Who was our first President?
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, 1789
So who was running the country during these initial years of this young
country? It was the first eight U. S.. Presidents. In fact, the first
President of the United States was one John Hanson.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Seven other presidents were elected after him:
1. Elias Boudinot (1782-83),
2. Thomas Mifflin (1783-84),
3. Richard Henry Lee (1784-85),
4. John Hancock (1785-86),
5. Nathan Gorman (1786-87),
6. Arthur St. Clair (1787-88), and
7. 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
Constitution. 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.
YOU HAVE TO BE A LOVER OF HISTORY TO APPRECIATE THIS!!
It took EIGHT years for us to establish a successful government. You
might just remember this when you hear that so little progress has been
made establishing a Government in Iraq.
There you are - another lesson in U.S. History, and you may have learned something new today.