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There were actually four first Presidents
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President Who? Forgotten Founders - Chapter 4 - By Stanley L. Klos

John Hancock
Seventh President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
November 23, 1785 to June 5, 1786



 

3rd President of the Continental Congress
of the United Colonies of America

President John Hancock Proposed $1.00 Presidential Coin with US Capitol Henry Fite House

1st President of the Continental Congress
of the United States of America

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The First United American Republic

Continental Congress of the United Colonies Presidents 

Sept. 5, 1774 to July 1, 1776

  

Peyton Randolph

September 5, 1774

October 22, 1774

Henry Middleton

October 22, 1774

October 26, 1774

Peyton Randolph

May 20, 1775

May 24, 1775

John Hancock

May 25, 1775

July 1, 1776

 

Commander-in-Chief United Colonies of America

George Washington:  June 15, 1775 - July 1, 1776

 

 

The Second United American Republic

Continental Congress of the United States Presidents 

July 2, 1776 to February 28, 1781

 

John Hancock

July 2, 1776

October 29, 1777

Henry Laurens

November 1, 1777

December 9, 1778

John Jay

December 10, 1778

September 28, 1779

Samuel Huntington

September 29, 1779

February 28, 1781

  

Commander-in-Chief United Colonies of America

George Washington:  July 2, 1776 - February 28, 1781

 

 

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 Hancock was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, on January 12, 1737 and died there October 8, 1793. Hancock received a privileged childhood education and was admitted to Harvard graduating in 1754. Upon the death of his father, John Hancock was adopted by his uncle, Thomas, who employed him at the Hancock counting-house. Upon his Uncle’s death John Hancock inherited the thriving business as well as a sizable fortune which some scholars claim was amassed during the French and Indian War.

 

On November 1, 1765, in an effort to recoup loss revenues due to the war, the British Parliament, imposed a direct tax on the American Colonies. This tax was to be paid directly to King George III to replenish the royal treasuries coffers emptied by his father during the height of the 7 Years War. Under the British Stamp Act, all printed materials including broad­sides, newspapers, pamphlets, bills, legal documents, licenses, almanacs, dice and playing cards, were required to carry a revenue stamp. Americans who for 160 years faithfully paid taxes to their respective colonial governments were, for the first time, expected to pay this additional tax direct­ly to Great Britain.

 

The colonists, in opposition to King and Parliament, convened the Stamp Act Congress in New York City on October 19, 1765. They passed a resolution which made “the following declarations of our humble opinion, respecting the most essential rights and liberties Of the colonists, and of the grievances under which they labour, by reason of several late Acts of Parliament” calling on King George III to repeal the Act.. The Act was repealed on March 18, 1766 but it was replaced with the Declaratory Act. This Act asserted that the British government had absolute authority over the American colonies which further divided the two political systems.

 

In that same year Hancock was chosen to represent Boston in the Massachusetts House of Representatives with James Otis, Thomas Cushing, and Samuel Adams. In the House, Eliot says of Hancock, that "he blazed a Whig of the first magnitude" defying the taxes of the British Empire. The seizure of Hancock’s sloop, the "Liberty," for an alleged evasion of the laws of trade, caused a riot in Massachusetts, with the royal commissioners of customs barely escaping with their lives.

In 1767, in another attempt to obtain revenue from the colonies, the Townshend Revenue Acts were passed by Parliament, taxing imported paper, tea, glass, lead and paints. In February of 1768, Samuel Adams and James Otis drafted and the Massachusetts Assembly adopted a circular letter to be sent to the other American Assemblies protesting these taxes. They expressed the hope that redress could be obtained through petitions to King George III. The letter called for a convention to thrash out the issue of taxation without representation and issue a unified address to the Crown. The British government, however, provoked a confrontation by ordering the Massachusetts Assembly to rescind the letter and ordered Governor Bernard to dismiss the assembly if they refused.

In protest to this and other British laws, John Hancock and other Selectman called for a state­wide “town meeting” at Faneuil Hall on September 23, 1768.. 96 towns answered Hancock’s call to address taxation and self-government grievances against the British Crown n September 28th. The circular produced by Hancock calling for the meeting read:

No Taxation Without Representation

Image Courtesy of Seth Kaller

“YOU are already too well acquainted with the _hreatenin [sic] and very alarming Circumstances to which this Province, as well as America in general, is now reduced. Taxes equally detrimental to the Commercial interests of the Parent Country and her Colonies, are imposed upon the People, without their Consent; - Taxes designed for the Support of the Civil Government in the Colonies, in a Manner clearly unconstitu­tional, and contrary to that, in which ‘till of late, Government has been supported, by the free Gift of the People in the American Assemblies or Parliaments; as also for the Maintenance of a large Standing Army; not for the Defence [sic] of the newly acquired Territories, but for the old Colonies, and in a Time of Peace. The decent, humble and truly loyal Applications and Petitions from the Representatives of this Province for the Redress of these heavy and very _hreatening [sic] Grievances, have hitherto been ineffectual…The only Effect…has been a Mandate…to Dissolve the General Assembly, merely because the late House of Representatives refused to Rescind a Resolution of a former House, which imply’d nothing more than a Right in the American Subjects to unite in humble and dutiful Petitions to their gracious Sovereign, when they found themselves aggrieved…

“The Concern and Perplexity into which these Things have thrown the People, have been greatly aggravated, by a late Declaration of his Excellency Governor BERNARD, that one or more Regiments may soon be expected in this Province…

“Deprived of the Councils of a General Assembly in this dark and difficult Season, the loyal People of this Province, will, we are persuaded, immediately perceive the Propriety and Utility of the proposed Committee of Convention…”.

 



Forgotten U.S. Capitols 1774-1789 
18x24 Poster

 

Signed “John Hancock,” also signed “Joseph Jackson,” “John Ruddock,” “John Rowe,” and “Samuel Pemberton” as Selectmen of Boston.”

This particular Hancock document had a demonstrable effect, “it changed the world,” as the governor called for British reinforcements. Hancock’s convention composed a list of grievances, passed several resolutions, and adjourned. Two days later, royal transports unloaded British troops at the Long Wharf and began a military occupation of Boston that would last until March 17, 1776. It was the beginning of the end of British Colonialism in America.

In response to the affray known as the "Boston Massacre," on March 5th, 1770 Hancock, at the funeral of the slain Bostonians, delivered an address to the mourning citizens. So radiant and fear­less was the speech in its condemnation of the conduct of the soldiery and their leaders that it greatly offended the Colonial Governor. Hancock's speech was printed in key American newspa­pers broadening his notoriety throughout the colonies.

In 1774 Hancock was elected, with Samuel Adams, to the Provincial congress at Concord, Massachusetts, and he subsequently became its president. The commanding General ordered a military expedition to Concord in April, 1775 to capture these Hancock and Adams. This mili­tary movement resulted in the Battle of Lexington. The British's arrival on April 18, 1775 forced Joseph Warren to call out the "Minute Men". Upon learning of the British plans to capture Hancock and Adams, Warren dispatched Paul Revere who wrote "About 10 o'clock, Dr. Warren Sent in a great haste for me, and begged that I would immediately Set off for Lexington, where Messrs. Hancock and Adams were..."

Revere was rowed across the Charles River to Charlestown by two friends where he checked first with members of the Sons of Liberty that Warren's call to arms Old Church signals had been seen. Revere then borrowed a horse from Deacon Larkin and began his famous ride. Revere reported on his ride north along the Mystic River, "I awakened the Captain of the minute men; and after that I alarmed almost every house till I got to Lexington. I found Messrs. Hancock and Adams at the Rev. Mr. Clark's; I told them my errand ..." . Revere then helped Adams and Hancock escape, and at 4:30am he wrote that "Mr Lowell asked me to go to the Tavern with him, to git a Trunk of papers belonging to Mr. Hancock. We went up Chamber; and while we were giting the Trunk, we saw the British very near, upon a full March." It was at that time, while collecting the trunk that Revere recalls hearing "The shot heard 'round the world" on the Lexington Green. Revere wrote,

"When we got about 100 Yards from the meeting-House the British Troops appeared on both Sides... I saw and heard a Gun fired... Then I could distinguish two Guns, and then a Continual roar of Musquetry; Then we made off with the Trunk.".

Hancock and Adams both escaped with their lives.

Following the April battles at Lexington and Concord, the British soldiers returned to Boston quar­tering the community. On 12 June, General Gage issued a proclamation offering pardons to all the rebels, excepting Samuel Adams and John Hancock, "whose offences," it was declared, "are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment."

On June 16th Colonel William Prescott was ordered onto the Charlestown Peninsula to occupy Bunker Hill to defy the British occupation of Boston. For reasons that are still not entirely clear, the colonists took possession of neighboring Breed's Hill and constructed defense fortifications. General William Howe quickly assembled a force of 3,000 soldiers to the foot of the American position. Two uphill assaults were launched and repulsed by Colonel Prescott who reputedly cau­tioned his men "not to fire until they saw the whites of their eyes." The assaults resulted in heavy losses for the British forcing Howe to call for 400 additional soldiers.

The British third charge caught the Americans low on powder and unable to resist the over­whelming numbers of fixed British bayonets. Prescott ordered the retreat down the north slope of Breed's Hill. Many were shot in the back during this escape across the Neck. A key causality was Dr. Joseph Warren, who was among the last to leave his position. He was killed instantly by a mus­ket ball in the back of his head. His death provided a political vacuum that John Hancock would fill leading to a U.S. founding prominence second only to George Washington.

Mr. Hancock was a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress from 1775 until 1780, and from 1785 until 1786, serving as President of that body from May 25, 1775 until October 1777. The 2nd Continental Congress opened on May 10, 1775 with Peyton Randolph serving as President. As in 1774 Randolph was called to Virginia for a Burgesses session and forced to abandon his presiding chair. Henry Middleton declined to serve as President a second time due to ill health. Samuel Adams and his cousin John Adams champion the cause of their wealthy benefactor John Hancock who was elected President on May 25th, 1775. The Adam’s regretted their decision because Hancock aligned himself with delegates who were, at best, tepid in the cause of independence. Additionally Hancock used his office in an opulent fashion much to the disappointment of his Massachusetts Colleagues. Moreover, when Randolph returned to Congress Hancock made no overture to surrender the Presidency, despite many delegates charg­ing his election was only to serve during Randolph’s absence.

The Hancock presidency was most eventual starting with a July 6, 1775 resolution, "Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking Up Arms," that rejected independence but asserted that Americans were ready to die rather than be enslaved. In this resolution Congress openly invoked their Christian God stating:

“Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if nec­essary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable. -- We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that his Providence would not per­mit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost ener­gy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverence, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.”

On June 14, debate opens in Congress on the appointment of a commander-in-chief of Continental forces. John Hancock made it known to all the delegates that he wanted the high office and as President expects to be nominated. He is surprised when his fellow Massachusetts delegate, John Adams, moves to appoint George Washington suggesting he had the military experience necessary to wage war and character around which all the colonies might unite.On June 17th, 1775 the Continental Congress passed the following resolution appointing George Washington as Commander-In-Chief:

Resolved unanimously upon the question, Whereas, the delegates of all the colonies, from Nova-Scotia to Georgia, in Congress assembled, have unanimously chosen George Washington, Esq. to be General and commander in chief, of such forces as are, or shall be, raised for the maintenance and preservation of American liberty; this Congress doth now declare, that they will maintain and assist him, and adhere to him, the said George Washington, Esqr., with their lives and fortunes in the same cause.

John Adams wrote his wife this concerning the appointment:

I can now inform you that the Congress have made Choice of the modest and virtuous, the amiable, generous and brave George Washington Esqr., to be the General of the American Army, and that he is to repair as soon as possible to the Camp before Boston.

George Washington Commander-in-Chief Commission
George Washington's Commission signed by President John Hancock - Image Courtesy of George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

On July 26, 1775 John Hancock's Continental Congress established the Colonial Post office with this resolution:

“That a postmaster General be appointed for the United Colonies, who shall hold his office at Philadelphia, and shall be allowed a salary of 1000 dollars per annum for himself, and 340 dollars per annum for a secretary and Comptroller, with power to appoint such, and so many deputies as to him may seem proper and necessary.

That a line of posts be appointed under the direction of the Postmaster general, from Falmouth in New England to Savannah in Georgia, with as many cross posts as he shall think fit.

That the allowance to the deputies in lieu of salary and all contingent expenses, shall be 20% on the sums they collect and pay into the General post office annually, when the whole is under or not exceeding 1000 Dollars, and 10% for all sums above 1000 dollars a year.

That the rates of postage shall be 20% less than those appointed by act of Parliament1. That the several deputies account quarterly with the general post office, and the postmaster general annually with the continental treasurers, when he shall pay into the receipt of the Sd Treasurers, the profits of the Post Office; and if the nec­essary expense of this establishment should exceed the produce of it, the deficiency shall be made good by the United Colonies, and paid to the postmaster general by the continental Treasure.

The Congress then proceeded to the election of a postmaster general for one year, and until another is appointed by a future Congress, when Benjamin Franklin, Esquire was unanimously chosen.”

In November of 1775 Congress established both the Continental Marines and Navy on the news of Continental Army’s Victory in Montreal. December of 1775 brought the disastrous news that Generals Richard Montgomery and Arnold's attack on the key to Canada, Quebec City failed. General Montgomery was killed and Benedict Arnold was forced to make a hasty retreat into New York. This loss put a great strain on troops and resources while shifting the main thrust of the war back to the Colonies.

On January 16th, 1776 the Continental Congress approved the enlistment of "free negroes." This led to the establishment of the First Rhode Island Regiment, composed of 33 free-negroes and 92 slaves. The regiment distinguished itself at the Battle of Newport and the slaves were freed at the end of the war. Also in January Thomas Paine publishes "Common Sense", which was a con­temptuous attack on King George III's reign over the colonies. Paine's work united many Americans in the Revolutionary Cause by successfully arguing that the Colonists now had a moral obligation to reject monarchy.

Paine's first edition sold out quickly and within three months, it is estimated that over 120,000 copies had been printed. Signer Benjamin Rush recalled that

"Its effects were sudden and exten­sive upon the American mind.. It was read by public men, repeated in clubs, spouted in Schools, and in one instance, delivered from the pulpit instead of a sermon by a clergyman in Connecticut.."

The work so inspired George Washington that he swept away all remaining allegiance to King George III declaring that Common Sense offered "...sound doctrine and unanswerable rea­soning." for independence.

Paine's provocative pamphlet was translated into French and appeared first in Quebec. John Adams wrote that "Common Sense was received in France and in all Europe with Rapture.” Common Sense was translated into German, Danish, and Russia. It was estimated that over 500,000 copies were sold during the initial years of the Revolutionary War.

John Hancock's Congress capitalized on this ground swell of Paine Patriotism by invocating the aid of God in this moral cause for independence. This time the name of Jesus Christ was actual­ly included in the official congressional resolution passed on March 16th, 1776. This proclama­tion signed by President Hancock set May 17, 1776:

"Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer" throughout the colonies. The Continental Congress urged its fellow citizens to "confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his [God's] righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness."

The Colony of Massachusetts followed suit almost immediately ordering a "suitable number" of these proclamations to be printed so "that each of the religious Assemblies in this Colony, may be furnished with a Copy of the same" and added the motto "God Save This People" as a substitute for "God Save the King."

Common Sense changed the political climate in America as the pamphlet ignited debates where the people spoke openly and often for independence. The Second Continental Congress would take to heart Paine's suggestion::

“To conclude: However strange it may appear to some, or however unwilling they may be to think so, matters not, but many strong and striking reasons may be given, to show, that nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined declaration for independence.”

Common Sense was expertly peppered with evocations to Almighty God and biblical quotes that theologically makes a case for Independence from Great Britain. Clearly, the Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer resolution passed by Congress in the Spring of 1776 draws strongly from the popular Judeo-Christian verbiage in Paine's best selling pamphlet..

Specifically the 1776 Journals of Congress record the resolution as:

Mr. W[illiam] Livingston, pursuant to leave granted, brought in a resolution for appointing a fast, which & par being taken into consideration, ∥ was agreed to as follows:

In times of impending calamity and distress; when the liberties of America are immi­nently endangered by the secret machinations and open assaults of an insidious and vindictive administration, it becomes the indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publick­ly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his interposition for averting the threatened danger, and prospering our strenuous efforts in the cause of freedom, virtue, and pos­terity.

The Congress, therefore, considering the warlike preparations of the British Ministry to subvert our invaluable rights and priviledges, and to reduce us by fire and sword, by the savages of the wilderness, and our own domestics, to the most abject and igno­minious bondage: Desirous, at the same time, to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God's super intending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely, in all their lawful enterprizes, on his aid and direction, Do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with unit­ed hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies; and by inclining their hearts to justice and benevolence, prevent the further effusion of kin­dred blood. But if, continuing deaf to the voice of reason and humanity, and inflexi­bly bent, on desolation and war, they constrain us to repel their hostile invasions by open resistance, that it may please the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, to animate our officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude, to guard and protect them in the day of battle, and to crown the continental arms, by sea and land, with victory and suc­cess: Earnestly beseeching him to bless our civil rulers, and the representatives of the people, in their several assemblies and conventions; to preserve and strengthen their union, to inspire them with an ardent, disinterested love of their country; to give wis­dom and stability to their counsels; and direct them to the most efficacious measures for establishing the rights of America on the most honourable and permanent basis--That he would be graciously pleased to bless all his people in these colonies with health and plenty, and grant that a spirit of incorruptible patriotism, and of pure unde­filed religion, may universally prevail; and this continent be speedily restored to the blessings of peace and liberty, and enabled to transmit them inviolate to the latest posterity. And it is recommended to Christians of all denominations, to assemble for public worship, and abstain from servile labour on the said day.

Resolved, That the foregoing resolve be published.
John Hanock, President
Charles Thomson, Secretary

This proclamation was printed in full in the Pennsylvania Gazette, 20 March, 1776. There were many more 1776 events in Hancock's Congress that are noteworthy in the march towards Independence but all are reduced to historical footnotes due to Richard Henry Lee's June resolution and Thomas Jefferson's pen of independence. Despite his attempts to thwart revolution, John Hancock was caught up in the "Common Sense" fervor and ended-up presiding over the Continental Congress who would vote to abolish all ties with Great Britain.


 

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In this powerful, historic work, Stan Klos unfolds the complex 15-year U.S. Founding period revealing, for the first time, four distinctly different United American Republics.  This is history on a splendid scale -- a book about the not quite unified American Colonies and States that would eventually form a fourth republic, with only 11 states, the United States of America: We The People. 


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In this powerful, historic work, Stan Klos unfolds the complex 15-year U.S. Founding period revealing, for the first time, four distinctly different United American Republics.  This is history on a splendid scale -- a book about the not quite unified American Colonies and States that would eventually form a fourth republic, with only 11 states, the United States of America: We The People Click Here

 

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