Monday’s Myth

MONDAY’S MYTH: Was John Hanson the real first president of the United States? 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 John Hanson was the first president of the Continental Congress. “The apparent confusion on this point arises from 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.”

Information courtesy Mary Miley’s “History Myths Debunked.”

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