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Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

Who was really the first president of the United States?

The English professor that I have gave out an extra credit assignment. He said to research who was really the first president of the United States. He said that it isn't George Washington.

18 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    John Hanson was the first American President and 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.

    God Bless You and the Southern People.

  • PDY
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    Y you might want to utilize the information given to you above regarding Hanson, and other presidents of the Continental Congress. But since this assignment was given by your English professor, who I assume has respect for the English language, I would end the assignment by concluding something along the lines of, "All that being said, I would conclude that George Washington should still be counted as the first president of the United States, because by definition the United States did not exist prior to the Revolutionary War. There were surely Presidents of Congress, but no one until George Washington could have held the title of President of the United States." .

  • 1 decade ago

    George Washington

    Took office: April 30, 1789

    Left office: March 4, 1797

    George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799)[1] led America's Continental Army to victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and was later elected the first President of the United States. He served two four-year terms from 1789 to 1797, being re-elected in 1792. Because of his central and critical role in the founding of the United States, Washington is referred to as father of the nation. His devotion to republicanism and civic virtue made him an exemplary figure among early American politicians.


    John Hanson (April 13, 1715 – November 22, 1783) was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Maryland. Because he was the first man to serve a full term as President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation in 1781 and 1782, he has been called the first President of the United States, but this claim is inaccurate.

    Hanson is one of the most enigmatic figures in US history. He is frequently mentioned in connection with the claim that he was the first President, but fewer facts are clear about his life and accomplishments than is the case with most of his contemporaries. One of the difficulties this caused was that several writers in the 19th century filled in the blanks with fiction. This article presents only those aspects of the man and his character that are either clearly documented or almost universally agreed upon. For various reasons, Hanson has been the subject of a large number of misconceptions or misrepresentations.

    You could get more information from the few links below...

  • 1 decade ago

    Yes John Hanson presided under the Articles of Confederation and so sometimes people want to call him the real first President of the United States. This runs contrary to standard usage and understanding which dates the presidency as we know that office today from the ratification of the Constitution. Thus George Washington should be, as he is, known as the first President.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Forget the revisionist history. John Hanson was NEVER President of the United States, because there WAS NO President of the United States until the Constitution established the office. Hanson's position as president of the Continental Congress would have been equivalent to today's position of Speaker of the House, nothing more. He presided over the Congress, but had no executive powers. Hence he could not under any stretch of the definition have been considered President of the United States.

    To reiterate, no office of President of the United States existed until the Constitution of the United States was ratified.

  • 1 decade ago

    John Hanson was the first president under the Articles of Confederation and there were six more after him (they only served one year terms). George Washington was the first president after the adoption of the Constitution. And really, Washington was the first real president because the federal government and president were incredibly weak under the Articles of Confederation.

  • 1 decade ago

    Some people apparently think that it was John Hanson, who was the first elected man to serve a full term as president of the Continental Congress. But, George Washington was the first elected president of the United States under the Constitution as it was adopted in 1787. Wikipedia explains it well:

  • 1 decade ago

    It was most certainly NOT John Hanson or the few others who were president of the Continental Congress. The Articles of Confederation had no provisions for an executive branch,ergo, no president. The first was, indeed, George Washington.

  • 1 decade ago

    Your teacher is correct. Washington was only the first President sworn into office after the ratification of the Constitution. Before that, you had the "President of the Continental Congress". According to wikipedia, Thomas McKean was the first President simply titled “President of the United States” in an official document. So I would go with that answer.

    McKean was President just prior to John Hanson.

  • 1 decade ago

    John Hanson was president of the country formed under the Articles of Confederation. There is a short description of the issue at URL You can find the Articles at URL This country was called the United States of America, so Hanson was the first president.

    George Washington was the first president under the Constitution of the United States, so he was the first president of the United States of America formed under the Constitution.

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