John Hanson America’s First President!

Thought George Washington was the First President in America, right?  The constitution wasn’t signed until 1789.  So what did we do from 1776 to 1789?  Well the states were loosely organized under a simple form of National Government called the Articles of Confederation.  There really was no strong central government.

According to

“The Continental Congress wrote the Articles of Confederation during the Revolutionary War. The articles were written to give the colonies some sense of a unified government. Once the thirteen colonies became the thirteen states, however, each one began to act alone in its own best interest. A new governing document was needed in order for these new states to act together, to become a nation.

The Articles of Confederation became effective on March 1, 1781, after all thirteen states had ratified them. The Articles made the states and legislature supreme. There was no executive branch. Judicial functions were very limited.

The resulting government was weak. Efforts to make it stronger failed. A convention called in May 1787 to re-write the Articles decided to draft an entirely new Constitution.”

John Hanson was a merchant and public official from Maryland during the era of the American Revolution. After serving in a variety of roles for the Patriot cause in Maryland, in 1779 Hanson was elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He was elected by that body to be the President of the Continental Congress. At this time there was no executive branch, so in effect, Hanson was the first American President. He signed the Articles of Confederation in 1781 after Maryland finally joined the other states in ratifying them.  He was Born in  Port Tobacco, Maryland.  Route 50 in Maryland to Ocean City is named The John Hanson Highway.  Here’s the timelines from Wikipedia for his political career.



1750: Hanson’s career in public service began in 1750, when he was appointed sheriff of Charles County.
1757: In 1757 he was elected to represent Charles County in the lower house of the Maryland General Assembly, where he served over the next twelve years, sitting on many important committees.
1774: When relations between Great Britain and the colonies became a crisis in 1774, Hanson became one of Frederick County’s leading Patriots.
1776: In June 1776, Hanson chaired the Frederick County meeting that urged provincial leaders in Annapolis to instruct Maryland’s delegates in the Continental Congress to declare independence from Great Britain.
1781: When Congress received notice of this, Hanson joined Daniel Carroll in signing the Articles of Confederation on behalf of Maryland on March 1, 1781.
1781: On November 5, 1781, Congress elected Hanson as president of the Continental Congress (or “president of the Congress of the Confederacy” or “president of Congress”).

George Washington Resigns His Military Commission

George Washington’s Resignation

Grand Staircase

Washington Resigning His Commission, by Edwin White, 1858. MSA SC 1545-1112

“At the end of the Revolutionary War, many people in America and Europe thought Washington would retain the reins of power to become the leader of the new nation, or even king. When told by the American artist Benjamin West that Washington was going to resign, King George III of England said “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

However, Washington had an abiding faith in the young nation and a deep desire to return to his beloved Mt. Vernon and private life as a farmer. Congress had assembled in Annapolis in late November and awaited the general’s arrival to resign his commission. He arrived on December 19 and immediately wrote to Congress to inquire as to how they actually wanted him to resign. A committee of Congress devised a ceremony that took place at noon on December 23. In the intervening days, Washington was feted with parties, balls and huzzas, including a gala ball on the night before the ceremony in the hall of the State House, where he danced with all the ladies.

On the day of the ceremony, Washington arrived at the State House where Congress was meeting in the Old Senate Chamber. When he entered the Chamber, the members remained seated, covered (with their hats on). In a short, emotional speech, Washington resigned his commission and then bowed to Congress. Only then did the members rise and remove their hats in a gesture of respect. As he left the Chamber to ride to Mt. Vernon in time to have his Christmas dinner at home, Washington handed his personal copy of his speech to a member of the committee. It is this copy that the state of Maryland has now acquired from a descendant of the member, in whose family it has remained since that day. The speech will be on display when the State House reopens in January 2009.”


This event was remarked on and celebrated through out the world because it marked the first time in history that a military leader of a revolution did not automatically install himself as leader of that nation.  And actually, the resignation speech handwritten by George Washington himself is now on display in the Statehouse.

Legislative Services: Regina Todd

Trip to Maryland State House

On December 30th,  my family was treated to a nearly private tour of the Maryland State House.  We learned a lot about Maryland history.  The  most important things were:

  1.  The Maryland State House actually served as the US Capitol for about one year from November 26, 1783 to August 13, 1784.
  2. George Washington Resigned his Military Commission at the end of the Revolutionary War inside the Maryland State House. (See George Washington Resigns His Military Commission)
  3. Maryland Actually had its own version of the Boston Tea Party. (See The Burning of the Peggy Stewart)
  4. John Hanson, a Marylander, was the first President under the articles of Confederation.  The Articles of Confederation were the guidelines for which the colonies/states interacted with each other before the Constitution was signed in 1789.


We would like to thank Maryland Legislative Services and Ms. Regina Todd for showing us around.

The Burning of the Peggy Stewart

Did you know Maryland also had a Revolutionary War Tea Party?

“The brigantine Peggy Stewart arrived in Annapolis, Maryland on Friday, October 14, 1774, laden with more than a ton of tea. The owners of the ship were Anthony Stewart and his father-in-law James Dick. The tax for the tea was quickly paid by Stewart, in violation of a non–importation agreement amongst local merchants. This was not the first time that Stewart and Dick paid a tax on imported British goods. The Anne Arundel County Committee decided that the tea should not be landed and called for a public meeting to determine the final fate of the cargo on Wednesday October 19, 1774.   Although the majority of the people at the meeting voted against violent measures, the minority members were determined to burn both the ship and the tea. Stewart finally consented to burn his own ship out of fear for his own life and concern that the mob might also burn his house. The burning of the Peggy Stewart was a seminal event in both Maryland’s and the colonies’ history prior to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. The following quote is from a letter written by Charles Yardley Turner read at the occasion of the unveiling of his painting.

In the center panel is Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Dr. Warfield “leader of the mob”. In the left panel wearing the white shirt sleeves is Anthony Stewart.  The right panel portrays a group of citizens near Anthony Stewart’s mansion.”

Reproduced under Fair Use from


Field Trip! Constitution Museum and Betsty Ross House Oct 13th, 2015

October 13, 2015

My family took a trip into Old Philadelphia to visit a couple of historic sites. First we went to the Constitution Museum. We had fun. I kept trying to vote, but the machine kept telling me I wasn’t allowed to vote since I am a girl. Of course, my family said it was funny watching me go to every voting station. I definitely remember which year women in Maryland were allowed to vote.  Women in Maryland were granted the right to vote by the passage of the 19th amendment on August 18, 1920.

I thought the signers gallery with life sized statues of was terrifying. I learned a lot about the signers and the dissenters. The dissenters had reasons for not approving the Constitution like slavery and they thought the Government was to strong and could overrun the States. It was an interesting way to view all the signers in one place. We have an ongoing project to learn about all the signers, I have the “Book of Signers” with bios of all of them. Come to think of it, we should have brought it so we could make some notes in the margins.

One of the docents (a person who who is kind of like a museum tour guide) made us turn around so we could appreciate an ORIGINAL signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln signed with his full name Abraham Lincoln which was unusual. Apparently, he signed 45 copies in Philadelphia when he spoke at Independence Hall. Abraham Lincoln signed his name A. Lincoln most of the time.

We also got to visit Betsy Ross House, I had no idea she had three different husbands. Sewing the first American Flag was an act of Sedition or Treason to the English Crown. IF she had been caught she probably would have been executed. She must have been very brave because English troops lived in the house with her. She sewed the flag in her bedroom, but she could have been caught at any time. She is buried in the courtyard there which was strange because she never owned that home but instead rented space for her living quarters and her upholstery shop. Later in life she moved in with a relative. She was completely blind for the last three years of her life and moved in with a relative closeby.