Arthur St. Clair (1734 - 1818) - Served from February 2, 1787 until January 21, 1788.
Born and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland during the tumultuous days of the final Jacobite Rising and the Tartan Suppression, St. Clair was the only president of the United States born and bred on foreign soil. Though most of his family and friends abandoned their devastated homeland in the years following the Battle of Culloden - after which nearly a third of the land was depopulated through emigration to America - he stayed behind to learn the ways of the hated Hanoverian English in the Royal Navy. His plan was to learn of the enemy's military might in order to fight another day. During the global conflict of the Seven Years War - generally known as the French and Indian War - he was stationed in the American theater. Afterward, he decided to settle in Pennsylvania where many of his kin had established themselves. His civic-mindedness quickly became apparent: he helped to organize both the New Jersey and the Pennsylvania militias, led the Continental Army's Canadian expedition, and was elected Congress. His long years of training in the enemy camp was finally paying off. He was elected President in 1787 - and he served from February 2 of that year until January 21 of the next. Following his term of duty in the highest office in the land, he became the first Governor of the Northwest Territory and the founder of Cincinnati. Though he briefly supported the idea of creating a constitutional monarchy under the Stuart's Bonnie Prince Charlie, he was a strident Anti-Federalist - believing that the proposed federal constitution would eventually allow for the intrusion of government into virtually every sphere and aspect of life. He even predicted that under the vastly expanded centralized power of the state the taxing powers of bureaucrats and other unelected officials would eventually confiscate as much as a quarter of the income of the citizens - a notion that seemed laughable at the time but that has proven to be ominously modest in light of our current governmental leviathan. St. Clair lived to see the hated English tyrants who destroyed his homeland defeated. But he despaired that his adopted home might actually create similar tyrannies and impose them upon themselves.
Nathaniel Gorham (1738 - 1796) - Served from June 6, 1786 to February 1, 1787.
Another self-made man, Gorham was one of the many successful Boston merchants who risked all he had for the cause of freedom. He was first elected to the Massachusetts General Court in 1771. His honesty and integrity won his acclaim and was thus among the first delegates chose to serve in the Continental Congress. He remained in public service throughout the war and into the Constitutional period, though his greatest contribution was his call for a stronger central government. But even though he was an avid federalist, he did not believe that the union could - or even should - be maintained peaceably for more than a hundred years. He was convinced that eventually, in order to avoid civil or cultural war, smaller regional interests should pursue an independent course. His support of a new constitution was rooted more in pragmatism than ideology. When John Hancock was unable to complete his second term as President, Gorham was elected to succeed him - serving from June 6, 1786 to February 1, 1787. It was during this time that the Congress actually entertained the idea of asking Prince Henry - the brother of Frederick II of Prussia - and Bonnie Prince Charlie - the leader of the ill-fated Scottish Jacobite Rising and heir of the Stuart royal line - to consider the possibility of establishing a constitutional monarch in America. It was a plan that had much to recommend it but eventually the advocates of republicanism held the day. During the final years of his life, Gorham was concerned with several speculative land deals which nearly cost him his entire fortune.
Thomas Mifflin (1744 - 1800) - Served from November 3, 1783 to November 29, 1784.
By an ironic sort of providence, Thomas Mifflin served as George Washington's first aide-de-camp at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, and, when the war was over, he was the man, as President of the United States, who accepted Washington's resignation of his commission. In the years between, Mifflin greatly served the cause of freedom - and, apparently, his own cause - while serving as the first Quartermaster General of the Continental Army. He obtained desperately needed supplies for the new army - and was suspected of making excessive profit himself. Although experienced in business and successful in obtaining supplies for the war, Mifflin preferred the front lines, and he distinguished himself in military actions on Long Island and near Philadelphia. Born and reared a Quaker, he was excluded from their meetings for his military activities. A controversial figure, Mifflin lost favor with Washington and was part of the Conway Cabal -a rather notorious plan to replace Washington with General Horatio Gates. And Mifflin narrowly missed court-martial action over his handling of funds by resigning his commission in 1778. In spite of these problems - and of repeated charges that he was a drunkard -Mifflin continued to be elected to positions of responsibility - as President and Governor of Pennsylvania, delegate to the Constitutional Convention, as well as the highest office in the land - where he served from November 3, 1783 to November 29, 1784. Most of Mifflin's significant contributions occurred in his earlier years - in the First and Second Continental Congresses he was firm in his stand for independence and for fighting for it, and he helped obtain both men and supplies for Washington's army in the early critical period. In 1784, as President, he signed the treaty with Great Britain which ended the war. Although a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, he did not make a significant contribution - beyond signing the document. As Governor of Pennsylvania, although he was accused of negligence, he supported improvements of roads, and reformed the State penal and judicial systems. He had gradually become sympathetic to Jefferson's principles regarding State's rights, even so, he directed the Pennsylvania militia to support the Federal tax collectors in the Whiskey Rebellion. In spite of charges of corruption, the affable Mifflin remained a popular figure. A magnetic personality and an effective speaker, he managed to hold a variety of elective offices for almost thirty years of the critical Revolutionary period.
Richard Henry Lee (1732 - 1794) - Served from November 30, 1784 to November 22, 1785.
His resolution "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States," approved by the Continental Congress July 2, 1776, was the first official act of the United Colonies that set them irrevocably on the road to independence. It was not surprising that it came from Lee's pen - as early as 1768 he proposed the idea of committees of correspondence among the colonies, and in 1774 he proposed that the colonies meet in what became the Continental Congress. From the first, his eye was on independence. A wealthy Virginia planter whose ancestors had been granted extensive lands by King Charles II, Lee disdained the traditional aristocratic role and the aristocratic view. In the House of Burgesses he flatly denounced the practice of slavery. He saw independent America as "an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repose." In 1764, when news of the proposed Stamp Act reached Virginia, Lee was a member of the committee of the House of Burgesses that drew up an address to the King, an official protest against such a tax. After the tax was established, Lee organized the citizens of his county into the Westmoreland Association, a group pledged to buy no British goods until the Stamp Act was repealed. At the First Continental Congress, Lee persuaded representatives from all the colonies to adopt this non-importation idea, leading to the formation of the Continental Association, which was one of the first steps toward union of the colonies. Lee also proposed to the First Continental Congress that a militia be organized and armed - the year before the first shots were fired at Lexington; but this and other proposals of his were considered too radical at the time. Three days after Lee introduced his resolution, in June of 1776, he was appointed by Congress to the committee responsible for drafting a declaration of independence, but he was called home when his wife fell ill, and his place was taken by his young protg, Thomas Jefferson. Thus Lee missed the chance to draft the document, though his influence greatly shaped it and he was able to return in time to sign it. He was elected President - serving from November 30, 1784 to November 22, 1785 when he was succeeded by the second administration of John Hancock. Elected to the Constitutional Convention, Lee refused to attend, but as a member of the Congress of the Confederation, he contributed to another great document, the Northwest Ordinance, which provided for the formation of new States from the Northwest Territory. When the completed Constitution was sent to the States for ratification, Lee opposed it as anti-democratic and anti-Christian. However, as one of Virginia's first Senators, he helped assure passage of the amendments that, he felt, corrected many of the document's gravest faults - the Bill of Rights. He was the great uncle of Robert E. Lee and the scion of a great family tradition.
Elias Boudinot (1741 - 1802) - Served from November 4, 1782 until November 2, 1783.
He did not sign the Declaration, the Articles, or the Constitution. He did not serve in the Continental Army with distinction. He was not renowned for his legal mind or his political skills. He was instead a man who spent his entire career in foreign diplomacy. He earned the respect of his fellow patriots during the dangerous days following the traitorous action of Benedict Arnold. His deft handling of relations with Canada also earned him great praise. After being elected to the Congress from his home state of New Jersey, he served as the new nation's Secretary for Foreign Affairs - managing the influx of aid from France, Spain, and Holland. The in 1783 he was elected to the Presidency. He served in that office from November 4, 1782 until November 2, 1783. Like so many of the other early presidents, he was a classically trained scholar, of the Reformed faith, and an anti-federalist in political matters. He was the father and grandfather of frontiersmen - and one of his grandchildren and namesakes eventually became a leader of the Cherokee nation in its bid for independence from the sprawling expansion of the United States.
Day Two: Finish the PowerPoint and continue to discuss and take notes on the Articles VS Constitution chart. Remind students that today they are focusing on how the US Constitution fixed the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. By the end of the PowerPoint presentation students should have their charts filled out. Give students 5 to 7 minutes to discuss their answers in a small group. Explain to students that they are going to write an essay about how the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation were improved in the US Constitution. Discuss with the class key words that should be in their introductory sentence and have a few students attempt to create an introductory sentence. Reintroduce transitional words and list some on the Activboard and discuss why these words are important when writing an essay. Finally discuss how the conclusion sentence completes the essay and lets the reader know that the writer is finished.
Day Three: Students will review the components of an essay before writing essay on how the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation were improved in the US Constitution. (Introduction sentence, Body with at least 4 details, Transitional words, & Conclusion sentence)
Post-assessment: Students will write an essay on how the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation were improved in the US Constitution.
The British, of course, did not recognize the Declaration and continued to send troops to contain the rebellion. The war continued until 1783, so the new government had to be put in place in a wartime atmosphere. The Articles of Confederation, a compact among the thirteen original states, was written in 1776 but not ratified by the states until 1781. The loose that it created reflected the founders' reaction to the central authority of King George III.
By 1786 the new country was in serious economic straits, and states were quarreling over boundary lines and tariffs. An economic depression left not only states in trouble, but also many ordinary citizens, such as farmers and merchants, were deep in debt as well. , a revolt by angry farmers in Massachusetts, symbolized the chaos in the country. Even though the Massachusetts militia finally put the rebellion down, it pointed out the inability of the central government to maintain law and order. In reaction, Alexander Hamilton of New York initiated the organization of a meeting in Philadelphia in 1787. This convention would eventually throw out the Articles of Confederation and draft the Constitution.
Pass out Articles of Confederation VS US Constitution handout to students and explain the "I Can Statement: I can explain the weaknesses of the Articles of confederation and how the US Constitution created a stronger government." Explain to the students that their job is to write down four weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation found in the PowerPoint
So the freedom that the American Revolution sought to preserve proved to create a government under the Articles of Confederation that could not keep law and order. But the failure of the initial experiment helped the founders to find a more perfect balance between liberty and order in the Constitution they produced in 1787.