Teaching Students About John Hanson
When teaching American history, it’s easy to overlook the lesser-known figures who have contributed to the country’s founding and growth. John Hanson, an often-overlooked figure in American history, played a significant role in the early formation of the United States. Teaching our students about him brings to light not just an unsung hero, but an important lesson on understanding the nuances of history.
Who Was John Hanson?
John Hanson was a merchant and politician born in Charles County, Maryland, on April 14, 1721. He had humble beginnings but eventually rose to prominence in his community due to his political aspirations. Hanson predominantly identified with the anti-British Patriot cause and became a significant figure in colonial politics.
His Political Journey and Contribution
During his tenure as a public servant, Hanson initiated several prominent actions within the Continental Congress. In 1775, he participated in the drafting of Maryland’s response to the Continental Association and later served as President of Maryland’s General Assembly.
In 1781, Hanson was elected as the first President of the Confederation Congress under the Articles of Confederation, making him technically the first President of the United States before George Washington took office under the new constitution. He played a pioneering role in organizing and establishing many of the precedents for administering Congress and helped introduce financial and accounting reforms.
Teaching Strategies for Introducing Students to John Hanson
1. Compare His Role with George Washington’s: When discussing presidents or key figures in American history, draw connections between Hanson and Washington. Explain how they both contributed to early American governance but held different roles – Hanson coming before Washington when the Articles of Confederation were in place.
2. Focus on Maryland’s Contributions: Emphasize Maryland’s essential role during Revolutionary America. By studying John Hanson’s life and achievements, students will recognize Maryland’s contributions beyond historical borders and gain an appreciation for regional differences.
3. Present the Articles of Confederation: Show students the importance of the Articles of Confederation by discussing Hanson’s work as President of the Confederation Congress. Explain that while the Articles were ultimately replaced by the U.S. Constitution, they served as a foundation for creating a new nation.
4. Historical Sources and Primary Documents: Engage your students by incorporating primary sources such as letters, portraits, or diaries into your lessons about Hanson. These resources bring history to life and create a connection to the real-world events that occurred during Hanson’s time.
5. Discuss Historical Bias: Use John Hanson as an example of historical figures who may not receive recognition due to factors such as societal biases or the era in which they lived. Encourage critical thinking and questioning by discussing why some individuals make it into textbooks while others don’t, broadening their understanding of historical figures.
Teaching students about John Hanson helps them appreciate history’s full scope and understand how various individuals shaped American governance foundations. By introducing these lesser-known figures, educators offer valuable lessons in critical thinking, respect for unsung heroes, and a deeper insight into our nation’s history.