George Washington was not the first president of the United States -- it was John Hanson?


Everything you learned in history class is wrong, George Washington was not the first American chief executive.

Mostly forgotten, but equally important, John Hanson was the first president of the Continental Congress following the ratification of the Articles of Confederation. A descendant of his who is trying to revive the national hero's memory spoke recently to Yahoo News. Hanson was elected to the position in 1781.

George Washington, widely viewed as the first president, was elected into office in 1789 after leading the Continental Army to victory over Britain in the Revolutionary War.

Hanson was a businessman from Maryland who was chosen by his peers in the first Continental Congress to lead the country in its infancy. He served from November 3, 1781 to November 5, 1782.

He and that first congress operated under the original articles of confederation shortly after the 13 Colonies declared their independence from the British Monarchy.

Hanson was not the only man to lead the Continental Congress before George Washington's ascension, but he was the first.

The foundation for America's modern government was laid during that term.

"John Hanson and his Congress inherited a blank slate and had to create a government from whole cloth and they did -- and successfully," Peter Michael told Yahoo News.

Michael is a Hanson descendant working to bring his ancestor's contributions to the country's founding back into the public consciousness.

"If they hadn't, the United States might not have existed."

The original U.S. was a single government with no separate branches. The legislative and executive branches were formed during his tenure.

The boldface names in today's history books also looked to the older Hanson, in his 60s, to guide the in forming the new country.

"The American icons of the Revolutionary period -- Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, [and] others -- looked to John Hanson as the one [who] twice saved the nation and also to Hanson's way with people," Michael said.

"When no one else could do it, he persuaded the six states with the western lands to cede the western lands."

Hanson also established Thanksgiving as the first official holiday in the U.S., according to Michael.

"Thanksgiving, as an observance, had been recognized since the days of the pilgrims," Michael explained. "But it fell to John Hanson to establish Thanksgiving as an official annual observed holiday."

The holiday was not celebrated by all states on the same day until 1863, under a proclamation from President Abraham Lincoln, according to at least one historian. It was fixed as the final Thursday of every November in an attempt to foster unity during the Civil War.

The annual feast became a paid holiday in 1941, under a joint resolution of Congress signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Hanson died only days after his only term as President ended, and many soon forgot him.

His Maryland home was torn down in the 1980s and later replaced with a replica, according to Yahoo.

The national treasure's burial site is now a parking lot.

George Washington - Mini Biography
George Washington - Mini Biography

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