Do You Know About Samuel Huntington?

Did you know that Samuel Huntington, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the First President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation? This is different from being the First President of the United States under the Constitution because the Articles of Confederation had a weak central government with a weak executive. The Constitution is a socail compact with a stronger central government.  However, the process to becoming President under the Articles of Confederation was a slow one and was not done to incur a financial gain.

On September 28, 1779, he was elected President of the Congress as John Jay was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Spain.  While President, he was able to convince Virginia, New York and Connecticut to cede lands, to the national government, that had been granted to them by the King.  Once this happened, it was easy to convince Maryland to sign on to the Articles of Confederation, of which he was also a signer.  His title was changed once the articles are passed, to First President of the United States in Congress Assembled.[1] He would leave Congress on July 9, 1781, due to health reasons and Dr. Rush later said that Huntington was “a sensible, candid and worthy man, and wholly free from prejudices.”[2]

Huntington returns to his home in Connecticut on July 25, 1781.  However, he could not rest long because his personal finances had suffered from his service in Congress and he owed back taxes to the state.  From 1779-1781, he had earned only £752.8.0 (species) and this was less than what he would have earned had he practice law during this same period. His expenses were £47.0.10 (species), or £3528.4.0 in Continental money, as a delegate. Unfortunately, he had additional expenses while he acted as President of Congress.  The Connecticut General Assembly would grant him an additional £15.9.0 species, or £384.0.0 in Continental money.  Both numbers are included to show how inflated the Continental money was during this time period.[3]  Once he was able to resume his legal practice, his financial situation improved and he returned to his customary affluence.


[2] Gerlach, Larry R. Connecticut Congressman: Samuel Huntington, 1731-1796, Hartford: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut, 1976, 33

[3] Gerlach, Larry R. Connecticut Congressman: Samuel Huntington, 1731-1796. 75