On this day in 1781, more than four years after they were first adopted by the Continental Congress, the Articles of Confederation became the supreme law of the United States after being formally ratified by all 13 states. As a result, the previous sitting president of the Continental Congress — a Connecticut lawyer by the name of Samuel Huntington — automatically became the new President of the United States in Congress Assembled. As president of Congress, Huntington became the highest-ranking elected official in the United States, and technically the first President of the United States under its first form of national government.
Three months into his new post, satisfied that the new national government was working as it should, Huntington resigned as president of Congress and returned to Connecticut, where he remained active as a lawyer, judge, and politician. Back in his home state, Huntington helped draft one of the first copyright laws in the United States, served as chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and twice held the post of lieutenant governor before being elected the 18th governor of Connecticut in 1786. He was re-elected annually (as Connecticut governors served one-year terms until 1875) nine more times and eventually died while in office on January 5, 1796. Out of all the titles he amassed throughout his lifetime, his role as the first President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation was perhaps the most noteworthy — and most unexpected — for the accomplished lawyer who hailed from the Land of Steady Habits.
“Samuel Huntington, Governor of Connecticut, 1786 – 1796,” Museum of Connecticut History
Huntington Homestead museum website