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TimeLines of Liberty
American History  -  Presidency

One Votes Counts U.S. TimeLine TimeLine Index State TimeLines Flag TimeLine
Presidency TimeLine American Wars Distinctions of the Presidency
TimeLine of the Early American Presidency
The American Presidency - before George Washington
Those who lead the Country from early Rebellion to... and from the
Declaration of Independence to the United States Constitution.

Last updated November, 2006.
Presidents of the 1st Continental Congress: Peyton Randolph - Henry Middleton
Presidents of the 2nd Continental Congress - Peyton Randolph - John Hancock
Presidents after adoption of the Articles of Confederation - Henry Laurens - John Jay - Samuel Huntington -
Presidents under the ratified Articles of Confederation - Samuel Huntington - Thomas McKean - John Hanson -
Elias Boudinot - Thomas Mifflin - Richard Henry Lee - John Hancock - Nathaniel Gorham - Arthur St. Clair - Cyrus Griffin

Rhymes of Liberty               Rhymes of the Founding Fathers               Patriotic Poems

TimeLine of the Early American Presidents


The early presidencies were more like a chairmanship. The title usually used had been "President of the Congress" or "President of Congress". The Continental Congress was the Government of the United Colonies. The adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1777 officially changed the title to "President of the United States in Congress Assembled", although the earlier titles remained the custom. The Articles of Confederation, as a Government did not work well for federal stability. In 1789 the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress to create the three branches of government, the Executive, the Representative, and the Judicial branch. The President in the executive branch becomes the "head of state."  Under the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation the president had no or very little power when it was allowed by the Congress. The Second Continental Congress was the total of the government using the presidency as a "chairmanship", allowing "presidential power" only when authorized by the Congress.

1765 Stamp
The Stamp Act Congress is held by delegates from twelve of the British American Colonies which serves as the precursor to the Continental Congress and the Revolutionary War.
1774 1st. Cont.
The (First) Continental Congress is assembled. The leaders of the Congress although called Presidents were more like chairmen than actual Heads of States. They had very little power when they were allowed any by the Congress.
1774 Continental
The First Continental Congress created the Continental Association (Articles of Association) to ban trade with Great Britain. The intent was to force England to lighten up on restriction but the embargo caused the opposite with England becoming more restrictive against the colonies.

1st. Cont.
Peyton Randolph is made the President of the (First) Continental Congress. He serves from September 5, 1774 to October 21, 1774.  He again resumes the duties of President in 1775 for a short 14 days, resigning due to poor health conditions.
- Peyton Randolph returned to his position as Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgess, serving as Congressman from Pennsylvania in September 1775, but died the next month in October.
 - 2nd Term

1st. Cont.
Henry Middleton filling in as President when the (1st.) Continental Congress adjourns, serves from October 22, 1774 until Congress adjourned four days later on October 26th. During Middleton's short tenure as President he signed the unanimously approved Petition of Congress to King George III that had been drafted by John Jay of New York.
- Henry Middleton was elected, in 1775, as President of the Provincial Congress of South Carolina as delegate to the Continental Congress.  Middleton having been declared a traitor by the King was able to persuade and turn the balance in Carolina to favor the direction towards independence.  Middleton's health caused his resignation as member of the Congress, allowing for this son Arthur Middleton to serve out the term of membership where Arthur would cast his vote for independence on July 2, 1776 to then sign the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776. Henry Middleton becoming State Senator surprised President Samuel Huntington by voicing support for England. Since his support was not backed by any actions against his countrymen he was later forgiven and allowed to prosper on his South Carolina plantation.
 -  More on Henry Middleton
1774 1st. Cont.
The first Continental Congress adjourns dissolving itself on October 26th, 1774.

2nd Cont.
Peyton Randolph again resumes duties as President when, in the wake of the battles of Concord and Lexington, the (2nd) Continental Congress reconvenes on May 10, 1775. He serves until May 23, 1775.
Being the first president of Congress Assembled some maintain that Peyton Randolph should be recognized as the first president of the United States and the other nine who presided be recognized as well.
 -  More on Peyton Randolph

2nd Cont.
John Hancock becomes the third President of the Continental Congress, second president under the 2nd Continental Congress on May 24, 1775 and serves until October 30, 1777 (Serving a fourth term) . Hancock commissioned George Washington as Commander-in-chief of the Army of the United Colonies. Hancock becomes president again in 1785.
     - see next entry            - 2nd Term
1776 Declaration


2nd Cont.

The Declaration of Independence had been Drafted and is signed by John Hancock. John Hancock as President is the first to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
- John Hancock's signature is large and bold so the King could plainly see. Although it seems he always signed his signature in such a fashion.  The Hancock signature has made the name, "John Hancock," synonymous with, "signature." Hancock Signed the orders by Congress that established the Continental Marines and the Navy.
 One might say John Hancock being President at the date of the Declaration of Independence makes him the first President of the United States of America.  Many will differ with that analysis, as the president at that time was not "head of state".

         - Hancock's 2nd Term
1777 Articles of
The Articles of  Confederation is adopted on November 15, 1777. The Articles of Confederation officially changes the title to "President of the United States in Congress Assembled", although the earlier titles,  "President of the Congress" or "President of Congress" remained the custom.


2nd Cont.
Henry Laurens was the (fifth term) fourth President of the Continental Congress serving from November 1, 1777 until December 9, 1778.
- After successfully gaining the Dutch support in 1780, he is captured by the British and is later swapped in a prisoner exchange for General Cornwallis. During his captivity he refused an offer to influence his son's activities against the crown. Laurens is released by the British in early 1782 and becomes one of the ministers to negotiate peace. With John Adams, John Jay and Benjamin Franklin the preliminaries of the Treaty of Paris is signed on November 30th, 1782.
Henry Laurens became the first cremation of this country when his wishes were carried out, "I solemnly enjoin it on my son, as an indispensable duty, that, as soon as he conveniently can, after my decease, he cause my body to be wrapped in twelve yards of tow-cloth and burned until it be entirely consumed, and then, collecting my bones, deposit them wherever he may think proper."
 -  More on Henry Laurens

2nd Cont.
John Jay was the (sixth term) fifth President of the Continental Congress serving from December 10, 1778 until September 27, 1779.
- John Jay was appointed Minister to Spain in 1779 and was with
Adams, Franklin and Laurens at the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Britain. Jay contributed to the writing of the Federalist Papers, which was in support of a new constitution."
John Jay was appointed by George Washington in 1789 as the first Chief Justice of the United States. In 1794 John Jay was appointed an envoy extraordinary and minister to Great Britain. Jay became Governor of New York in 1795 declining re-election and a reappointment as Chief Justice in 1801 when he retired from public service.  John Jay died on May 17, 1829.
"The people who own the country ought to govern it."  - John Jay
"No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent." - John Jay
 -  More on JohnJay
2nd Cont.
Samuel Huntington becomes the (seventh term) sixth President of the Continental Congress on September 28, 1779 until he becomes ill and resigns on July 10, 1781. Huntington remained in office after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation as the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. The position was basically just a title with the duties being chairman/facilitator of the Congress.
- Samuel Huntington was elected Lieutenant Governor which included being Chief Judge of the Superior Court of Connecticut in 1784.  Two years later in 1786 he was elected Governor of Connecticut.
- see next entry on Huntington
1781 Articles of
The ratification of the Articles of  Confederation is completed on March 1, 1781. The terms of the president is limited to one year. The title of president changes from "President of the Continental Congress" to "President of the United States in Congress Assembled." The ratification also effectively ceased the "Continental Congress" establishing "The United States in Congress Assembled".
1781 President

Samuel Huntington  resigns on July 6, 1781. There is one position of thought that Samuel Huntington is the first President of the United States as he was the first under the Articles of Confederation that bound the colonies together. Basically it was only a title change but the post was defined under the Articles of Confederation.
 -  More on Samuel Huntington

Thomas McKean is the second President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. He serves from July 10, 1781 until November 4, 1781. It was  Thomas McKean that received General Washington's dispatches announcing Cornwallis' surrender.
- McKean was the last person to sign the Declaration of Independence in January, 1777. In 1804 Thomas McKean turned down his party's nomination for Vice President under Thomas Jefferson. He stated, "...President of the United States in Congress Assembled in the year of 1781 (a proud year for Americans) equaled any merit or pretensions of mine and cannot now be increased by the office of Vice President."
 -  More on Thomas McKean

John Hanson is the third President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. He serves from November 5, 1781 until November 4, 1782. He is the first to use the title of President of the United States in Congress Assembled. As president John Hanson expressed the thanks of congress for General Washington's victory at Yorktown.
During the term of John Hanson several programs were initiated that placed America in a world position. Among them was the Post Office Department, a national bank, the beginning of the first census, a uniform system of coinage and the signing of a treaty with Holland affirming the debt to Holland of a previous loan to help in the American Revolution.
- John Hanson's health became frail forcing his retirement from public office. He died on November 15, 1783.
 -  More on John Hanson

Elias Boudinot is the fourth President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. He serves from November 5, 1782 until November 2, 1783. Elias Boudinot, as President of the Continental Congress, signed the Treaty of Paris ending hostilities between the newly formed United States of America and Great Britain.
- Boudinot continued serving as a congressional delegate through the 1st, 2d, and 3d Congresses from 1789 to 1795.  He became the second director of the mint at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1795 holding the position until 1805. Resigning from public life Boudinot lived out his life at Burlington, New Jersey becoming a scholar of biblical literature. Elias Boudinot became a trustee of Princeton University endowing the founding of the Natural History Department in 1805. He became a member of the American board of commissioners for foreign missions in 1813. In 1816 Elias Boudinot assisted in the founding of the American Bible Society becoming its first president. Elias Boudinot published a piece called, "The Age- of Revelation," in 1793 as a reply to Thomas Paine's oration before the Society of the Cincinnati in 1790.
 -  More on Elias Boudinot.

Thomas Mifflin is the fifth President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. He serves from November 3, 1783 until June 3, 1784 when congress adjourned. President Mifflin receives the resignation of General George Washington as Commander in Chief. Thomas Mifflin signs the Definitive Treaty of Peace on January 14, 1784.
Thomas Mifflin served in the Pennsylvania Legislature becoming Speaker in 1785. In 1787 he was elected as a delegate to Constitutional Convention that framed today's Constitution of the United States of America. He became one of the signers of the Constitution on September 17, 1787. From 1788 to 1790 Mifflin served as a member of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, presiding as its president. He presided over the Constitutional Convention for a new Pennsylvania constitution. Mifflin served three terms as Governor of Pennsylvania leaving that office in 1799. Thomas Mifflin died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on January 30, 1800.
 -  More on Thomas Mifflin
1783 Congress
George Washington is received by United States President Thomas Mifflin and Congress on December 23, 1783.  Refusing to declare himself King or dictator George Washington resigns the commission as Commander-in-Chief to the President of the United States.

Richard Henry Lee is the sixth President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. He serves from November 30, 1784 until November 22, 1785.
- Richard Henry Lee became a Senator from Virginia. He had opposed the adoption of the Constitution fearing a consolidated national power.  Lee proposed the 10th Amendment to the Constitution;
"The powers not delegated by the constitution to the United States, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively." The words "granted" for "delegated," was substituted and at the end the words "or to the people," was added prior to adoption. Failing health caused his resignation from the Senate in 1792. He retired on his estate in Chantilly to live another two years.

 -  More on Richard Henry Lee.


John Hancock is the seventh President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. He again serves as president from November 23, 1785 until June 6, 1786.
- John Hancock retired as President due to a condition called gout. He continued serving in his native state of Massachusetts helping to form the state's constitution. Hancock was elected to the Massachusetts governorship to serve for five years and then declined reelection. In 1787 he was again elected to be Governor, serving until his death in 1793.
       - Hancock's 1st Term   -  More on John Hancock.

Nathaniel Gorham is the eighth President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. Nathaniel Gorham assumed the Chair of Congress on May 15, 1786 in John Hancock's absence. Gorham was elected June 5, 1786 to serve until November 13, 1786.
- Gorham continued as delegate to the U. S. Congress Assembled until 1787. Nathaniel Gorham served several years as Judge of Middlesex County Court, of Common Pleas. Most notable is his being Chair for most of the Constitutional Convention where he exercised much influence on the framing of the Constitution. It was Gorham's suggestion that resulted in the change of the ration of representation in the lower house of Congress. He exercised a strong influence in the Massachusetts State Convention for the ratification of the Constitution. Gorham died in Charlestown in 1796, having made a fortune in real estate in the northwestern parts of Massachusetts.
 -  More on Nathaniel Gorham.

Arthur St. Clair is the ninth President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation. He serves from February 2, 1787 until October 29, 1787.
- St. Clair, breaking with the British, became a Colonel of the Pennsylvania militia. George Washington made him a Brigadier General in 1776 sending him to help organize the New Jersey militia. St. Clair took part in Washington's crossing of the Delaware River.
Arthur St. Clair was appointed Governor of the newly formed Northwest Territory in 1789 to serve three years until November 22, 1802. He was named commander of Federal Troops in the territory on March 4, 1791.  Returning to Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania he earned his income in the iron business. Arthur St. Clair died on August 31, 1818 near his earlier home of "Hermitage," near Youngstown, Pennsylvania.
 -  More on Arthur St. Clair.
1787 Congress
The Continental Congress orders a Constitutional Convention. The Congress on February 21, 1787 resolved, "It is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several States be held at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation."

- So few delegates arrived on time at the Constitutional Convention on May 14th that a quorum was not obtained and deliberations not begun until May 25th.
- George Washington presided over the convention.
- The new United States Constitution was completed and submitted for signing on September 17, 1787.
- A consensus of compromise is made with no one fully satisfied. Benjamin Franklin states, "There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them." Then Franklin explaining why he will approve the document says, "because I expect no better and because I am not sure that it is not the best."
1787 Constitut.
- Delaware is the first to ratify the Constitution on December 7, 1787.
- Pennsylvania is the 2nd to ratify the Constitution on December 12, 1787.
- New Jersey is the 3rd to ratify the Constitution on December 18, 1787.

Cyrus Griffin is the tenth President of the United States in Congress assembled under the Articles of Confederation. He served from January 22, 1788 until March 4, 1789.  Griffin was the last of the first Presidents and presided over the dismantling of the government of the United States in Congress Assembled.
- Cyrus Griffin was Commissioner to the Creek Nation in 1789. He was a United States Court Judge for the district of Virginia from December, 1789 until his death on December 14, 1810.
 -  More on Cyrus Griffin.
1788 Constitut.
- Georgia is the 4th state to ratify the Constitution on January 2, 1788.
- Connecticut is the 5th state to ratify the Constitution on January 9, 1788.
- Massachusetts is the 6th state to ratify the Constitution on February 6, 1788.
- Maryland is the 7th state to ratify the Constitution on April 28, 1788.
- South Carolina is the 8th state to ratify the Constitution on May 23, 1788.
- New Hampshire is the 9th state to ratify the Constitution on June 21, 1788.
- Only 9 states are needed to ratify the Constitution but it was clear that approval by the larger states of New York and Virginia were needed for federal stability.
- Virginia is the 10th state to ratify the Constitution on June 25, 1788.
- New York is the 11th state to ratify the Constitution on July 26, 1788.
1788 U. S.
- Congress sets the Capital to be New York, NY on September 13, 1788.
1789 Constitut.
- Final implementation of the Constitution was delayed from March 4,1789, due to a lack of a quorum in both houses. Finally on April 1st in the House and April 6th in the Senate quorums were obtained.
- The ratification of the U.S. Constitution changes the title and powers of the President.
- The two Houses met together to count electoral votes. George Washington was elected unanimously the first "President of the United States", as Head of State under the new U. S. Constitution . John Adams was elected Vice President.
1789 Constitut.
- North Carolina is the 12th state to ratify the Constitution on November 21, 1789.
1790 Constitut.
- Rhode Island holds out until the obviousness of its weaker position among the others required approval, becoming the 13th state to ratify the Constitution on November 21, 1790.
1790 U. S.
- Congress moves the Capital from New York, NY to Philadelphia, PA in 1790, later in 1800 it was moved to Washington, DC.
1800 U.S. Congress - Congress moves the Capital from Philadelphia, PA in 1800, moving it to Washington, DC.
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