Manataka American Indian Council





Exemplar of Liberty:

Native America and the Evolution of Democracy



Images of native America in the
writings of Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine

"[T]he Five Nations of Central New York . . . instituted a form of democratic representative government before the coming of the white man, that antedated the Confederation of the Thirteen Colonies. The League of the Iroquois was much in the minds of the colonial statesmen, Franklin in particular, and others who met the "Romans of the New  World."  -William N. Fenton, 1939-41[1]

Happiness is more generally and equally diffus'd among Savages than in civilized societies. No European who has tasted savage life can afterwards bear to live in our societies. -Benjamin Franklin, 1770[2]

As the American colonists moved towards independence, the use of American Indian imagery became more widespread among the colonists. In December of 1775, John Hancock had welcomed a Delaware Chief to "this council fire, kindled for all the United Colonies," and members of the Continental Congress had heard Captain White Eyes (Delaware) refer to the Continental Congress as "the Grand Council Fire" in his reply. On New Year's Day, 1776, a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress, Robert Treat Paine, wrote a letter to a constituent referring to the Continental Congress as "the Grand Council Fire at Philadelphia."

By 1776, Iroquois imagery was used not only in treaty making but also as a pervasive idiom in American society. A few weeks after Paine's use of Iroquois imagery, John Adams (Paine's fellow delegate from Massachusetts) would have dinner with several Caughnawaga Mohawk chiefs and their wives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. George Washington and his staff also were present. Washington introduced Adams to the Mohawks chiefs as one of the members "of the Grand Council Fire at Philadelphia" and Adams noted in a letter to his wife that the Mohawks were impressed with Washington's introduction. Although it can be argued that George Washington and the Continental Congress used American Indian rhetoric and imagery to explain to Native American people the nature of the new American government, such an argument does not explain how such rhetoric begins to occur in Robert Treat Paine's private correspondence to Non-Indians. Actually, the ideas and symbols of Native America became important facets in the formation of a new American identity.[4]

In February of 1776, Benjamin Franklin began to design money for the emerging American nation and he used Iroquois Covenant Chain imagery in designing the new "Two[-]Thirds of a Dollar." The bill depicted an emblem of the Thirteen colonies interlocked in a continuous chain of unity. A motto asserted "American Congress, We are one." (See figure 30.) The same design would reappear on American coinage in 1787 when the founders began to wrestle with the idea of creating a new federal constitution. Indeed, the Grand Sachem of the Tammany society wore a silver chain with thirteen links throughout the period after the American Revolution. Such imagery symbolized union and the link between the Americans and the wisdom of the Iroquois.[5]

Figure 30. "Two Thirds of a Dollar." Continental currency of 17 February 1776. Designed by Benjamin Franklin, with chain imagery.

At this time, Adams became interested in formulating "constitutions for single colonies" and a "great model for Union for the whole." A few months later in April of 1776, Adams published his Thoughts on Government , which was intended as a handbook for the implementing of new American state and national constitutions as independence unfolded. Later, Adams would write in his Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States (1787) of the "precise" separation of powers that were present in American Indian nations on the eve of the creation of the United States Constitution. As with the earlier Thoughts on Government, the Defence was meant to be used as a handbook at the Constitutional Convention. American Revolutionaries like John Adams sought to retain their sacred "property rights" as Englishmen which they felt the British Crown was usurping through its taxation policies. Often, their rationales have been interpreted as "conservative" in order to thwart some of the objectives of more radical colonial politicians.

In this environment with colonial Americans' passion for liberty about to break into revolution, Thomas Jefferson addressed the world as a political seer:

This whole chapter in the history of man is new. . . . Before the establishment of the American states, nothing was known to history but man of the old world, crowded within limits either small or overcharged and steeped in the vices which that situation generates. [7]

Anyone who believes the United States was molded primarily in Europe's image should listen to Benjamin Franklin, who so much embodied the spirit of America in Europe that he came to be called a "savage as philosopher."[8]

Whoever has traveled through the various parts of Europe, and observed how small is the proportion of the people in affluence or easy circumstances there, compared with those in poverty and misery; the few rich and haughty landlords, the multitude of poor, abject, rack-rented, tythe-paying tenants, and half-paid and half-starved laborers; and view here [in America] the happy mediocrity that so generally prevails throughout these States, where the cultivator works for himself, and supports his family in decent plenty, will, methinks, see the evident and great difference in our favor.[9]

The assertion of an independent identity for America, and Americans, sometimes became almost messianic. Thomas Paine enthused: "We see with other eyes; we hear with other ears; we think with other thoughts, than those we formerly used."[10] Jefferson described the class structure of Europe as "hammer and anvil," horses and riders, and "wolves over sheep."[11] As a student of government, Jefferson found little ground less fertile than the Europe of his day. The political landscape of England was, to Jefferson, full of things to change, not emulate. Writing to John Adams, Jefferson said that force or corruption had been "the principle of every modern government, unless the Dutch perhaps be excepted." He continued:

I am sure you join me in the detestation of the corruption of the English government that no man of earth is more incapable than yourself of seeing that copied among us, willingly. I have been among those who have feared the design to introduce it here, and that has been a strong reason with me for wishing there was an ocean of fire between that island and us. [12]

On the same day that the Iroquois appeared in Congress and named John Hancock, plans for a confederation based on Franklin's Albany Plan of Union were formulated in committee. Twenty two years after the Albany Plan had been formulated with Iroquois advice, the image of the American Indian held by founders such as Franklin, Jefferson and Paine was helping shape the ideas that kindled the American revolution. Within a month, Jefferson's Declaration of Independence would demand the same rights for the colonists that prominent Americans, as well as European savants, had seen illustrated in the native

Jefferson repeated the same sentiment to the Earl of Buchan: "Bless the almighty being who, in gathering together the waters of the heavens, divided the dry land of your hemisphere from the dry land of ours."[13] Americans had not only encountered a new vision of society in their experience with American Indians but they also developed new concepts about land ownership that were quite different from their European ancestors.

During this time, two schools of political thought were emerging in the Continental Congress as to the nature of American government. While both schools agreed that the British should be defeated and expelled, there was no agreement as to what governmental system should be devised to replace the old order. One group (led by Samuel Adams) believed that the main business of Congress was to defeat the English and not to look toward the future. Another group (led by Franklin and Wilson) asserted that the creation of a new government must be simultaneous with the destruction of the old. Hence, a wide difference of opinion arose in the Continental Congress on how the business of the body should be conducted. Some members maintained that the legislative and executive powers assumed by Congress should be preserved without change.

Other members of the Congress believed that the unwieldy standing committee system should be modified so that an executive department outside of Congress could efficiently implement the resolutions of the legislative body. Any attempt to create an executive department smacked of monarchical tendencies, however, and would not be accepted. Samuel Adams, leader of the anti-monarchical group, brought his "town meeting" ideas with him to Philadelphia and insisted on their efficacy in national and local affairs. It would take time to iron out these differences and the Iroquois Confederacy would provide a viable model for those that argued that an executive need not be a king.[14]

In early 1776, Joseph Galloway, an ally of Franklin, suggested a plan of colonial union to restore harmony with England. Galloway's proposal was very similar to the Albany Plan of Union that Franklin had proposed in 1754(after consulting Cadwallader Colden's notes on the Iroquois and attending an Iroquois Condolence Ceremony in 1753). Those who supported Galloway's "olive branch" stalled on the issue of independence in the Second Continental Congress. The supporters of the Galloway Plan feared a lapse in governmental authority and wanted a plan for American union before Imperial authority was forsaken. To salve such fears, Richard Henry Lee's independence resolution of June 7, 1776 included a clause proposing a plan of confederation that would be transmitted to the colonies for debate.[15] During this time there were so many Indians coming to Philadelphia that Congress appointed a committee (headed by Roger Sherman) to "inquire into the cause that brings so many Indians . . . at present to Philadelphia."[16]

In the midst of this debate on government and independence, twenty-one Iroquois Indians came to meet with the Continental Congress in May of 1776. At the Albany Conference of 1775, the Iroquois had expressed concern about the nature of the executive in the Continental Congress. For over a month, the Iroquois would observe the operations of the Continental Congress and its president, John Hancock, as they lodged on the second floor of the Pennsylvania State House (later called Independence Hall), just above the chambers of the Continental Congress. On May 27, 1776, Richard Henry Lee reported that the American army had a parade of two to three thousand men to impress the Iroquois with the strength of the United States. "4 tribes of the Six Nations" viewed the parade, and Lee hoped "to secure the friendship of these people." Newspaper accounts stated that Generals Washington, Gates and Mifflin, "the Members of Congress . . . and . . . the Indians . . . on business with the Congress" reviewed the troops.[17]

On June 11, 1776 while the question of independence was being debated, the visiting Iroquois chiefs were formally invited into the meeting hall of the Continental Congress. There a speech was delivered, in which they were addressed as "Brothers" and told of the delegates' wish that the "friendship" between them would "continue as long as the sun shall shine" and the "waters run." The speech also expressed the hope that the new Americans and the Iroquois act "as one people, and have but one heart."[18] After this speech, an Onondaga chief requested permission to give Hancock an Indian name. The Congress graciously consented, and so the president was renamed "Karanduawn, or the Great Tree." (See figure 31.) With the Iroquois chiefs inside the halls of Congress on the eve of American Independence, the impact of Iroquois ideas on the founders is unmistakable. History is indebted to Charles Thomson, an adopted Delaware, whose knowledge of and respect for American Indians is reflected in the attention that he gave to this ceremony in the records of the Continental Congress.[19]

Figure 31. On June 11 1776, an Onondaga sachem gave John Hancock an Iroquois name at Independence Hall. By John Kahionhes Fadden.

On the same day that the Iroquois appeared in Congress and named John Hancock, plans for a confederation based on Franklin's Albany Plan of Union were formulated in committee. Twenty two years after the Albany Plan had been formulated with Iroquois advice, the image of the American Indian held by founders such as Franklin, Jefferson and Paine was helping shape the ideas that kindled the American revolution. Within a month, Jefferson's Declaration of Independence would demand the same rights for the colonists that prominent Americans, as well as European savants, had seen illustrated in the native peoples' "natural societies."

Amid the meetings with the Iroquois and discussions of confederation that included native concepts of democracy, Adams wrote to his wife on July 10, 1776 that he wished he were

at perfect liberty to portray . . . the course of political changes in this province. It would give you a great idea of the spirit and resolution of the people, and shew you, in a striking point of view, the deep roots of American Independence in all the colonies. But it is not prudent, to commit to writing such free speculations, in the present state of things.

Time . . . [will take] away the veil, and lay open the secret springs of this surprising revolution. [20]

Adams referred to American Indian ideas of government rather reluctantly in 1776, but by 1787, on the eve of the creation of the United States Constitution, he would advocate "a more accurate investigation of the form of governments" of the Indians "while creating a new constitution."[21]

The following rules of Congress were passed on July 17, 1776, after the Iroquois sachems' visit to Congress; they appear to reflect some Iroquois ideas about the conduct of government.

         Rule No. 3 No Member shall read any printed paper in the house during the sitting thereof, without the leave of Congress.
         Rule No. 4 When the house is sitting, no member shall speak to another, so as to interrupt any member who may be speaking in the debate. [22]

Certainly, no such decorum was required in the British House of Commons to deal with the shouts and hoots of the "back benchers." American Indian observers of colonial assemblies had noted early that colonial legislative bodies lacked decorum and respect for the speakers that had the floor.[23]

In November and December of 1776, the Iroquois and Ohio Indian chiefs that had met with James Wilson and others at Fort Pitt in the Fall of 1775 visited Congress. Benjamin Rush (who seemed to have some previous experience with Iroquois imagery) related that

[t]hey were all introduced to Congress. They took each member by the hand, and afterwards sat down. One of them (after a pause of 10 minutes) rose up and addressed the Congress in the following words.

Rush then recorded the rhetoric of the Iroquois Condolence Ceremony, which was now being used in the halls of Congress.

Brothers[,] we received your commissioners at the little counsel fire at Fort Pitt. We wiped the sweat from your bodies. We cleansed the dirt from their ankles. We pulled the thorns from [their] feet. We took their staffs from their hands, and leaned them [against] the tree of peace, we took their belts from their waists, and conducted them to the seats of peace.[24]

This meeting held a special place in the memories of the members of Congress as did the earlier one with the Iroquois on the eve of the Declaration of Independence. After the American Revolution, Rush recalled another speech from that day that was also given by an Iroquois sachem:

During my attendance in Congress in Philadelphia, I had the pleasure of being present at an interview between some chiefs of the Six Nations and Congress in the hall in the State House. After a pause of about ten minutes one of the chiefs rose from his seat, and pointing to the Sun said "the business of this day will end well. Yonder Sun rose clear this morning. The great spirit is propitious to us."[25, emphasis added]

In his concluding remarks at the Constitutional Convention, Franklin invoked a similar image in order to impart his hopes for a propitious beginning for the United States constitution.[26]

While Ambassador to France during the American revolution, Franklin would discuss in the salons of Enlightenment philosophers "with great exactness" the ways of Indians and the "Politics of the Savages."[27] The French Enlightenment philosophers observed that Franklin believed American Indian ways more appropriate for the good life than were the manners of "civilized nations."[28] Pierre Jean George Cabanis noted that in Franklin's discussions among the philosophes (which included Cabanis, Turgot, Helvetius, La Rochefoucault, Condcorcet and others), he often referred specifically to the Iroquois and made use of their rhetoric.

[He] loved to cite and to practice faithfully the proverb of his friends the American Indians, "Keep the chain of friendship bright and shining." [29]

As American ambassador to France, after Franklin, Jefferson had admired that nation's neat farming fields and the beauty of its music, but he reacted with a kind of smug horror when beggars gathered around his carriage nearly every time it stopped in a town or city. "Behold me at length on the vaunted scene of Europe," Jefferson wrote Charles Bellini.

You are perhaps curious to know how this new scene has struck a savage from the mountains of America. Not advantageously, I assure you. I find the general state of humanity here most deplorable. The truth of Voltaire's observation offers itself perpetually that every man here must be the hammer or the anvil. [30]

When Jefferson first arrived in Paris, the city was the largest in the Christian world, with a population of about 600,000. A fifth of the city's adult population was unemployed, a number larger than the total populations of New York, Boston and Philadelphia combined. Tens of thousands more were only marginally employed. "Of twenty millions of people supposed to be in France, I am of the opinion that there are nineteen millions more wretched, more accursed in every circumstance than the most conspicuously wretched individual of the whole United States," Jefferson wrote.[31]

In the realm of politics, moderate Tories often touted Britain's constitution of 1689 (as some modern American scholars are fond of tracing our ideological ancestry straight back to it). True, the commons had been granted a small measure of participation in government, but nearly a century later, at the time of the American Revolution, barely 5 per cent of the English population was allowed to vote.[32] The Crown still held an absolute veto over Parliament.

Thomas Paine, feeling the British government repressive, left England and came to America on the eve of the American Revolution to teach but he quickly was swept up in the events of the Revolution. Paine expressed his opinions of the British Constitution in Common Sense. He called the English constitution "the base remains of two ancient tyrannies, [the monarchy and the Peers] compounded with some new republican materials [the Commons].[33] No place, surely, to look for definitions of "life," "liberty," and "happiness" for a new nation being born. To Paine, America was "the only real republic, in character and practice, that now exists."[34]

Even after a revolution against the British, even after five to ten per cent of the former colonies' populations, the heart of the Tory opposition, had fled to Canada and England, the new United States had citizens who argued that the country's political system should be more explicitly modeled after Britain's. It was to them that Jefferson referred in his letter to Adams. They were in a minority, however. The United States was propelled into independence by a belief that a "new chapter" was opening in the affairs of humankind. The founders erected a national system with no singular precedent, but many, just as the United States became (and remains, even more so, in our day), a mixture of peoples and cultures. While those who founded the United States carried plentiful European cultural baggage, their writings at the time show that they reached out for other examples: to European antiquity, especially, and to societies native to America. Memories of one seemed, according to common intellectual assumptions of the time, to reinforce the reality of the other. American Indian societies were consistently cited as living examples of a distant European Golden Age -- to some they seemed Greek, or Roman, Celtic, or even Jewish.

Too much government and law bred tyranny, Jefferson reasoned. When comparing the governments of France and Britain to those of the American Indians, Jefferson left no doubt which he favored:

As for France, and England, with all their preeminence in science, the one is a den of robbers, and the other of pirates, as if science produces no better fruits than tyranny, murder, rapine and destitution of national morality. I would rather wish our country to be ignorant, honest and estimable as our neighboring savages. [35]

As they decried contemporary Europe, architects of the new nation such as Franklin, Jefferson and Paine described American Indian societies in ways strikingly similar to their visions of the state they hoped to erect, modified to suit a people of Old World ancestry. In many ways, these Revolutionary Americans were taking up the argument of American freedom where Roger Williams left off. All were pragmatic enough to understand that a utopian vision of a society based on natural rights could not be instantly grafted onto thirteen recent British colonies. Writing Madison January 30, 1787 from Paris, Jefferson examined three forms of societies:

  1. Without government, as among our Indians.
  2. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states in great one.
  3. Under governments of force, as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the [first] condition [the Indian way] is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. [36]

At the same time, most "Americans" (the word still sounded a little odd applied to people with European ancestors, rather than Indians) avidly sought relief not only from a raft of British taxes, but also to the entire European way of ordering society and government. This was to be Jefferson's "new chapter" in the history of humankind.

This attitude sometimes reached silly extremes. Jefferson once warned against sending America's brightest students to European universities, despite the rudimentary nature of most American schools at the time. George Washington refused to eat European wheat when American corn was available and, at least for a time, spurned European cloth in favor of homespun. Jefferson so loathed European class distinctions that as president he rather enjoyed getting seating assignments mixed up at state dinners, so he could watch various self-conscious aristocrats stumble over each other as they sought to settle the correct hierarchy at table.

Europe did have dreams of a better order -- it had copious books on the philosophy of natural rights, as well as utopian speculations about societies that did not stack themselves into hierarchies in which a wealthy minority starved the mass of citizens. If one wanted an example of European-descended humankind's best attempts to fashion such a government in practice, the United States was the place to look in the late eighteenth century. It was an experiment in carrying natural-rights philosophy -- much of which was based on observations of American native societies -- into the realm of practice among peoples of European extraction who had copious opportunities to observe the daily workings of "natural societies" on which European savants based their speculations. For those interested more in making than dreaming, America was a laboratory of natural-rights philosophy in its early years. "To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary to have some idea of the natural state of man, such as it is at this day among the Indians of North America," wrote Thomas Paine.[37]

Not only was America distinct from Europe, but Britain, according to Franklin, had no right under natural law to claim land in the New World. To support his position, Franklin used an argument strikingly similar to that which he had often heard (or read) native Americans make at treaty councils as he started his diplomatic career in the 1750s. Franklin argued that the land belonged to its native inhabitants by natural right. The colonists could lay clam to portions of it by negotiating a transfer of ownership (by treaty), or by winning it in war. The mere claim of a European secular or religious sovereign was not enough. Franklin supported his reasoning by observing that the French astronomer Cassini had just discovered a previously unnamed region on the moon through his telescope, and named it Louisiana, after Louis XIV:

By a successful War, perhaps, we might oblige Louis to give it up, and agree that, henceforth, in all maps of the Moon [it] be called Nova Britannia, and be held by King George as Trustee for the People of Great Britain. But if the Englishmen could fly as well as sail, and arriving there should claim the country upon that Right, the native inhabitants, to acknowledge and submit to it[,] must be Lunatics indeed. [38]

Franklin's argument also was strikingly similar to that of Roger Williams a century and a half earlier. Franklin's argument was political and Williams' was religious when he stated that the Puritans' claim to land in the New World was invalid. Both invoked the Indians' title to America by natural right, and used this right as an example by which property rights should be governed.

While still in England, Franklin sponsored Thomas Paine's visit to America in 1774. Paine's ideas are a good example of the transference of New World ideas to the Old. Paine's Common Sense illustrated how imbued Americans were with the "self-evident" truths of natural rights. Paine's examples of free government in a natural state exemplified the need for religious freedom in America. Common Sense captured the essence of the American spirit by saying that civil and religious liberties stemmed from governments in a natural state. In discussing the origins of American government, Paine felt that a "convenient tree will afford . . . a State House, under which" the colonists "may assemble to deliberate on public matters." He believed that in the "first parliament every man by natural right will have a seat."[39]

"Among the Indians," wrote Paine, "There are not any of those spectacles of misery that poverty and want present to our eyes in the towns and streets of Europe."[40] To Paine, poverty was a creation "of what is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. . . . The life of an Indian is a continual holiday compared to the poor of Europe."[41] As one who sought to mold the future in the image of the natural state, Paine admired the Indians' relatively equal distribution of property, but he realized it impossible "to go from the civilized to the natural state."[42] Years after the Easton Treaty, Paine recalled an anecdote told by a chief called "King Lastnight" at the meeting. In criticizing the viability of British naval might on North American soil, the chief said that "The King of England is like a fish, when he is in the water he can wag his tail. When he comes on land he lays down on his side."[43]

With knowledge of the natural state, however, Paine, with Franklin and Jefferson, could attain what Franklin called "happy mediocrity," a compromise between the nearly-pure democracy of the Indian nations (with their egalitarian distribution of property) and the "rack-rented" hierarchies of Europe. The "natural state" of the Indian, as they became familiar with it, could be used as a cultural influence to lighten Europe's cultural baggage in America. What emerged was a republican form of government (representative, not direct, democracy) with a relatively flat (but hardly absent) class structure, allowing people to rise or fall by their own efforts in what Jefferson sometimes called an "aristocracy of merit."

While Jefferson, Franklin and Paine were too pragmatic to believe they could copy the "natural state," it was woven into our national ideological fabric early, and prominently. Jefferson wrote: "The only condition on earth to be compared with ours, in my opinion, is that of the Indian, where they have still less law than we."
[44] When Paine wrote that "government, like dress is the badge of lost innocence," and Jefferson that the best government governs least, they were recapitulating their observations of native American societies, either directly, or through the eyes of European philosophers such as Locke and Rousseau.

During the few years that Paine lived in America, he spent considerable time with American Indians, especially the Iroquois. On January 21, 1777, Paine was appointed by Philadelphia's Council of Safety as a commissioner to negotiate a treaty with the Iroquois and allied Indian nations at Easton, Pennsylvania. The commissioners toted a thousand dollars worth of presents with them to the Dutch Reformed Church in Easton where, by Paine's account, "after shaking hands, drinking rum, while the organ played, we proceeded to business."[45] Paine -- his prominent nose, lofty forehead, ruddy complexion and eyes that Charles Lee said shone genius -- was particularly well-known among the Senecas. John Hall, who emigrated from Leicester, England, to Philadelphia in 1785, recorded in his journal for April 15, 1786:

Mr. Paine asked me to go and see the Indian chiefs of the Sennaka Nation. I gladly assented. . . . Mr. Paine . . . made himself known . . . as Common Sense and was introduced into the room, addressed them as "brothers," and shook hands cordially[.] Mr. Paine treated them with 2s. bowl of punch. [46]

Jefferson's life was rich in association with native peoples, from childhood. His father, Peter Jefferson, was an avid naturalist who introduced young Thomas to Indian sachems who lodged at the family home on their way to or from official business in Williamsburg. Late in his life, in a series of published letters that reconciled the political differences of the two retired presidents, Jefferson wrote to John Adams that he believed his early contacts with Native Americans were an important influence on his development.

"Concerning Indians . . . in the early part of my life, I was very familiar, and acquired impressions of attachment and commiseration for them which have never been obliterated. Before the Revolution, they were in the habit of coming often and in great numbers to the seat of government where I was very much with them. I knew much the great Ontassete, the warrior and orator of the Cherokees; he was always the guest of my father, on his journey's to and from Williamsburg. [47, emphasis added]

Adams replied:

I also have felt an interest in the Indians, and a commiseration for them with my childhood. Aaron Pomham and Moses Pomham . . . of the Punkapang and Neponset tribes were frequent visitors at my father's house . . . and I, in my boyish rambles, used to call at their wigwam. [48]

Commenting on this process of reconciliation, Benjamin Rush wrote to Adams on February 12, 1812 that he hoped "the chain which now connects Quincy with Monticello continues to brighten by every post."[49]

Throughout his life, Jefferson frequently voiced respect for Native Americans. For example, in 1785 he wrote,

I am safe in affirming that the proofs of genius given by the Indians place them on a level with the whites. . . . I have seen some thousands myself, and conversed much with them. . . . I believe the Indian to be in body and mind equal to the white man. [50]

All during his life, Jefferson's political activities often delayed, but never diffused his interest in native societies. Entering Monticello, visitors in Jefferson's time were greeted in the Great Hall (or entry way) by walls laden with native American artifacts. Jefferson was especially interested in native languages. For more than twenty years after he first discussed Indians' languages in Notes on the State of Virginia [1782], Jefferson collected Indian vocabularies, doing work similar to that of Roger Williams.

By 1800, Jefferson was preparing to publish what would have been the most extensive vocabulary of Indian languages in his time. It also was the year Jefferson became president, so his work was delayed until he left office in 1808. Jefferson packed his research papers at the presidential residence, and ordered them sent to Monticello. Contained in the cargo were Jefferson's own fifty vocabularies, as well as several compiled by Lewis and Clark. Boatmen piloting Jefferson's belongings across the Potomac River ripped them open and, disappointed that they could find nothing salable, dumped the priceless papers into the river.[51]

Jefferson's Declaration of Independence placed its case not before the Christian God, but before "Nature's God," and "the Supreme Judge of the World." Like others of the revolutionary generation, Jefferson usually called the diety just about anything except "God," including "The Great Spirit," and even "the Great Legislator." Jefferson's naturalistic conception of the diety provided him with a sense of universal morality very much like that of Roger Williams. Indeed, it took a sense of universal morality to believe that "all men are created equal." In theory, at least, this belief cut across racial and sexual lines, and no doubt Jefferson would have approved of efforts in centuries after his to address the practical contradictions such theory presented in his own time. Jefferson himself owned slaves. In Jefferson's time, only the most radical of visionaries (Paine among them) advocated emancipation of women.

Believing in the universal morality of humankind, Jefferson had no objection to intermarriage between races. He, like Patrick Henry, occasionally promoted intermarriage with native peoples to create a "continental family." In January, 1802, Jefferson told an Indian delegation: "Your blood will mix with ours, and will spread, with ours, over this great island."[52] The reference to "this great island" could have been an Iroquois term: the Haudonesaunee origin story calls America "Turtle Island."

Patrick Henry even advocated state subsidies for Indian-white marriages. In the fall of 1784, he introduced such a measure into the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill directed the state to pay an unspecified sum for the marriage, and an additional sum on the birth of each child. In addition, Henry proposed that Indian-white couples live tax-free. Henry pushed the bill with his usual enthusiasm and oratorical flourish as it survived two readings. By the time it reached third reading, Henry had been elected governor of Virginia. Without him in the House of Delegates, the intermarriage bill died.[53]

As Americans, and as revolutionaries who believed in a universal moral sense for all peoples, the backs of Franklin, Jefferson and Paine bristled at suggestions that nature had dealt the New World an inferior hand. Under the guise of science, so-called "degeneracy theories" had gained some currency in Europe during the late eighteenth century. This particular school of pseudo-science was pressed into service as a justification for colonialism in much the same way that craniology (which linked intelligence to the volume of a race's skulls) would be a century later.

Jefferson wrote Notes on the State of Virginia in part to refute the assertions of France's Comte de Buffon, and others, that the very soil, water and air of the New World caused plants and animals (including human beings) to grow less rapidly and enjoy less sexual ardor than their Old World counterparts. The ongoing debate over the innate intelligence of American Indians also was factored into this debate, with de Buffon, et. al. asserting inferiority. Jefferson took the lead in countering the degeneracy theorists, maintaining that native peoples of America enjoyed mental abilities equal to Europeans. In Notes on Virginia, Jefferson used the eloquent speech of Logan (delivered after whites had massacred his family) as evidence that American Indians were not short on intelligence and compassion.[54] Portions of this speech were introduced to millions of elementary-school pupils during the nineteenth century in McGuffy's Readers.

America's revolutionaries never missed a shot at turning such theories on their heads. While serving as ambassador to France, Jefferson was fond of relating a dinner attended by Franklin, a few other Americans, and French degeneracy-theory advocates while Franklin was representing the new nation in France. Franklin listened to Abbe Raynal, a well-known proponent of American degeneracy, describe how even Europeans would be stunted by exposure to the New World. Franklin listened quietly, then simply asked the French to test their theory "by the fact before us. Let both parties rise," Franklin challenged, "and we shall see on which side nature has degenerated." The table became a metaphorical Atlantic Ocean. The Americans, on their feet, towered over the French. "[The] Abbe, himself particularly, was a mere shrimp," Jefferson smirked.[55]

Jefferson complained that traditional university curricula, based on European precedents, did not pay enough attention to the natural history and cultures of the Americas and Africa. When Jefferson designed a curriculum for the University of Virginia, he included traditional European subjects, and added courses in American Indian cultures and languages.[56] To Jefferson, control of educational content was just one more way in which British mercantile-imperialism sought to dominate (and often exterminate) native peoples, from Ireland, to Africa, to America, "wherever Anglo-mercantile cupidity can find a two-penny interest in deluging the world with human blood."[57]

Franklin used his image of Indians and their societies to critique Europe for him:

The Care and Labour of providing for Artificial and fashionable Wants, the sight of so many Rich wallowing in superfluous plenty, while so many are kept poor and distress'd for want; the Insolence of Office . . . [and] restraints of Custom, all contrive to disgust them [Indians] with what we call civil Society. [58]

Men who held such ideas would not seek to transplant England's political system to America intact. Jefferson himself argued that the United States was a combination of Old and New World ideological materials.

Every species of government has its own specific principles. . . . Ours perhaps is more peculiar than any other in the universe. It is a composition of the freest principle[s] of the English constitution, and others derived from natural right and natural reason. [59]

American Indians and their societies figured into conceptions of life, liberty, and happiness in the mind of Jefferson, who authored the phrase in the Declaration of Independence, and Franklin, who operated in many ways as Jefferson's revolutionary mentor. A major debate at the time resulted in the phrase "happiness" being substituted for "property," in which the two founders' description of American Indian societies played a provocative role.[60] Both sought to create a society that operated as much as possible on consensus and public opinion, while citing the same mechanisms in native societies. Both described Indians' passion for liberty while making it a patriotic rallying cry; they admired Indians' notions of happiness while seeking a definition that would suit the new nation. Franklin turned for help to all "the Indians Indians of North America not under the dominion of the Spaniards," who

are in that natural state, being restrained by no Laws, having no Courts, or Ministers of Justice, no Suits, no prisons, no governors vested with any Legal Authority. The persuasion of Men distinguished by Reputation of Wisdom is the only Means by which others are govern'd, or rather led -- and the State of the Indians was probably the first State of all Nations. [61]

Jefferson called up the same images in his Notes on Virginia in a section that was inserted into the 1787 edition while the Constitutional Convention met. The native Americans, wrote Jefferson, had never

[s]ubmitted themselves to any laws, any coercive power and shadow of government. Their only controls are their manners, and the moral sense of right and wrong. . . . An offence against these is punished by contempt, by exclusion from society, or, where the cause is serious, as that of murder, by the individuals whom it concerns. Imperfect as this species of control may seem, crimes are very rare among them. [62]

The lesson here seemed clear to Jefferson:

Insomuch that it were made a question, whether no law, as among the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans, submits man to the greater evil, one who has seen both conditions of existence would pronounce it to be the last. [63]

Jefferson discussed the political system of the Iroquois Confederacy in his Notes on Virginia, then diffused his observations and ideas to many influential people, including Marquis de LaFayette, James Madison and Franklin. Notes ran through several editions, was quickly translated into French, and proved popular enough to be pirated.[64] The book was current reading in the United States at the time of the Constitutional Convention, a period that Jefferson himself spent in France.[65]

Jefferson's discussion of native political systems was elaborated in some editions by the notes of Charles Thomson, who also served as secretary to the Continental Congress beginning in 1774. As a young man, Thomson was adopted into the Delaware Nation in 1757. The Delawares called him Wegh-wu-law-mo-end or "the man who tells the truth." Thomson also witnessed a Delaware and Mohawk condolence ceremony two decades before American independence.[66]

It was Thomson who faithfully recorded the ceremony bestowing an Iroquois name on John Hancock in 1776, one example of the legacy his interest in native America left us in archival documents. Years after the American Revolution, Benjamin Rush asked Thomson to write a history of the American Revolution, but Thomson declined saying

I ought not, for I shall contradict all histories of the great events of the Revolution, and shew by my account of men, motives and measures, that we are wholly indebted to providence for its successful issue. Let the world admire the supposed wisdom and valor of our great men. Perhaps they may adopt the qualities that have been ascribed to them, and thus good be done. I shall not undeceive future generations. [67]

According to his biographer, Thomson is also believed to have been an author of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which set forth ways for new states to join the union, a procedure without recent European precedent which operates much like that of the Iroquois League, with the white roots of its great white pine spreading out to shelter new peoples who forsake war with each other and unify under the shade of the symbolic national tree. Thomson also used his annotations in Jefferson's Notes on Virginia to get in his critique of European degeneracy theories, citing "Monsieur Buffon" by name, and stating that nearly all Iroquois, and most Delawares (Lenapi) were taller than Europeans. This particular footnote went on for four pages of dense, eight or nine-point type.[68]

Notes on Virginia listed all the native tribes and nations Jefferson then knew, "according to their confederacies."[69] Thomson's footnotes also contained detailed descriptions of the native confederacies in present-day Maryland and Virginia. This particular footnote, which runs across the bottom two thirds of six pages, again in dense type, then describes the "Mingo" (which Thomson equates with the Iroquois) Confederacy, including description of the system of "elder" and "younger" brothers.[70]

Writing to Edward Carrington in 1787, Jefferson linked freedom of expression with public opinion as well as happiness, citing American Indian societies as an example:

The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, our very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter. . . . I am convinced that those societies [as the Indians] which live without government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under European governments. [71]

"Without government" could not have meant without social order to Jefferson. He, Franklin and Paine all knew native societies too well to argue that native Americans functioned totally without social cohesion, in the classic Noble Savage image as autonomous wild men of the woods. All three had experience with native leaders as treaty negotiators, a peer relationship. Throughout the revolutionary war, and into the early years of the United States, major native nations which bordered the colonies (later the United States) were a major focus of the nation's statecraft. It was clear that the Iroquois, for example, did not organize a confederacy with alliances spreading over much of Eastern North America "without government." They did it, however, with a non-European conception of government, one of which Jefferson, Paine and Franklin were appreciative students who sought to factor "natural law" and "natural rights" into their designs for the United States during the revolutionary era.

Jefferson provided this description of Indian governance, which in some respects resembled the one the United States was erecting in his time, the pattern of states within a state that the founders called federalism:

The matters which merely regard a town or family are settled by the chief and principal men of the town; those which regard a tribe . . . are regulated at a meeting or a council of the chiefs from several towns; and those which regard the whole nation . . . are deliberated on and determined at a national council. [72]

By using "men," Jefferson glossed over the fact that women also played an important role in many of the Indian nations that bordered the new nation. In analyzing the nature of Native American polities, Jefferson rather accurately described the deliberations of native national councils which could have been drawn from many of the New England tribes, the Iroquois, Hurons, Cherokees, or Choctaws. He probably was making a generalized statement about most of the Indian nations he knew. Each Indian nation had its meetinghouse for government business, where:

[in] council, it is common for the chiefs of the several tribes to consult thereupon with their counsellors, and when they have agreed, to deliver the opinion of the tribe at the national council; and, as their government seems to rest wholly on persuasion, they endeavor, by mutual concessions, to obtain unanimity. [73]

Jefferson denied reports that Indian sachemships were inherited, like European royal titles: "The sachem or chief of the tribe seems to be by election."[74] Jefferson tended to ignore subtleties which distinguished the passage of power in native societies from pure election and inheritance. The Iroquois, for example, elected sachems from within bounds of families as defined by traditional titles that were inherited by the clan or extended family, not the individual. Sachems also were "raised" to the Iroquois Grand Council solely on the basis of merit, as defined by the clan mothers and sitting sachems, not the general population. The native leaders that Roger Williams knew best seem to have been acclaimed to their positions from within a family line. Jefferson's point that public opinion played more of a role in selection of native leaders than European monarchs was accurate, however.

Franklin's Articles of Confederation [1775] resembled the political structure of the Iroquois and other native nations that bordered the thirteen colonies. Down to the language Franklin used (the confederacy was called "a firm league of friendship"), the new states (Franklin still called them "colonies") retained powers similar to those of the individual tribes and nations within many native confederacies -- local problems were to be solved by the local unit of government best suited to their nature, size and scope, while national problems, such as diplomacy and defense, were to be handled by the national government. This notion of "federalism" was very novel to European eyes at that time. Among native peoples in America, the idea was so old that we have no record of when it first came into use.

The Articles of Confederation also contained a similarity to the Iroquois and other confederations because it had difficulties in levying taxes with any degree of authority. With the aid of historical hindsight, one may argue that the founders, in establishing the first confederation of states, erred in their judgement of just how much "natural law" a gaggle of thirteen former English colonies could absorb. Like many native confederacies, their first attempt at government had a very weak executive -- not a problem if a legislative body strives for genuine consensus, but potentially paralyzing in a system more attuned to reconciling competing special interests, as the United States' evolved. The Articles contained another native mechanism intriguing to European eyes: a clause allowing for amendment, just as the Iroquois Great Law of Peace provides that new measures may be "added to the rafters" of the symbolic national longhouse. Like the Iroquois Great Law, Franklin's Articles provided means by which new people and territory could be brought into the confederacy. Franklin even mentioned Ireland as a possibility in that regard, showing his anti-British sentiments.

Alliance with the Iroquois was deemed so important by Franklin that he wrote into the Articles a provisions mandating it: "Their Limits to be secured to them; their land not to be encroached on." These provisions are analogous to provisions in Franklin's Albany Plan of 1754.[75] Franklin's draft also outlawed private land purchases along the frontier, a source of much friction between the colonies and Indian nations. It also ordered that future land transactions be negotiated directly between the national government and the Iroquois Grand Council in Onondaga.

Franklin's draft of the Articles also contained some novelties that were his alone: one proposed that the national council meet in a different colony (later state) each year, until each had been represented.

During the spring of 1775, as Franklin and others were pondering the governing document for the unifying colonies, serious skirmishes took place at Lexington and Concord. At Albany, Pittsburgh, and several other points along the frontier, colonial representatives met secretly with native leaders, hoping to procure their alliance, or at least neutrality, in the coming war with Great Britain. All the colonial commissioners delivered variations on a speech written by Franklin, among others.[76]

The most dramatic example of the influence of Iroquois political theories on Americans occurred in the summer of 1775 at a conference in New York. This conference was so important that a delegate from the Continental Congress, Philip Schuyler, attended. At German Flats, New York on August 15, 1775, treaty commissioners from the Continental Congress met with the sachems and warriors of the Six Nations to acquaint the Iroquois with the "United Colonies dwelling upon this Island."[77]

After some preliminaries, the sachems and treaty commissioners began their deliberations in earnest on August 24, 1775 at Cartwright's Tavern in Albany, New York (see figure 32). According to protocol, the commissioners asked the sachems to appoint a speaker, but the sachems deferred to the commissioners so the Americans picked Abraham, a Mohawk, adopted brother and successor to Hendrick.[78] On the next day, the Treaty Commissioners (who had specific instructions from John Hancock and the Second Continental Congress) told the sachems that they were heeding the advice Iroquois forefathers had given to the colonial Americans at Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1744. At this point, the commissioners quoted Canassatego's words:

Brethren, We the Six Nations heartily recommend Union and a good agreement between you our Brethren, never disagree but preserve a strict Friendship for one another and thereby you as well as we will become stronger. Our Wise Forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations . . . we are a powerful Confederacy, and if you observe the same methods . . . you will acquire fresh strength and power. [79]

The Americans then said that their forefathers had rejoiced to hear Canassatego's words which sank

deep into their Hearts, the Advice was good, it was Kind. They said to one another, the Six Nations are a wise people, let us hearken to their Council and teach our children to follow it. Our old Men have done so. They have frequently taken a single Arrow and said, Children, see how easy it is broken, then they have tied twelve together with strong Cords -- And our strongest Men could not break them -- See said they -- this is what the Six Nations mean. Divided a single Man may destroy you -- United, you are a match for the whole World. [80]

In this statement, the commissioners were not just engaging in diplomatic protocol to flatter the Iroquois, but they were also actually summarizing a historical process of assimilating Iroquois ideas of unity that was expressed in subsequent meetings and in the papers of some of the Founding Fathers (Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson and Thomas Jefferson, for example). Indeed, the Americans talked of creating a government of federated unity as an alternative to colonial conquest. The Americans continued and thanked the "great God that we are all united, that we have a strong Confederacy composed of twelve Provinces." The American delegates also pointed out that they have "lighted a Great Council Fire at Philadelphia and have sent Sixty five Counsellors to speak and act in the name of the whole."[81]

Figure 32. In 1775, treaty commissioners at Albany recall the words of Canassatego. By John Kahionhes Fadden.

On August 26, 1775, the Commissioners stated: "We the Delegates from the twelve United provinces [Georgia had not yet joined the Continental Congress] now sitting in Congress at Philadelphia send this talk to you." The Americans then proceeded to explain the source of their grievances with the British that the colonies were "necessitated to rise and forced to fight or give up our Civil Constitution." They go on to say that "We do not take up the Hatchet . . . for Honor and Conquest, but to maintain our Civil Constitution and religious privileges."
[82] After arguing for Iroquois neutrality for several days, the commissioners asserted,

We live upon the same Ground with you -- the same Island is our common Birthplace. We desire to sit down under the same Tree of Peace with you; let us water its roots Cherish its growth, till the large leaves and flourishing Branches shall extend to the setting Sun and reach the Skies. [83]

During the deliberations on August 28 the Americans asked the Iroquois to maintain their neutrality and presented them with a white wampum belt. Next, they summarized their position by noting that when this

Island began to shake and tremble along the Eastern Shore, and the Sun darkened by a Black Cloud which arose from beyond the great water, we Kindled up a Great Council Fire at Philadelphia . . . so . . . that . . . we are now twelve Colonies united as one Man. . . . And . . . As God has put it into our hearts to love the Six Nations and their allies we now make the chain of friendship so that nothing but an evil spirit can or will attempt to break it. But we hope thro' the Favor and Mercy of the good Spirit that it will remain strong and bright while the Sun shines and the Water runs. [84]

After this statement, the Americans delivered a Union Belt to the Iroquois sachems. The commissioners then gave the chiefs a Path Belt, the pipe of peace and six small strings, the treaty commissioners from the Second Continental Congress asked that "this our good talk remain at Onondago your Central Council House. That you may hand down to the latest posterity these Testimonials of the brotherly Sentiments of the twelve United Colonies towards their Brethren of the Six Nations and their Allies."[85] The use of Iroquois imagery had its diplomatic purpose, but it also showed that the delegates were absorbing Iroquois governmental ideas.

After several days of deliberation over what was said, the Iroquois sachems spoke to the commissioners on August 31, 1775. Abraham, the speaker, reviewed the statements of the Americans and said that the various belts would be placed at Onondaga "to refresh our Memories." In discussing Canassatego's speech, Abraham stated that a brother of Canassatego "is here present and remembers the Words of his Brother." Abraham also reiterated that "your Grandfathers had inculcated the Doctrine into their Children." Abraham then noted the invitation to come down to the place where the Tree of Peace was planted and "sit under it and water its roots, till the Branches should flourish and reach to Heaven." He asserted that, "This the Six Nations say shall be done."

Abraham also agreed that the Iroquois should stay out of the "family quarrel" between the colonies and England. He also stated that the Iroquois would hang up the belts at Onondaga that were presented at this meeting so that "future generations may call to mind the covenant now made between us." The Mohawk Sachem also assured the Americans that "we shall send and inform all our neighbouring Council fires of the Matters now transacted."[87]

The Iroquois were also concerned that the Americans maintain the Council Fire and the Great Tree of Peace properly. Abraham stated that there must be "some person appointed to watch it." Also, the person that watches this "Council Fire is to be provided with a Wing, that he may brush off all Insects that come near it and keep it clean." Abraham instructed the Americans that this "is the Custom at our Central Council House, we have one appointed for that purpose."[88]

Obviously, this was an allusion to Tadodaho, the presiding officer of the Confederacy (the Iroquois were quite concerned about the nature of the American presidency and demonstrated it during their visit to Congress in 1776). By this time it was obvious that the Iroquois and the Americans were conscious of the similarities between the Iroquois Confederacy and the Continental Congress.

On September 1, 1775, the treaty commissioners answered the speech of Abraham by stating that they "return Thanks to the great Governor of the Universe that he has inclined your hearts to approve and accept of the brotherly Love offered to you." Furthermore, the Americans noted that it "makes us happy to hear so wise and brave a people, as our Brothers of the Six Nations, publickly declare their" desire to "maintain and support peace and Friendship with the twelve united Colonies." The conference was subsequently concluded after an extended discussion of neutrality and land disputes. The Americans promised to refer the land dispute matters to "the Grand Congress at Philadelphia." Gifts were then distributed as the Iroquois prepared to go back to Onondaga.[89]

In the fall of 1775, the Continental Congress sent a delegation to speak with the Six Nations and the western nations (Shawnees, Wyandots, and others) at Fort Pitt in western Pennsylvania. Like the Albany Conference, the Continental Congress insisted on sending a delegate from the Continental Congress. James Wilson was the delegate who represented the Congress. The council at Fort Pitt mirrored the earlier conference at Albany. The Continental Congress was called "our Great United Council of Wise Men . . . at Philadelphia." The Americans spoke of transplanting "The Tree of Peace." Iroquois imagery was also quoted to explain the unity of the colonies. The "thirteen great colonies," they said, were united "by one lasting Chain of Friendship," and they were not to be considered as "Distinct Nations, but as one great and strong man."[90] Offering peace and friendship to the assembled chiefs, the Americans stated that they desired to "bury in oblivion all that has past; and brighten the Chain of friendship."[91] Years later, Wilson would recall these concepts in detail during the debates at the Constitutional Convention.[92]

The Albany and Fort Pitt Conferences are notable because the imagery of the Iroquois League was used repeatedly not only for the sake of diplomatic protocol when dealing with the Iroquois but also in the comparisons to the new "Grand Council" at Philadelphia. It is also noteworthy because they demonstrate that Iroquois instructions about unity as early as 1744 were remembered and heeded.

The process of cultural transference of Iroquois political theory had now come full circle. Colonists were not only reading Locke and Rousseau but had also used the practical counsel of Iroquois sachems over several generations. Democracy and unity were not just intellectual abstractions to the American patriots but were also functioning concepts among the Iroquois. In the summer of 1776, it took King George III six weeks -- the speed of sail across the Atlantic -- to find out just how seriously his former subjects were taking America's example of life, liberty and happiness, by the light of natural rights.

Indeed, David Ramsay, physician, politician and one of the first chroniclers of the American Revolution, felt that geography and the American environment were very important in shaping American character. His opinion was that "the natural seat of freedom" was "among the high mountains and pathless deserts . . . of America."

The distance of America from Great Britain generated ideas in the minds of the colonists favorable to liberty. . . . Colonists growing up to maturity, at such an immense distance from the seat of government, perceived the obligation of dependence much more feebly, than the inhabitants of the parent isle, who not only saw but daily felt, the fangs of power. [93]

Ramsay also believed that principles of government were radically changed during the revolution and the political character of the people was altered. In 1802, he stated that the

political character of the people was also changed from subjects to citizens . . . [A] a citizen is [by definition] a unit of a mass of free people which collectively possess sovereignty . . . [and each] . . . contains within himself by nature and the constitution as much of the common sovereignty as another. [94]

One of the symbols of equality and liberty in the American environment was the American Indian. Franklin, Jefferson and Paine were all acquainted with some of the fundamental concepts of the Iroquois and other American Indian societies. They used such concepts in their discourse to stress that the American experience was different from many of the European values that they found lacking. Their critique found a ready audience in the American people during the American Revolution. Native American images and the ideas associated with them became so embedded in the American experience that societies where Euroamericans dressed, spoke and danced as American Indians sprang up. Thus, the elites and common people of America shared a common goal in changing the identity and government of the American people.


  1. "Ethnology of the Iroquois Indians of U.S. and Canada," in William N. Fenton Papers, Box entitled: Correspondence from field, 1939-1941 and Reports to Matthew W. Sterling, 1939-1951 in Manuscript # 20, American Philosophical Society.

  2. "Benjamin Franklin's Marginalia, 1770," in Labaree, ed., Franklin Papers, Vol. 17, p. 381.

  3. For Hancock's speech see Worthington C. Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904-1905), III, 433. See also "Richard Smith's Diary, Saturday, December 16, 1775, in Letters of the Delegates, II, 492 for White Eyes' reply. Robert Treat Paine to Joseph Palmer, January 1, 1776 in Smith, ed., Letters of the Delegates to Congress (Washington: GPO, 1976-), III, p. 5.

  4. Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), II, p. 226.

  5. Benjamin Labaree, ed., Franklin Papers, XXII, p. 357, and Eric P. Newman, "Franklin Making Money More Plentiful," in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, CXV, 5, p. 347. A generation earlier, Franklin advocated colonial unity in 1754 with the slogan "Join, or die" under a disjointed snake (each piece of the snake had the name of a colony). The cartoon appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette, May 9, 1754. Evidence of the embedding of American Indian Ideas into Euroamerican society can be seen in the design of money and the creation of patriotic societies like the Tammany society even before the Revolution. During the Revolution, the process accelerated. Franklin's knowledge of American Indian ideas was acknowledged by the Tammany society through their frequent references to "Anecdotes of Franklin" in the early meetings of the Tammany society. See "Society of St. Tammany, Constitution and Roll of Members," in Manuscript Division, New York Public Library. The symbol of the silver chain with thirteen links has gone unnoticed as an Iroquois symbol in American history, but the Tammany society clearly used it in an American Indian context. See Benjamin DeWitt, "An Account of the Internment of the Remains of 11,500 American Seamen . . . Who Fell victim to the Cruelties of the British on Board Their Prison Ships at Wallabout During the American Revolution," (1808), p. 66 (Pamphlet in Library Company of Philadelphia).

  6. See John Adams, Thoughts on Government: Applicable to the Present State of American Colonies (1776) in Charles F. Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams (Boston: Little Brown, 1851), IV, 189-200 and Butterfield, ed., The Book of Abigail and John (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975), p. 115. Throughout the summer of 1775, John Adams had met with the Iroquois missionary, Reverend Samuel Kirkland (an ardent supporter of the American cause), to develop a diplomatic strategy to insure Iroquois neutrality. Kirkland was very knowledgeable about the Iroquois confederacy. He had frequent visits from the sachems of the Iroquois confederacy, and he probably related routinely their behavior and habits to the curious John Adams. See Walter Pilkington, ed., The Journals of Samuel Kirkland (Clinton, New York: Hamilton College, 1980), p. 120 for Adams reference, and see pp. 93-114 for extent of Kirkland's travels and knowledge of Iroquois leaders. It should also be kept in mind that Adams was receiving intelligence about the Iroquois during 1776, see Robert. J. Taylor, ed., Papers of John Adams (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977-), IV, p. 129. Adams did not forget what he learned about the Iroquois. While pondering the restructuring of American government in 1786-1787, Adams would write that collecting the legislation "of the Indians would be well worth the pains" in the process of creating a new constitution. See John Adams, Defence of the Constitutions of the Government of the United States of America (Philadelphia: Hall and Sellers, 1787), p. xvii. For examples of the "conservative" and "virtuous" aspects inherent in the evolution of American government, see Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969) and Joyce O. Appleby, Materialism and Morality in the American Past (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1974). It is important to understand that the difference between Americans and Europeans is not just the American Indian factor but also the nature of land ownership. Most moderate American revolutionaries (using the Whig view of history) felt that the British Crown was usurping their human and property rights as Englishmen. Some like Adams would eventually argue that the tribal structures or "Ancient Societies" before the institution of feudal monarchies were important governmental examples to examine in a search for a more virtuous and non-autocratic political system. In this way, the discussion of "Ancient Societies" can been seen as an extension of the desire to "return" to a simpler and more virtuous structure in order to eliminate the tyranny of the British monarchy from the American Constitutional system. As we shall see in a subsequent chapter, Benjamin Franklin believed that Americans should forsake even more British traditions than just the monarchy. Franklin would voice criticism of the British and indeed, all European governmental systems, because he believed them inapplicable to the American experience, see Benjamin Franklin's statement at the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787, in Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), I, p. 450.

  7. Daniel J. Boorstin, America and the Image of Europe, (New York: Meridian Books, 1960), p. 19.

  8. Peter Gay, "Enlightenment Thought and the American Revolution," in John R. Howe, ed., The Role of Ideology in the American Revolution, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970), p. 48.

  9. See Benjamin Franklin, "The Internal State of North America," [1786] in J.R. Pole, ed., The Revolution in America, 1754-1788, (London: MacMillan, 1970), p. 573.

  10. Thomas Paine, "Letter to Abbe Raynal on the Affairs of North America," in Moncure D. Conway, ed., Writings of Thomas Paine, (New York, Putnam's ,1894-1896), II, p. 105.

  11. Thomas Jefferson to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826, in Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert E. Bergh, eds., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: Jefferson Memorial Associates, 1903), XVI, p. 181-82; Jefferson to Carrington, January 16, 1787, in Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, (Princeton, , N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1950 -- ), XI, p. 49; H. A. Washington, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (New York: John K. Riker, 1854), I, p. 444.

  12. Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time, Volume 3: Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty, (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1962), pp. 265-66.

  13. Henry Steele Commager, Jefferson, Nationalism and the Enlightenment, (New York: George Braziller, 1975), p. 119.

  14. See Samuel Adams to John Adams, Philadelphia, January 15, 1776 in Smith, ed. Letters of Delegates, III, pp. 93-94, and Jennings B. Saunders, The Evolution of Executive Departments of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1935), pp. 3-4. For a discussion of the evolution of the Albany Plan into the Articles of Confederation, see Julian P. Boyd, Anglo-American Union: Joseph Galloway's Plan to Preserve the British Empire, 1774-1788 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1935).

  15. Worthington C. Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress (Washington: GPO, 1904-1907), VI, pp. 1086-1088. By July of 1776, the public mind had been prepared for independence by Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Franklin had played a key role in "furnishing materials for this work" (see "William Temple Franklin's Notes on Franklin's life" in Franklin Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. For Franklin's knowledge of the Iroquois before the Albany Plan of Union (1754), see Labaree, ed., Franklin Papers, V, p. 272 (Colden), and see also Van Doren, ed., Indian Treaties, p. 128. Indeed, Franklin asserts that the debates on the Albany Plan "went on daily, hand in hand with the Indian business," see Bigelow, ed., Autiobiography of Benjamin Franklin, p. 295.

  16. See "Richard Smith's Diary, March 11, 1776," in Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates, III, p. 368.

  17. Richard Henry Lee to General Charles Lee, Philadelphia, May 27, 1776 in Collections of the New York Historical Society (New York: Printed For the Society, 1868-1949), V, p. 46, Caesar Rodney to Thomas Rodney, Philadelphia , May 28, 1776 in Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates, IV, p. 99, Ibid., IV, p. 281, and Pennsylvania Gazette, May 29, 1776.

  18. See Charles Thomson's "History of the Articles of Confederation," (this work was secret during the revolution) in Papers of the Continental Congress,1774-1789 in National Archives (M247, Roll 22, Item No. 9 for a June 11, 1776 notation entitled "Resolved that a Committee be appointed to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between these Colonies;" on the next day, Thomson noted that committee members were appointed. By July 12, 1776, Thomson notes that Article II of the draft of the Articles of Confederation stated that the "Colonies Unite themselves so as to never be divided by any act whatsoever, and hereby severally enter into a firm League of friendship with each other." This phraseology is similar to the Canassatego speech of 1744 at Lancaster that was reiterated by the Americans at the Albany conference of 1775. See also "Josiah Bartlett's Notes on the Plan of Confederation," [June 12-July 12? 1776] (notice heading in Barlett's notes entitled: "By the Albany Plan") in Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates, IV, pp. 199-201. It is probable that Bartlett started these notes the day after the Iroquois chiefs named John Hancock, the "Great Tree" in Congress. Also see Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates, IV, p. 252, editorial note. This editorial note states "there can be no doubt that the members of the committee began their work with a copy of Benjamin Franklin's Proposed Articles of Confederation before them, for which see Ford, ed. Journals, II, p. 195-199. Several passages from Franklin's plan can be found verbatim in the Bartlett and Dickinson drafts and many others survive with slight variations. Indeed, . . . the 4th, 7th, 8th and 12th of Franklin`s Thirteen Articles are conspicuously incorporated into the committee's work."

  19. For more detail regarding the naming of Hancock by the Onondagas, see Ford, ed., Journals, V, p. 430. In this ceremony, the Iroquois sachems are resolving their concern about the nature of the executive in the Continental Congress that they expressed in the previous year at the August 31, 1775 treaty meeting at Albany, New York (see "Proceedings . . . with the Six Nations, 1775," Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774-89, National Archives (M247, Roll 144, Item No. 134). It is also interesting to note that Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration of Independence) and James Wilson (principal author of the first draft of the Constitution) were on the Standing Committee on Indian Affairs in the Continental Congress during 1776 (see Ford, ed., Journals, VI, p. 1050). Formal and informal relations with the Iroquois continued throughout the revolutionary era. An Oneida woman, Polly Cook, served as George Washington's cook during the revolution. The Oneidas also brought corn to Washington's troops during the bitter winter at Valley Forge thus enabling the Continental Army to survive. See Cara Richards, The Oneida People, (Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series, 1974), pp. 53-54.

  20. John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 10, 1776, in Butterfield, ed., Book of Abigail and John , p. 143.

  21. John Adams, Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (Philadelphia ed., Hall & Sellers, March 1787), pp. xv-xvi.

  22. Ford., Journals of the Continental Congress, V, p. 573. While the Iroquois did not concern themselves with people reading during their Confederacy meetings, they did insist on proper respect and decorum during debates. No Iroquois Speaker could be interrupted. The Great Law is very explicit. It states: "No Lord [Sachem] shall ask a question of the body of Confederate Lords when they are discussing a case, question or proposition," see Arthur C. Parker, ed., The Constitution of the Five Nations (Albany: New York State Museum Bulletin, 1916), Section 13.

  23. As early as 1635, an Indian observer reported with disgust that in the Jamestown assembly everyone talked at once (in the style of the British commons). The Indian said that "wee doe not so in our Match-comaco [council]." [Francis L. Hawks, ed., Anon., 1635, A Relation of Maryland (New York: J. Sabin, 1865), pp. 38-39]. 150 years later, Benjamin Franklin would contrast the decorum and dignity of Native American "public Councils" and the disorder in the British House of Commons in a similar manner. See Benjamin Franklin, "Remarks on the Savages of North-America," in J. A. Leo Lemay, ed., Franklin: Writings (New York: Library of America, 1987), pp. 970-971.

  24. See Rush Notes in Smith, ed., Letters of the Delegates, V, 577-578.

  25. George W. Corner, ed., The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1948), pp. 121-122. Rush had a lifelong fascination with American Indians and noted his experiences with them in detail, see Ibid., passim.

  26. Gaillard Hunt and James Brown Scott, eds., The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America , Reported by James Madison . . . (New York: Oxford, 1920), p. 583.

  27. Pierre Jean George Cabanis, Oevres Posthumes de Cabanis (Paris: Firmin Didot, Pere et fils, 1825), V in "Notice Sur Franklin," p. 245-246. Apparently, Franklin was fond of using covenant chain rhetoric in England as well. Doctor Fothergill and his circle of English friends had given Franklin a silver cream pot in the 1760s or early 1770s with the inscribed motto "Keep bright the chain." See "Codicil to the Last Will and Testament of Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, June 23, 1789 in Series II, Reel 9 of Benjamin Franklin Papers in Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

  28. Ibid., V, p. 246. Actually, Franklin's knowledge of Iroquois Indians had preceded him since he had published an article entitled: "Mithologie et Morale Iroquoises," in Ephemerides du Citoyen, ou bibliotheque raissonnee des sciences morales et politiques, XI, Part 1, No., 3, 1769 in Library Company of Philadelphia. Ephemerides was the journal of the French physiocrats, who believed that wealth sprang primarily from the land, which included Quesnay, Du Pont de Nemours and others. The article was prefaced with comments that many people read "Mithologie et Morale Iroquoises" as a fable but the editors felt that its contents should be read very seriously. Franklin was often very frank with his French friends. As early as 1772, Franklin admitted that French admonitions of Independence was good advice to Americans. After reading the letters by Abraham Mansword (Barbeu Dubourg) in Ephemerides, V, No, 11, 1772, Franklin stated that the advice "is very good. I hope they will have more of it." See Benjamin Franklin to Pierre Samual du Pont de Nemours, June 15, 1772 in Labaree, ed., Franklin Papers, Vol. 19, pp. 177-178.

  29. Ibid., V, p. 256. After returning from France, Franklin, on July 26, 1786, The American Philosophical Society elected several of Franklin's European friends to its membership. The more notable new members included Cabanis, Condorcet, and La Rochefoucauld, see Pennsylvania Gazette, July 26, 1786.

  30. Thomas Jefferson to Charles Bellini, Paris, Sept. 30, 1785, in Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, VIII, p. 568.

  31. Carl Binger, Thomas Jefferson: A Well-tempered Mind (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1970), p. 309. For a similar observation of the poverty and injustice among the poor in France, see Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Fountainebleau, Oct. 28, 1785 in Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, VIII, pp. 681-683.

  32. Josiah Tucker, "Four Tracts on Political and Commercial Subjects," [1776], cited in Russell Barsh and Lawrence Henderson, The Road: Indian Tribes and Political Liberty, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 5.

  33. Thomas Paine, Common Sense [1776], in Merill Jensen, ed., Tracts of the American Revolution, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merill, 1967), p. 406.

  34. Philip S. Foner, ed., The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, (New York: Citadel Press, 1945), Vol. 1, p. 370.

  35. Lester J. Cappon, ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), Vol. 2, p. 291.

  36. Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, January 30, 1787, in Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, Vol. 11, pp. 92-93.

  37. Foner, Paine Writings, Vol. 1, p. 610,

  38. Labaree, eds., Franklin Papers, Vol. 20, pp. 119-120.

  39. Moncure D. Conway, ed., Writings of Thomas Paine, I, "Common Sense," p. 70, and John P. Reid, The Concept of Liberty in the Age of the American Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).

  40. Foner, Paine Writings, Vol. 1, p. 610.

  41. Ibid.

  42. Conway, "Common Sense," Writings of Paine, p. 70.

  43. New York Public Advertiser, August 15, 1807. "King Lastnight" is a fictitious name or pseudonym for an American Indian leader.

  44. Commager, Jefferson and the Enlightenment, p. 119.

  45. Daniel Conway, The Life of Thomas Paine, (New York: Putnam's, 1908), Vol. 1, p. 88.

  46. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 462.

  47. Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, June 11, 1812, Bergh, ed., Writings of Jefferson,, XI, p. 160.

  48. John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1812, Ibid., p. 288. Association with native leaders was rather routine in the late eighteenth century. On December 23, 1785, for example, John Adams wrote to Rufus King that "Joseph Brant was yesterday in the Drawing Room. The Ministerial Runners give out that he is come to demand Compensation for the Indian hunting grounds ceded by the English at the Peace of the United States, and to get something for himself as half pay as a Colonel." [Charles B. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), I, p. 118].

  49. Benjamin Rush to John Adams, February 12, 1812 in Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., The Papers of Benjamin Rush (Princeton: Princeton University Press), II, 1124. In subsequent correspondence to Adams, Rush referred to "Scotch Sachem' (Dr. John Witherspoon of New Jersey) in Benjamin Rush to John Adams, May 5, 1812, Ibid., II, 1132. Finally, in Benjamin Rush to John Adams, November 17, 1812, Rush refers to Isaac Norris of Pennsylvania as "Quaker Sachem," Ibid., II, 1167. Adams had talked of drawing a "veil" over history after the Declaration of Independence, perhaps he, Jefferson and Rush were taking the "veil" away in discussing the influence of American Indians on them and the use of the word "sachem" as a term of endearment for some of the early revolutionary leaders they knew.

  50. John P. Foley, ed., The Jefferson Cyclopedia (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1900), p. 422.

  51. Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, 20: 451-52.

  52. Saul K. Padover, The Complete Jefferson, (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1943), pp. 503-505.

  53. William Wirt, The Life of Patrick Henry, (Philadelphia: Desilver, Thomas & Co., 1836), pp. 258-59. In essence, Patrick Henry was advocating the creation of an American coureurs de bois. Henry's ideas build upon the policies advanced by Archibald Kennedy a generation earlier.

  54. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia [1784], in Nancy B. Black and Bette S. Weidman, White on Red, (Port Washington, N.Y: Kennikat Press, 1976), pp. 109-110.

  55. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson, (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1948), p. 307.

  56. Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time, Vol 1: Jefferson the Virginian, (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1948), p. 267.

  57. Binger, Jefferson, p. 100.

  58. Labaree ed,, Franklin Papers, Vol. 17, p. 381.

  59. Paul L. Ford, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1892-99), Vol. 3, pp. 189-190.

  60. The debate over "property" versus "happiness" as a natural right is developed more fully in Bruce E. Johansen, Forgotten Founders: Benjamin Franklin, the Iroquois, and the Rationale for the American Revolution (Boston: Harvard Common/Gambit, 1982), pp. 103-108.

  61. Marginal Notes in Allan Ramsay's Thoughts on the Origin and Nature of Government, cited in Staughton Lynd, Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism, (New York: Pantheon, 1968), p. 85.

  62. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia [1784], William Peden, ed., (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1955), p. 93.

  63. Ford, Jefferson Writings, Vol. 3, p. 195n.

  64. Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson, (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1904-1905), Vol. III, pp. 317-329.

  65. Ibid., p. 341.

  66. Charles Thomson to Samuel Rhodes, Easton, July 28, 1757 in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XX, 3, pp. 421-422.

  67. George W. Corner, ed., Autobiography of Benjamin Rush (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1948), p. 155.

  68. Ford, ed., Works of Jefferson, III, pp. 455-58. For Thomson's role in creating the Northwest Ordinance, see his most recent biographer, J. Edwin Hendricks, Charles Thomson and the Making of a New Nation, 1729-1824 (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1979). Paradoxically, the Northwest Ordinance would repudiate the inclusionary principles of the Iroquois Great Law since it assumed that American Indians would no longer be a part of a new United States (assuming the Iroquois would entertain such an idea).

  69. Ford, ed., Works of Jefferson, III, p. 496.

  70. Ibid., III, pp. 499-504. Thomson's footnotes in Notes on Virginia also cite Lewis Evans, Essays Containing An Analysis of the Middle British Colonies in America and of the Country of the Confederate Indians, published in 1755 by Benjamin Franklin and D. Hall. This account, available today in the Library Company of Philadelphia, contains a detailed analysis of the Iroquois and other native confederacies, which likely was condensed in Thomson's notes. Actually, the Mingo confederacy was not the same as the Iroquois confederacy. In the 1740s, the "Ohio Iroquois or Mingos" sought to emancipate themselves from the Council at Onondaga and kindle their own "fire" in the Ohio Region (Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia). By encouraging Iroquois people to emigrate to the Ohio region, the Iroquois Confederacy fostered a group of Indians "ostensibly Iroquois, but also including Fox Indians, Mahicans and the descendants of captives taken in earlier trade wars." Quoted from Michael N. McConnell, "Peoples "In Between": The Iroquois and the Ohio Indians, 1720-1768," in Daniel K. Richter and James P. Merrell, eds., Beyond the Covenant Chain: The Iroquois and Their Neighbors in Indian North America, 1600-1800 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1987), pp. 98-100.

  71. Jefferson to Carrington, January 16, 1787, in Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, Vol. 11, p. 49.

  72. Paul L. Ford, ed., Jefferson Writings , III, pp. 198-99n.

  73. Ibid.

  74. Ibid.

  75. "Franklin's Articles of Confederation, [1775]" in Ford, ed., Journals, II, pp. 195-199.

  76. Ibid., II, pp, 177-183. On July 18, 1775, John Hancock wrote General Philip Schuyler that "they have prepared a talk for the Indians, a copy of which I herewith transmit to you, Proper Belts are now [being prepared]. John Hancock to Gen. Philip Schuyler, July 18, 1775 in Philip Schuyler Papers, Manuscript Division, New York Public Library.

  77. "Proceedings of the Commissioners Appointed by the Continental Congress to Negotiate a Treaty with the Six Nations, 1775," Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774-89, National Archives (M247, Roll 144, Item No. 134). See Treaty Council at German Flats, New York, August 15, 1775. The use of the term "island" recalls the Iroquois term for North America, "Turtle Island."

  78. Ibid., August 24, 1775 at Albany, New York. Actually, Abraham is a surprising choice for speaker at the meeting. His adopted brother Hendrick was closely allied with Sir William Johnson. Johnson had met an courted Mary Brant, granddaughter of Hendrick in 1753. Since Mary Brant was from one of the very prominent Mohawk families and would later become a clan mother, it was through her and her political connections that Johnson was able to gain extensive influence on the affairs of the the Six Nations for a generation, see Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1972), pp. 30, 72-73.

  79. `Proceedings of the Commissioners . . . to . . . the Six Nations, August 25, 1775 at Albany, New York," Continental Congress Papers, 1774-1789, National Archives (M247, Roll 144, Item No., 134). The Americans here are using imagery found in Section 57 of the Great Law of Peace. Franklin popularized it through the revolutionary era. The eagle clutching a bundle of thirteen arrows on the United States Great Seal serves as a graphic reminder that the Iroquois advice was taken seriously by the colonists. See Parker, The Constitution of the Five Nations, Section 57.

  80. Ibid. Actually, the Americans were using the imagery of Section 57 of the Great Law of the Iroquois. This Iroquois image in the form of an eagle clutching arrows would later become a symbol of strength and sovereignty for the United States as it had been for the Iroquois (see J. N. B. Hewitt to Arthur C. Parker, September 11, 1912, J.N.B. Hewitt Letters, Box 2, NAA, Smithsonian Institution). In Francis Jennings, ed., The History and Culture of Iroquois Diplomacy (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1985), p. 122, there is some speculation that the "bundle of arrows" imagery as used by Sir William Johnson and subsequent United States Commissioners to express unity may have reflected "Indian custom or the fasces of ancient Rome." However, there is no evidence given to support the contention that this imagery was derived from the fasces of Rome.

  81. "Proceedings of the Commissioners . . . to . . . the Six Nations, August 25, 1775," Continental Congress Papers, 1774-1789, National Archives, (M247, Roll 144, Item No. 134). This imagery is from Section 3 of the Iroquois Great Law. See Parker, The Constitution of the Five Nations, Section 3.

  82. "Proceedings of the Commissioners . . . to . . . the Six Nations, August 26, 1775. Continental Congress Papers, 1774-1789, National Archives (M247, Roll 144, Item No. 134).

  83. Ibid., August 28, 1775. This imagery appears to be drawn from Section 2 of the Iroquois Great Law. See Parker, The Constitution of the Five Nations, Section 2.

  84. Ibid.

  85. Ibid.

  86. Ibid., August 31, 1775.

  87. Ibid. This reference is to the role of the Tadadaho (chief executive) of the Iroquois Confederacy. The imagery is from Section 4 of the Great Law. See Parker, The Constitution of the Five Nations, Section 4.

  88. "Proceedings of the Commissioners . . . to . . . the Six Nations, August 31, 1775," Continental Congress Papers, 1774-1789, National Archives (M247, Roll 144, Item No. 134)

  89. Ibid., September 1, 1775. For Euro-Americans and American Indians of the revolutionary era, this meeting was of enormous significance. See "American Chronology, Or list of Important . . . Events," in Columbian Magazine, IV, 1, (January, 1790), p. 5, where it is considered as one of the most important events leading to the revolution. See Timothy Pickering Papers in Massachusetts Historical Society, Reel 62 (December 5, 1794), p. 117 where Stockbridge and Oneida Indians showed Pickering a "talk from Congress by Mr. Hancock" dated 1775. For an excellent anthropological analysis of the Oneidas during this period, see Mary A. Druke, "Structure and Meanings of Leadership Among the Oneida Indians During the Mid-Eighteenth Century," (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Chicago, 1982)

  90. Robert L. Scribner and Brent Tarter, eds. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1973-1983), IV, pp. 175 & 187. For an example of James Wilson's depth of knowledge on Iroquois matters, see James Wilson to John Montgomery, Pittsburgh, August 24, 1775 in Paul H. Smith, ed., Letters of the Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789 (Washington: GPO, 1976-), I, p. 706. The Americans here are using the imagery of the Iroquois Great Law, Sections 1 and 59. See Parker, Constitution of the Five Nations, Sections 1 & 59. See also "Life of Blacksnake," in Lyman Draper Manuscripts, Wisconsin State Historical society, Series F, V. 16, p.113 for an account by Blacksnake, a Seneca.

  91. Scribner and Tarter, eds., Revolutionary Virginia, IV, p. 188. The reference here is to Section 65 of the Iroquois Great Law. See Parker, Constitution of the Five Nations, Section 65.

  92. Gaillard Hunt and James B. Scott, eds. The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America Reported By James Madison , p. 77. See also: John F. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania in the Olden Time (Philadelphia: E. Thomas, 1857), p. 570, Richard K. Matthews, The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson: A Revisionist View (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984), p. 143. and James E. Hendricks, Charles Thomson and the Making of the New Nation (Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1979). A few years after his adoption into the Delaware tribe, Thomson wrote An Enquiry into the Causes of he Alienation of the Delaware and Shawnee Indians from the British Interest (London: J. Wilkie, 1759). For Thomson's appendix, see Paul L. Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson (New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1904-1905), III, pp. 454-458, 498-504, and 508-509. It is significant that Jefferson wrote Notes on Virginia as a result of a request by Francois de Marbois. In 1784, Marbois and Madison visited the Iroquois while attending the Treaty at Fort Stanwix. Madison had taken an interest in American Indians early in life. During his childhood and student years, Madison had a trusted servant with the Saponi Indian name of "Sawney." In 1724 as a young man, "Sawney" had threatened the Virginians with the wrath of the Iroquois. Perhaps "Sawney" talked of the Iroquois League with Madison (see H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia (Richmond: The Colonial Press, 1918-1919), IV, pp. 76-77 & 80 and William T. Hutchinson and William M. E. Rachal, eds., The Papers of James Madison (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962-1985), I, pp. 42-43). Madison's papers also contain the earliest known version (January 20, 1775) of Logan's speech (Logan was a Mingo or part Iroquois who had suffered the death of his whole family at the hands of unscrupulous non-Indians). See Ibid., I, p. 136.

  93. David Ramsay, History of the American Revolution (London, J. Stockdale, 1793), I, p. 29.

  94. David Ramsay, "Dissertation on the Manner of Acquiring the Character and Privileges of a Citizen of the United States," [1802] in Manuscript # 34-297 in South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston, South Carolina.


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