The Forgotten President’s 

Thomas McKean (b. 1734 – d. 1817) During his astonishingly varied 50 year career in public life, he held almost every possible position, from Deputy County Attorney, to President under the Confederation. Besides signing the Declaration of Independence, he contributed significantly to the development and establishment of constitutional government in both his home state of Delaware and the nation.

As the Stamp Act Congress, he proposed the voting procedure that Congress adopted: that each colony regardless of size or population, have one vote, the practice adopted by the Continental Congress and the Congress of the Confederation, and the principle of State equality manifest in the composition of the Senate.

As County Judge in 1765, he defied the British by ordering his court to work only with documents that did not bear the hated stamps. In June 1776, at the Continental Congress, McKean joined with Caesar Rodney to register Delewares approval of the Declaration of Independence, over the negative vote of the 3rd Deleware delegate, George read, permitting it to be “The unanimous Declaration of the 13 United States.” 

At a special Deleware convention, he drafted, and signed the Articles of Confederation. It was during his tenure of service as President, from July 10, 1781 to November 4, 1782, when news arrived from General George Washington in October 1781, that the British had surrendered following the Battle of Yorktown

As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, he contributed to the establishment of the legal system in that state, and in 1787, he strongly supported the Constitution at the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention, declaring it “the best the world has seen yet.” 

At 65, after 40 years of public service, McKean resigned from his post as Chief Justice. A candidate on the DemocraticRepublican ticket in 1799, McKean was elected Governor of Pennsylvania. As Governor, he followed such a strict policy of appointing only fellow Republicans to office that he became the Father of spoils system in America

He served 3 tempestuous terms as Governor, completing one of the longest, continuous careers of public service of any of the Founding Fathers.

The Forgotten President’s 

Samuel Huntington (b. 1732 – d. 1796) An industrious youth, who mastered his studies of law without the advantage of a school, a tutor, or a master, borrowing books and snatching opportunities to read and research between odd jobs, he was one of the greatest self-made men amongst the Founders.

He was also one of the greatest legal minds of the age, all the more remarkable for his disadvantages as a youth.

In 1764, in recognition of his obvious abilities and initiative, he was elected to the General Assembly of Connecticut. The next year he was chosen to serve on the Executive Council. In 1774, he was appointed Associate Judge of the Supreme Court, and, as a delegate to the Continental Congress, and was acknowledged to be a scholar of some respect. He served in Congress for 5 consecutive terms, during the last of which he was elected President

He served in that office from September 28, 1779 until ill health forced him to resign on July 9, 1781. He returned to his home in Connecticut, and as he recuperated, he accepted more Counciliar and Bench duties. He again took his seat in Congress in 1783, but left it to become Chief Justice of his state’s Superior Court

He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1785 and Governor in 1786. 

According to John Jay, he was “the most precisely trained Christian jurists ever to serve his country.”

The Forgotten President’s 

John Jay (b. 1745 – d. 1829) America’s first Secretary of State, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, one of its first Ambassadors, and author of some of the celebrated Federalist Papers, Jay was a Founding Father who, by a quirk of fate, missed signing the Declaration of Independence, at the time of the vote for independence and the signing, he had temporarily left the Continental Congress to serve in New York‘s revolutionary legislature

Nevertheless, he was chosen by his peers to succeed Henry Laurens as President, serving a term from December 10, 1778 to September 27, 1779. A conservative New York lawyer, who was at first against the idea of Independence in the colonies, the aristocratic Jay in 1776 turned into a patriot, who was willing to give the next 25 years of his life to help establish the new nation.

During these years, he won the regard of his peers as a dedicated and accomplished statesman, and a man of unwavering principle. In the Continental Congress, Jay prepared addresses to the people of Canada and Great Britain. In New York, he drafted the State Constitution and served as Chief Justice during the War. He was President of the Continental Congress before he undertook the difficult assignment as Ambassador, trying to gain support and funds from Spain. 

After helping Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, and Laurens complete peace negotiations in Paris in 1783, Jay returned home to become the first Secretary of State, called “Secretary of Foreign Affairs” under the Articles of the Confederation. He negotiated valuable commercial treaties with Russia and Morocco, and dealt with the continuing controversy with Britain and Spain over the southern and western boundaries of America

He proposed that American and Britain establish a joint commission to arbitrate disputes that remained after the war, and proposal which, though not adopted, influenced the government’s use of arbitration and diplomacy in settling later international problems. 

Jay felt keenly that the weakness of the Articles of Confederation was one of the first to advocate a new governmental compact. He wrote 5 Federalist Papers supporting the Constitution, and he was a leader in the New York Ratification Convention. As first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jay made the historic decision that a State could be sued by a citizen from another state, which led to the 11th Amendment of the Constitution

On a special mission to London he concluded the “Jay Treaty“, which helped avert a renewal of hostilities with Britain, but won little favor at home, and it is probably for this treaty, that this Founding Father is best remembered.