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Chapter Nine John Hanson 3rd President of the United States in Congress Assembled by Stanley L. Klos

John Hanson

President John Hanson Proposed Presidential $1 Coin with US Capitol York Court House

3rd President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
November 1781 to November 1782

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The Third United American Republic
Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled  
March 1, 1781 to March 3, 1789


Samuel Huntington

March 1, 1781

July 6, 1781

Samuel Johnston

July 10, 1781

Declined Office

Thomas McKean

July 10, 1781

November 4, 1781

John Hanson

November 5, 1781

November 3, 1782

Elias Boudinot

November 4, 1782

November 2, 1783

Thomas Mifflin

November 3, 1783

June 3, 1784

Richard Henry Lee

November 30, 1784

November 22, 1785

John Hancock

November 23, 1785

June 5, 1786

Nathaniel Gorham

June 6, 1786

February 1, 1787

Arthur St. Clair

February 2, 1787

January 21, 1788

Cyrus Griffin

January 22, 1788

January 21, 1789

Commander-in-Chief United Colonies of America
George Washington March 1, 1781 - December 23, 1783 

John Hanson of Maryland was elected President of the United States, in Congress Assembled on November 5, 1781 serving until November 3, 1782. He was born in Mulberry Grove, near Port Tobacco in Charles County, Maryland on April 3, 1721 before the British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar which now adjusts the date to April 14, 1721 (See Dr. Edward Papenfuse's Hanson Biography). Hanson's parents were Samuel (1685-1740) and Elizabeth Story Hanson (ca. 1688-1764). Samuel Hanson was a farmer who owned more than 1,000 acres and held a variety of political offices, including serving two terms in the Maryland General Assembly. There is much debate about John Hanson's ancestry with camps claiming he was descended from Swedish Royalty[1] while the other group claiming he was a black Moor. Neither of the assertions have merit.

John Hanson received a common colonial education and pursued, along with his family, agriculture. Hanson was married to Jane Contee in 1743, a French Huguenot from Rochelle Maryland. Her family immigrated, first to England, during the reign of Louis XIV before settling in the Maryland colony. Together, they had eight children with three sons, Alexander Contee Hanson,  Peter Contee Hanson,  and Samuel Contee Hanson[5] who would serve as officers in the Continental Army.

The first record of a political John Hanson occurred in 1750 as sheriff of Charles County serving until 1753. In 1757 he was elected for his first one year term in the Maryland Assembly.  Hanson would remain a member of the assembly for nine terms. His political involvement in the revolutionary movement can be traced back to the 1765 Stamp Act. It was Hanson who chaired the committee that drafted the instructions for Maryland's delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. Hanson was also a leader in the Association of Maryland Freeman that was formed in protest of the Townshend Acts. Hanson was a signer of the 1769 nonimportation resolution that boycotted British goods until the Townshend Acts were repealed on April 12, 1770.

In 1769, John Hanson resigned his seat from the Maryland Assembly at the beginning of the second session because he received the appointment of Deputy Surveyor of Frederick County which, at the time included all of Western Maryland. The post required the sale of his Charles County farm and the relocation of his family to Frederick Town on 108 W. Patrick Street.

Founded in 1745, Frederick was on the frontier of the Maryland Wilderness and flourished in the colony's expansion becoming a major communication route for western settlers. As Deputy Surveyor, Hanson was responsible for surveying all colonial land transfers in Western Maryland before a land patent was issued. This proved to be a very active post for the 48 year old who was constantly surveying parcels in Maryland’s wilderness where settlement was just beginning to take place.


John Hanson was elected a delegate to the United States in Congress Assembled in 1780 and served until his death in 1783. On September 11th the Freshman Delegate wrote this letter to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Signer of the Declaration of Independence:


"I have been Confined to my Room a fortnight, and was so unwell When the last post set out, that I was not able to Write, I am now on the recovery, and hope to be able to attend Congress in a day or two. I inclosed you Some time ago a Curious Historical Annecdote, delivered in may last, by sir John Dalrymple, to the Court of Spain. As you have Said nothing about it, am afraid it has not Come to hand.

Congress received a letter by Express from General Gates dated Hillsborough August 20th giving an Account (tho' a very Confused one) of His unfortunate Defeat near Camden, on the 16th. He says he marched about 10 oClock in the night of the 15th, to possess himself of an advantageous piece of Ground about Seven miles from Camden. About 2 oClock in the Morning His light Horse was attacked by those of the Enemies but were repulsed. Upon this he halted the Army, and nothing more hap­pened till about break of Day, When he was attacked by the Whole furie of the Enemy. His Army was drawn up with the Virginia Militia on the left, the North Carolina militia in the Center and General Gist on the right-General Smallwood was in the rear, as a Corps De'reserve. The Militia to a man fled the first fire, and left our brave regu­lars to Sustain the Whole force of the Enemy. General Gates went of[f] with the Militia, endeavouring to rally them, but to no purpose, and while he was thus engaged. He Says the firing between the two Armies Ceased, by which he Concluded all was over, and therefore made the best of his Way to Hillsborough Where he arrived the 19th performing a Journey of 196 miles in less than four days. He Knows nothing of What became of the Regulars, but says he should immediately Send off a flag to gain the necessary information.

Saturday last an Express Arrived from Governor Nash dated the 26th Advising that Generals Smallwood, And Gist, had bravely Cut their Way thro' the Enemy With about 400 men-that the Militia were again Collecting, that they had got together between two and three thousand, regulars included. This day another letter has been received from General Gates with a list of the Officers that are Safe to Wit Generals Smallwood and Gist, Colonels Williams, Gunby and about 700 privates. The list also Contains the Names of those officers that are missing, but I have not Seen it, neither Can I procure a Copy to Send you by this Opportunity. Baron de Calmb is Dead of His wounds. Our loss on the Whole about 500 and that of the Enemy as many. We have also lost all our Baggage Waggons and Eight pieces of Cannon.

Our main Army is in the greatest distress for want of provisions Were Without meat from the 21st to the 26th and Some have not had one day With another not one third allowance. The general moved into the neighborhood of Fort Lee with a View of Stripping that part of the Country of the remainder of its Cattle Which after a most rigorous exertion afforded only two or three days supply and this Consisting of milch Cows and Calves of one or two years old. This manner of procuring is very distressing and attended With ruin to the morals and discipline of the Army, during the five days. Which small parties were Sent out to procure provisions for themselves, the most enor­mous excesses were Committed. It has been no inconsiderable Support to our Cause to have had it in our power to Contrast the Conduct of our Army With that of the Enemy, and to convince the Inhabitants, that While their rights were Wantonly Violated by the British Troops, by ours they were respected. This distinction must now unhappily Cease, and we must assume the Odious Character of the plunderers instead of the protectors of the people, the direct Consequence of Which must be to Alienate their minds from the Army, and insensibly from the Cause-in short, if this method of procuring provisions for the Army is not very speedily prevented, by an exer­tion of the States in Sending forward Supplies the Army must disband, and we are undone. It is reported and Credited by many that a french fleet of 18 Ships of the line and some frigates are on the Coast. They were Seen it is Said Some days ago to the Northward of our Capes. Our new raised Battalion is ordered by the general to the Southward. My Compliments to the family And Am with the most Sincere respect, Dr. sir, your most hble Servt, John Hanson."


Delegate Hanson had indeed come to Congress in one of the the most challenging periods of the revolution. The southern ports of Savannah and Charleston were controlled by the British, Arnold had defected, General Gates the hero of Saratoga was routed in Camden and Washington's troops were in mutiny. Times were dark indeed but in one year, with Victory at Yorktown and Independence all but won, Delegate Hanson would become the 3rd President of the United States of a Confederation government that presented a more daunting challenge, self-government under a defective U.S. Constitution.

One year before his Presidency, Delegate Hanson believed that "The great neutral powers of Europe seem to regard the present War, as an event favorable to the augmentation of their Commerce". In a December 11th letter Hanson requested Charles Carroll of Carrollton join him in the Continental Congress to address this and other political challenges. Hanson writes:


"Your favour by the last post, I am much obliged to you for. I am very Sorry to be informed, that the principal object of the meeting of the General Assembly has not yet been taken into Consideration, I mean that of procuring Men and Supplies for the Army; yet from the good Opinion I entertain of the present leading Members of each House, I flatter my self every thing of importance Will be Attended to, before you rise. The Trustees having protested our Bills Will be favourable to the Veiws of those Who are for Confiscation.

Immediately on the receipt of your letter, Which was late this afternoon, I went to Mr. Morris's to make the enquiry you desired me, but Mr. Morris was too ill to be Spoke With, Which prevents my giving you the information you Want, at present.

Advices from Spain and France of the 25th September, and 15th October say, that General Clinton had requested to be recalled, unless a reinforcement of 10,000 men, was immediately Sent him-that a vessel had Sailed from England, With dispatches Containing assurances, that the King entirely Approved of His Conduct-that he Should be Aided With all the Supplies in their power, And that orders were given for raising Nine regiments of foot, And one of Horse, to be Sent out Early in the spring. That nine Sail of the line and a number of Transports, With 4000 Troops, would Sail from Brest in a day or two, destined to reinforce Admiral Ternay. The King of Spain is much pleased With the Resolution of Congress, permitting the Exportation of flour for the use of His fleets and Armies, in the West Indies, and desired that his thanks might be Conveyed to Congress, for Such a proof of their friendly disposition, And the Minister gave the strongest Assurances, that his majesty Would never Consent to a pacification With England which did not include the Interest of America.

Measures for Sending Commissioners from G B to treat with Congress, is under Consideration of the Privy Council, And it is thought would be adopted. Mr. Cumbaland Still remains at Madrid-the Abbe Hussey, his Coadjutor has received A Passport to go to Lisbon, and from thence to London, And return With the Ultimatum of that Court. (Is it not Something Mysterious that a Secretary to Lord George Germain one of the King of G B Ministers Should be permitted to reside at the Court of His most Christian Majesty in time of war?). England hath not yet Completed her last years Loan. All the powers will find it difficult to procure money to Carry on the War. France hath already begun to Tax, and it is probable must Continue to do so. The great Neutral powers of Europe Seem to regard the present War, as an Event favorable to the Augmentation of their Commerce, and Will probably do so until one or other of the Contending parties, appear to have a decided Superiority. Portugal it is Said Seems better disposed to the Allies than heretofore.

The Combined fleet at Cadiz, Consists of 45 Sail of the line besides frigates &c-the Count DEstaing Commands the French part of the Fleet, and the Whole was ready to put to Sea. Mr.Laurence was taken on his passage to Holland and Conveyed to London, And is Committed to the Tower on a Charge of High Treason.

The Main Army is gone into Winter Quarters. My Compliments to Mr Carroll and the Ladies, And Am with the greatest regard Dr sir Your most hble Servt, John Hanson [P.S.] It would give me great pleasure to see you here."

Hanson's position as Maryland's Delegate was tenuous at best to the Continental Congress. The Articles of Confederation were enacted by the Congress in November of 1777. They were ratified July 9, 1778, by ten states; by New Jersey on the 26th of November of the same year; and by Delaware, on the 23d of February 1779. It was Maryland, the state Delegate Hanson represented, who for two more years was the lone holdout in ratifying process. A ratification that would create the "Perpetual Union" and provide the States with a constitution and federal government direly needed to obtain foreign aid and diplomatic acceptance. It was widely believed that France's and other European powers would not fully commit to the cause of independence until the Articles were ratified. Hanson’s State was the only roadblock to establishing the “Perpetual Union.”


Maryland, thanks to John Hanson, Daniel Carroll, James Madison, Samuel Huntington and others brokering land cessions from the states, finally passed an act to empower their delegates to subscribe and ratify the Articles of Confederation on January 30th, 1781. On February 2, 1781 Governor Thomas Sim Lee signed the empowerment into law. On February 20th, Daniel Carroll, after presenting Maryland’s ratification of the Articles to Congress, took a moment to write Charles Carroll of Carrollton:


 The United States in congress assembled, on November 5, 1781, remembered Hanson's work in bringing his state around and elected him President:


“The following members attended from the State of New Hampshire, Mr. [Samuel] Livermore,Massachusetts, Mr. [James] Lovell, [George] Partridge, [Samuel] Osgood,Rhode Island, Mr. [Daniel] Mowry, [James Mitchell] Varnum, Connecticut, Mr. [Richard] Law, New Jersey, Mr. [Abraham] Clark, [Elias] Boudinot, Pennsylvania, Mr. [Joseph] Montgomery, [Samuel John] Atlee, T[homas] Smith, Maryland, Mr. [John] Hanson, [Daniel of St. Thomas] Jenifer, [Daniel] Carroll, Virginia, Mr. [James] Madison, [Edmund] Randolph, Jo[seph] Jones, North Carolina, Mr. [Benjamin] Hawkins, South Carolina, Mr. [Arthur] Middletown, [John] Mathews, [Thomas] Bee, [Nicholas] Eveleigh, [Isaac] Motte, Georgia, Mr. [Edward] Telfair, N[oble] W[imberly] Jones.  Their credentials being read, Congress proceeded to the election of a President; and the ballots being taken, the honble. John Hanson was elected."


John Hanson is often referred to as the first US President due to his ancestors' success on convincing the Maryland Legislature that he was the first President to serve under the Articles of Confederation. The Hanson Family lobbying effort was so complete, that in 1903 Maryland included his statue, as one of two, allocated for each state in the US Capitol's Statuary Hall.  Books like the one below written by Seymour Smith perpetuated the Myth which was even picked up in 2003 by the Smithsonian.




John Hanson our First President by Seymore Wemyss Smith

The above book has created great confusion making the founding U.S. History even more perplexing. This is one of many historians who recognize the U.S. Presidency under the 1st U.S. Constitution but incorrectly maintain that John Hanson was the first President of the United States. This error is pervasive in some of our most venerable educational institutions including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.


Smithsonian Exhibit with Klos Documents on the U.S. Presidency incorrectly starting the lineage with John Hanson labeling him as the 1st President of the Continental Congress

Smithsonian Exhibit on the U.S. Presidency incorrectly starting the lineage with John Hanson labeling him as the 1st President of the Continental Congress. In the background is the author's exhibit including a 18th Century printing of the Journals Of The United States in Congress Assembled proving John Hanson was the 3rd President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation.


The Smithsonian’s imprimatur of the Maryland and Smith claim that the Articles of Confederation’s Presidency began on November 5th, 1781 and not March 1, 1781 is specious.


In 1780, the U.S. Continental Congress was convened with delegates who had all been elected after the 12 of the 13 states had ratified the Articles of Confederation.  Only Maryland, who held out until the states released their Northwest Territorial land claims to the USCA, had failed to ratify the Articles of Confederation.

Maryland ratified the Constitution of 1777 on February 2nd, 1781 and then sent the two delegates, who exacted the federal land from the states that winter, to assemble with the other state delegations to form a federal government.  On February 20th, 1781, Daniel Carroll, after presenting Maryland’s ratification of the Articles to Congress, took a moment to write Charles Carroll of Carrollton:


On the first day of my appearing in Congress, I delivered the Act empowering the Delegates of Maryland to Subscribe the Articles of Confederation &c.! It was read, & entered on the Journals.

On February 22, 1781, it was unanimously resolved by Congress that:

The delegates of Maryland having taken their seats in Congress with powers to sign the Articles of Confederation: Ordered, That Thursday next [March 1, 1781] be assigned for compleating the Confederation; and that a committee of three be appointed, to consider and report a mode for announcing the same to the public: the members, [Mr. George] Walton, Mr. [James] Madison, Mr. [John] Mathews

Journals of Congress showing Maryland's Delegates  Articles of Confederation 
  Ratification on March 1, 1781 - Stan Klos Collection


At high noon on March 1, 1781, after four long years of ratification consideration, the Articles of Confederation were adopted by the Continental Congress as the first U.S. Constitution.  By virtue of this ratification, the ever fluid Continental Congress ceased to exist. The elated Minister of France was the first to address Samuel Huntington as “His Excellency the President of the United States, in Congress Assembled."


Copyright © Stan Klos, President Who? Forgotten Founders 2004 & 2008
March 12, 1781 Treasury letter referring to Samuel Huntington a
President of the United States in Congress Assembled


On March 7, 1781 the Pennsylvania Gazette in Philadelphia reported:


IN pursuance of an Act of the Legislature of Maryland, intituled, 'An Act to empow­er the Delegates of the State in Congress to subscriber and ratify the Articles of Confederation,' the Delegates of the said State, on Thursday last, at twelve o, signed and ratified the Articles of Confederation; by which act the Confederation of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA was compleated, each and every of the Thirteen States, from New Hampshire to George, both included, having adopted and con­firmed, and by their Delegates in Congress ratified the same.

This happy even was immediately announced to the public by the discharge of the artillery on land, and the cannon of the shipping in the river Delaware. At two o clock his Excellency the President of Congress received on this occasion the congratulations of the Hon. the Minister Plenipotentiary of France, and of the Legislative and Executive Bodies of this State, of the Civil and Military Officers, sundry strangers of distinction in town, and of many of the principal inhabitants.

The evening was closed by an elegant exhibition of fireworks. The Ariel frigate, commanded by the gallant John Paul Jones, fired a feu de joye, and was beautifully decorated with a variety of streamers in the day, and ornamented with a brilliant appearance of lights in the night. 

Thus will the first of March, 1781, be a day memorable in the annals of America, for the final ratification of the Confederation and perpetual Union of the Thirteen States of America --- A Union, begun by necessity, cemented by oppression and common danger, and now finally consolidated into a perpetual confederacy of these new and rising States: And thus the United States of America, having, amidst the calamities of a destructive war, established a solid foundation of greatness, are growing up into consequence among the nations, while their haughty enemy, Britain, with all her boasted wealth and grandeur, instead of bringing them to her feet and reducing them to unconditional submission, finds her hopes blasted, her power crumbling to pieces, and the empire which, with overbearing insolence and brutality she exercised on the ocean, divided among her insulted neighbours.


Journals of Congress and the United States in Congress Assembled  1781 printing  - Stan Klos Collection


USCA Journals 1781 printing for March 2nd showing name change
and Samuel Huntington appearing as President - Stan Klos Collection


On March 2nd, Secretary Charles Thomson placed the words "The United States in Congress Assembled" at the head of the new Journal of Congress and reported:

The ratification of the Articles of Confederation being yesterday completed by the accession of the State of Maryland: The United States met in Congress, when the following members appeared: His Excellency Samuel Huntington, delegate for Connecticut, President...

With the Continental Congress dissolved and the first U.S. Constitution now in effect, the new government of the USCA was faced with the reality that they had to disqualify both New Hampshire and Rhode Island from voting in the new assembly.  This was particularly dicey because the day before the two delegates, as members of the Continental Congress, voted unanimously to adopt the Articles of Confederation as the first U.S. Constitution. Delaware Delegate Thomas Rodney, in his diary’s March 2, 1781 entry, explains the conundrum that was caused by the formation of the Constitution of 1777’s 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.

It was unanimously agreed that the Articles of Confederation were in full force and for a State to have a vote in the USCA, unlike the Continental Congress, at least two delegates were required to cast the one vote for their respective state.    It was now a Constitution of 1777 government and Samuel Huntington was the first President, not John Hanson.


In addition to the Samuel Huntington Presidency, the USCA Journals report that there were two additional presidential elections before John Hanson took office on November 5th, 1781.  The first election occurred on July 9th, 1781 and Delegate Samuel Johnston of North Carolina was elected President. The following day Johnston declined the office. The Delegates held a second election and chose Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania as the second  USCA President.  Unlike Samuel Johnston, McKean accepted the office on July 10th, 1781.


USCA Journals 1781 printing for July 9 & 10th showing showing the  elections  
of Samuel Johnston and Thomas McKean as Presidents - Stan Klos Collection

President Thomas McKean, like Samuel Huntington, executed numerous resolutions, proclamations, and letters as the USCA President under the Articles of Confederation.  Additionally, John Hanson acknowledged, in a November 10th, 1781 presidential letter, the “official thanks” of the USCA to Thomas McKean for serving as its president

It is always a pleasing task to pay a just tribute to distinguished Merit. Under this impression give me leave to assure you, that it is with inexpressible satisfaction that I present you the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, in testimony of their approbation of your conduct in the Chair and in the execution of public busi­ness; a duty I am directed to perform by their Act of the 7th instant, a copy of which I have the honor of enclosing.

When I reflect upon the great abilities, the exemplary patience and unequalled skill and punctuality, which you so eminently displayed in executing the important duties of a President, it must unavoidably be productive of great apprehensions in the one who has the honor of being your Successor. But the Choice of Congress obliges me for a moment to be silent on the subject of my own inability: And altho' I cannot equal the bright example that is recently set me, yet it shall be my unremitting study to imi­tate it as far as possible; and in doing this the reflection is pleasing that I shall invari­ably pursue the sacred path of Virtue, which alone ought to preserve me free from censure.

I have the honor to be, with the highest sentiments of respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedient And most humble Servant,

John Hanson Presidt."

President John Hanson Letter of Thanks to Thomas McKean for serving as President of the United States

President John Hanson Letter of Thanks to Thomas McKean for serving as President of the United States page 2

John Hanson Letter as the 3rd President of the United States in Congress Assembled congratulating Thomas McKean for his service is irrefutable proof that he was not the 1st president of the United States or the 1st President of Continental Congress as maintained by the Smithsonian Institute in their Presidential Exhibit - Courtesy of the Author


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