April 3, 1715 – Birthday of the Maybe Actual Sort-of-First U.S. President, John Hanson

Prior to the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, representatives of the British colonies in America met in a Continental Congress. The “United Colonies of America” elected the following presidents:

Peyton Randolph
: September 5, 1774 to October 22, 1774


Henry Middleton: 
October 22, 1774 to October 26, 1774 (filling in for a sick Randolph)
Peyton Randolph: May 20, 1775 to May 24, 1775 (he chose to leave to preside over the Virginia House of Burgesses)
John Hancock: 
October 27, 1775 to July 1, 1776

Peyton Randolph, first and third president of the Continental Congress, and cousin of Thomas Jefferson, by Charles Willson Peale

Peyton Randolph, first and third president of the “United Colonies of America”, by Charles Willson Peale

After the Declaration of Independence, when the colonies officially became the United States of America, there were yet more presidents:

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

Portrait of John Hancock, first president of "The United States of America" by John Singleton Copley, c. 1770–72

Portrait of John Hancock, first president of “The United States of America” by John Singleton Copley, c. 1770–72

When the Articles of Confederation, formally called “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union,” established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and were adopted by all parties in March of 1781, Samuel Huntington was chosen to continue as President of the United States. He only served from March until July, however, because of poor health.

Samuel Huntington, painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1783

Samuel Huntington, painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1783

Next, Thomas McKean served from July until November 4th. (McKean, also the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, agreed only to serve until his court commenced in late October.) John Hanson was then chosen unanimously on November 5, 1781, and was the first “President of the United States” to serve a full year.

Portrait of John Hanson, circa 1770

Portrait of John Hanson, circa 1770

Under the Articles of Confederation, the United States had no executive branch; the president of Congress was a mostly ceremonial position, but the office did require Hanson to handle a good deal of correspondence and sign official documents. Hanson found the work tedious and considered resigning after just one week, citing his poor health and family responsibilities, but his colleagues convinced him to remain in office. He continued to serve as president until November 4, 1782.

Hanson’s successors were as follows:

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

Following the ratification of the Constitution by the required nine States, George Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789 as the first President of (the Constitutionally-defined) United States.

Oil painting of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States painted circa 1899

Oil painting of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States painted circa 1899

So Happy Birthday, Mr. In-Some-Senses First U.S. President!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: