Americans place a lot of importance on the presidents and the presidency… but not all presidents. And I don’t mean Millard Fillmore or James Buchanan. There’s a whole set of American presidents that we don’t even include on the list!
We start our list of presidents with George Washington because he was the first president under the U.S. Constitution. But, of course, this country had a different form of government before the Constitution, and under the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress elected one of its members president. This job was very different than the current one, though; the executive branch under the Articles was also the legislative branch; the president was there to preside over the body.
Still, these proto-presidents were part of some big moments in history. When General Washington came to Annapolis to resign as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, to stand up for civilian control of the military, he addressed his speech and his letter of resignation to President Thomas Mifflin. It was Mifflin, too, who signed the final version of the Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War. And, of course, John Hancock was president of the Congress when he signed his, well, John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence.
I was never that into these early guys – I certainly didn’t visit all their gravesites – but an exhibit at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland, definitely got me interested in learning more. It’s called the Hall of Presidents Before Washington, and it includes biographies of, and artifacts from, these presidents. And it’s in a neighborhood known as Presidents Hill! Definitely worth a visit next time you’re in Annapolis.