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14 Presidents Before George Washington? These Figures Predate Office as We Know It

By Morgan Chilson   |  

It could be said that 14 men served as president of the United States before George Washington, and although they led the Continental Congress, they were unquestionably among the leaders who shaped the country.

Washington was sworn into the office of U.S. President as we know it in 1789. But the historical figures who occupied the office of president of the Continental Congress, later called the Confederation Congress, led the first organized government of what is now the United States, Free Republic contends.

Vote Now: Was George Washington the Greatest American President?

True history buffs may argue that the Continental Congress, which was an affiliation of 13 states, was not the actual United States. The eight men before Washington were not elected by a public vote, but were elected members of the Continental Congress.

Still, the Continental Congress operated from 1774 to 1789 representing those 13 colonies from which the country was born, and each leader contributed to the process that eventually birthed the United States.

So who were these first presidents who operated the country’s first government? In order of their service, they are Peyton Randolph (1723-1775), Henry Middleton (1717-1784), John Hancock (1737-1793); Henry Laurens (1724-1792), John Jay (1745-1829), Samuel Huntington (1732-1796), Thomas McKean (1734-1817), John Hanson (1715-1783), Elias Boudinot (1741-1802), Thomas Mifflin (1744-1800), Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794), Nathaniel Gorham (1738-1796), Arthur St. Clair (1734-1818) and Cyrus Griffin (1736-1796).

Vote Now: Who Is the Greatest American President in History?

Although some names on the list are familiar, many are unknown and unrecognized today as men who worked to establish the United States.

Even though these first leaders may have been called "president" in their roles moderating the Continental Congress sessions, most still consider Washington to hold the honor of being the nation’s first leader.

“The president of Continental Congress is NOT the same position as president of the United States. That's part of where the confusion comes in. It's like comparing apples and oranges; presidents and prime ministers; different leaders of different types of government,” wrote Josh Heuer on Metabunk.

The problem in determining the role of these 14 men in history, Heuer said, comes from the typical education schoolchildren receive, which usually doesn’t focus on times prior to the American Revolution.

Vote Here: Which U.S. President Would Be Considered the Greatest in History?

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It could be said that 14 men served as president of the United States before George Washington, and although they led the Continental Congress, they were unquestionably among the leaders who shaped the country.
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