Every school kid knows that George Washington was the first president of the United States, elected in April 1789, and leaving office after two terms in March 1797. But the Declaration of Independence was issued on July 4, 1776. If the United States declared itself a free country then, and Washington didn't become president until 23 years later, who was the president during that time? Were there presidents before George Washington?
The answer is a surprisingly complicated one. The First Continental Congress was declared in 1774, and the Second a year later. Both of those Congresses had an elected president, a merchant named Peyton Randolph. But as the Founding Fathers eschewed central government in favor of the individual legislatures of states, the position had no power. It was limited to a ceremonial role in running Congressional sessions, and would often sit empty. In 1781, After seven years, and six men holding the position, the first governmental document of the United States, the Articles of Confederation, was passed.
The new legislature, the Congress of the Confederation, continued to meet, and continued to elect presidents. Some historians consider the first Congressional President elected under the Articles, John Hanson, to be the real first president of the United States. But Hanson and his successors still occupied a largely ceremonial role, limited to signing correspondence and chairing meetings. At the same time as the weak government allowed by the Articles was floundering, the Philadelphia Convention had convened, and wrote the Constitution that still governs the United States. The Congress of the Confederation met for the last time in March 1789, with one member in attendance. Two days later, the United States Congress met - and soon inaugurated George Washington as the first true president.
The presidents of the Continental Congress were indeed presidents of the central governing body of the nation. But it was a role with little power, one so ill-considered that delegates often refused it, and historians have compared it to the position of country club president. Unlike the current presidency, this was simply an honorific with no decision making power.Nevertheless, all of the men on this list played some role in the founding of the United States. Many signed either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. They risked their lives, first as traitors, then as soldiers. And they're all considered Founding Fathers - just not presidents of the United States.
Age: Died at 54 (1721-1775)
Birthplace: Williamsburg, Virginia, United States of America
Nationality: United States of Americasee more on Peyton Randolph
Age: Died at 67 (1717-1784)
Birthplace: Berkeley County, 29401, Area code 843, United States of America, United States, + more
Nationality: United States of Americasee more on Henry Middleton
Age: Died at 56 (1737-1793)
Birthplace: Braintree, Massachusetts, United States of America
Nationality: United States of America
Also Rankedsee more on John Hancock
Age: Died at 68 (1724-1792)
Birthplace: Charleston, South Carolina, United States of America
Nationality: United States of Americasee more on Henry Laurens