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ECV® CHAPTER 1841


HISTRORIANS REPORT

CHAPTER #1841

MAY 19, 2014

First President
of the
United States
click on pictures to enlarge

Who was the first president of the United States? I suspect George Washington was your first guess. After all who else comes to mind? But think back to your history books. The United States declared its independence in 1776, yet George Washington did not take office until April 30, 1789. So who was running the country during those initial years of our young country?

George Washington 1772
George Washington 1772

George Washington 1772

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. Then Maryland refused to sign this document until Virginia and New York ceded their western lands because Maryland was afraid that these states would gain too much power in the new government from such large amounts of land.

George Washington 1776
George Washington 1776

George Washington 1776

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.

George Washington ca 1780-82
George Washington ca 1780-82

George Washington ca 1780-82

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.

George Washington at the Battle of Princeton 1784
George Washington at the Battle of Princeton 1784

George Washington at the Battle of Princeton 1784

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.

John Hanson
John Hanson

John Hanson

Hanson established the Great Seal of the United States, which all Presidents have since been required to use on all official documents. He also established the first Treasury Department, the first Secretary of War, and the first Foreign Affairs Department.

Seal of the President of the United States
Seal of the President of the United States

Seal of the President of the United States

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 a little time.

Seven other Presidents were elected after him:

Elias Boudinot - New Jersey - (1782-1783)

Elias Boudinot
Elias Boudinot

Elias Boudinot

Thomas Mifflin - Pennsylvania - (1783-1784)

Thomas Mifflin
Thomas Mifflin

Thomas Mifflin

Richard Henry Lee - Virginia - (1784-1785)

Richard Henry Lee ca 1795 1805
Richard Henry Lee ca 1795 1805

Richard Henry Lee

John Hancock - Massachusetts - (1785-1786)

John Hancockth
John Hancockth

John Hancock

Nathan Gorman - Massachusetts - (1786-1787)

Nathan Gorman
Nathan Gorman

Nathan Gorman

Arthur St Clair - Pennsylvania - (1787-1788)

Arthur StClair ca 1782
Arthur StClair ca 1782

Arthur St Clair

Cyrus Griffin - Virginia - (1788-1789)

Cyrus Griffin
Cyrus Griffin

Cyrus Griffin

So what happened? Why don't we hear about the first eight presidents? 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 definitely was not the first President of the United States. He was the first President of the United States under the Constitution we follow today.

George Washington
George Washington

George Washington

And the first eight Presidents have been forgotten in history.

There you are, another lesson in U.S. History, and you may have learned something new today.


Report presented by Fred "Mr Magoo" Willcox
John A Sutter Historian

photos provided by www

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