In 1791, on this day the delegates of the Confederation Congress chose Thomas Jefferson for Presiding Officer marking the election of the nineteenth and final holder of the ceremonial office of "President of the United States in Congress Assembled".
Thomas Jefferson, President of Congress AssembledDue to his five year asignment in Paris as the American Ambassador to France, Jefferson was conspiciously absent from the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. Carrying forward ideas conceived at the earlier Annapolis Convention, delegates such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton had made a determined attempt to establish a United States Constitution which they believe would resolve the underlying governance problems with the Confederation.
But they bungled their first move by tabling the so-called "Virginia Plan" which was based upon the principle of proportional representation of the States in the election of a bicameral legislature. In so doing they overplayed their hand, unmistakeably revealing an intention to undermine state sovereignty in favour of a powerful, consolidated government. Insisting upon their recognition as sovereign political communities, the States had withdrawn their delegates and suspended the convention.
Ironically, Jefferson as a proponent of small, republican government himself would have objected to many of the proposals at Philadelphia. But he did not return from Paris until November of 1789 and by then the window of opportunity for establishing a consolidated government had closed. He would soon discover that the Confederation itself faced a desperately uncertain future. Having withdrawn from Philadelphia, the States had made a firm choice to go their own way. The delegates elected Jefferson hoping that he could bring fresh ideas to the table being untainted by traces of the nationalist program. But it didn't quite work out like that.