John Hanson was born in Charles County, Maryland, on April 3, 1715. While serving in the Maryland Assembly from 1757 to 1773 he was active in raising troops and providing arms. In 1779 Hanson served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he helped to resolve the western lands issue, thereby facilitating the ratification of the Articles of Confederation.
From 1781 to 1782 he was "President of the United States in Congress Assembled" under the Articles of Confederation. As the presiding officer of Congress, Hanson was responsible for initiating a number of programs that helped America gain a world position. During his tenure the first consular service was established, a post office department was initiated, a national bank was chartered, progress was made towards taking the first census, and a uniform system of coinage was adopted. As "President," Hanson also signed a treaty with Holland affirming the indebtedness of the United States for a loan from that country. In addition, he signed all laws, regulations, official papers and letters.
Hanson died on November 15, 1783, at the age of 68. His contributions to the government under the Articles of Confederation were absorbed by the new federal government.