A "National Pre-Constitution Center" in Annapolis would teach visitors about the unicameral Congress of the Articles of Confederation that met here, its presidents (before Washington), and key 1783 - 1786 events that led to the Constitutional Convention.
Our featured exhibit is:
A FREE, open-to-the-public exhibit that includes the "America's 14 Forgotten Presidents Before Washington" collection of original, signed documents (one for each president) owned by brothers George, Sam, and Dr. Steve Brown.
While George Washington WAS the first U.S. President under the second Constitution, he wasn't the first President of an independent United States.
After the Revolutionary War ended, when General George Washington (standing, center) retired as Commander-in-Chief on December 23, 1783 in Annapolis, he handed his letter of resignation to the President.
Note in the upper left corner of Washington's letter that he addressed his resignation to "Mr. President." Since Washington wouldn't become president for another six years (1789), who was this "Mr. President"?
Now look closely once again at this portrait (above). Note on the far left the second man in, on the left side of the pillar (he's actually sitting down in the president's chair). That's President Thomas Mifflin. A close-up of President Mifflin is on the left. The man standing next to him (taller than anyone else) on the right side of the pillar is Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson.
Three weeks later, on January 14, 1784, President Mifflin signed the printed, ratified version of the Treaty of Paris (left), which was then returned to France and exchanged for King George's signed, ratified version. If you look in the upper left corner, you'll see President Mifflin's signature underneath the Seal of Congress, which proves that the treaty was ratified with a quorum. In the lower right corner is the very last paragraph, worded by Delegate to Congress Thomas Jefferson: "Given under the seal of the United States, witness His Excellency, Thomas Mifflin, our President, at Annapolis, this fourteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four."
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson called Thomas Mifflin "President". How can that be?
The Articles of Confederation
Passed in 1777, ratified in 1781.
The Articles of Confederation were ratified when Maryland, led by Delegate John Hanson, approved them in 1781.
Because George Washington was the first president of the second Constitution (right). The first constitution of the United States was the Articles of Confederation (left), which created a unicameral, non-partisan Congress just like the one that had presided over both Continental Congresses. Its delegates were appointed by the state legislatures (which were elected by each state's citizens).
Congress had begun choosing presidents before the Articles of Confederation were passed; indeed, even before the Declaration of Independence.
Much like a parliamentary system, the president was also a member of Congress. Overall, fourteen different men held the title of President between 1774 and 1788, when the new Constitution was ratified. The British officially recognized Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania as president after the exchange of the ratified versions of the Treaty of Paris on May 12, 1784.
Passed in 1787, ratified in 1788 (it went into effect in 1789)
Cyrus Griffin of Virginia was the last President to serve under the Articles of Confederation.
In these documents, under the man's name is the word "PRESIDENT" (typed or handwritten), proving that they held the title of "President", were called "President" by their peers, and performed the duties of "President" listed in the Articles of Confederation, yet most people have never heard that there were Presidents Before Washington.
Some schools do teach this history but most don't because until now, there wasn't a place to visit where people could rediscover this forgotten period in American history. The First American Republic was a regional alliance of independent states united by trading privileges and a common defense policy for protection against foreign nations. Gradually, the states decided that a stronger central government was needed in order to fulfill its financial obligations left over from the Revolutionary War, and once the new Constitution created a very different government--a separately elected President who is not a member of Congress, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary--the Articles of Confederation and its presidents faded further from memory with each passing year. Since 2012, we've brought the 14 Forgotten Presidents back to life through public events, televised seminars, newspaper articles and annual festivals.
Have a question about the "America's 14 Forgotten Presidents Before Washington" collection? To contact the ownership group, send an email to (sixth from the left) Mr. Sam Brown, Esq.: firstname.lastname@example.org