WHO WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE
I'm sure that George Washington was your best guess. After all, no one
else comes to mind.
But think back to your history books — The United States declared
its independence in 1776, yet Washington did not take office until April 30,
So who was running the country during these initial years of this young
It was the first eight U.S. Presidents.
In fact, the first President of the United States was one John
I can hear you now — John who?
John Hanson, the first President of the United States.
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. (It's in the Encyclopedia
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
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
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
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.
Seven other presidents were elected after him — Elias Boudinot
(1782-83), Thomas Mifflin (1783-84), Richard Henry Lee (1784-85), John Hancock
(1785-86), Nathan Gorman (1786-87), Arthur St. Clair (1787-88), and Cyrus
Griffin (1788-89) — all prior to Washington taking office
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
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 eight Presidents are forgotten in history.