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Continental Congress and Washington's Presidency

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619191.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:17 pm Reply with quote

I noticed that in series three (C), episode eight, it was said that George Washington was the fifteenth president of the United States of America. In my high school (I'm in eleventh grade but I'm not entirely sure what that translates to in the English schooling system) US History is required and I'm taking the college level course. We just covered this in my class so I feel like I need to clear something up. =)

While it is true that America had several forms of government prior to the Constitution (which we are still governed under), the Continental Congress was formed before the independence of America (before they even considered independence) and therefore the head executive of the Congress was not the head executive of the colonies and, later, Confederation of States. The second Continental Congress was likewise before the independence of America (they formed the committee to write the Declaration). George Washington did head the Second Continental Congress, by the way.

Under the Articles of Confederation there was also a presiding executive (the first was Charles Thompson) but the Articles of Confederation did not provide an effective form of government and to call the presiding head under the Articles a president is to make a mockery of the position; Charles Thompson and his successors had little to no power. They could not enforce laws, only ask states to do so, and neither could they provide any effective civil service (except for the various land laws in the 1780s).

George Washington was the first President of the United States without a doubt. He was not the first head executive, but he was the first president. The head executives of the Continental Congresses and the Congress of the Confederation (under the Articles of Confederation) did not hold the same power as the President of the United States under the Constitution. Under the Constitution it became a different job entirely with different powers and privileges, and even a different way of being elected into office.

I'm sorry for the wordiness but I want to be sure I explain myself clearly.

619196.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:28 pm Reply with quote

Thanks for that. We undoubtedly drift from the quirky to the outright wrong from time to time, and are happy to have it pointed out to us when we do so.


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