Myth # 88: John Hanson was the real first president of the United States.

John Hanson

This resilient myth has been around for more than one hundred years, as his descendants have sought to plump up his reputation. In 1959, the director of research at Colonial Williamsburg tried to stamp it out–obviously, he was unsuccessful–by writing about whether Peyton Randolph or John Hanson was the first president of the Continental Congress. “The apparent confusion on this point arises form the fact that the Continental Congress existed first as a revolutionary body and then after the formal ratification of the Articles of Confederation on March 1, 1781 as the congress of the Confederation Government. Most historians, however, refer to this body as the Continental Congress during the entire period of its existence from 1774 until 1788.” He concludes that Hanson was not the first president of the Continental Congress, although he was one of several presidents, none of whom were “president” of the United States. “[Hanson] has sometimes been called the first president of the nation. However, he was in no sense a true executive officer, as were the presidents elected under the Federal Constitution.”

But let’s let Deborah Brower of Maryland, this week’s guest blogger, share her research and set the story straight. Hang on . . . it’s complicated! Or skip to the summary at the bottom, or check out Jon Stewart’s hilarious take on the Hanson claim at .

Most people have never heard of John Hanson. If you know him at all, you probably live in Maryland and are familiar with the highway that bears his name.  It’s also possible you may have read about the recent effort to replace his statue in the U. S. Capitol with one of Harriet Tubman.  (Not a bad idea, interjects Mary) You might have encountered him as a featured article in one of those pocket books on the Constitution.  It is amazing that someone so obscure has such a wealth of misinformation attached to him. Of course maybe that’s why, the more obscure the subject more likely it is to be taken at face value.

We do know John Hanson was born in April of 1721 near Port Tobacco, Maryland.  His family origins are obscure, but by the time of his birth they were established members of the planter class. By the 1770s he’d moved to Frederick, Maryland and was serving as the chief officer of the County’s Committee of Safety, a Revolutionary Era alternative to the British Colonial government of Frederick County.  He kept the County and it’s resources firmly in the control of Maryland’s revolutionaries; he was a master at putting them to the best use.  Hanson is an excellent example of the sort of men who worked to fulfill the obligations of their colonies to the Continental Congress and the army.  These men don’t often get credit because they are in the shadows behind the new state government, Congress and the Military.  Although important, their roles just don’t get much attention.  John Hanson’s obligations kept him in mostly in Frederick until 1779 when he was elected as one of Maryland’s delegates to the Continental Congress.  In late 1780 he was elected to preside over Congress under the ratified Articles of Confederation.

Contrary to the general impression, not everyone thought the Revolution would result in a single nation.  Most thought when the war was over the colonies would go on as separate sovereign nations.  All that was needed was a “league of friendship” to deal with a limited number of common interests. The Articles of Confederation were a statement of how the Continental Congress had been operating thus far.   They enumerated the very minimal powers relinquished by the states.  Any power granted by the document was placed solely in the control of Congress.  There was no executive branch, judicial branch or senate only a single body, the Congress.  The difference between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution are best stated by the documents themselves: The Articles of Confederation, “…, we the undersigned Delegates of the States…”; and the Constitution, “We the People of the United States”.

By June of 1780 when John Hanson finally took his seat in Congress, Maryland was the only colony left who had not agreed to the Articles of Confederation. The competing claims of the Colonies and various land speculation companies to the western territories was at issue.  Some colonies had their boundaries set by charters; others had no set boundaries and claimed they extended all the way to the Pacific Coast. Maryland was the only landless state still holding out.  On the surface Maryland argued all that undeveloped territory would make the landed states too powerful.  In reality Maryland’s motivation was the self interests of some of its leading citizens who were among the investors in land companies that purchased directly from the Indians.  The land in question was within the projected boundaries of landed colonies (mostly Virginia and New York). It was not so much Maryland trying to get the landed states to agree to a set border as it was to get the claims of the land companies recognized.  To make it even more complicated there were some Marylanders that had invested in Virginia based companies.  It is fascinating to follow the dance of Maryland legislators over their competing land claims.   George Mason’s letters referring to Maryland and her “twisted sister” Delaware make it clear that people were aware of what was going on behind the scenes.  The way things played out in Virginia, Maryland and Congress rival any back room dealings going on today.

While the other delegates were back in Maryland intriguing, John Hanson sat in Philadelphia, often the only Marylander there.  To break this impasse,  elements in Congress suggested the land claims might have more success in a ratified Congress.  Meanwhile British ships were manacling the Chesapeake and Maryland appealed to the French for protection. The French minister insinuated they were reluctant to place ships in the Chesapeake to shield Maryland because the Articles were not ratified.  If Maryland could see her way to finally sign, the French would be in a better position to help. So Maryland relented, still holding a faint hope for the land claims in a Confederation Congress; which was better than the possibility of being turned into a cinder by the British. We may never know for sure, but it would come as no surprise that John Hanson’s election as president was part of the deal.  On March 1, 1781, the signatures of Maryland’s delegates were added to the Articles of Confederation.  Now the Articles were ratified and took effect with great celebration.

On to the Myths

Beginning the last quarter of the 19th century a series of John Hanson descendants and some others began to slowly reinvent him.  One slight exaggeration was piled on top of another with the result of burying the real John Hanson.

1. John Hanson is NOT Swedish.

Since the publication of an article by genealogist George Ely Russell titled “John Hanson of Maryland, a Swedish Heritage Disproven”, It has been accepted that John Hanson is not Swedish or from the royal Vasa line.  The work of Russell was so compelling that a John Hanson memorial bust and plaque were removed from Gloria Dei (Old Swedes) Church in Philadelphia. The myth was started in the 19th century by George Adolphus Hanson who was trying link his family line to John Hanson.

2. John Hanson is NOT Black. 

3. John Hanson is NOT the first Black President of the United States.

George Russell discovered an indentured servant who came to Maryland by way of Barbados named John Henson/Hanson.  This Hanson might have been the grandfather of John Hanson. For some reason in the 1990s, comedian Dick Gregory took this to mean John Hanson was black.  His proof was a daguerrotype of a John Hanson!  Put aside the fact that photography was invented a long time after Hanson died. The man in the photograph named John Hanson was a senator in Liberia, Africa, during the mid 19th century. On the back of the two dollar is an engraving of the signing of the Declaration of Independence purportedly showing a Black John Hanson. Hanson did not sign the Declaration and was not even in Congress until 1780.

4. John Hanson was NOT a mentor or longtime friend of George Washington.

In spite of claims to the contrary, according to researchers at Mount Vernon there is no evidence of a relationship between George Washington and John Hanson before 1781. There is only one reference in Washington’s journal of a “Mr. Hanson” visiting Mount Vernon in 1772, but it is not John Hanson, according to the editors.

5. John Hanson did NOT solve the Western Land question.

According to Ralph Levering who wrote the most extensive analysis of John Hanson’s political career in his “John Hanson: Public Servant”, there is no record of John Hanson’s stand on the Western land question, let alone documentation that he was responsible for the solution. There is no evidence that anything called “the Hanson Plan” ever existed.

6. John Hanson was NOT elected unanimously.

All the entry for Nov 4th in the Journals of the Confederation Congress records about the election of a presiding officer is that it occurred and John Hanson was elected. Nothing about a vote count.  Representatives for two states, New York and Delaware were not even present that day.

7. Hanson was NOT elected over Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Hamilton or Hancock.

The Nov. 4th entry does not say who (or if) anyone ran against Hanson. Recently it has been asserted that John Hanson was elected over Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and Hancock.  None of them were eligible to be president of Congress Assembled.  According to the Articles (#9) you had to be a member of Congress to be president and none of them were.  In fact Hanson only accepted on the condition that Maryland guarantee his return to Congress following state elections in a few weeks.  If he had not been returned he would not have been eligible to serve.  The entry for the day in the Journal does not say who (or if) anyone ran against Hanson.

8.  John Hanson is NOT the first president of the United States of America or the first president of the Confederation Congress.

When the articles of Confederation were ratified on March 4th things did not change, Samuel Huntington continued as president, making him the first Confederation president of Congress.  In July he resigned; there was an election and the next man elected refused to serve.  Another election was held and Thomas McKeon was chosen to finish Huntington’s term.  McKeon is the second president of the Confederation Congress and the first elected, but did not serve a one year term.  On November 4, 1781, John Hanson was elected president of Congress.  This made him the third president of Congress and the second elected, but the first to serve a one year term. 

9. John Hanson did NOT establish the first Thanksgiving or set a precedent for future days of thanksgiving and prayer to be held on the last Thursday of November.

Congress issued proclamations for a day of Thanksgiving every year since 1777.  Most often they chose a day in December. During the first Confederation Congress  a committee (not including Hanson) chose a day in November. In the draft the words “ the last”  written before Thursday are crossed.  They were not trying to establish a precedent for future days of thanksgiving.  They were following a practice already in place. The next year they went back to a date in December. It was not the holiday we think of as “Thanksgiving”.  The day was meant to be spent in church in prayer.


While John Hanson was president, he voted in Congress as a delegate of Maryland just like every other  delegate in Congress..  This is an indicator that his real role was closer to the modern Speaker of the House. It is telling that even though he died shortly after he left Congress there is no mention of his being the president of anything but Congress and nothing about “first.”  When John Hanson died in 1783, his obituary in the Maryland Gazette stated, “This gentleman has long been a servant to his country, in a variety of employments, the last of which was that of president of Congress.”  By the time John Hanson’s wife died about thirty years later she was remembered only as the widow of a delegate to the “…old Revolutionary Congress”, not the wife of a President.

John Hanson should be remembered for his contributions to Maryland’s Revolutionary War efforts which took place primarily in Frederick County.  His service in Congress was a post script to his career.  He outlined his misgivings in letters to his family.  He told them it was his duty to stay because if he left there would not be enough attending delegates to do business.  There weren’t even enough to hold another election.  The fact that he was willing continue when he had good reasons to excuse himself, is to his credit.

The continuing efforts to turn John Hanson into something he is not does him a great disservice and corrupts the public perception of history.  I would urge anyone whose curiosity has been peaked to do some searches, you will be appalled.


Jensen, Merrill, “The Articles of Confederation”, University of Wisconsin Press, 1970

Jensen, Merrill, “The New Nation”, Vintage Books, 1951

Levering, Ralph B. “John Hanson, Public Servant”. Maryland Historical Magazine 71             (Summer 1976): 113–33.

Russel, George Ely. “John Hanson of Maryland: A Swedish Heritage Disproved”. The             American Genealogist 63, no. 4 (October 1988)

John Hanson (1721-1783), Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series)


Journals of the Continental Congress 1774-1779

Hoffman, Ronald, “A Spirit of Dissension: Economics, Politics, and the Revolution in Maryland”, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973


39 Responses to Myth # 88: John Hanson was the real first president of the United States.

  1. Lyn Smith says:

    Very well put together. Sources are sited and facts are in order. You can’t get more clear than this. It’s high time folks stop trying to make their ancestors people they were not. We all have ancestors who participated in the Revolution, either for or against, and I’d rather site the facts and accept the truth, whatever that truth may be. Thank you so much for all your hard work, Deborah. Hopefully everyone will pay attention and accept the facts. It seems John Hanson did a lot of good things in his life but was far from the public figure some are trying to make him. I think it funny about the daguerrotype (picture) taken before the process was even invented.

    • SC says:

      “It’s high time folks stop trying to make their ancestors people they were not. ”
      Exactly! Clearly Jesus was of pale skin as well,lol. Let the truth be told and made avaiable to all.

      • LYMHHM says:

        Gotta love history. Truth really is stranger than fiction. I guess I’m gonna have to stop telling people my great grandfather X 10 was the first man on the moon. LOL. Thanks for the great article, very enlightening.

    • Jerry Sands says:

      Just because someone sites references doesn’t mean that what they’re saying is factual or true. If you reference a lie to support a lie, they’re still lies. History books have been inaccurate for years. And I don’t care if “so and so” at Mount Vernon wrote a book and calls himself an authority on this or that. There’s too much other information to the contrary. But believe what you will.

      • LaWanda Dugger says:

        You are so right. How can you go by what any one says. My professor taught us just the opposite what is being told here. But even the past president of the KKK David Duke said the first president was a black man and the first set of slaves were Caucasian. Why would a man who’s a seperatist lie?

  2. DK says:

    Very well researched and enlightening article, Deborah!

  3. Typhoon Jim says:

    This article makes me more curious about the “real John Hanson”. It seems that in any case, first president or not, he is very much an overlooked figure. The era of the first Continental Congresses is not often discussed in America, yet is critical to our understanding of our current form of government.

    • Intrigued by the finding and scoffed by the lack of recogniition given says:

      i agree with you. Regardless of his title he seems as if he had did a lot that he should be given recognition for.

  4. silver price says:

    The American revolution was no different. Our history books hail the accomplishments of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. In fact, we record George Washington as the first President of the United States, yet he wasn’t. Washington was the eighth man to serve as President, not the first. The adage that the winners write history is certainly apropos in American history books. From the period 1774 to 1781, the United States was not “united”, it had no national government. The individual states made the respective decisions and transmitted them to their congressional representatives. The representatives were paid by the State they represented and not from the national treasury. The new nation was virtually formed on March 1, 1781, with the ratification of The Articles of Confederation, a document proposed on June 11, 1776, before the Declaration of Independence, but not agreed upon by Congress until November 15, 1777. But the Maryland delegation refused to sign the document until Virginia and New York ceded their western lands. When Maryland signed the document in 1781, the United States, as a nation, was united. The Articles of Confederation formed the United States of America in perpetuity. All major legislation required an unanimous vote of all States. This, in itself, created sufficient problems and was the cause for the convention that drew up the new Constitution.

    • Ron Carnegie says:

      George Washington WAS the first president of the United States. I guess you didn’t even read the article above. there was NO President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation. There was simply a President of Congress which is NOT an executive Officer. It is not the office of President nor was the holder of the position ever called the President of the United States. The position was in name and function an entirely different role. It is in fact more synonymous with the Speaker of the House than with the President. The creation of the Presidency (with the Constitution) was so controversial that it almost stopped the Constitution from being ratified.

      And as was mentioned above even if you are going to call Hanson a president, he wouldn’t have been first which means there would have been more than eight before Washington. TheThe first

      • Dwight says:

        Not quite true. Their were 8 presidents under the Articles of Confederation who all served 1yr terms:
        1) John Hanson (1781-1782)
        2) Elias Boudinot (1782-83)
        3) Thomas Mifflin (1783-84)
        4) Richard Henry Lee (1784-85)
        5) John Hancock (1785-86)
        6) Nathan Gorman (1786-87)
        7) Arthur St. Clair (1787-88)
        8) Cyrus Griffin (1788-89)
        The 2 men who served as President under the Articles of Confederation before John Hanson both resigned at the beginning of their term and thus didn’t complete the 1 year term, therefore John Hanson was not only still considered the first President, he was also the first president to serve the complete 1yr term. The president of the Continental Congress was simply the presiding officer of the Continental Congress, which was a convention of delegates that emerged as the first national government of the United States during the American Revolution. The president was a member of Congress elected by the other delegates to serve as an impartial moderator during meetings of Congress. Designed to be a largely ceremonial position without much influence, the office was unrelated to the later office of President of the United States.
        14 men served as president of Congress. The first was Peyton Randolph, who was elected on September 5, 1774. The last president, Cyrus Griffin, resigned in November 1788. President John Hancock is remembered for his large, bold signature on the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted and signed during his presidency. George Washington was simply the first president of the United States under the Constitution.

      • There were 9 rather than 8 presidents of the first government. They are as follows. For whatever reason, Dr. David Ramsay is sometimes left out of this list though he was duly elected and did serve.

        1) John Hanson (1781-1782)
        2) Elias Boudinot (1782-83)
        3) Thomas Mifflin (1783-84)
        4) Richard Henry Lee (1784-85)
        5) John Hancock (Elected to the 1785-86 term but did not serve because of illness. The following two presidents served his term.)
        6) Dr. David Ramsay (Nov 23, 1785 – May 12, 1786)
        7) Nathaniel Gorham (May 15, 1786 – Nov 5, 1786)
        8) Dr. Arthur St. Clair (1787-88)
        9) Cyrus Griffin (1788-89)

        The two presidents who served during the 249 days between March 1, 1781, when the Article of Confederation were ratified and AUTHORIZED a government, and November 5, 1781, when the Article CREATED the first government were not presidents of government but the last of the Second Continental Congress, a consultative body among the states.

  5. Joe C says:

    Your article is great except:

    Re: #9 It was not the holiday we think of as “Thanksgiving”. The day was to be spent in church in prayer

    I disagree with this. Yes it was a day to be spent in church and prayer. But so is “Thanksgiving” as we know it today. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day of feasting (celebration), attendance of a place of worship, and prayer. George Washington in the Thanksgiving proclamation he gave as President urged Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving by attending their places of worship and to pray to God and thank him for the blessings given to the United States. Other Presidents such as Adams, Madison, and Lincoln gave similar sentiments (Americans should celebrate Thanksgiving by attending their places of worship, praying to God, and giving thanks to God for our blessings). That our current President has gotten away from that view does not mean the purpose of the holiday has changed.

    • marymiley says:

      We don’t disagree. Our present-day Thanksgiving is/was supposed to be a time of feasting and giving thanks in whatever religious tradition one followed. But this was not the intent of the so-called first Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, which was originally 2 unrelated events, one a harvest feast and another that was a solemn day at church.

    • scott says:

      The actual first Thanksgiving day celebration occurred at the Berkely Plantation here in Virginia in 1619. That was a year before the Pilgrims even landed at Plymouth. For more information, Google Berkely Plantation and visit thier website.

  6. lucybeth says:

    My question is why is the picture on the stamp different from thre original portrait? Some of the features have been changed, the eyes the nose, etc. Be that as it may, who cares what his background was, it cannot be changed. Live for now people!

  7. Deborah Brower says:

    The stamp is basedd on a portrait by Chales Wilson Peale, done approximately 10 years after the one on this site. The Peale portrait was painted while John Hanson was president of Congress.

  8. Cedric says:

    The only real facts about this article are not stated. The fact that Mr. Hanson was a black man only sshows that we as a nation need to come to some resolve over our troubled race history. Can credit be given where it is due. He accomplished some great things considering the way blacks were viewed in our nation at that time. Why isnt these tnhings being taught in the public school system. White washed.

  9. Betty Wilson says:

    I have researched this entire situation… and I approve of what the author of this site has to say. I am not meaning to make a ‘racial comment’ here although it will be perceived as such. Do you REALLY believe that a black man would have actually been allowed to be ANY kind of a politician in those days? I think not. The whole “Moor” situation is a dubious one….to me.

  10. Alan Nance says:

    I always believed that Samuel Huntington was the first American to hold the title of President of the United States. On March 2, 1781 Huntington took his seat as the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled. This wasn’t the constitution as we know it but is that relevant after all, that happened elsewhere as well. Do we seriously doubt that De Gaulle was President of France of Henry VIII was King of England. The fact that new and different constitutions alter the position and influence of a role doesn’t mean that others didn’t hold that role.It is time that Americans had proper history classes and not just folklore about Apple Trees and patriotism.

  11. fusilier55 says:

    The First President of the Congress of the United Colonies was Peyton Randolph in 1774. The first President of the Congress of the United States was John Hancock (July 1776). the first President of the Congress of the Confederation was Samuel Huntington. None of these were the equivalent of the present office which is Chief Executive of the United States. The President of Congress was more similar to the Speaker of the House the the President of the United States and all of the office’s functions were under the direct control of the Congress. He was more like a chairman of a board. Its not simply that the system of government changed with the Constitution, it is a different office entirely.

    The first President of the United States was George Washington.

  12. ippster says:

    @. Betty Wilson, you are correct Betty…. No man of color would be allowed o be a politician at that time in history….They were slaves…and not allowed to vote let alone be in politics…

  13. ac says:

    First and foremost, John Hanson was NEVER President of the United States. He was one of 2 men who lay claim to being the 1st President of the Continental Congress…. not the United States of America. It’s interesting how some people don’t know the difference.

  14. DonnaM says:

    What about the article I read that George Washington did not make his inauguration and someone else was President for one day? Any help here?

  15. Thank you for this info he is my Distant Relative one of the brothers to my great great uncle John Hanson who married into Swedish Royal Family in Era of Queen Christina I have seen alot on him in this appreciated

  16. Dear Ms. Brower,

    Please call me Stan and thank you for your good work on righting the record on the President of the United States in Congress Assembled.

    Question One – My sense is it was added to a 1927 Gov Printing Office booklet of founding documents and picked up from there. Would be better if there was period reference, but life is never that easy. Have you seen this?:

    I am sorry to report that I have not seen the 1927 printing of founding US documents but can report that the “official” US Federal acknowledgement of President John Hanson as the first President of the “United States in Congress Assembled” or “Congress of the Confederation” occurred at the US Capitol in 1903. The claims are made in the Proceedings in the Senate and House of Representatives Upon the Reception and Acceptance from the State of Maryland of the Statues of Charles Carroll of Carrollton and of John Hanson, Erected in Statuary Hall of the Capitol: January 31, 1903, which was ordered to be printed by the United States Congress, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1903 in 111 pages. It is from here the John Hanson First President Myth, purported by his family, gained its gigantic foothold in the annuals of Congressional errors because it was championed by some distinguished politicians including the following US Senators present at the 1903 ceremonies, which excerpts I have attached:

    • Address of Louis Emory McComas, (1846 – 1907) US Senator of Maryland
    • Address of George Louis Wellington , (1852 – 1927)US Senator of Maryland
    • Address of Augustus Octavius Bacon, (1839 – 1914) US Senator Georgia

    Question Two – My next question has to do with what you quote from your beautiful edition of the Journals. “This 18th Century Journal includes the full printing of the Articles of Confederation and the installment of Samuel Huntington as President of the United States in Congress Assembled.” Can you tell me where to find an image of that or might you be willing to give me an image yours ?

    I have attached a picture of the passage you have requested and yes you may use it for your article. Additionally, the Journals title page records a distinction between the Journals of Congress and the Journals of the United States in Congress Assembled, which I also attached as well a Journal entry listing Thomas McKean as a President of the United States in Congress Assembled in September 7, 1781 resolution. I also have printings of the Thanksgiving Proclamations of President Huntington issued in October 1779 and April 1781 with the United States in Congress Assembled title head only on the April 1781 issue. I can send them along if you like in a different email.

    It is important to note here that the Hanson faction often points out that the March 2, 1781 to November 3rd, 1781 United States In Congress Assembled headings under or before Presidents Huntington and McKean names means nothing because the term was being utilized by Congress since 1779. This is inaccurate and the confusion lies with a military committee’s design of army and naval appointments after the Articles of Confederation passage by the Continental Congress on November 15th, 1778 in anticipation of its ratification in 1779. It was agreed by Congress that the committee’s recommended heading “United States of America In Congress Assembled” would be utilized on all Army and Naval Appointments in 1779 (see attached John Jay Commission from 1779). The name of the federal congress, however, designated by the ratified Articles of Confederation was “United States in Congress Assembled” and not “United States of America in Congress Assembled.” The “United States in Congress Assembled” name for Congress was not used by the Continental Congress at all except in the drafting of the Articles of Confederation in the debates over the first US Constitution. The “United States of America in Congress Assembled” (USCA) first usage, as prescribed by the Articles of Confederation, was on the top of the Journals dated March 2, 1781. The USCA was used consistently on legislation from that point forward (i.e. President Thomas McKean’s and later John Hanson’s Yorktown Thanksgiving Proclamation, Treaty of Paris Ratification Resolution – Mifflin, Western Land Ordinance – Lee, Prussian Treaty – Hancock, Northwest Ordinance – St. Clair, and 1787 US Constitution enabling Resolution – Griffin).

    The History of Articles of Confederation could not be clearer, they were ratified by the last of the required 13 States, Maryland, on February 2, 1781, and enacted by the Continental Congress to take effect on March 1, 1781. During the first quorum convened of the first session of the United States in Congress Assembled (USCA). The first act of the USCA was to disqualify New Hampshire and Rhode Island from voting because they did not have the constitutionally required two or more delegates present in Congress to be recognized in the USCA quorum. Delaware Delegate Thomas Rodney, in his diary’s March 2, 1781 entry, explains the conundrum that was caused by the formation of the first Article of Confederation Congress:

    The States of New Hampshire and Rhode Island having each but one Member in Congress, they became unrepresented by the Confirmation of the Confederation-By which not more than Seven nor less than two Members is allowed to represent any State -Whereupon General Sullivan, Delegate from New Hampshire moved – That Congress would appoint a Committee of the States, and Adjourn till those States Could Send forward a Sufficient number of Delegates to represent them-Or that they would allow their Delegates now in Congress To give the Vote of the States until one More from each of those States was Sent to Congress to Make their representation Complete.

    He alleged that it was but just for Congress to do one or the other of them-for that the act of Congress by completing the Confederation ought not to deprive those States of their representation without giving them due Notice, as their representation was complete before, & that they did not know When the Confederation Would be Completed. Therefore if the Confederation put it out of the power of Congress to Allow the States vote in Congress because there was but one member from each them, they ought in justice to those States to appoint a Committee of the States, in which they would have an Equal Voice. This Motion was Seconded by Genl. Vernon from Rhode Island and enforced by Arguments to the same purpose.

    But all their Arguments were ably confuted by Mr. Burke of N.C. and others, and the absurdity of the motion fully pointed out, So that the question passed off without a Division -But it was the general Opinion of Congress that those members might Continue to Sit in Congress, and Debate & Serve on Committees though they could not give the vote of their States.

    As noted on my websites (,,, and there is a lot more irrefutable evidence to debunk Maryland’s claim that John Hanson was the First President of the “Congress of the Confederation” or “United States in Congress Assembled.” I forewarn you, however, that your article will not be received well by Congress, which makes no distinction in their Biographical Directory and many other official publications between the Continental Congress of the United Colonies, the Continental Congress of the United States, and the United States in Congress Assembled. Additionally, their failure to correct such errors has spawned institutions like the US Post Office, US Treasury Department, US State Department, Smithsonian Institute, and even the Supreme Court to purport John Hanson as not only the First President of the United States in Congress Assembled and or the Confederation Congress but the first President of the Continental Congress (so named by the Articles of Association in 1774).

    In the United States of America, thankfully, we have the right to purport the world is flat and that John Hanson was the first President under our first Constitution, the Articles of Confederation. Unfortunately, the former claim has dire consequences on everything from navigation to gravity while the just as specious Hanson claim has no dire consequences in a citizenry that adopts the claim as true. Therefore, your Article at best will be refuted by the flat earthers with their flat earther arguments and cause you much grief, especially in Maryland. At worst, it will be ignored by the media and thus the public will have nor reporting on your good work.

    Nevertheless, what you are doing is to be commended and I offer this recommendation.

    You will require, to give your Article some Media Teeth, to provide arguments from authority proofs, which is recognizable by the mainstream media like the NPR, NY Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, etc… Therefore, I suggest you interview the Co-editor of the First Federal Congress Project, Professor Kenneth Bowling, Ph.D. who has been championing the difference between the Continental Congress and Congress of the Confederation (he prefers this term over United States in Congress Assembled). His quotes will be invaluable to providing your work with academic credibility and he may know some other academics that might also help you in researching this important issue.

    Kenneth R. Bowling
    Co-editor First Federal Congress Project

    Stan Klos

  17. John Eidsmoe says:

    Ms. Brower has done a volume of research for which we should all be grateful, but all too often she fails to document her statements, and many of them simply substitute one opinion for another.

    But as to who was the first President of the United States, there is no clear right answer, because it depends in part upon how one defines the term “President.” Clearly, none of the Presidents before Washington had the executive powers delegated to him through the Constitution; in many ways they were more like a Speaker of the House of Representatives. But they had the title of President, and they were the closest thing to a President the United States had prior to 1789.

    Several persons could legitimately make a claim to being the first President of the United States:

    Peyton Randolph of Virginia was President of the First Continental Congress in 1774.

    John Hancock of Massachusetts was President of the Continental Congress in 1776 when independence was declared and the United States arguably became an independent country.

    John Hanson of Maryland was President of the Continental Congress in 1781 when the Articles of Confederation were finally ratified by the last of the 13 states.

    Elias Boudinot was President of the Continental Congress in 1783 when England finally recognized American independence through the Treaty of Paris.

    And, of course, in 1789 George Washington became the first President of the United States under the Constitution.

    Each of these men made an important contribution to the development of this nation, Rather than quibble over definitions, let is be thankful for the contributions of each.

  18. Sommore Boolsyt says:

    I would believe this if it didnt sound like a history book, the media, or another politician. If they want you to believe something they will always surround lies around the truth. As long as the foundation of the subject they’re speaking on is an undeniable truth, its easy to fabricate the rest of the “facts” as long as they have someone else working with them. Conspiracy, its what this country was built on. Why not belittle a man who already gets zero recognition for MAJOR contributions he made to this stolen country?

  19. Jay says:

    …funny how #2 was explained…hmmmm…

  20. Yeah says:

    Cool story. Zero evidence.

  21. Rev. George Brooks says:

    As a black man who has written much black history, and served as a publisher, journalist, and teacher, I ALWAYS tell black people to NEVER read and believe ANYTHING that a white person writes about black history. For they simply will NOT be fair and truthful in favor of blacks, but will make it come out benefiting and glorifying whites. In other words, they ALWAYS LIE. And I am sure that one day they will attempt to make Dr. Martin Luther King white, which is why it was arranged for his statue there in Washington to be carved in white stone. All white, including Jews, are the biggest liars on the earth. — Rev. George Brooks

  22. Robert says:

    Not what I think but this man pictured is not MOOR from Europe which is a black man. Now for President of these United States have we not read the Declaration of I dependence which calls this the United States? Makes sense that maybe people should learn history before they mislead others which do not use common sense.

    • JJ Cummings says:

      Your so very right. People do not read the documents or even read their provide citations. John Hanson was indeed the nations first Presdent in the first Congress of the Unites States of America Assembled in a continuation of that congress that adopted our second constitution – not the Continenal Congress. No where is it stated the Congress of the United States was the Continental Congress in that first Constitution. The first constitution states it is the Congress of the United States Assembled and John Hanson was its first elected President into its very first full term of what that first President was intended to hold and into its first Congress the week of its official operation. John Hanson was George Washingtons President and in a continuation of that first government, George Wasgington was elected almost a decade later by 10 States with some of the electors appointed and some electors voted in by a few.

  23. Im shocked, my dad told me that when I was 10 years old, I am 35 now and he has passed but now I really wish I could have one of are history discussions and show him this web site, I believe he would be just as shocked as I am right now about this myth hmmmm kinda feel stupid now, all the people I argued with.. turns out I am wrong 😭😭😭😆

  24. […] the historical debate over Hanson as a “real” president is murky, the historical record is unambiguous that he was a slave owner, one who while holding the office […]

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