George Washington WASN'T the first U.S. president?

John Hanson (1721-1783) is sometimes called the first president of the United States.

But how can this be? Wasn't George Washington the first to hold the position?

Let me clear up the confusion:

John Hanson was the first president of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation. Since the presidency did not exist as an executive position separate from Congress until the federal Constitution created the role upon its ratification in 1789, Hanson did not -- and could not, even if he wanted to -- hold the position of U.S. president as we know it today. 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.

Before serving as president of the Congress, he was appointed to the Maryland Colonial Assembly,  named as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and elected to the Maryland House of Delegates.

Hanson died on this day in 1783.

So the next time someone says George Washington was the first president, you can argue that someone served in the capacity of "president" before George took the oath of office -- but of the body that came to be known as the Continental Congress.

Had you heard of Hanson before?

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