Textbook: Mba Mbulu's Introduction to White History: The History of White America. Click here for purchase information.
Click Here and read the extract from Mba Mbulu's Introduction to White History: The History of White America for this class. Also read Chapter 24 of the textbook, Mba Mbulu's An Introduction to White History. Think about what you read and be able to respond to the following questions.
(1) What was the Articles of Confederation?
(2) Was the Articles of Confederation a hastily drawn together document?
(3) Who was John Hanson? What did he do that proves he was the first president of the United States?
(4) Can it be said that John Hanson saved the union?
(5) Who drew up the Articles of Confederation?
(6) Why did the men who drew up the Articles make sure that the constitution that "unified" them guaranteed "independence" for each of them?
(7) Did government under the Articles of Confederation revolve around the federal or state government? What was the importance of that distinction?
The Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States of America, was proposed on June 11, 1776, agreed upon by Congress 18 months later on November 15, 1777 and ratified on March 1, 1781. The Articles of Confederation was a states rights document; it recognized the supremacy of each state as an independent political entity. Federally, the Articles of Confederation revolved around a congress that was supposed to govern the country (Congress was not supposed to govern each state). Since Congress was not in session year round, a committee composed of one representative from each state was selected to run the country in Congress' absence. Out of this committee, one person who actually ran the country was chosen as president. John Hanson, a major player in the Revolution and an extremely influential member of Congress, was the first person chosen to run the country when Congress was not sitting and, therefore, became the country's first president.
As the first president, Hanson had to blaze an unexplored trail. The role of president was not clearly defined, so no one knew in specific terms what the president should do. As a result, Hanson's actions in office would set precedent for all future presidents. He assumed his duties at about the end of the Revolutionary War, when the country was penniless, the federal government was weak and middling and the troops who had fought for independence wanted to be paid. In fact, the troops threatened to use their weapons to overthrow the new government and make George Washington king. While most of the members of Congress responded by running for their lives, Hanson stood his ground, appeased the troops as best he could and kept the new country from splitting up. Acting as the first president of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, John Hanson saved the union, a feat that was not to be matched until Abraham Lincoln did likewise more than 80 years later.
As President, Hanson ordered all foreign troops, British, Spanish and French included, to leave American soil. Hanson also established the Great Seal of the United States, the first Treasury Department, the first Secretary of War, and the first Foreign Affairs Department. In addition to that, Hanson declared that the fourth Thursday of every November would be Thanksgiving Day. Needless to say, John Hanson's impact on the institutionalizing of this country has been nothing less than noteworthy.
The Articles of Confederation only permitted a person to serve a single one-year term as president in any three-year period, so Hanson's term ended on November 3, 1782. Six other presidents were elected to one year terms after John Hanson, but students of white American history learn little or nothing about them. Why is this the case? An understanding of the Articles of Confederation and the America that existed under the Articles will reveal the answer to that question.
The Articles of Confederation is one of the most carefully thought out documents ever produced by America's founding fathers. It established a "perpetual union" of the states, and the term perpetual is pointedly repeated several times in the document. As was just stated, the Articles made it clear that running the country was the job of Congress (in Congress' absence, a president actually carried out that function). The Articles also named the country the United States of America, called for the annual appointment of delegates, and provided that no person could be a delegate for more than three years in any six year period nor president for more than one year in any three year period. Under the Articles, no State would have less than two, nor more than seven members in Congress, and when Congress assembled, each State would have one vote.
Like the men who drew up the Constitution a few yeas later, the men who drew up the Articles of Confederation were white businessmen; businessmen from the southern, middle and northern states. But because they were in the midst of the American Revolutionary War and overly sensitive to the potential abuses of big government, they thought their interests would be best served by localizing government to the greatest extent possible. They wanted to make sure that a large American government would not be able to impose its will on the smaller state governments the way Great Britain had imposed its will on the colonies. Their United States of America was viewed as a "friendship" characterized by independent ("strong") state governments and a dependent ("weak") central government.
This preference for localization manifested itself in business terms as well. Because of the fierce independence that characterized businessmen and business procedures up to that point, the producers of the Articles of Confederation felt that it was to their economic advantage to permit as much leeway as possible for individual businessmen. They felt it would be better for business and more advantageous for businessmen if they were faced with working their way around state and local laws rather than national ones. We must remember: the representatives from the various colonies harbored a great deal of dislike and distrust for each other. Much of this dislike was due to tensions generated by the contrasting economic realities that drove the various colonies. Thus, even as they united for political independence, they knew they wanted as little as possible to do with each other after independence had been gained. Therefore, they made sure that the constitution that "unified" them guaranteed the required "independence" for each of them.