president of Congress (a position similar to that of prime minister in the British Parliament) from 1781 to 1782, during which time the Articles of Confederation were finally ratified and General George Washington defeated the British army at Yorktown, Virginia. Upon the ratification of the Articles on March 1, 1781, the Continental Congress became the “Congress of the Confederation” or the “United States in Congress Assembled.” Hanson was the first president of that body, but not of the United States.”
Others might assert that the man, assuming the command, leadership, and responsibilities as head of the, yet-unnamed, “confederation”, was in fact commander-in-chief, in duty, while not so officially titled.
In his post on FreeRepublic.com, “The First President Of the United States Was A Black Man (John Hanson)”, Thaddeus Matthews writes: “I know this posting will stir controversty (sic) but George Washington was not the first President of the U.S. Let's take a look at history. The new country was actually formed on March 1, 1781 with the adoption of The Articles of Confederation.
“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. In fact, Hanson sent 800 pounds of sterling siliver (sic) by his brother Samuel Hanson to George Washington to provide the troops with shoes.
“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. 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.
“So what happened? 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. 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 seven Presidents are forgotten in history.”
A Swede weighed in publicly, in response to Matthews’ thesis: “John Hanson was a SWEDE! He was descended from those who settled the New Sweden colony in the the (sic) Philadephia area--as am I! We Swedish-Americans are proud of John Hanson”, said Charles Henrickson.
Even the curated exhibit at The Smithsonian Institute was changed to rebuff the, originally approved, recognition of Hanson as the first. Here is the change, per JohnHanson.org: “John Hanson served as the first president of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation from 1781 to 1782” --TO-- “John Hanson served as an early President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation from 1781 to 1782.”
Everyone wants their proper due in history. It is always hard to ascertain what parts of our history, long-controlled by others, has, or has not, been recorded factually, or was “whitewashed” in order to enure to the benefit of the record-keepers’ allegiances. Either way, though, it is one heck of a conversation starter. Something worth forensic investigation, and proof, in one direction, or another, to be resolved. Once and for all.