States in Congress Assembled. Perhaps, I thought, that someday this Congressional Librarian would read “President Who? Forgotten Founders” and catch this very brief account of my discovery.
The nation under the Articles, in 1781, had no Supreme Court or Executive branch. It was entirely a unicameral body, an entirely different entity from the Continental Congress or the two current U.S. legislative bodies. Unfortunately Paul Smith, the Library of Congress scholar who compiled the "Letters of the Delegates" was retired so I celebrated the “find” by re-reading his scholarly notes on Hanson:
"It is also appropriate to note at this first of the John Hanson presidential letters a significant change in the character of the presidential correspondence. The change had actually begun with the professionalization of the boards of war and admiralty and the appointment of full-time commissioners to those offices in 1779 and 1780, but the implications of this shift were not fully realized until the creation of the executive departments in 1781, when principal responsibility for financial, foreign and military affairs became the concern of the superintendent of finance, the secretary for foreign affairs, and the secretary at war.
Reviewed statistically, the volume of presidential correspondence had crested at slightly over 50 letters per month during the presidency of Henry Laurens, remained relatively constant at about 40 letters per month during the terms of his successors John Jay and Samuel Huntington, and dropped off to about 30 letters per month with President Thomas McKean. But Hanson apparently chafed at even this modest level of presidential responsibility, and on January 28, 1782, secured adoption of a congressional resolution transferring to Secretary Charles Thomson primary responsibility for communicating Continental policy:
'In order that the President may be relieved from the business with which he is unnecessarily incumbered.'
Accordingly, the flow of presidential letters immediately slowed to a trickle. Hanson wrote about three dozen presidential letters during his first three months as president, but only 18 survive from his last nine months in office, distributed as follows: February1, March-6, April-0, May-1, June-3, July-2, August-2, September-I, and October-2. The flow of the presidential correspondence was of course always conditioned by external events, but Hanson's personal responsibility for the dramatic change that took place in 1782 seems clear from the fact that his successor Elias Boudinot wrote over 140 presidential letters the following congressional year, and in 1783 - 84 President Thomas Mifflin wrote at least 60 during the six months of his presidency that Congress was actually in session."
On the same day the new President wrote Thomas McKean the congratulatory letter he transmitted this letter to George Washington on November the 28th:
"Sir, Philadelphia, NOV. 10th. 1781 I have the honor of transmitting to your Excellency a copy of an Act of Congress of the 7th instant, for your information and satisfaction. Your Excellency's letters of the 27th and 31st ult. have been received and laid before Congress.
As this is the first opportunity I have had of writing to your Excellency since Congress were pleased to elect me to the singular honor of being their President, and as a literary correspondence, from our mutual situations, becomes indispensably necessary between us, give me leave to assure you, Sir, that it will not only be a pleasure of a superior nature, but invariably my study, to render that correspondence as advantageous and agreeable as possible. Any intelligence worth communicating, which first reaches me, shall be related with unreserved freedom, candor & punctuality- And permit me to hope for a similar treatment from your Excellency. Already my knowledge of your Character leads me to anticipate infinite satisfaction.
I cannot avoid mentioning that the present Aspect of our Public Affairs is particularly pleasing: And so much do we seem extricated from our perplexing difficulties, and such, I hope, is the power and force of recent Experience, that we shall not relapse into our former state of imbecility and distress. The events of the present Campaign will, no doubt, fill the most brilliant pages in the history of America. May Heaven still continue to smile on our efforts!
With the highest sentiments of respect & esteem, believe me to be, Sir, Your
Excellency's Most obedient & very humble Servt. John Hanson Presdt."
Thanks to Washington's Victory at Yorktown and the rise of the Executive Departments under former U.S. Presidents Huntington and McKean, Hanson's Presidential burdens were much more manageable than those he served under as delegate in 1780 and 1781. John Hanson's Presidency, despite being the first to serve over a group of Delegates entirely elected under the new Articles of Confederation, also suffered from cavalier attendance under the new Confederation Constitution. Hanson wrote the States shortly after his election:
"Sir, Philadelphia, Nov. 15th. 1781. Congress feel themselves reduced to the disagreeable necessity of directing me to write to your Excellency respecting the deficiency of a Representation from your State. For a considerable time past only seven States have been represented, and those merely by the essential number of Delegates. From this information you will readily conceive, without a minute and painful detail, the numerous inconveniencies and real dangers they are subjected to, abstracted from every consideration of interest, honor and reputation.
The most important powers vested in Congress by the Confederation lie dormant at this time by reason of the impunctuality of the Delegates of six States in point of attendance, and some of those powers too indispensably necessary to be exercised at this great and important Crisis. Permit me, Sir, to flatter myself that it is superfluous to urge any thing more upon this delicate but momentous subject, and to hope that your Excellency's influence will be exerted to prevail upon your State to send forward and keep up a full Representation in future.”
It was only two days later with support of 21 delegates against 2 that Edmund Randolph's motion to take a national census failed due to quorum requirements not being met. Two delegations were divided and five states were unrepresented on November 17th so only Six States voted YES on the census resolution. The Confederation government, despite the Victory at Yorktown and newly elected Articles' representatives, was off to an all too familiar shaky start in its efforts to govern the United States of America.
John Hanson and the United States in Congress Assembled did not forget the superb efforts of General Lafayette defending Virginia against Cornwallis while George Washington was preparing to attack General Clinton in New York. John Hanson wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette on November 24th, 1781:
"It is with infinite pleasure and satisfaction, that I transmit to you the inclosed copy of an Act of Congress of the 23d instant. Believe me, Sir, that Congress being sensible of your great ability, integrity and fortitude, and your distinguished and zealous attachment to the cause of America, have, with the greatest chearfulness, bestowed upon you the new and great marks of confidence & esteem contained in that Act-And certain I am they could not have bestowed them more worthily or with greater propriety.
I shall at this time only beg leave to assure you, that it is my most sincere & ardent prayer, that you may have a safe & prosperous voyage to your native Country; that you may receive a gracious and welcome reception from the greatest and best of Kings; and that you may arrive to an happy and pleasing interview with your Family; And permit me to indulge the Hope of your speedy return to America.
With the highest sentiments of respect & esteem, I have the honor to be &c. J. H."
John Hanson's Congress granted Lafayette leave to return to France commending him in a formal resolution for his conduct during his command in Virginia. They also directed the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to prepare a letter for the King of France of thanks to be carried by Lafayette on his return home.
1781's business concluded on Monday, December 31 with the passage of Robert Morris's very important plan for the Bank of North America with the following ordinance:
"An Ordinance to Incorporate The Subscribers to The Bank Of North America.
Whereas a National Bank, properly constituted, governed and Conducted, will be of great advantage to these United States; and whereas a Subscription for a National Bank has been opened, and the Subscribers deserve the Protection, encouragement and assistance of the public: And whereas it is proper and necessary that the Subscribers to this Bank should be incorporated in order to carry into full effect the good ends proposed by it. Whereas Congress on the 26th day of May last did, from a conviction of the support which the finances of the United States would receive from the establishment1 of a national bank, approve a plan for such an institution submitted to their consideration by Robert Morris, esq. and now lodged among the archives of Congress, and did engage to promote the same by the most effectual means; and whereas, the subscription thereto is now filled from an expectation of a charter of incorporation from Congress, the directors and president are chosen, and application hath been made to congress by the said president and directors for an act of incorporation: and whereas, the exigencies of the United States render it indispensably necessary that such an act be immediately passed:
Be it therefore ordained, and it is hereby ordained, by the United States in Congress assembled, that those who are, and those who shall become subscribers to the said bank be, and forever after shall be, a corporation and body politic to all intents and purposes, by the name and stile of 'The President, Directors and Company of the Bank of North America.'
And be it further ordained, that the said corporation are hereby declared and made able and capable in law, to have, purchase, receive, possess, enjoy, and retain lands, rents, tenements, hereditaments, goods, chattels and effects, of what kind, nature or quality soever, to the amount of thirty ten millions of Spanish silver milled dollars and no more; and also to sell, grant, demise, alien, or dispose of the same lands, rents, tenements, hereditaments, goods, chattels and effects.
And be it further ordained, that the said corporation be, and shall be forever hereafter, able and capable in law, to sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, answer and be answered unto, defend, and be defended, in courts of record or any other place whatsoever; and to do and execute all and singular other matters and things that to them shall or may appertain to do.
And be it further ordained, that for the well governing of the said corporation and the ordering of their affairs, they shall have such officers as they shall hereafter direct or appoint: Provided nevertheless, that twelve directors, one of whom shall be the president of the corporation, be of the number of their officers.
And be it further ordained, that Thomas Willing be the present president, and that the said Thomas Willing, and Thomas Fitzsimmons, John Maxwell Nesbit, James Wilson, Henry Hill, Samuel Osgood, Cadwallader Morris, Andrew Caldwell, Samuel Inglis, Samuel Meredith, William Bingham, Timothy Matlack, be the present directors of the said corporation; and shall so continue until another president and other directors shall be chosen according to the laws and regulations of the said corporation.
And be it further ordained, that the president and directors of the said corporation, shall be capable of exercising such power for the well governing and ordering of the affairs of the said corporation, and of holding such occasional meetings for that purpose, as shall be described, fixed and determined by the laws, regulations and ordinances of the said corporation.
And be it further ordained, that the said corporation may make, ordain, establish, and put in execution such laws, ordinances and regulations as shall seem necessary and convenient to the government of the said corporation.
[Provided always, that nothing herein before contained shall be construed to authorize the said corporation, to exercise any powers in any of the United States, repugnant to the laws or constitution of such State.]
And be it further ordained, that the said corporation shall have full power and authority, to make, have and use, a common seal, with such device and inscription as they shall think proper, and the same to break, alter and renew at their pleasure.
And be it further ordained, that this ordinance shall be construed, and taken most favorably and beneficially for the said corporation. Resolved, That it be recommended to the legislature of each State, to pass such laws as they may judge necessary, for giving the foregoing ordinance its full operation, agreeably to the true intent and meaning thereof, and according to the recommendations contained in the resolutions of the 26th day of May last."
This was another step in the evolution of the watering down the duties and power of the Presidency. Power that was willingly delegated to a host of various executive departments and committees. Many of these new committees and positions, such as the Minister of Finance, were formed under Presidents Huntington and McKean to relieve the presidency of what became an almost unbearable task during the campaigns of 1780 and 1781. President John Hanson followed their lead, despite being relieved of the pressures of war, when he successfully proposed the removal of the voluminous correspondence tasks from his office. On January 28th, 1782 Congress passed Hanson's resolution transferring the "signature" and other communication duties to the Secretary of the United States, Charles Thomson:
"Resolved, That it shall be the business of the Secretary 1st. To transmit to the Superintendant of finance, all papers referred to him by Congress; as well as an authenticated copy of every act, ordinance and resolution of Congress touching the finances of the United States and particularly of those which relate to supplies, the expenditure of public money or the settlement of public accounts: to the Secretary at War, all papers referred to him by Congress; as well as an authenticated copy of every act, ordinance and resolution touching his department and particularly of those which relate to military preparations or the land forces of the United States and: to the Secretary or agent of marine, or to the person entrusted with the duties of the office of Secretary or agent of marine, all papers referred to him by Congress; as well as an authenticated copy of every act, ordinance or and resolution touching his department and particularly those which relate to naval preparations and maritime matters: and to the Secretary for foreign affairs, all papers referred to him by Congress; as well as an authenticated copy of every act, ordinance and resolution of Congress touching his department and particularly of those which relate to the intercourse between the U. S. and foreign nations or which it may be necessary to communicate to the Ministers of these United States at foreign courts.
2nd. To return such answers as Congress shall direct to be given to the memorials petitions and communications: To keep a daily register account of all memorials, petitions and communications received by Congress, noting therein their object and the steps taken respecting them; and lay the said account or register every day, on the table of Congress for the inspection of the members.
3rd. To return such answers as Congress shall direct to be given to the memorials, petitions and communications, except where Congress shall judge it proper that the same be given by their President, or where it shall be the duty of any of the executive departments to return such answers:
4th. To attend Congress during their sessions, and, in their recess, to attend the committee of the states, to read the public despatches, acts, ordinances and reports of committees, and to make the proper entries in the journals; to authenticate all acts and proceedings not specially directed to be authenticated by their President; and to keep a register of all treaties, conventions and ordinances:
5th. To cause to be made and laid upon the table for every State represented in Congress, a copy of every ordinance or report upon a matter of importance, and not of a secret nature, for the consideration of which a day is assigned:
6th. To keep the public seal, and cause the same to be affixed to every act, ordinance or paper, which Congress shall direct:
7th. To superintend the printing of the journals and publications ordered by Congress: 8th. To keep a book in which shall be noted in columns, the names of the several members of Congress, the State which they represent, the date of their appointments, the term for which they are appointed, and the date of leave of absence.
Resolved, That so much of the act of 22 March, 1777, as directs that attested copies of resolutions coming within the purview of this act, be sent to the President, to be transmitted by him, be, and hereby is repealed.
Resolved, That the salary of the Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled, be three thousand dollars per annum."
On February the 18th, 1782 the United States in Congress Assembled authorized George Washington broad powers to negotiate directly with Great Britain over the fate of Cornwallis and his army:
"Resolved, That the Commander in Chief be, and he is hereby authorised to negotiate a cartel or cartels, either general or special, with the enemy; stipulating for the subsistance, safe keeping, exchanging, liberating, and better treating of all prisoners of war, whether of land or sea, in such manner, and on such terms as he shall judge expedient and beneficial for the United States; and also to include therein all citizens not found in arms, who have been or hereafter shall be captured by either power, so that citizen shall be exchanged for citizen in all cases of their capture to take such measures for the liberation of citizens who have been captured not in arms, as may seem expedient; or to negotiate any seperate treaty concerning such citizens, for the mutual prevention of any future captures' provided such cartel, cartels and agreement, establish rules for the similar treatment of prisoners of war and citizens captured by either power in all cases whatsoever.
That the Commander in Chief be also empowered to take measures for settling all past accounts respecting prisoners, and that all former resolutions relative to the exchange of prisoners by the Commander in Chief be repealed.
Resolved, That nothing contained in the resolution of this date for authorising the Commander in Chief to negotiate a cartel with the enemy be construed to authorize the exchange of Lieutenant General Cornwallis by composition."
Washington acted quickly negotiating the release of former President Henry Laurens from the Tower of London for Lt. General Cornwallis on February the 23rd. Ramsay's 1789 account of Laurens imprisonment and release gives a good indication of some of the hardships the former President faced:
"He had been committed there, as already related, on the 6th of October 1780, 'On suspicion of high treason,' after being examined in the presence of lord Stormont, lord George Germaine, lord Hillsborough, Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Justice Addington, and others. The commitment was accompanied with a warrant to the Lieutenant of the tower to receive and confine him. Their lordships orders were
'To confine him a close prisoner: to be locked up every night; to be in the custody of two warders; not to suffer him to be out of their sight one moment, day nor night: to allow him no liberty of speaking to any person, nor to permit any person to speak to him; to deprive him of the use of pen and ink; to suffer no letter to be brought to him, nor any to go from him.'
Mr. Laurens was then fifty five years old, and severely afflicted with the gout and other infirmities. In this situation he was conducted to apartments in the tower, and was shut up in two small rooms which together made about twenty feet square, with a warder for his constant companion, and a fixed bayonet under his window, without any friend to converse with and without any prospect or even the means of correspondence. Being debarred the use of pen and ink, he procured pencils, which proved an useful substitute. After a month's confinement, he was permitted to walk out on limited ground, but a warder with a sword in his hand followed close behind.
Mr. Laurens' sufferings in the tower became generally known, and excited compassion in his favour, and odium against the authors of his confinement. It had been also found by the inefficacy of many attempts that no concessions could be obtained from him. It was therefore resolved to release him, but difficulties arose about the mode. Mr. Laurens would not consent to any act, which implied that he was a British subject, and he had been committed as such, on charge of high treason.  Ministers to extricate themselves from this difficulty, at length proposed to take bail for his appearance at the court of King's-Bench. When the words of the recognizance, "Our Sovereign Lord the King," were read to Mr. Laurens, he replied in open court "Not my Sovereign," and with this declaration he, with Mr. Oswald and Mr. Anderson as his securities, entered into an obligation for his appearance at the court of King's-Bench the next Easter term, and for not departing thence without leave of the court. Thus ended a long and a painful farce. Mr. Laurens was immediately released. When the time of his appearance at court drew near, he was not only discharged from all obligations to attend, but was requested by lord Shelburne to go to the continent, in subserviency to a scheme for making peace with America. Mr. Laurens, startled at the idea of being released without any equivalent, as he had uniformly held himself to be a prisoner of war, replied that 'He durst not accept himself as a gift, and that as Congress had once offered Lieut. Gen. Burgoyne for him, he had no doubt of their now giving Lieut. Gen. Earl Cornwallis for the same purpose.' "
There were ten Presidents of the United States serving before George Washington from 1781 to 1788 under the Constitution of 1777 commonly known as the Articles of Confederation.
There was only one branch of government, the United States, in Congress Assembled. These men served as Presidents of the United States, in Congress Assembled. Their predecessors, under the Articles of Association served as Presidents of the Continental Congress.
Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of 1777, engrossed and signed document enlargement of Articles I and II passed November 15, 1777 naming of the Confederation and delegation of the federal constitutional matters of the United Statesto the “United States, in Congress Assembled.” -- Courtesy of The National Archives of the United States, Articles of Confederation, November 15, 1777, Original Manuscript.
The Constitution of 1777 Presidents all presided in the government known as the United States in Congress Assembled which unicamerally conducted the judicial, legislative and executive business of the United States of America.
Legislative: The Presidents served in the legislative process much like the current Speaker of the House. Unlike today, there was only one legislative U.S. body and the Presidents had one vote in a federal government where each of the 13 States had only one vote. In the capacity of presiding over their respective Congresses, the Presidents vote represented 1/7th (7 State Quorum Minimum) to 1/13th of the votes necessary to enact federal legislation. The Presidents called for the government’s assembly and adjournment. They received, read, answered the official state and foreign correspondence to the United States of America. At their own discretion the Presidents held or disseminated the official correspondence to the Congress and set the legislative agendas.
Executive:The Presidents also acted as the Head of State receiving both U.S. and foreign dignitaries at their perspective Capitols extending the nation’s official welcome and hospitality. The Presidents issued military orders, signed military commissions, and executed federal laws, treaties, proclamations, and resolutions.
Judicial: The Presidents also served in a role analogues to the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. When federal hearings were in session. Cases that they presided over ranged from settling State borders to deciding the fate of mutinous troops. Decisions were made, once again, one state one vote in quorums numbering 7 to 13.
The United States in Congress Assembled was the government of the United States of America from 1781 to 1789. The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, The Unites States Supreme Court and the The United States President under today's Constitution of 1787 is now the government of the United States of America since 1789.
John Hanson Elias Boudinot Thomas Mifflin Richard Henry Lee David Ramsay Nathaniel Gorham Arthur St. Clair Cyrus Griffin
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
The Betsy Ross Flag
Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union - 1777 - Click Here
First President of the United States United States Constitution
Samuel Huntington · Thomas McKean · John Hanson · Elias Boudinot · Thomas Mifflin · Richard Henry Lee · John Hancock1 ·David Ramsay ·Nathaniel Gorham · Nathaniel Gorham · Arthur St. Clair · Cyrus Griffin
Index to Who Was Really the First President of the United States.
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Who Was Really the First President of the United States?
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