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The First US President

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32722.  Sat Nov 19, 2005 5:07 pm Reply with quote

In the last QI, the common mistake was supposed to be the belief that the first US President was George Washington. In fact, we were told, the first US President was Peyton Randolph. I did a little research on the web- and find there are some inconvenient facts if one is to make Randolph (or anyone prior to Washington) the first President. Peyton Randolph was the President of the "Continental Congress". However, the role was not that of Head of State.After 1781 the role was re-titled "President of the United States in Congress Assembled", but still not "Predient of the Untied States" It was not until after the US constitution in 1789 that the post of US President, as Head of State was formed. So if one expects that the US President is the Head of State, the first US President was indeed George Washington. Another fact that suggests it is George Washington is that the title of "President of the United States of America" was not used until Washington. Also 1789 were the first elections of a President by the population
I think it is indeed reasonable, on these defintions, to assume Washington was indeed the first President - even if one only goes by the first person to hold that title.
Of course, if one applies the logic that the title "President" is enough, it does not make sense either -there are football club "Presidents" after all!
(And in fact, Randolph could just as easily have been called "Chairman".

Well, if there are any expert historians out there who know better, I do not mind being corrected - but the above sounds fairly convincing to me!

(I hope all the other little nuggets from this excellent programme are not so easy to debunk, but I assume not - I particularly liked the fact that chalk is not chalk!

32884.  Sun Nov 20, 2005 8:07 am Reply with quote

The question of the first US President has been mentioned before. The question was President of America not President of the United States of America.

33333.  Mon Nov 21, 2005 6:51 pm Reply with quote

OK, mea culpa -but I could not find a thread on this topic. Re "America" not US - I was probably sleeping (Just as well I do not use my real name otherwise my position as Professor emeritus of history at Oxford would be seriously under threat - yes, it was a joke.
OK, President of America, was it ?- but surely this does not exist (or have I missed something, again - probably)

Serves me right for trying to be a smarty pants!

33342.  Tue Nov 22, 2005 3:38 am Reply with quote

Hi David,

There is no 'culpa' involved here. It's great that you made the effort to check the answer out for yourself. We love that.

Kevin's right that the question was carefully worded to read 'President of America' –so of course it's a 'trick question' really.

The point is, all QI is really trying to do is to get people thinking for themselves – rather than just trotting out the 39 clichés which are all most of us can remember from out school days.

If in the process you get to learn something in a little more detail and maybe have a few moments discussion about it (either here or at home or in the pub) that suits us just dandy.

You're very welcome here and, if you stick around, you'll find the pleasure of discovering that none of us really know anything, far exceeds the cheaper kick of being able to get 'easy' questions right.

The Peyton Randolph answer may be a bit of low cunning but it is true as worded and certainly is a lot more quite interesting than it would have been on Millionaire, viz:

Q: Who was the first President of the USA?
A: George Washington.


33387.  Tue Nov 22, 2005 5:45 am Reply with quote

And, don't forget, the USA’s head of state is called a president because founding father John Adams (a keen cricketer) reckoned that if the title was good enough for the leaders of cricket clubs, it was good enough for the nascent nation. See:

I think that's the thid time I've posted that here. Sooner or later, somebugger's going to find it interesting.

33405.  Tue Nov 22, 2005 6:16 am Reply with quote

Me sir please sir I do sir

Mostly Harmless
33408.  Tue Nov 22, 2005 6:20 am Reply with quote


Last edited by Mostly Harmless on Mon Jan 09, 2006 10:15 am; edited 1 time in total

33464.  Tue Nov 22, 2005 8:03 am Reply with quote

I find it interesting, too.

And I bet if you tried you could remember more than 39 clichés from school.

33475.  Tue Nov 22, 2005 8:23 am Reply with quote

At least the thid. Might even be the foth.

33479.  Tue Nov 22, 2005 8:30 am Reply with quote

OK samivel, that's a challenge!

Thread coming up...

50036.  Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:57 pm Reply with quote

I've tried to make this work here but in my travels researching the almanac entries I feel I have to say something on this subject.

Peyton Randolph was the President of the "First Continental Congress of America" To say he was the first President of America is a bit of an over exageration. The Continental Congress was basically similar to a Parliamentary sub comitee today set up by the Burgesses at the time, that included the likes of Adams, Washington, Hancock That was set up to protest primarily against the Stamp Act and the other "Intolerable Acts" enforced by the British Government following the Boston Tea Party in 1773. There were only 2 recorded Continental Congress sittings of which Randolph presided over the first
It is quite likely, had he survived the revolution, he would have become President instead of Washington but alas he died in 1775.

A quite responsible position I would agree but to call him the first president of America is a bit like say the president of your local rotary club is the current British president.
src's various including

gerontius grumpus
50317.  Fri Feb 10, 2006 1:05 pm Reply with quote

Kevino7 wrote:
The question of the first US President has been mentioned before. The question was President of America not President of the United States of America.

Has there ever been a president of America?

50323.  Fri Feb 10, 2006 1:18 pm Reply with quote

Being as America is a union of seperate states it would be the same as the USA. So yes there have been 43

50326.  Fri Feb 10, 2006 1:24 pm Reply with quote

The first American President was Martin Van Buren Born in 1782.

Those before him were of course British subjects

gerontius grumpus
50429.  Fri Feb 10, 2006 7:44 pm Reply with quote

There are two continents with the name America, the northern one contains the United States, Canada, Mexico and some smaller countries. If the elves can split hairs over Amarica and the United States of America, I think I can split hairs over The continent of North America and that part of it that became the United States.


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