Year
1783

John Hanson, so-called first president, dies

On this day in 1783, John Hanson, the first president of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, dies in his home state of Maryland. Hanson is sometimes called the first president of the United States, but this is a misnomer, since the presidency did not exist as an executive position separate from Congress until the federal Constitution created the role upon its ratification in 1789.

Hanson was the self-educated son of Charles County, Maryland, farmers. His family had lived in Maryland for three generations beginning with the emigration from England of his grandfather, for whom he was named. At age 25, John married 16-year-old Jane Contee in Maryland. Their lasting union produced nine children, five of whom survived to adulthood, although their son Peter was later killed in action as a Continental soldier at Fort Washington, New York, in November 1776.

Hanson’s political career began in 1757 with his election to the Maryland Colonial Assembly. He returned to represent Charles County again from 1758-1763, 1765, 1766 and 1768-1769. As colonial-British relations frayed, Hanson took a seat in the revolutionary Annapolis Convention, which took control of the colony from the British in 1774 and renamed itself the Assembly of Freemen in 1776. An outspoken supporter of the Patriot cause, Hanson was instrumental in Maryland’s decision to back the rebels laying siege to British-controlled Boston in the aftermath of the battles of Lexington and Concord.

Named a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1779, Hanson served in that body from 1780 to 1782, including a term as the president of Congress (a position similar to that of prime minister in the British Parliament) from 1781 to 1782, during which time the Articles of Confederation were finally ratified and General George Washington defeated the British army at Yorktown, Virginia. Upon the ratification of the Articles on March 1, 1781, the Continental Congress became the “Congress of the Confederation” or the “United States in Congress Assembled.” Hanson was the first president of that body, but not of the United States.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Stealth bomber unveiled

In the presence of members of Congress and the media, the Northrop B-2 “stealth” bomber is shown publicly for the first time at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.The aircraft, which was developed in great secrecy for nearly a decade, was designed with stealth ...read more

Margaret Thatcher resigns

Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister in British history, announces her resignation after 11 years in Britain’s top office.Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham, England, in 1925. In 1959, after marrying businessman Denis Thatcher and giving birth to twins, she ...read more

Blackbeard killed off North Carolina

Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, is killed off North Carolina’s Outer Banks during a bloody battle with a British navy force sent from Virginia.Believed to be a native of England, Edward Teach likely began his pirating career in 1713, when he became a crewman aboard a ...read more

John F. Kennedy assassinated

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, is assassinated while traveling through Dallas, Texas, in an open-top convertible.First lady Jacqueline Kennedy rarely accompanied her husband on political outings, but she was beside him, along with Texas Governor ...read more

Soviets encircle Germans at Stalingrad

On this day in 1942, a Soviet counteroffensive against the German armies pays off as the Red Army traps about a quarter-million German soldiers south of Kalach, on the Don River, within Stalingrad. As the Soviets’ circle tightened, German General Friedrich Paulus requested ...read more

Westmoreland claims U.S. victory at Dak To

General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, briefs officials at the Pentagon and says that the battle around Dak To was “the beginning of a great defeat for the enemy.”The battle for Dak To began on November 3 when 4,500 U.S. troops from ...read more

JFK assassinated in Dallas

On this day, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas.Kennedy took office on January 20, 1961. From the start of his term, he was faced with a deteriorating situation in Southeast Asia, in which both Laos and South Vietnam were threatened by communist insurgencies. ...read more

First B-52 shot down over North Vietnam

The United States loses its first B-52 of the war. The eight-engine bomber was brought down by a North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile near Vinh on the day when B-52s flew their heaviest raids of the war over North Vietnam. The Communistss claimed 19 B-52s shot down to date. ...read more

Jack London dies of kidney disease

Jack London, one of the best novelists to chronicle the last wild western frontier of Alaska, dies from kidney failure in Glen Ellen, California.Born in San Francisco in 1876, John Griffith London was the child of an unmarried mother who had come from a once wealthy family that ...read more

George Eliot is born

Mary Ann Evans, later known as George Eliot, is born on this day in Warwickshire, England.Eliot attended several schools until her mother’s death in 1841, after which she moved to Coventry with her father. In Coventry, Eliot grew close with her neighbors, the radical intellectual ...read more

Commuter trains collide in New York City

Two Long Island Railroad (LIRR) commuter trains collide on this day in 1950, killing 79 people. Defective equipment caused this horrific rear-end collision, the worst in the history of the LIRR.The accident occurred in the Richmond Hills section of Queens. A 12-car train carrying ...read more

President Kennedy is assassinated

President John F. Kennedy is shot and killed as his motorcade drives through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Kennedy’s suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was believed to have used a mail-order rifle in order to shoot the president from the sixth story window of the Texas ...read more

Kennedy assassinated

President John F. Kennedy is assassinated during a visit to Dallas, Texas. His death caused intense mourning in the United States and brought Vice President Lyndon Johnson to the presidency. Kennedy’s untimely death also left future generations with a great many “what if” ...read more

Hood enters Tennessee

On this day in 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood invades Tennessee in a desperate attempt to draw Union General William T. Sherman out of Georgia.This movement was part of the saga of Hood’s Army of Tennessee in 1864. In the spring, the army, commanded then by Joseph ...read more