"Is This One?"

Frequently Asked Dead Presidents Questions

Who Was President Before George Washington??

Fourteen different men.

That is, if you count being President of the Continental Congress, or of the United States in Congress Assembled.

The Continental Congress was the deliberative body formed by the colonies to present their complaints to the British Crown and to show a united front to England in the face of perceived assaults on the liberties of the colonists in Massachusetts. In its second meeting, the Continental Congress declared the independence of the colonies from Great Britain, and asserted its own right to govern (legislate, conduct war, declare peace) for the colonies.

The Articles of Confederation, which provided a model for a more stable legislative government, were proposed to the states on 15 November 1777 but were not declared in force until 7 March 1781. At that time the Continental Congress officially became the "United States, in Congress Assembled." John Hanson was the first presiding officer who was elected under the Articles, and therefore some consider him the first to hold the title of "President of the United States."

However, the Presidents of the Continental Congress and of the United States, in Congress Assembled, were not in any sense executive officers. These men presided over Congress, but held no authority different from or vested elsewhere than in the Congress. That is, the Congress retained all executive powers, and exercised them as a body.

Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled could be considered heads of government, but not heads of state. The impotence and relative insignificance of the presidency of the "United States in Congress Assembled" is apparent from the fact that John Hancock, elected to preside over that body in 1785, never served at all (owing to illness) and was not replaced until he resigned six months later.

The Articles of Confederation provided for a rather weak government for the fledging nation, and the need for an overhaul was soon apparent. After only six years in operation, a replacement for the Articles of Confederation was proposed, and the United States, in Congress Assembled met for the final time on 2 March 1789. Before that year was out, the Constitution of the United States took effect with the inauguration of George Washington.

While I would love to visit the gravesites of the true patriots listed below (and I have in fact visited a few of them), these Webpages consider the chronology of U.S. Presidents to have begun with the truly great man who first served in the office that was created for him by the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

PresidentTerm of Office
Peyton Randolph (VA) 5 September 1774 - 22 October 1774
Henry Middleton (SC) 22 October 1774 - 26 October 1774
Peyton Randolph (VA) 10 May 1775 - 24 May 1775
John Hancock (MA) 24 May 1775 - 1 November 1777
Henry Laurens (SC) 1 November 1777 - 10 December 1778
John Jay (NY) 10 December 1778 - 28 September 1779
Samuel Huntington (CT) 28 September 1779 - 10 July 1781
Thomas McKean (DE) 10 July 1781 - 5 November 1781
John Hanson (MD) 5 November 1781 - 4 November 1782
Elias Boudinot (NJ) 4 November 1782 - 3 November 1783
Thomas Mifflin (PA) 3 November 1783 - 30 November 1784
Richard Henry Lee (VA) 30 November 1784 - 23 November 1785
John Hancock (MA) 23 November 1785 - 29 May 1786
Nathaniel Gorham (MA) 6 June 1786 - 2 February 1787
Arthur St. Clair (PA) 2 February 1787 - 22 January 1788
Cyrus Griffin (VA) 22 January 1788 - 2 March 1789