George Washington was not our first president

Jim Lee

Well, here we are at George Washington’s birthday. Of course, that is not entirely accurate because he was born under the Julian calendar. Since 1752, when Washington was 20 years old, we have been using the Gregorian calendar.
When we play with the differences the calendar change makes, he was actually born on Feb. 11, 1732. This means Thomas Edison was born on George Washington’s 115th birthday.
The significance of this escapes me since Washington didn’t invent anything of note that I can think of, but I thought it could be an interesting addition to the Who-Cares file.
Another fact we can tell folks who really don’t care is the father of our country was not actually our first president. In reality he was the 11th president. To tell the truth (as Mr. Washington would want me to do), our first president was Samuel Huntington of Connecticut.
The first person to serve after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, he was President of the United States in Congress Assembled from 1779 to 1781. Back then, the president was limited to a one-year term, but the Articles of Confederation were not ratified until March 1, 1781. So, technically, Huntington did not serve more than the term limit, even though he did serve in the practical sense since 1779.
Not only that, he was referred to as “Your Excellency.” The title “Mr. President” was still years away.
George Washington was not elected until after the new Constitution took effect in 1789. Our country existed a number of years before the Constitution existed.
What about those years under the Articles of Confederation? Who took charge between Huntington and Washington? President Thomas McKean succeeded President Huntington. After McKean, we had eight more presidents before George Washington.
(Of those original 10 presidents, most of us have heard of the seventh: John Hancock).
The first 10 presidents are, in order: Samuel Huntington, Thomas McKean, John Hanson, Elias Boudinot, Thomas Mifflin, Richard Henry Lee, John Hancock, Nathaniel Gorham, Arthur St. Clair, and Cyrus Griffin.
As a matter of fact, George Washington referred to Peyton Randolph as the father of the country. Randolph served as the first President of the Continental Congress of the United Colonies of America (Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 22, 1774).
Incidentally, Congress before the present Constitution took effect in 1789 was unicameral (only one legislative house, no separate House of Representatives and Senate).
OK, so George Washington was not really born on Feb. 22, and he probably didn’t have wooden teeth. So what? He was the 11th president, not the first. Again, so what? Who cares about the calendars?
Feb. 22 is just fine. He was the first president elected under our present Constitution. The Articles of Confederation lasted from 1781 to 1789. The Constitution has been with us over 214 years, and President George Washington made it all work in the first place.
OK, so he wasn’t the first president — he was the first one who matters, and to just about all of us he definitely is Father of Our Country.
Happy birthday, Mr. President.

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: