The first name that probably came to your mind was George Washington. It is so obvious that maybe you are now unsure and are wondering what kind of sneaky trick is this. Well, it’s not a trick, but it is not an easy question to answer either. So why is that? [Trivia break #1: Who was the youngest U.S. President? Trivia answers at the end.]
George Washington was elected President of the United States in January of 1789 and of course is most often referred to as our first president. The Revolutionary War was all but technically over in 1781. So what was going on during the time period in between? In 1781, the confederacy of thirteen independent states passed the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. In the Articles, it is stated that the confederacy shall be known as “…the United States of America”. The Articles went on to state that a president shall be elected from the members of Congress. [Trivia break #2: How many U.S. Presidents have there been assuming George Washington was the first president?]
So who was the first person known as President of the United States of Congress Assembled under the terms of the Articles of Confederation? John Hanson of Maryland. And as such, Mr. Hanson lays a solid claim as being the first president of the United States. Seven more presidents were elected under the Articles until the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, and before the election of George Washington under the U.S. Constitution. [Trivia break #3: How many U.S. Presidents served in the Union army during the Civil War?]
But wait, what about Samuel Huntington or Thomas McKean? Mr. Huntington was the president of Congress during the debates and ratification of the Articles of Confederation in March, 1781. Perhaps not as strong a case as John Hanson because although presiding over the Congress, the name “the United States of America” was not coined until the Articles were ratified. But what about Thomas McKean? He became President after Mr. Huntington became ill and could not continue as President. [Trivia break #4: How many U.S. Presidents died in office?]
So let the debate rage! Who was the first President of the United States? Samuel Huntington, Thomas McKean, John Hanson, or George Washington? Enjoy the holiday weekend! [Trivia break #5: How many U.S. Presidents were impeached?]
1) Theodore Roosevelt (age 42). John F. Kennedy (43) was the youngest elected president; however, Teddy was younger when he took office as a result of the assassination of William McKinley.
2) 43. Although President Barack Obama is referred to as our 44th president, he is actually only the 43rd person to hold the office under the U.S. Constitution. Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms around Benjamin Harrison, and thus he is counted as our 22nd and 24th president.
3) 5. Grant, Hayes, B. Harrison, Garfield, and McKinley. Although Chester Arthur held a commission in the New York militia, he technically was not in the Union army.
4) 8. W. Harrison, Taylor, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, F. Roosevelt, and Kennedy.
5) 2. Andrew Johnson, the successor to Abraham Lincoln was impeached but was acquitted by the Senate.
Jim McCarthy is an attorney at the law firm of McCarthy & McCarthy, P.C. (www.mccarthymccarthy.com) and can be reached at JMcCarthy@McCarthyMcCarthy.com . Nothing in this blog is legal advice. No one should act upon the contents of this blog and should consult an attorney for advice based upon their facts and circumstances before making any decisions.