John Hanson’s life was a series of larger-than-life accomplishments: statesman, public servant and, arguably, the first U.S. president.
On Saturday, Hanson was honored with a larger-than-life tribute, when a statue of him was unveiled outside the Frederick County Courthouse as the John Hanson National Memorial.
The day also was declared “John Hanson Day” by Frederick Mayor Randy McClement (R) and the city Board of Aldermen.
Hanson was an “acknowledged but forgotten” leader of America’s Revolutionary War period, according to remarks prepared for the event by John Hanson Briscoe, a descendant of Hanson’s and former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.
Briscoe’s remarks were delivered by his son, John Hanson Briscoe Jr., after the elder Briscoe came down with laryngitis and was unable to speak.
Hanson’s election as the first “President of the United States in Congress assembled” leaves him as the holder of the highest federal office ever conferred on a Maryland resident, Briscoe said.
Hanson was born in Charles County in 1715, and served that county as sheriff from 1750 until 1753 and in the General Assembly at various times between 1757 and 1769, according to the Maryland Archives.
He moved to Frederick County in 1769, and served as deputy surveyor until 1777. He also served the county as sheriff and treasurer.
At the time Hanson moved to Frederick County, it was known as one of the hotbeds of revolutionary feelings in Maryland, according to state Sen. Thomas Middleton (D-Dist. 28), a distant relative of Hanson’s who represents the district in Charles County where Hanson was born.
In 1780, Hanson served in the Continental Congress and was part of the Maryland delegation that signed the Articles of Confederation in 1781.
He was elected president under the Articles of Confederation in 1781 and served a one-year term, making him the nation’s first official president in the view of some historians.
Hanson’s statue is one of two, along with Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence, in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall collection.
Hanson was a close friend of George Washington’s, said Peter Hanson Michael, a descendant who wrote a biography about Hanson. But their paths took drastically different paths in stature and public acclaim.
“Without a doubt, [Hanson] is the most forgotten founding father of them all,” Michael said.