By Robert A. Vella
Everybody knows that George Washington was the first U.S. President, right? Wrong. There were actually nine others who preceded him. Surprised? Well, don’t feel bad because you’re not alone.
In yet another example of how modern Americans have lost their collective history, the crucial period between 1781 and 1789 has been largely forgotten in the United States for reasons which are not very clear. During this time when the Revolutionary War was coming to a close and the fledgling nation was building its foundations, the U.S. was governed under the Articles of Confederation and John Hanson – as President of the Continental Congress – was its first head of state. Eight others succeeded him in one-year terms before ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the presidency of George Washington.
The U.S. government under the Articles proved to be too weak as an administrative body and that’s why it was scrapped. It was a unitary system having executive, legislative, and judicial branches all rolled into one organization. This placed great demands of expertise on its members who, despite their impressive skills, struggled to find common ground. The Articles were further flawed in that it could not be amended without unanimous approval of all U.S. states (the original 13 colonies), and that it had no provisions for taxation.
John Hanson’s grave was robbed after his death in 1783, and the site was later demolished for new development. What an ignominious end for the first U.S. President!
Watch the C-SPAN documentary video here: John Hanson and the Articles of Confederation – Peter Hanson Michael talked about John Hanson, who served as President of Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and argued that John Hanson was the first president of the United States in the period between the Revolution and the creation of the Constitution. Mr. Michael is the author of Remembering John Hanson.