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I recently read in a book called Contrary to Popular Belief that George Washington was in fact the thirteenth president of the US. Is there any truth to this?

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  • I've added a link to the book in question. We general expect our questions to include references to the source of any non-trivial assertions.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 11, 2016 at 22:51
  • Great question though. He sure hated the job that much is a fact. Nov 12, 2016 at 0:21
  • I think your question is better suited on Skeptics SE.
    – Rathony
    Nov 12, 2016 at 3:38

1 Answer 1

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I suspect that is referring (at least in part) to the pre-Constitution office of President of Congress (aka: President of the United States in Congress Assembled).

The pre-Constitutional governments were a very different kind of government though, and those offices were roughly equivalent to the modern Speaker of the House, not to the modern USA office of President.

The president was a member of Congress elected by the other delegates to serve as an impartial moderator during meetings of Congress. Designed to be a largely ceremonial position without much influence, the office was unrelated to the later office of President of the United States

So I don't think its reasonable, or helpful, to consider it equivalent to the office George Washington held in 1789. I hope the rest of that book's "facts" aren't of similar quality.

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  • Also, I think it's arguable that the United States didn't exist as a political entity until the adoption of the Constitution by a sufficient number of States. Per the Declaration of Independence, "...they are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES;"
    – jamesqf
    Nov 12, 2016 at 3:33
  • Good question though. Good answers. John Adams was really stuck in "the Glorious Revolution" whereas Jefferson literally pushed the USA into the Mediterranean to bring the Barbary Pirates to heel. Certainly "officially" George Washington was the first "President" although I'd need to re-read the Constitution to see if that was the precise term. Before I think they were called "Governors" as they are today. Nov 12, 2016 at 23:53
  • @jamesqf yes, but there wasn't a role in that confederation for a chief executive ... I mean, they were trying to get rid of a King ... Jan 20, 2017 at 23:10
  • @jamesqf the articles of confederation formalized the de facto federal union in 1781. From that date at least it is uncontestable that the US existed as a distinct political entity; the states ceded to it their capacity to conduct foreign affairs, among other things.
    – phoog
    Sep 14 at 23:14

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