History of the first 13 Colonies, Colonial Government and Congress
The Continental Congress was the first national government of the United States during the American Revolution
The Continental Congress was where elected representatives of colonists assembled in revolt against British rule. Virginians Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Peyton Randolph invited delegations from all of the other colonies to meet in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774 to debate the grievances of colonies against Great Britain. The Continental Congress was the first national government of the United States during the American Revolution. The Continental Presidents were the foremost leaders of the era.
The Role of the Continental Presidents
The role of the Continental Presidents was limited and they acted as administrative head of state presiding, as an impartial moderator, over meetings of Congress. The office of the Continental Presidents was similar in terms of the name, social, and diplomatic precedence of the current office of President of the United States but the office was different in terms of its executive powers. The Continental Presidents signed, but did not write, the official documents of the Continental Congress.
Continental Presidents: 1774 - 1789
The Continental Presidents served from 1774 to 1789 at the First Continental Congress, the Second Continental Congress and the Confederation Congress. The adoption of the Constitution of the United States in 1788 led to the creation of the United States Congress and the election of George Washington as the First President of the United States of America.
- First Continental Congress was established September 5, 1774 and disbanded May 10, 1775
- Second Continental Congress was established May 10, 1775 and disbanded March 6, 1781
- The Congress of the Confederation was established March 1, 1781 and disbanded March 4, 1789
The First Continental President
The First of the Continental Presidents was Peyton Randolph, who was elected on September 5, 1774. Peyton Randolph (1779 – December 26, 1828) came from a prominent family in Virginia and became a lawyer. Peyton Randolph was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and following its dissolution attended the first Continental Congress in 1774. Peyton Randolph, a Democrat-Republican, was elected the First Continental President by a unanimous vote and took his place in history as the first President of the united colonies.
The First Continental President
After the Articles of Confederation were adopted on March 1, 1781, the Continental Congress, which became known as simply "The Congress", became officially known as "The United States in Congress Assembled." The Continental President was referred to as the "President of the United States in Congress Assembled". George Washington was known to have referred to the office as "the most important seat in the United States".
Continental Presidents Chart
Each of the following men had the honor of being one of the Continental Presidents. The names of the Continental Presidents are detailed on the following chart in the order that they were elected:
|Order of Presidency||Name of Continental President||Colony||Term as Continental President ||Length in Days as President|| |
|Peyton Randolph||Virginia||September 5, 1774 - October 22, 1774|
|Second President||Henry Middleton||South Carolina||October 22, 1774 - October 26, 1774|
|Third President||Peyton Randolph||Virginia||May 10, 1775 - May 24, 1775|
|Fourth President||John Hancock||Massachusetts||May 24, 1775 - October 29, 1777|
|Fifth President||Henry Laurens||South Carolina||November 1, 1777 - December 9, 1778|
|Sixth President||John Jay||New York||December 10, 1778 - September 28, 1779|
|Seventh President||Samuel Huntington||Connecticut||September 28, 1779 - July 10, 1781|
|Eighth President||Thomas McKean||Delaware||July 10, 1781 - November 5, 1781|
|Ninth President||John Hanson||Maryland||November 5, 1781 - November 4, 1782|
|Tenth President||Elias Boudinot||New Jersey||November 4, 1782 - November 3, 1783|
|Eleventh President||Thomas Mifflin||Pennsylvania||November 3, 1783 - June 3, 1784|
|Twelfth President||Richard Henry Lee||Virginia||November 30, 1784 - November 4, 1785|
|Thirteenth President||John Hancock||Massachusetts||November 23, 1785 - June 5, 1786|
|Fourteenth President||Nathaniel Gorham||Massachusetts||June 6, 1786 - November 3, 1786|
|Fifteenth President||Arthur St. Clair||Pennsylvania||February 2, 1787 - November 4, 1787|
|Sixteenth President||Cyrus Griffin||Virginia||January 22, 1788 - November 15, 1788|
The Continental Presidents were noted for the following:
Continental Presidents - Peyton Randolph
Peyton Randolph (c 1721 - 1775): The First Continental President, elected twice as president, resigned due to ill health. Peyton Randolph was described by delegate Silas Deane as "Designed by nature for the business, of an affable, open and majestic deportment, large in size, though not out of proportion, he commands respect and esteem by his very aspect, independent of the high character he sustains."
Continental Presidents - Henry Middleton
Henry Middleton (1717-1784) : A Justice of the Peace and a wealthy landowner, with more than 50,000 acres and over 800 slaves
Continental Presidents - John Hancock
John Hancock (1737 - 1793): Merchant and Rebel leader. John Hancock was Continental President when the members approved the Declaration of Independence (see below)
Continental Presidents - Henry Laurens
Henry Laurens (1724 - 1792): The only American president ever to be held as a prisoner of war. Following his term as Continental President he was appointed Ambassador to the Netherlands. He was captured by an English warship on his journey and was imprisoned in the Tower of London until the end of the Revolutionary War.
Continental Presidents - John Jay
John Jay (1745 - 1829): A Founding Father and the first Secretary of State of America, called "Secretary of Foreign Affairs" under the Articles of Confederation. John Jay was also the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Famous for the "Jay Treaty," which helped avert a renewal of hostilities with Great Britain.
Continental Presidents - Samuel Huntingdon
Samuel Huntington (1732 - 1796): A Founding Father and a self-made man. John Jay referred to him as "one of the most precisely trained Christian jurists ever to serve his country."
Continental Presidents - Thomas McKean
Thomas McKean (1734 - 1817): A Founding Father and one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. During his term as Continental President in October 1781 Congress heard the news that the British had surrendered following the Battle of Yorktown. He was Governor of Pennsylvania and Chief Justice of the supreme court of Pennsylvania.
Continental Presidents - John Hanson
John Hanson (1715 - 1783): He was the first Continental President to serve a full term after the full ratification of the Articles of Confederation. Because of this one of his grandsons later claimed that he was the first President of the United States.
Continental Presidents - Elias Boudinot
Elias Boudinot (1741 - 1802): Achieved recognition as Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He did not sign the Declaration of Independence, the Articles, or the Constitution.
Continental Presidents - Thomas Mifflin
Thomas Mifflin (1744 - 1800): Gifted in the art of speech making he was a popular Continental President. He was the first Quartermaster General of the Continental Army and suspected of mishandling funds.
Continental Presidents - Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee (1732 - 1794) : He proposed the idea of Committees of Correspondence and the meeting of the First the Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of independence and was the great uncle of Robert E. Lee.
Continental Presidents - Nathaniel Gorham
Nathaniel Gorham (1738 - 1796): A merchant who was a self-made man. During his time as Continental President Congress considered the idea of asking Bonnie Prince Charlie, heir to the Stuart royal line, to act in a role of a constitutional monarch in America.
Continental Presidents - Arthur St. Clair
Arthur St. Clair (1734 - 1818): Born in Scotland and raised during the Jacobite Rebellion, and the Battle of Culloden, he hated the English. He supported the idea of creating a constitutional monarchy under Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Continental Presidents - Cyrus Griffin
Cyrus Griffin (1736 - 1796): During his term as Continental President ratification of the Constitution was finalized.
Continental Presidents - John Hancock
One of the most famous Continental Presidents was John Hancock. John Hancock was a leader of the Sons of Liberty a secret, underground organization that was founded in Boston by Samuel Adams and John Hancock in July 1765 following the introduction of the Stamp Act. The Signature of John Hancock was the first to be added to the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence
Meaning and Definition of the Continental Presidents
History of the Continental Presidents
Fast Facts and info about Continental Presidents
The Continental Presidents article is a great history resource for kids
Social Studies Homework help for kids on the Continental Presidents