Samuel Huntington was born July 16, 1731 on the family farm in Windham, Connecticut (now Scotland, Connecticut).
When Samuel turned 16 he became an apprentice to a cooper, a valuable craftsman who made repairs to wooden barrels or tubs.
His self-taught education came from the library of Rev. Ebenezer Devotion as well as books borrowed from local lawyers.
In 1754, 22 year old Samuel was admitted to the bar, and moved to Norwich, Connecticut to begin practicing law.
He married Martha Devotion (Rev. Ebenezer’s daughter) in 1761. While the couple would not have children, when his brother (Rev. Joseph Huntington) died they adopted their nephew and niece, raising them as their own.
After brief service on the local board of officials as a selectman, Huntington began his political career in earnest in 1764 when the town of Norwich sent him as one of their representatives to the lower house of the Connecticut Assembly.
Shy and quiet, and not much of a speaker or writer, Huntington won the respect of his neighbors for his fairness and hard work.
In 1772, he was made a judge and continued to be returned to that office each year until 1774.
In 1775, he was elected to the upper house of the Governor’s Council.
In addition to serving in the Connecticut legislature, Huntington was appointed King’s attorney for the state in 1768 and in 1773 was appointed to the colony’s supreme court, then known as the Superior Court.
Huntington became an outspoken critic of the Coercive Acts of the British Parliament.
As a result, the assembly elected him in October 1775 to become one of their delegates to the Second Continental Congress.
In January 1776, Samuel Huntington took his place with Roger Sherman and Oliver Wolcott as the Connecticut delegation in Philadelphia.
He voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation.
President of Congress
The president of the Continental Congress was the presiding officer of the Continental Congress, the convention of delegates that emerged as the first national government of the United States during the American Revolution. The president was a member of Congress elected by the other delegates to serve as an impartial moderator during meetings of Congress. The office paid no salary and was designed to be a largely ceremonial position without much influence.
The Continental Congress, fearful of concentrating political power in an individual, gave their presiding officer even less responsibility than the speakers in the lower houses of the colonial assemblies. Unlike some colonial speakers, the president of Congress could not, for example, set the legislative agenda or make committee appointments. The president could not meet privately with foreign leaders; such meetings were held with committees or the entire Congress. The primary role of the office was to preside over meetings of Congress, which entailed serving as an impartial moderator during debates.
The first President of Congress was Peyton Randolph, who was elected on September 5, 1774.
The president was also responsible for dealing with a large amount of official correspondence, but he could not answer any letter without being instructed to do so by Congress. Presidents also signed, but did not write, Congress’s official documents. These limitations could be frustrating, because a delegate essentially declined in influence when he was elected president.
Presidents of Congress served terms of no specific duration; their tenure ended when they resigned or, lacking an official resignation, when Congress selected a successor.
Henry Middleton served as President of Congress when Randolph left October 22, 1774.
Peyton Randolph then served as President only from May 10, 1775 until May 24, 1775 when John Hancock assumed the position in the lead up to the American Revolutionary War.
Henry Laurens then served from November 1, 1777 until December 9, 1778, followed by John Jay on December 10, 1778.
While not known for extensive learning or brilliant speech, Samuel Huntington’s steady hard work and unfailing calm manner earned him the respect of his fellow delegates.
As a result, when John Jay left the presidency to become minister to Spain, Samuel Huntington of Connecticut was elected to succeed him as President of the Continental Congress on September 28, 1779.
Huntington spent his time as president urging the states and their legislatures to support the levies for men, supplies, and money needed to fight the Revolutionary War.
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation had been drafted by the Continental Congress in mid-1776, and an approved version was sent to the thirteen states for ratification in late 1777.
Huntington then contracted smallpox in 1780, beginning lingering health problems.
The ratification process continued to drag on for several years, stalled by the refusal of some states to rescind their claims to land in the West.
The Articles also provided for a blanket acceptance of Province of Quebec (referred to as “Canada” in the Articles) into the United States if it chose to do so. It did not.
Maryland was the last holdout of the original 13 colonies; it refused to go along until Virginia and New York agreed to cede their claims in the Ohio River Valley.
The formal signing of the Articles by the Maryland delegates took place in Philadelphia at noon time on March 1, 1781 and was celebrated in the afternoon. With these events, the ratified Articles of Confederation entered into force and the United States came into being as a united, sovereign and national state.
When the Articles of Confederation went into effect in March 1, 1781, however, Congress did not bother to hold an election for a new president.
Instead, Samuel Huntington continued serving a term that had already exceeded a year.
Then on July 9, 1781, due to ill health, Samuel Huntington resigned from the office of President of Congress.
Thomas McKean of Delaware was then elected President of Congress on July 10, 1781.
In 1782, Connecticut again named Huntington as a delegate, but his health and judicial duties kept him from accepting.
However, he did return to the Congress as a delegate for the 1783 session to see the success of the revolution embodied in the Treaty of Paris.
In 1784, Huntington was appointed Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut.
Governor of Connecticut
In 1785, Huntington built his mansion house just off the Norwichtown Green at what is now 34 East Town Street and the current headquarters of United and Community Family Services, Inc.
Also in 1785, he was elected as Lieutenant Governor for Connecticut, serving with Governor Matthew Griswold.
Then in 1786, Huntington followed Griswold as the 18th Governor of Connecticut.
In 1788, he presided over the Connecticut Convention that was called to ratify the United States Constitution.
On March 4, 1789, the Articles of Confederation were replaced with the U.S. Constitution.
In later years he saw the transition of Connecticut into a U.S. State.
Huntington also resolved the issue of a permanent state capital at Hartford and oversaw the construction of the Old State House (Connecticut).
Samuel Huntington died January 5, 1796 at the age of 64 while still in office as Governor of Connecticut.
His tomb is located in the Old Norwichtown Cemetery located behind his mansion house and its inscription is in excellent condition.
Today, some historians consider Samuel Huntington to have been the first President of the United States.
Because he was President of Congress when the nation’s first framework of government, the Articles of Confederation, took effect on March 1, 1781, Huntington has been called the first real President of the United States.
Now WE know em