Manataka® American Indian Council
Exemplar of Liberty:
Native America and the Evolution of Democracy
KINDLING A NEW NATIONAL
GRAND COUNCIL FIRE
Native American liberty and the
The British Government cannot be our model. We have
no materials for a similar one. Our manners, our laws,
the abolition of entails and primogeniture, the whole
genius of the people are opposed to it.
--James Wilson at the
June 7, 1787
We have gone back to ancient history for models of Gov-
ernment, and examined different forms of those Republics
which having been formed with the seeds of their own
dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed
Modern States all round Europe, but find none none of
their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
at the Constitutional
Convention, June 28, 1787.
As the United States began its second attempt at a viable federal system based on natural rights, native examples continued to exert a powerful influence on this nation of transplanted Europeans. The history of the Sons of Saint Tammany -- and the powerful democratic and nationalistic values that the image of native America evoked -- demonstrated that the rhetoric and imagery of the Iroquois and their allies (notably the Delawares) were familiar not only to many revolutionary leaders, but also to a wide cross section of the American people. The amalgamation of cultures that formed the new nation manifested itself in the rites and rituals of its fraternal orders.
On the eve of the Constitutional Convention, Native Americans and all classes of European-descended peoples mixed easily. Cornplanter's words before the Congress in 1786 and the Iroquois concepts of unity in government were widely reported from Georgia to New England. Indeed, the press in Philadelphia routinely alluded to American Indian images in its editorials about the upcoming Constitutional Convention. In April 1787, a magazine article referred to Iroquois imagery (the bundle of arrows in section 57 of the Iroquois Constitution) as it argued for a stronger union in the new instrument of government under consideration at the Constitutional Convention. After discussing the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, the anonymous author of "Thoughts on the Present Situation of Public Affairs" recalled in fable form the wisdom of Iroquois unity.
I shall now conclude, after calling to your remembrance the following well[-]known fable: . . . a father, on his deathbed, called together his thirteen sons, and desired a bundle of rods to be brought, which when, according to his orders, they attempted to break, they could not effect. The bundle was then loosened, and the rods, when taken singly were broken with the greatest of ease. The moral of this fable is too well known, to need recitation: nor is it necessary to say much concerning the inferences deducible from it, respecting ourselves. This shall suffice: United, we rise superior to the malice of all our enemies; but if divided, distraction, anarchy, and confusion, shall be our undoubted portion. [3, emphasis in original]
This admonition recalled Canassatego's advice on unity to the colonists at the 1744 Lancaster Treaty Council, which Franklin had popularized by printing the sachem's own words. His was one of several early Iroquois pronouncements on the benefits of a union based on the Great Law of the Iroquois. More specifically, this fable recalled Cornplanter's words to the Philadelphia Sons of Saint Tammany meeting in April 1786. As the 1787 magazine article stated, the "bundle of arrows" was a symbol of unity "too well known . . . to need recitation."
Americans of European descent who continued to wrestle with the formation of their national institutions faced a dilemma: they seemed to need a stronger government than the Articles of Confederation had provided, but to shift too far in the other direction would imitate the monarchies that they had repudiated. The example of tribal societies thus provided a counterpoint to European governments of the time. The Tuscarora Anthropologist, J.N.B. Hewitt, described the sentiments of the time in this way:
There are two radically distinct methods of regimentation of people found extant in the world . . . these two methods are known as the tribal system and the national system. The tribal system organizes solely on the basis of blood kinship, real or by legal fiction. The national system organizes solely on the basis of territorial units. So that kinship groups or units are found in tribal society, territorial units in national society.
The family . . . the clan, the tribe, and the confederacy, are always found in tribal society. The concept of law is implicit in all these units. 
While the founding fathers recognized that they could not create a kinship state, they did seek to borrow aspects of Iroquois government that enabled them to assert the people's sovereignty over vast geographic expanses since they found no governments in Europe with these characteristics. Certainly many Americans had some familiarity with the Iroquois League. For instance, William Livingston, delegate to the Constitutional Convention from New Jersey, had lived for a year among the Mohawks at the age of fourteen and was quite familiar with the ideas of the Iroquois.
The delegates to the Constitutional Convention arrived in Philadelphia in time for the usual the Tammany Day celebration. George Washington, in particular, was welcomed by Philadelphia publication as the "Great Chief." The Tammany Society, however, was not the only influential secret society that used Native American symbols; it was part of a popular movement before and during the constitutional period. The Masonic Order, which also flourished during the late eighteenth century, shared this identification with American Indian symbols in its secret rites and ceremonies. An article published a century ago maintained that
[i]t has long been claimed that the aborigines of this continent were found the custodians of secret order or orders which in many respects possessed the salient features of Freemasonry. Schoolcraft and others who have spent years with them and in study of their characteristics confirm the claim that at least several; of the tribes and nations had some secret rite of this kind when Columbus discovered [sic]] the continent. 
Most of the members of the Constitutional Convention were Masons, and it has been observed that the mystical aspects of Freemasonry are very similar to the rituals of the "Little Water Society" of the Iroquois. Indeed, Arthur C. Parker argued that the Iroquois Eagle Dance and the "Little Water Society" are mystical in a manner very similar to the rites of Freemasonry. Perhaps this was recognized at the time by some notable Iroquois men such as Joseph Brant, who was a member of the Masonic Order at the time of the American Revolution.
Although the Articles of Confederation had failed to hold the country together, it left a notable legacy. It was the first attempt by thirteen very diverse colonies of people descended from Europeans to form a functioning state in America based on the principles of "natural rights" -- a philoosophy whose exemplar was the native peoples with whom the new Americans shared their everyday lives. It was the first attempt to form this kind of government over such a vast territory in the history of the world.
One of the greatest achievements of the Articles of Confederation was the passage of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which outlined procedures for gradual incorporation of the western lands as new states in the nation, as well as those governing relations with the western Indians. The Northwest Ordinance solved a nettlesome problem for James Wilson, one of the first associate justices of the Supreme Court, since he did not believe the eastern states should expand their boundaries. However, American Indian nations were excluded from the process of incorporation and eventual statehood in the westward expansion. In discussing the purchase of Western lands from American Indians with Wilson in 1785, Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts was of the opinion that the "emigrants to the frontier lands" might be excluded in this process. They were "the least worthy subjects in the United States," being only a "little less savage than the Indians."
The Northwest Ordinance was literally passed while the Constitution was being framed, and it is generally recognized that Charles Thomson (adopted Delaware and secretary to Congress) was the major author of this legislation. While this critical piece of legislation was in progress, Thomson went to Philadelphia to consult with his friends at the Constitutional Convention. Thomson was a Pennsylvanian and, of course, was close to James Wilson and Benjamin Franklin. Thomson also knew most of the other convention delegates who had served previously in the Continental Congress and Confederation government.
The Ordinance also contained an extensive Bill of Rights, a distinctly American idea. The Iroquois Great Law of Peace is very sensitive to the rights of individuals and the potential abuses of the state. Most European governments were still either divine-right monarchies or commercial oligarchies controlled by the middle and upper classes. The Articles of Confederation placed a great deal of emphasis on local rights and autonomy at the expense of defense and the regulation of commerce. But as the Northwest Ordinance was clearing Congress in July of 1787 in New York, a convention was meeting in Philadelphia to draft a blueprint for the government that would replace the Articles of Confederation. Perhaps Thomson and others pushed through the passage of the Northwest Ordinance and its Bill of Rights in order to insure citizen debate and input into the new Constitution during the ratification process.
The size of the thirteen states and the potential for westward expansion were important considerations for the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. For various reasons, the founders rejected ancient and modern European models. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina in 1788 recalled the dilemma that the delegates faced when they found "no precedents" in Europe.
From the European world no precedents are to be drawn for a people who think they are capable of governing themselves. . . . Much difficulty was expected from the extent of country to be governed. All the republics we read of, either in the ancient or modern world, have been extremely limited in territory -- we know of none a tenth so large as the United States. Indeed, we are hardly able to determine . . . whether the governments we have heard of under the name of republic really deserved them, or whether the ancients had any just or proper ideas on the subject. 
So, Pinckney advocated a government that was inspired by local models -- in particular, the Albany Plan. Using some of the same terminology, the Pinckney plan proposed a unified government that also reflected the concepts of the Iroquois Confederacy. He believed that his plan and the eventual constructs of the Constitution bore no relation to European principles. Wilson's notations on the Pinckney Plan (made as he referred to it while drafting the Constitution) contained concepts that echoed provisions of the Iroquois Great Law.
A Confederation between the free and independent States . . . is hereby solemnly made uniting them together under a general . . . government for their common benefit and for . . . Defenses and Security against all designs and Leagues that may be [injurious] to their interests.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The assent of the Legislature of ______ States shall . . . bind the whole confederacy . .
The Articles of Confederation shall be . . . observed and the Union shall be perpetual. 
Charles Pinckney, James Ramsay of South Carolina and others believed that the American people and its government were created in a unique environment distant from European concepts.
Since South Carolina was one of the most informed states on American Indian affairs, it would not be surprising that its delegates entertained Native American ideas at the Constitutional Convention. On May 20, 1787, George Mason (Virginia delegate to the convention) observed that the "most prevalent idea" at the convention was to create "a great National Council." Mason also stated that among the delegates there were "some very eccentric opinions upon this subject." A few weeks later, Mason observed that John Adams' idea of a "legislative, a judiciary & an executive" in a "Great National Council" was "still the prevalent one." These statements occurred within the ideological context of Adams' Defence of the Constitutions of . . . the United States, an influential three-volume "handbook" to which Convention delegates referred on the floor. This contextual guide to the ideas that spawned the Constitution mentioned European attempts at federated republican government based on conceptions of natural rights, as well as precedents in native America.
The United States Constitution would create executive, judicial, and legislative branches as well as augment the powers of the central government. Essentially, James Madison and others proposed in the Virginia Plan that the Confederation be turned inside out (critical powers were to be given to the federal government rather than to the states). The New Jersey Plan (a revised version of the Articles of Confederation) was supported only by New York, New Jersey and Delaware and was easily voted down. There was wrangling to achieve compromise on the issue of representation in the legislature with the result being a bicameral legislature (Senate and House) to solve problems of proportional and state representation. After the representation issue was settled, the main battle was between Northern and Southern delegations over the representation of slaves in the Congress with the resulting 3/5ths Compromise.
By June of 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were engaged in a debate about the fundamental nature of the Union. A Philadelphia magazine openly addressed a poem using Native American imagery to the members of the Constitutional Convention:
To bid contending states their discord cease;
To send through all the calumet of peace. 
Many delegates appeared to agree with James Wilson when he stated, on June 1, 1787, that he would not be "governed by the British model which was inapplicable to . . . this country." Wilson believed that America's size was so great, and its ideals so "republican, that nothing but a great confederated republic would do for it." Iroquois rhetoric and imagery was already an important part of the political awareness of the times symbolized by the Saint Tammany society. On June 8, 1787, James Wilson (according to James Madison's notes) used an interesting argument about unity that surely must have harkened back to his experiences with the Iroquois at Fort Pitt in 1775.
Among the first sentiments expressed in the first Congress, one was that Virginia was no more, that Massachusetts was no more, that Pennsylvania is no more &c. we are now one nation of brethren. We must bury all local distinctions. This language continued for some time [n.b. Madison's sentence about "language" shows that he probably cut off notetaking of Iroquois rhetoric here since it was so well known]. The tables at length began to turn. No sooner were the state governments formed than their jealousy and ambition began to display themselves . . . till at length the confederation became frittered down to the impotent condition in which it now stands. Review the progress of the articles of confederation thro' Congress and compare the first and last draught of it. To correct its vices is the business of this convention. One of its vices is the want of an effective control in the whole over the parts. 
As we shall see later, this instance was just one of several that demonstrated the presence of Iroquois ideas of consensus-seeking brethren in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. The ideas and imagery of the Iroquois were present in the minds of the some of the framers. For instance, William Livingston of New Jersey had lived for a year among the Mohawks at the age of fourteen.
At about the same time, at a meeting with large delegation of the Iroquois, Shawnees and Creeks, in western Virginia, American Indians on June 30, 1787, characterized their own polity as "the Great Council of the Americans," and went on to characterize their relationship.
We take a strong hold, with both hands, at the end of the great wampum of union. Let the other end also be fast held by those near the Great Water . . . and by all the Red People . . . whereby we shall form a strong chain of defense. 
Certainly, the founding fathers had reason to fear a strong an unified American Indian confederacy if they failed to implement a government that secured unity.
In July of 1787, The American Museum (a Philadelphia magazine read by most of the members of the Constitutional Convention), republished an article of Franklin's entitled: "The Origin of Tobacco" that ridiculed European cultural and religious arrogance. In the story, a Susquehannah Indian and a Swedish minister exchange accounts of the origins of their respective religions. After the Indian had recounted his story, the Swedish minister scoffed at the Indian story and called it "fable, fiction, a falsehood" while characterizing the Christian version as "sacred." In replying to the rude minister, the offended Indian asserted that we believed your stories and so " Why then do you refuse to believe ours?" This account was an extract from Franklin's "Remarks concerning the Savages of North-America, 1783." Written just four years before the Constitutional Convention while Franklin was in France, the "Remarks Concerning the Savages" give us a great deal of insight into Franklin's knowledge of American Indian polity. Although Franklin quoted anecdotes and discussed matters relating to the Delawares, Susquehannas and the Iroquois in his "Remarks Concerning the Savages," it is plain that when he turned to the diplomacy and political structure of American Indians, he was discussing the "Six Nations" since he referred specifically to the "Chiefs of the Six Nations" and how they trained their men for war and government before he began his discourse on Iroquois "public Councils." In discussing Iroquois government, Franklin asserted that
Having frequent Occasions to hold public Councils, they have acquired great Order and Decency in conducting them. The old Men sit in the foremost ranks, the Warriors in the next, and the Women and Children in the hindmost. The business of the Women is to take exact notice of what passes, imprint it in their Memories, for they have no Writing, and communicate it to their children. They are the Records of the Council, and they preserve Tradition of the Stipulations in Treaties a hundred Years back, which when we compare with our Writings we always find exact. He that would speak rises. The rest observe a profound Silence. When he has finished and sits down, they leave him for five or six Minutes to recollect, that if he has omitted anything . . . he may rise again and deliver it. . . . How different this is from the Conduct of a polite British House of Commons, where scarce a Day passes without some Confusion that makes the Speaker hoarse in calling to order. 
In the midst of the Constitutional Convention in recalling such American Indian stories, Franklin was playing the role of "philosopher as savage." Certainly, Franklin and Rush's association with the Constitutional Sons of Saint Tammany and their use of American Indian imagery was on their minds in the summer of 1787.
On July 26, l787, the Constitutional Convention adjourned for ten days while a Committee of Detail (John Rutledge of South Carolina, chairman, Edmund Randolph of Virginia, Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts, Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut and James Wilson of Pennsylvania) met to "arrange and systematize the materials which" the convention had collected. For ten days, the committee met, sometimes at Independence Hall or at James Wilson's house, and once at the Indian Queen Tavern. At the beginning of the committee's deliberation, John Rutledge was supposed to have read aloud some Iroquois advice that reflected on the will of "the people," and according to his biographer, Rutledge had been impressed with the government of the Iroquois from the time of the Stamp Act Congress.
An examination of James Wilson's "Notes on Drafting a Constitution" reveals that there was a great deal of committee discussion "on the original authority of the people" Wilson's notes reflect that there was uncertainty on "what the sense of the people is" and how "long it existed . . . in an improper manner . . . and from improper sources." (See figure 37.) However, Wilson noted that the committee meant to discuss "the different points in question --"
by the Ind[ian] sense of the States in Common.
By some striking instance which may happen if the plan be adopted. 
Figure 37. James Wilson argued that the British model could not be applied to the United States.
The themes of American Indians and expansion, freedom of expression and human rights were often present in the founders' minds. In 1785, at the Treaty of Hopewell, the Congress actually had invited the Cherokees "to send a deputy of their choice . . . to Congress." In the formative years of the United States, the use of Iroquois ideas and phrases were common and relations with Indians, in general, were often on a basis of equality and mutual respect. Political discussion was often cloaked in Native American terms, pseudonyms or "fables." The synthesis of Native American and European ideas is demonstrated clearly in the activities of the Tammany Society and its interaction with political leaders of the time. The editorial policy of The American Museum clearly recognized and reflected the intercultural exchange that was a crucial part of nation building.
In 1787, on the eve of the Constitutional convention, John Adams published his Defence of the Constitutions of . . . Government in the United States. (See figure 36.) Although Adams was selected as a Massachusetts delegate to the Constitutional convention he chose not to attend and published his lengthy essay instead. Adams' grandson points out that the Defence "was much circulated in the convention, and undoubtedly contributed somewhat to give a favorable direction to the opinion of the members." On June 6, 1787, James Madison, while reporting the opening of the Constitutional Convention to Thomas Jefferson, wrote that "Mr. Adams' Book . . . has excited a good deal of attention." Madison believed that Adams' Defence would be read and "praised, and become a powerful engine in forming the public opinion."
Figure 36. In his Defence of the Constitution . . ., John Adams discussed the Iroquois political system.
Adams' Defence was a critical survey of world governments and he included a description of the Iroquois and other Native American government in his analysis. In his preface, Adams mentioned the Inca, Manco Capac, and the political structure "of the Peruvians." He also noted that tribes in "North America have certain families from which their leaders are always chosen." Adams believed that American Indian governments collected their authority in one center (a simple or unicameral model), and he also observed that in American Indian governments "the people" believed that "all depended on them." Later in the preface, John Adams observed that Benjamin Franklin, the French Philosophes and other "great philosophers and politicians of the age were "attempting to "set up governments of . . . modern Indians."
According to Adams, the French Philosopher Turgot believed that the new American constitutions that Franklin showed him were "an unreasonable imitation of the usages of England."
Turgot, like Franklin, objected to the perpetuation of bicameral legislatures by the American states and reserved praise only for the unicameral legislature found in the new Pennsylvania state constitution of 1776. The Pennsylvania Constitution also contained a "Council of Censors" that functioned similarly to the Council of Elders of the Iroquois. The Council of Censors' duties included inquiring into whether the constitution was "preserved inviolate . . . and whether the legislative and executive branches" have discharged their duty" as guardians of the people." Like the Iroquois League, the Pennsylvania Constitution provided that
The doors of the . . . general assembly, shall be and remain open for the admission of all persons who behave decently. 
In his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States (1787), Adams implied that Turgot's preference for the Pennsylvania constitution was probably the result of conversations with Franklin. Adams believed that "Americans are advised" by Turgot, Franklin and others to go back to the political structures of Ancient Germans and modern Indians. While he was critical of this suggestion, Adams argued that "the three powers [of government] are strong in every tribe." Adams also talked of the importance of certain families in American Indian governments. Adams was familiar with the opinions of Richard Price, the radical British thinker, who had received a letter from Turgot in 1778 on the nature of American constitutions. Price believed that Americans had established forms of "government more equitable and more liberal than any the world has yet known." He also believed that as a result of the American Revolution the "Britons themselves will be the greatest gainers." It is very likely that Franklin favored unicameral legislatures because of his experience in Pennsylvania and his exposure to the ideas of Iroquois. Certainly, this was what Adams tried to imply in his Defence. The Iroquois governmental system helped reinforce Franklin's belief (similar to that of Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson), that the best government governed least-- and with the simplest bureaucratic machinery.
Adams, an ardent believer in the fundamentals of the British Constitution, opposed Franklin's intimation that the new government should resemble the native confederacies, but he did believe it would be productive to have "a more accurate investigation of the form of governments of the . . . Indians." In addition, Adams argued that it would be "well worth the pains . . . to collect . . . the legislation of the Indians" for study while creating a new constitution. Adams believed that in studying American Indian governments such as the League of the Iroquois, Americans could observe the best examples of governmental separation of powers. In fact, Adams stated that separation of powers in American Indian governments "is marked with a precision that excludes all controversy."
Indeed, Adams pointed out that American Indian governments were so democratic that the "real sovereignty resided in the body of the people." Personal liberty was so important to American Indians, according to Adams, that Mohawks might be characterized as having "complete individual independence."
While discussing the Mohawks, Adams referred to "fifty families governed by all authority in one centre." This statement reflects the extent of Adams' knowledge of the structure of the Iroquois confederacy. In fact, Adams notes rather casually the number of Iroquois sachemships that were delineated by Lewis Henry Morgan, pioneer ethnographer of the League, more than sixty years later. Adams' insight indicates that the founders knew a great deal more about the Iroquois governance system than has been previously acknowledged. The fact that Morgan arrived at similar conclusions without reference to Adams' and other founders' observations provides independent verification of such knowledge. However, the extent of Adams' understanding of the nature of Iroquois government is less important than the awareness that there were profound intellectual connections between native Americans and the founding fathers. Essentially, Adams' insights about Indian governments were really personal and cultural manifestations of a lengthy and sustained dialogue between Euroamericans and Native Americans.
Adams' knowledge of Iroquois and other American Indian confederacies can be seen in his reference to the sachemship system in American Indian governments, which also resembles Morgan's work. Adams wrote that a sachem is elected for life and lesser "sachems are his ordinary council." In this ordinary council, all "national affairs are deliberated and resolved" except declaring war when the "sachems call a national assembly round a great council fire." At this council, the sachems "communicate to the people their resolution, and sacrifice an animal." No doubt, the animal sacrifice is a reference to the "white dog ceremony" of the Iroquois, also described by Morgan more than six decades after Adams. Adams further describes Iroquois custom, when he states that "the people who approve the war . . . throw the hatchet into a tree" and then "join in the subsequent war songs and dances." Adams also exhibits an understanding of the voluntary nature of Iroquois warfare, when he asserts that those who do disapprove of the decision to go to war "take no part in the sacrifice, but retire."
Adams was critical of such European thinkers as Turgot, John Locke and David Hume. Adams felt their theories of government were too abstract and that European thinkers did not know enough about tribal societies and republican governments. In an analysis of the Iroquois and other tribal governments, Adams saw American Indian governments as a window to the pre-monarchical past of Europeans. The founders looked to American Indian ideas about government because they believed that American Indian societies possessed a democratic heritage that European society had largely lost. Adams and other thinkers of the time were critical of all governments, but when they rejected the monarchy and the aristocratic House of Lords of the British Constitution, the often turned to American Indian governmental structures to seek alternatives. To an American like John Adams, firsthand knowledge of American Indian governments helped him in political discussions of emerging republicanism during the eighteenth century. Examples from native America thus framed their debates.
Adams' Defence was no unabashed endorsement of native models for government. Instead, he refutes the arguments of Franklin and Turgot, who advocated a one-house legislature resembling the Iroquois Grand Council, a model that had been used in the Albany Plan and Articles of Confederation. Among Europeans, Adams did not trust the consensus model that seemed to work for the Iroquois. Adams believed that without the checks and balances built into two houses, the system will succumb to special interests and dissolve into anarchy, or despotism. When Adams described the Mohawks' independence, he exercised criticism while Franklin wrote about Indian governments in a much more benign way. Adams believed:
Is it not sublime wisdom, to rush headlong into all the distraction and divisions . . . which are the certain consequence of the want of order and balances, merely for the sake of the popular caprice of having fifty families governed by all all authority in one centre? Even this would not satisfy; the fifty families would soon dissolve their union, and nothing would ever content them short of the complete individual independence of the Mohawks; for it may be depended on, that individual independence is what every unthinking human heart aims at, nearly or remotely. 
Adams sought to erect checks on the caprice of the unthinking heart, and cited the Iroquois Grand Council (the fifty families) as a negative example, ignoring the fact, as Franklin wrote to Parker in 1751, that it "has subsisted ages." Franklin was more of a utopian: he still sought a government based upon the best in human nature, calling its citizens to rise to it. He did not fear unrestrained freedom as did Adams. During the Convention, Franklin, according to James Madison's notes, argued that "We shd. not depress the virtue & public spirit of our common people. . . . He did not think the elected had any right in any case to narrow the privileges of the electors." The United States, having tasted revolution and the better part of a decade under the Articles of Confederation, seemed ready, in 1787, to agree with Adams, whose advocacy of two houses prevailed over Franklin's unicameral model. Still, the example of native liberty exerted a telling pull on the national soul, and conceptions of native America played an important role in these debates. The fact that Adams repeatedly called upon native imagery even in opposition to its use is proof of how widely these ideas were discussed.
Furthermore, Adams specifically stated that many thinkers of the era liked the governmental structures of Native Americans. Since Adams' Defence was "much circulated in the [Constitutional] convention," it seems that his portrayal of the crosscurrents of ideas at the time is an accurate reflection of the thinking of the era.
Given the nature of Adams' Defence, there can be no doubt that Native American governmental structures and ideas were part of the process of constitution making. Even though John Adams and Thomas Jefferson disagreed fundamentally about the nature of government, both men used American Indian ideas and customs to support divergent points of view. This insight leads to the realization that both men were in agreement over the source of distinctly American ideas even though they interpreted that source very differently. In the end, it is significant that American Indian ideas and political structures, as perceived by Adams and Jefferson, were used to construct a uniquely American political system.
The issue of property, and whether government should be constituted to protect it, was a major issue of debate at the Constitutional Convention, as it had been during the Revolution. Jefferson had substituted "happiness" for Lockean "property" as a natural right in the Declaration of Independence, and invoked native Americans as examples of it when he wrote to Edward Carrington in January of 1787. Six months later, at the Convention, the native example was invoked negatively by Gouverneur Morris in a similar argument. "Men do not enter into Society to protect their Lives or Liberty -- the Savages possess both in perfection -- they unite in Society for the Protection of Property," according to notes taken July 5, by Rufus King. Morris' remark came as delegates debated whether they should establish a numerical ratio of one representative per 40,000 inhabitants, a debate that was later resolved by the establishment of a House of Representatives based on population, and a Senate with an equal number of seats for each state. Morris feared that if population was the sole criterion, the poor of the western states would ultimately "destroy or oppress the Atlantic States." He favored representation based on the amount of taxation paid.
On August 8, according to King's notes, Morris again cited a native example in a negative manner when he expressed support for a proposal to require fourteen years' citizenship before one could be elected to the United States Senate.
The Indians are the most liberal of any People, because when Strangers come amongst them, they offer their wives and daughters for their carnal amusement. It is recommended that we open our Doors, and invite the oppressed of all Nations to come & find asylum in America. It is true we have invited them to come & worship in our Temple, but we have never proposed that they should become Priests at our Altars. 
Morris showed his ignorance of gender equity among most native peoples: husbands did not order their wives to do such things. Instances of such things were recorded, with the women usually acting as intelligence agents for their nations.
Benjamin Franklin made an impassioned plea for unity and pragmatic compromise near the end of the debates:
I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve . . . but . . . the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to more respect to the judgment of others. . . . I doubt whether any Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution . . . so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet for the purpose of one another's throats. 
Throughout the process of nation building Franklin consistently had stressed unity as a fundamental concept in any form of government. No matter how old he got nor how many revisions his Albany Plan of Union underwent, Franklin never forgot the Iroquois roots of the U. S. Constitution and the need for unity. On June 30, 1787 while the Constitutional Convention was resolving the bitter dispute on proportional representation, he wrote to Indian leaders using direct references to the "Great Spirit" and the council fire of the American government.
I am sorry that the Great Council fire of our Nation is not now burning, so that you cannot do your business there. In a few months, the coals will be rak'd out of the ashes and will again be rekindled. Our wise men will then take the complaints of your nation into consideration. 
This statement demonstrates that American Indian governmental concepts persisted in the mind of Benjamin Franklin long after the Albany Plan of Union was first offered as an instrument of American government. During the month of July, 1787, another noted Pennsylvanian, Benjamin Rush, M.D., had published a letter stating that Independence Hall was filled with "legislators astonishing the world with their wisdom and virtue" on the same site "where had been seen an Indian council fire."
In August of 1787, the bundle of arrows imagery was once again recalled in a Philadelphia magazine. The imagery was very similar to the one published in April of 1787, just before the Constitutional Convention. In fable form, the editor again openly urged the delegates to use the bundle of arrows as a method to obtain unity. (Section 57 of the Iroquois Constitution). The fable did not appeal to ancient or modern European states.
Unanimity recommended to Americans
-- A Fable -- Addressed to the
A careful sire, of old, who found
Death coming, call'd his sons around.
They heard with reverence what he spake,
Here, try this bunch of sticks to break.
The took the bundle: ev'ry swain
Endeavour'd but the task was vain.
`Observe,' the dying father cry'd;
And took the sticks himself and try'd;
When separated, lo! how quick
He breaks asunder ev'ry stick
`Learn my dear boys, by this example,
So strong, so pertinent, so ample,
That Union saves you all from ruin,
But to divide is your undoing:
For if you take them one by one,
See, with what ease the task is done!
Singly, how quickly broke in twain,
How form the aggregate Thirteen!'
Is not the tale, Columbians, clear?
What application needs there here?
This motto to your hearts apply,
Ye Senators, Unite or Die.[54, emphasis in original]
At the end of the Constitutional Convention, Franklin could have been recalling the December, 1776 "rising sun" speech of an Iroquois sachem when he stated
I have . . . looked at that [chair] behind the President without being able to tell whether it was a rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun. 
Certainly, Franklin had used Iroquois imagery in late June 1787 when the Convention had finally decided to scrap the Articles of Confederation and create a whole new bicameral legislature.
Wilson described the course of debate at the Constitutional Convention:
the extent of the country for which the New Constitution was required, produced another difficulty in the business of the Federal convention. It is the opinion of some celebrated writers, that to a small territory the democratical, to a middling territory (as Montesquieu has termed it) the monarchial, and to an extensive territory the despotic form of government is best adapted. Regarding then, the wide an almost unbounded jurisdiction of the United States, at first view the hand of despotism seemed necessary to control, connect and protect it; and hence the chief embarrassment arose. For we knew that, although our constituents would cheerfully submit to legislative restraints of a free government, they would spurn at every attempt to shackle them with despotic power.
In this dilemma, a Federal Republic naturally presented itself . . . as a species of government which secured all the internal advantages of a republic, at the same time that it maintained the external dignity and force of a monarchy. 
Therefore, it is not surprising that Wilson would explain that "the most important obstacle to the proceedings of the Federal Convention" was in drawing the "line between the national and the individual governments of the states." However, Wilson stated that the sentiments of the convention and of the American people on this issue were "expressed in the motto some of them" had adopted "Unite or die."
As a Pennsylvanian, Wilson was aware of the influence of Iroquois imagery and how it was used by the Constitutional Sons of St. Tammany, or Columbian Order. Wilson was a good friend of Franklin having read Dr. Franklin's speeches "to the Convention . . . it being inconvenient for the Doctor to remain long on his feet." With these facts in mind, it is not surprising that Wilson would explain to the ratification convention that "the most important obstacle to the proceedings of the Federal Convention" was the drawing of the "line between the national and the individual governments of the states." However, Wilson stated that the sentiments of the convention and of the American people on this issue were "expressed in the motto some of them" had adopted "Unite or die" (this phrase is one of the mottoes of the Tammany society).
Iroquois imagery was used by James Wilson to explain the process of territorial expansion and the establishment of new states. Wilson made it clear that the Eastern States should not expand their western boundaries and instead new semi-independent states ought to be created. Wilson believed that in order to have the respect of western settlers new government officers should be:
chosen by the people to fill the places of greatest trust and importance in the country; and by this means, a chain of communication and confidence will be formed between the United States and the new settlements.
To preserve and strengthen this chain it will, I apprehend, be expedient for Congress to appoint a minister for the new settlements and Indian Affairs. 
In using covenant chain imagery, Wilson was echoing the rhetoric of Iroquois and American diplomacy. Since Wilson served on many Indian committees in the Continental Congress and had met with the Iroquois on several occasions, he seems to have been impressed by Iroquois ways concerning the rights of the people and territorial expansion. In December of 1787, The American Museum published a poem that used chain imagery as a model to unite the vast United States. In part, the poem stated:
In federal laws connect the wide domain,
And bind the Union with a deathless chain.
In 1788, an editorial on the Constitution appearing in South Carolina also recalled the "unite or die" motto and urged the people to be "of one heart and mind." In November of 1788, The Columbian Magazine (one of the foremost magazines of the day) published an article on Canassatego's version of the origin of the Five Nations. Clearly, Iroquois concepts and rhetoric were prevalent in the American press at the time of ratification. David Ramsay of South Carolina argued during ratification that the American union was a kinship state. Ramsay, who was president of Congress on May 2, 1786 when Cornplanter spoke on Iroquois unity, stated that
When thirteen persons constitute a family, each should forego everything that is injurious to the other twelve. When several families constitute a parish or county, each may adopt what regulations it pleases with regard to its domestic affairs, but must be abridged of that liberty in other cases, where the good of the whole is concerned.
When several parishes, counties or districts form a state, the separate interests of each must yield to the collective interest of the whole. When several states combine in one government, the same principles must be observed. These relinquishments of natural rights, are not real sacrifices; each person, county, or state, gains more than it loses, for it only gives up the right of injuring others, and obtains in return aid and strength to secure itself in the peaceful enjoyment of all remaining rights. 
Ramsay and other influential intellectuals of the time led a movement to develop a distinct American character that was different from Europe's. Ramsay, like Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, believed that few European ideas were really applicable to the American environment. It is only logical that these thinkers turned to their "native" roots for inspiration.
During the writing of the Constitution in August of 1787, The American Museum had called the Iroquois "sires" and had utilized the bundle of arrows imagery of the Iroquois (Section 57 of the Great Law) as a metaphor for union. By 1789, the editor of The American Museum, Matthew Carey, was just publishing the obvious relationships between Iroquois ideas and the new government that had been a part of the folk tradition of the American Revolution. The founders, the members of the "Tammany" society, and the American people at the time of ratification knew of the native American roots of American government. In a very real sense, the articles on the Albany Plan and the items on American Indian customs printed in The American Museum and the Columbian Magazine in 1788 and 1789 should be considered Franklin's "Federalist Papers." "The Albany Papers" argued that there was a marked similarities between the Constitution and Franklin's Albany Plan. Matthew Carey featured the "Albany Papers" articles in his magazine after he had consulted with Franklin.
While Franklin was known to be a member of the Tammany Society and Washington attended meetings, the Tammany society held reservations about the implementation of the new constitution. During ratification, Alexander Hamilton addressed the concerns of the Tammany Society in Federalist No. 69. An editorial under the pseudonym of "Tamony" was published in several Virginia and Pennsylvania newspapers that reflected the political philosophy (strong legislature and weak executive except in war) of the Tammany Society. In particular, the Tammany Society feared that the new executive might have peacetime powers akin to the British Crown and that such powers could abridge basic rights and freedom of expression even in peacetime. In Federalist No. 69, Hamilton sought to explain the powers of the executive in terms that would eliminate some of these feelings raised by Tammany members. During ratification, the Tammany Society feared that the executive branch might usurp American freedoms in peacetime as could the British King. This issue was raised in an article appearing in both Virginia and Pennsylvania newspapers.
Another obvious reference to Native American political imagery was a poem entitled "Character of St. Tammany" that idolized the old Delaware Chief who wanted "To live in freedom or with honor die." The monthly American Museum's list of subscribers included just about every major political figure of the era (Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, et. al.) so it had an enormous impact. The clustering of the Albany Plan, the Albany conference of 1775 and a poem on St. Tammany during ratification was deliberate. It sent a clear message to the American people about the nature of American government and its origins.
In early 1789, The American Museum called attention to the similarities of Franklin's Albany Plan of Union and the new constitution. The article said that the Albany Plan of 1754 had a "strong . . . resemblance to the present system." The essay further observed that an examination of the similarities of the two documents will "convince the wavering, the new constitution is not the fabrication of the moment." The essay further asserted that Franklin never lost sight of his favorite system until the end of his life, when he "lived to see it accomplished." After this article, the publication launched a three-part series entitled "Albany Papers with notes by Franklin" that explored the evolution of American government from the Albany Plan to the framing of the Constitution. The American Museum also carried several essays on American Indian manners and customs during this time. When ratification was in its last stages, The American Museum reprinted the major speech by the Americans to the Iroquois at the Albany conference in the summer of 1775. The reprinted speech contained the "tree of peace" imagery and many other familiar references.
James Wilson figured in a direct use of Iroquois imagery during ratification. An essay titled "The New Roof" styled him as an architect, adding rafters to the national house, in much the same way as Section 6 of the Iroquois Great Law provides for amendment of the Great Law in precisely the same language. He observed that:
In forming this plan [the Constitution], they [the founders] consulted the most celebrated authors in ancient and modern architecture and brought into the plan the most approved parts . . . selected from the models before them. 
A dramatic example of the symbolism of the Iroquois and its relationship to the U.S. Constitution occurred in 1790 at a Tammany meeting in New York City. George Washington had been impressed with the Philadelphia Tammany Society's welcome of Cornplanter to the City of Philadelphia in 1786, so he asked the New York Tammany Society in 1790 to welcome the Creek chief, Alexander M'Gillvray, to New York City. The Tammany Society's welcoming of M'Gillvray and his chiefs reflected the debt that many Americans had acknowledged to the ideas of American Indians.
On July 21, 1790, the Tammany Society escorted M'Gillvray and several other Creek chiefs through the streets of New York. The speeches during this visit had a great deal of Tammany rhetoric in them and the Creeks seemed to like the references to the Iroquois since they referred to the Iroquois as their "grandfathers" throughout this occasion. President George Washington wanted to negotiate a favorable treaty with the Creek Nation so he asked the New York branch of the Saint Tammany Society to escort and entertain the Creek leaders when they visited New York City in July and August of 1790. Washington was aware of the favorable impression that the Saint Tammany Society of Philadelphia had made on Cornplanter and several Senecas during their visit in 1786 so he asked the New York branch of the society to conduct a similar welcoming ceremony for the Creeks.
With ratification complete, Washington was ready to negotiate with American Indian nations such as the Creeks. Certainly, the speeches and toasts of the Saint Tammany Society during this occasion clearly indicate the pervasiveness of Native American, especially Iroquois, idea and symbols in American politics at the time. Washington had attended Tammany meetings for years, and he knew Tammany societies from Georgia to Rhode Island were referring to the new Constitution as the "New Fire which we have kindled in peace."
The visiting Creeks were escorted throughout the city by three officers of "The Society of Saint Tammany, in their proper dresses." Toasts were made to a "strong and perpetual chain of friendship between the United States, and the Creek Nation" and to the "Oblivion of all prejudices and resentments." On August 2, 1790, the Sons of Saint Tammany sought to explain the purpose of the society to the Creeks. Their great object was to "cherish -- to spread abroad, and to maintain the love of freedom."
At a remarkable banquet on August 2, 1790, the Sons of St. Tammany acknowledged the country's debt to the Iroquois for providing notions of unity and federalism to the founders. This banquet was attended by the members of the Tammany Society, Thomas Jefferson (Secretary of State), John Jay (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), Henry Knox (Secretary of War), and the Creeks. According to the traditions of the Tammany Society, its great object was to "cherish -- to spread abroad, and to maintain the love of freedom." In the traditions of the Tammany Society, its two great leaders (Tammany and Columbus) were supposed to direct the society in all of its proceedings and both men lived together "in a world of the spirits in great harmony." The Tammany sachems pointed out that M'Gillvray was both white and Indian, and that we "are altogether children of one father."
Subsequently, the scribe of the Tammany Council asserted:
Our institution, erected on the basis of natural freedom, records, in its formation, the noblest sentiments . . . public virtue and political friendship; men actuated by a sameness of principle, become our brethren, and we embrace than as friends.
[I] present to you our public constitution. In it you will behold the strong features of political freedom, and that a sacred regard for the rights of human nature originated in our institution . . . let these [principles] prove a covenant chain between us, the brightness of whose links will never know rust. . . . Let us take hold of it, and, as we are all children of the same soil, let one tree of peace shelter us with its branches of union. . . . The . . . constitution . . . was then presented by him to the acceptance of Col. M'Gillvray." 
After this speech, hands were shaken, patriotic songs sung and the Creeks danced. Several toasts were offered to "Washington -- the beloved sachem of the 13 fires," and to universal peace and happiness, or the "Tammanical Chain extended thro' the Creek Nations and round the whole earth." The Creeks were pleased with the ceremony and enjoyed the rhetoric of their grandfathers, the Iroquois, whose political imagery and theory was now firmly embedded in the minds of the American people during the Washington administration. Indeed, Washington remarked that "the citizens . . . were . . . animated with the hope of transmitting to posterity the spirit of a free constitution in its native purity."
In discussing the synthesis of American Indian and European cultures, the Tammany society asserted that the "constitution . . . [had] . . . a sacred regard for the rights of human nature." Furthermore, the Tammany society toasted the constitution as our "tree of peace . . . [that shelters] . . . us with its branches of union." Thus, in the presence of Thomas Jefferson and many other dignitaries, the debt to Iroquois political theory was acknowledged by the Tammany Society during the final stages of the Constitution's ratification. Americans not only had forged a new identity but also a new political structure that was a synthesis of the European and the Native American worlds. The grand equation, our constitution, was a product of the American and European experience.
In 1792, the Tammany Society built toward a mass tricentennial celebration of Columbus' arrival in America. On March 17, joy bells rang in Philadelphia to mark the arrival of 47 "chiefs and warriors of the Seneca Nation of Indians," who "came from the northward," landing at the Market Street Wharf. They were escorted to Eller's Hotel by a detachment of light infantry to the booming of cannon, where the governor of the state met with them.
On October 12, 1792, the Columbian tricentennial celebration peaked in New York City. As had become their custom, Tammany members remembered the occasion by retelling Franklin's anecdotes about Indians. The society also used this occasion, among others, to advocate its political platform, which included abolishment of imprisonment for debt and a continuous review of the Constitution. The society also advocated making of America an "asylum for the oppressed of all nations and religions." In keeping with its belief that all human beings should "assume the native rights and privileges of American freeman," the Tammany Society pledged that the ensuing one hundred years would be the "last Columbian century" in which anyone would be held as a slave in any nation. The Society questioned the assumptions that lay behind slavery (and racism in general), contending that Indians were their "equal brothers." Along the same lines, Tammany Society members sought to expand the scope of suffrage and "subversion to monarchy." The platform echoed the concepts of Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine and others who, after the American revolution, spread their political convictions in an attempt to foment "a world republic."
Throughout the nineteenth century, the Tammany Society kept alive the idea that America was a synthesis of European and American Indian ideas. Gradually, other societies evolved that perpetuated this concept. One of these societies was the Improved Order of Red Men, a fraternal society that, like the Tammany Society, traces its roots back to the Sons of Liberty. A description of the fundamental principles of the organization formally states that American democracy was derived from Native American roots.
The early patriots who founded the old Sons of Liberty in colonial times, never knew what real American liberty was. . . . Their first vision of real freedom was caught from the wild savages, who . . . selected their own Sachems and forms of religious worship; and who made their own laws . . . while white men . . . were continually . . . hampered by unreasonable laws and regulations, imposed by a distant king. . . . They began to chafe under their thralldom, which finally resulted in the "Boston Tea Party," the Declaration of Independence, and the War of the Revolution.
The children of the forest . . . furnished the first inspiration of true liberty. . . . [Thus] it was but natural that the name of the old Sons of Liberty should be changed . . . thereby giving honor to whom honor was due, hence -- "The Improved Order of Red Men." 
American Indian concepts of freedom and democracy were crucial ideas in the formation of a new American identity. The evolution of an American identity that synthesized Native American and European cultures led to a synthesis of political concepts as well. The founders acknowledged this debt in a variety of ways. James Wilson and Charles Pinckney believed that the Old World did not provide adequate governmental precedents for a free and democratic people so they emphasized New World precedents. Others such as John Adams saw the need for a more balanced synthesis of Native American principles and the British Constitution. In the final analysis, Tammany Day and the activities of the Tammany Society sought to recognize the debt that Euroamericans owed to Native American cultures.
After the creation of the Constitution, the American Republic would overlay the theme of American democracy with a Neoclassical Greek and Roman theme. This was an obvious attempt to give the new Republic an image of stability and antiquity despite the observations by Charles Pinckney, Benjamin Franklin and others that such ancient governments were not applicable to the American experience. Oddly enough, recent research by Martin Bernal refuted the racist assumptions about the exclusive European origins of ancient Greek culture. Bernal argued that Greek culture can be attributed to African and Asian antecedents as well as European sources. Bernal argues that scholars have fabricated a Greek culture exclusive of Non-European roots in the last two centuries to maintain that European culture is not related to and "above" African and Asian societies.
It appears that in their haste to "legitimize" the new American government of 1787. The "opinion leaders" of the time drew a Neoclassical "veil" across not only the African and Asian roots of European society but also sought to ignore the debts to Native Americans as well. In 1789, a magazine article on the antiquity of Indian mounds and "former strength of the aborigines" in the Ohio River Valley stated that
if we and our fathers, desire to conceal our shame from posterity, history must draw a veil over the conduct of foreigners towards their tawny brethren. 
Chief among these Native American debts are a distinctive American identity, federalism, unity without imperialism across a vast geographic expanse (this was not typical in Europe). Through a study of the St. Tammany Society and a careful reading of interactions with Native Americans, Americans can regain an understanding of its North American roots. Certainly, the evidence that America is a synthesis of Native America and Europe can be found in the Works of John Adams and in the philosophy of the Tammany society. Early historians of the American Revolution such as David Ramsay and Mercy Otis Warren believed that Americans had a distinctive national character that was linked to the environment. Indeed, Mercy Otis Warren asserted that the environment of America enforced a natural equality of man because the state of civilization in the colonies did not allow the development of great wealth and power. She coupled this analysis with the realization that American frontiersmen had "the habits of savages, and appear scarce a grade above" them. Warren feared westward expansion because she felt it would destroy the happy balance in America between the state of nature and the over-refined civilization in the states of the Eastern seaboard.
Two generations ago Carl Van Doren and Julian Boyd summed up the appeal of the Iroquois confederacy to the colonists in this way.
From family, council to town, to tribe to confederacy and down again there were regular steps in the chain of administration. . . . Their confederacy was but a League of ragged villages, as Franklin said of it, but it worked better than any other in the colonies. 
Certainly, the political concepts of Native Americans held a great fascination for the revolutionary generation. Repeatedly, the historical record shows that no matter what ideology an Adams, a Jefferson or a Franklin espoused, they often referred to their perceptions of Native American society. An examination of the papers of the founding fathers demonstrates that they felt free to discourse on the nature of American Indian governments. Some like Charles Pinckney and Benjamin Franklin felt that European governments were inapplicable in North America. Thomas Jefferson summed it up best in his letter to John Rutledge (Constitutional delegate from South Carolina) as Rutledge was finishing the first draft of the Constitution. Jefferson wrote that the "effect of kingly government . . . is to produce the wanton sacrifice . . . of the people." Jefferson concluded his analysis by observing that some Americans characterized "our's a bad government. The only condition on earth to be compared with ours, is that of the Indians, where they still have less law than we. The European, are governments of kites over pigeons." There can be no denying that many founding fathers were compelled to examine the merits of Native American governments in their search for an alternative to the British monarchy.
Adrienne Koch, ed., Notes on Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1966), p. 85. The official United States government interpretation of the origins of the United States Constitution can be found in the words of former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Chairman of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. In Burger's foreword to We the People of the Untied States: Official Commemorative Edition, The Constitution of the United States (Washington: Citicorp/Citibank and the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, 1986). He stated that in the final quarter of the eighteenth century, there was no nation in the "world that governed with separated powers and divided powers providing checks and balances on the exercise of authority by those who governed." In effect, Burger chose to ignore the existence of the Iroquois confederacy and John Adams' call in 1787 for a "more accurate investigation of the forms of governments of the . . . Indians" in framing a new constitution; and former Chief Justice Burger also chose to ignore Adams' observation in 1787 that with regards to American Indian governments, the separation of powers "is marked with a precision that excludes all controversy," see Adams, ed., Works, IV, pp. 296-298. Instead, Burger only traced the roots of the Constitution "back to Magna Charta and beyond." Burger ignored American Indian history when he stated that the United States Constitution was the "the first of its kind in human history." Needless to say, the official literature surrounding the 200th anniversary of the creation of the United States Constitution glossed over basic facts and scholarship and mislead the American people (see Burger, "Foreword," in We the People . . . ). For an extensive recent collection of documents, essays and other writings that was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and other foundations and relate to the Constitution but ignore the American Indian influence see Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner, eds., The Founders' Constitution, [5 volumes] (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). Another volume that ignored the influence of Native Americans on American government was Richard Beeman, et al., eds., Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987).
For the existing recent literature on the controversy regarding the Native American roots of American government, see Donald A. Grinde, Jr., The Iroquois and the Funding of the American Nation (San Francisco: Indian Historian Press, 1977), Bruce E. Johansen, Forgotten Founders: Benjamin Franklin, the Iroquois, and the Rationale for the American Revolution (Ipswich, MA.: Gambit, 1982), Wilbur Jacobs, Dispossessing the American Indian (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1985), "Special Constitution Bicentennial Edition, 1988" of Northeast Indian Quarterly, IV, 4 (Winter, 1987) and Volume V, 1 (Spring, 1988), Elisabeth Tooker, "The United States Constitution and the Iroquois League," Ethnohistory, XXXV, 4 (Fall 1988), Donald A. Grinde, Jr., "Iroquoian Political Concept and the Genesis of American Government: Further Research and Contentions," and Robert Venables, "The Founding Fathers: Choosing to Be Romans," Northeast Indian Quarterly, VI, 4, (Winter, 1989). See also Bruce E. Johansen and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., "The Debate Regarding Native American Precedents for Democracy: A Recent Historiography," American Indian Culture and Research Journal, XIV, 1, and Bruce E. Johansen, "Native American Societies and the Evolution of Democracy in America, 1600-1800: A Commentary," Ethnohistory, Vol. XXXVII, 3 (Summer, 1990)
Benjamin Franklin, June 28, 1787 in Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), [4 vols.], I, p. 450. After reiterating frustration with the inapplicability of European governmental systems, Franklin would write three cryptic letters to "Indians" on June 30, 1787. For an example of one of these letters using Iroquois rhetoric by Franklin (the philosopher as savage) see Benjamin Franklin to Cornstalk, June 30, 1787, Franklin Papers Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
J.N.B. Hewitt to Dr. George W. Beaver, January 16, 1913, Hewitt Letters, Manuscript #427, Box 2, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Organization along kinship lines is still strong in national societies. The Catholic Church with its legal fiction of "fathers," "sisters," etc., is one of the most salient examples.
See Charles Pinckney's statement on the intellectual origins of the Constitution and on the difficulty expected "from the extent of country to be governed." in Charleston Columbian Herald, June 9, 1788.
Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Scribner's, 1933), XI, p. 325, and see Leonard Levy, et al., eds., Encyclopedia of the American Constitution (New York: Macmillan, 1986) for a fuller discussion of the experiences of the founders with Native American affairs.
Arthur C. Parker, "The Age-Old Appeal of Universal Freemasonry," speech given at St. Albans, Vermont, October 15, 1947 in Arthur C. Parker Papers, Box 11, folder 16, Special Collections, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester. See also Arthur C. Parker, "American Indian Freemasonry, 1919," in Ibid. Box 8, folder 28.
See James Edwin Hendricks, Charles Thomson and the Making of a New Nation (Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh-Dickinson University Press, 1979), for a more detailed examination of some of these questions.
See Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969), Jackson T. Main, The Sovereign States (New York: New Viewpoints, 1973), Merrill Jensen, The New Nation (New York: Knopf, 1950), Forrest McDonald, We the People (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958) and Peter S. Onuf, Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1987) for insights into the development of American government.
Charleston Columbian Herald, June 9, 1788. For an interesting analysis of how the founding fathers examined Native American societies and then embraced an alleged classical model, see Robert Venables, "The Founding Fathers: Choosing to be the Romans," Northeast Indian Quarterly, VI, 4, (Winter 1989).
See Adams, Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, (Philadelphia: Hall & Sellers, 1787), pp. 176, xii-xv, 369, and Adams, Defence, in Charles F. Adams, ed., Works of John Adams, (Boston: Little-Brown, 1851), vol. IV. In The Intellectual Heritage of the Constitutional Era (Philadelphia: Library Company of Philadelphia, 1986), Jack P. Greene called Adams' Thoughts on Government and his Defence of Constitutions "two of the most significant works [in] the discussion of the problem of forming new constitutions." (see p. 54) See also Leonard W. Levy, ed., Essays on the Constitution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), J. R. Pole, ed., The American Constitution: For and Against (New York: Hill and Wang, 1987) and Clinton Rossiter, 1787: The Grand Convention (New York: Macmillan, 1966) for a detailed treatment of this era.
Max Farrand, ed., Records of the Federal Convention (New Haven: Yale university Press, 1911), I, p. 66. The term "Confederate Republic" had been used in accounts describing the Iroquois in the 1740s (see "Lewis Evans' Brief Account of Pennsylvania," in Lawrence H. Gipson, ed., Lewis Evans (Philadelphia: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1939).
Hunt and Scott, eds., Debates in Federal Convention, p. 77. See also Harold C. Styrett, ed., Papers of Alexander Hamilton (New York: Columbia University Press, 196l-1987), IV, p. 166-167. The imagery about unity and burying differences closely parallels the Iroquois' Great Law, Section 65. [See Arthur Parker, Constitution of the Five Nations, Section 65, in William N. Fenton, ed., Parker on the Iroquois (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1968)]. Hamilton uses "Ind" to mean "Indians" in his June 7, 1787 notes. On the next day, he records "Union basis of our oppos & Ind" in his notes relating to James Wilson's speech of June 8, 1787, but the editors of the Hamilton papers interpret that notation as meaning "independence" a day later in spite of its use to mean "Indians" a day earlier. Wilson, of course, was thoroughly familiar with Iroquois imagery. In 1775, he had travelled to Pittsburgh to negotiate a treaty with the Iroquois and the western nations. Referring to his experience in 1775, Wilson stated that "the idea of the union of the colonies struck [the Iroquois] forcibly." Wilson was also present in 1776 when the Iroquois visited the Congress and named John Hancock the "Great Tree." Just three weeks after Independence (July 26, 1776), Wilson would argue in debate over the Articles of Confederation that "Indians know the striking benefits of Confederation" and they "have an example of it in the union of the Six Nations" (quoted from Ford, ed., Journals, VI, p. 1078).
Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Scribner's, 1933), XI, p. 325, and see Leonard Levy, et al., eds., Encyclopedia of the American Constitution (New York: Macmillan, 1986) for a fuller discussion of the experiences of the founders with Native American affairs.
The American Museum, II (July, 1787), p. 86. George Washington recommended The American Museum to his acquaintances. See Fitzpatrick, ed., Writings of Washington, Vol. 29, p. 521. For quotes from Franklin's, "Remarks Concerning the Savages" see Benjamin Franklin, The Bagatelles from Passy (New York: Eakins Press, 1967), pp. 3-4.
Barry, Rutledge, p. 338 and Chapter III, and Charles L. Mee, Jr., The Genius of the People (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), p. 237. Richard Barry, Rutledge's most recent biographer, states that, according to family lore, Rutledge was imbued with Iroquois political theory from the time of the Stamp Act. Unfortunately, most of John Rutledge's papers were destroyed in a house fire in the nineteenth century. Rutledge probably was bringing up some of the points about American Indian government that Adams had discussed in his Defence. Thomas Jefferson had also written Rutledge on the vices of European government and the virtues of American Indian governments, see Thomas Jefferson to John Rutledge, August 6, 1787, in Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, XI, p. 701.
"Propositions, Objections &c in Debates on Adoption of the Constitution," James Wilson Papers, Mss. Div., Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Vol. 2, pp. 61-68. The origin of these comments probably comes from Adams' discussion of American Indian governments in his Defence. For an excellent treatment of Wilson's life, see Page Smith, James Wilson: Founding Father, 1742-1798 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956).
For an example of the American Indian motif in American publications of the time see, American Museum, I, p. 477. For Charles Francis Adams' (John Adams' grandson) assessment of the role of the Defence at the Constitutional Convention, see Adams, ed., Works, IV, p. 276. For the analysis of the impact of John Adams' Defence at the start of the Constitutional Convention, see James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, Philadelphia, June 6, 1787 in Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, XI, pp. 401-402.
Adams, ed., Works, IV, 276. The Anti-Federalists believed that Adams' Defence was very influential at the Constitutional convention. See a series of Anti-Federalist letters by Centinel in Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer and Philadelphia Freeman's Journal, October 1787-April 1788 and see also Herbert J. Storing, What the Anti-Federalists Were FOR (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 55. In a letter to the English radical thinker, Richard Price, dated June 2, 1787, Benjamin Rush asserted that Adams' Defence was having a valuable effect at the Constitutional convention, see Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., The Letters of Benjamin Rush (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), I, 418. In fact, Adams stated that the Defence "was put into the hands of the members of the . . . Convention . . . then sitting for the formation of the Constitution in 1787," see John Adams to Mercy Warren, July 20, 1807 in Charles F. Adams, ed., Correspondence between John
Adams and Mercy Warren (New York: Arno Press, 1972), p. 332. Indeed, Adams stated that upon his return to the United States he heard but "one voice concerning my book" and it was that "people believed the Convention that formed the National Constitution had been too much influenced by Mr. Adams's book." See Ibid., p. 333. See also Edward Handler, America and Europe in the Political Thought of John Adams (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964). For a good biographical treatment of John Adams, see Page Smith, John Adams (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1962).
See Francis N. Thorpe, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions: Colonial Charters and Other Laws [7 vols.] (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1909), V, pp. 3084-3092 for a copy of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 and see Joseph Francois Lafitau, Customs of the American Indians Compared with the Customs of Primitive Times, (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1974-1977) [2 Vols.], Vol 1, 295-297, William N. Fenton and Elisabeth L. Moore, eds. for mention of the Iroquois "Council of Elders." John Adams in his "Thoughts on Government " had not liked the British system as well, he stated that "the only valuable part of the British constitution is" its republican aspect (i.e., the House of Commons and certain implied human rights). See Adams, ed., Works, IV, 193-200.
See "Extract of a Letter of M. Turgot to Dr. Richard Price . . . 1778," in Adams. ed., Works, IV, 278-281. Adams seems to have visited Dr. Price on several occasions, see John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, October 3, 1785 in Lester J. Cappon, ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), I, p. 78.
Richard Price, "Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution" (Boston: Powars and Willis, 1784), see mention of this essay in Adams ed., Works, IV, 273, 402-403.] No doubt, Franklin knew of these critiques by Turgot and Price and consequently favored a unicameral legislature because he believed it to be the kind that existed among the Iroquois.
See Ibid., IV: 279, 581, 389-390 for Adams' insights into the association of Turgot and Franklin with unicameral legislatures. Writing to Mrs. Mercy Otis Warren July 20, 1807, Adams said: "I have always reprobated a government that is a sovereignty in a single representative assembly, in opposition to Franklin, Paine, Matlock, Young, Lieutenant-Governor Cushing, and even Samuel Adams as well as Mr. Turgot." [See: Correspondence Between John Adams and Mercy Warren, ed. Charles F. Adams, (New York: Arno Press, 1972), pp. 325-26.] Given the fact that Franklin talked frequently about American Indians and the Iroquois in the French salons in the 1770s and 1780s, Turgot would have been familiar with the structure of Iroquois government. For an insight into Franklin's discussions about the Iroquois in French salons, see Pierre Jean George Cabanis, Oevres Posthumes de Cabanis (1825), V, p. 256.
Ibid. For Morgan's description of Iroquois governance, see Lewis Henry Morgan, League of the Iroquois, (Seacaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1962), pp. 54-77. For specific mention of fifty sachemships, see p. 62. Ethnologists who place so much emphasis on Morgan's work also should be able to appreciate the insights of Adams and other founders, including Franklin, who observed Iroquois and other native societies many years before anthropology became an organized academic discipline. See also Adams, ed., Works, IV, p. 301, 398, 510-511.)
Adams, ed., Works, IV, 511, 566-67. For a description of the "White Dog Sacrifice" without reference to Adams' insights, see Elisabeth Tooker, "The Iroquois White Dog Sacrifice in the Latter Part of the Eighteenth Century," Ethnohistory, XII, 2 (Spring, 1965), pp. 129-140. It is generally held that the key to the structure of the Iroquois League is the enlistment or Roll Call of the Chiefs of the Confederacy, described by Morgan in his initial field trips to the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation in 1845. Since Morgan's time, other independent studies have confirmed his research. See, for example, Tooker, "The League of the Iroquois: It's History, Politics, and Ritual, in Handbook of North American Indians (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1978), William C. Sturtevant, gen. ed., Vol. 15, Northeast, Bruce Trigger, ed., pp. 418-441.
Surprisingly, Adams reserves special scorn for the work of John Locke. In commenting on Locke's "plan of legislation for Carolina" where Locke gave "legislative authority . . . to the . . . proprietors," Adams asked who did Locke "think would live under his government? He should have created a new species of being to govern before he instituted such a government" (quoted from Adams, Defence (Philadelphia: Hall & Sellers, 1787), pp. 365-366).
Adrienne Koch, ed., Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison, (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), p. 404. Adams, ed., Works, IV, 276. Just a year before he authored the Defence, the Mohawk leader, Joseph Brant had called upon John Adams at his residence in Boston and perhaps they talked of Iroquois government. See "John Adams to Rufus King, December 23, 1785," in Charles R. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), I, p. 118.
See Benjamin Franklin -- Talk to the Old Chief, June 30, 1787, Franklin Papers, Library of Congress. The noted political scientist Clinton Rossiter stated that Franklin's role at the Convention was extremely important and that "Franklin made rich contributions to the theory and practice of federalism . . . he was far ahead of the men around him in abandoning provincialism." See Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1953), p. 306.
Benjamin Franklin to Cornstalk, The Cherokee Chief, June 30, 1787, Franklin Papers, Mss. Div., Library of Congress. Cornstalk is a popular Tammany name since the real Cornstalk was brutally murdered by the British in 1777 while trying to maintain the neutrality of his tribe. See "Sketch of Cornstalk," in Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society Quarterly, XXI, 4 (Fall, 1912), pp. 245-262. See chapters 3 and 5 of Henry Steele Commager, The Empire of Reason: How Europe Imagined and America Realized the Enlightenment (New York: Doubleday, 1977) for some discussion of how European perceptions of American Indians figured in the American Revolution and the Constitution.
American Museum, II (July, 1787). Rush maintained an avid interest in American Indians. See Benjamin Rush Papers, MSS # 1051, "Commonplace Book, 1792-1813," p. 127 in American Philosophical Society. See also George W. Conner, ed. The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1948). p. 188 for a conversation in Philadelphia between Rush and the Creek chief, Alexander M'Gillvray, just two days before M'Gillvray arrived in New York City to negotiate an important treaty with the new federal government. Rush also believed that it was better to teach American students "the Indians languages of our country than to speak or write Latin." See Butterfield, ed., Rush Letters, I, p. 607.
Hunt and Scott, eds., Madison Debates, p. 583. See George W. Corner, ed., The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1948), 121-122 for an account of an Iroquois sachem advising that the "day will end well. Yonder Sun rose clear this morning."
Ibid., III, pp. 138-140. Early in the debates on the Constitution, James Wilson "opposed the annihilation of the state governments, and he represented that the freedom of the people . . . depended on their existence in full vigour." See Ibid., III, p. 411. For a detailed analysis of the importance of unity in the eighteenth century, see Harry M. Ward, Unite or Die: Intercolonial Relations, 1690-1754 (Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1971). For an excellent review of the constitution making process in the British Empire, see Jack P. Greene, Peripheries and Center: Constitutional Development in the Extended Polities of the British Empire and the United States, 1607-1788 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986)
Ibid., III, pp. 138-140. Taking a page from the Iroquois constitution that related to federalism, Wilson opposed "the annihilation of the state governments, and he represented that the freedom of the people . . . depended on their existence in full vigour." See Ibid., III, p. 411. Wilson's imagery of the Iroquois ignores the Iroquois' own problems with territorial expansion. For a discussion of these problems, see Richter and Merrell, eds., Beyond the Covenant Chain.
". . . of a Plan concerning the new states," Wilson Papers, Mss. Div., HSP, Vol. 2, p. 132, and "Notes from Mr. Wilson's Lectures by Joseph Hopkinson, 1791," in Joseph Hopkinson Papers, Mss. Div., HSP (lecture was delivered at the University of Pennsylvania), and see Geoffrey Seed, James Wilson (Millwood, New York: KTO Press, 1978).
For example see James Wilson to John Montgomery, Pittsburgh, August 24, 1775 in Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates, I, p. 706, and Ford, ed., Journals, II, p. 93. For an examination of the development of the concept of the Iroquois covenant chain, see Francis Jennings, "The Constitutional Evolution of the Covenant Chain," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, CXV, 1, pp. 88-96.
See Charleston Columbian Herald, July 3, 1788. The "Unite or Die" slogan was directly attributed to Franklin in a poem published in The American Museum, IV (July, 1788), p. 193-195 entitled: "Union or Only Hope: A Federal Poem." The poem, in part, asserted:
David Ramsay, "An Address to the Freemen of South Carolina on the Subject of the Federal Constitution . . . 1788 by Civis," in Paul L. Ford, ed., Pamphlets of the Constitution of the United States (New York: Da Capo Press, 1968), p. 373.
Styrett, ed. Hamilton Papers, IV, pp. 593-594. Fears of a strong executive or "monarchy" were quite real for delegates like John T. Mercer of Maryland. Mercer kept a list of those who "were for a king" (See Bernard C. Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers Company, 1907), p. 102. Fear of monarchy was prevalent during the time. Thomas Jefferson wrote to Benjamin Hawkins during the Constitutional Convention (August 4, 1787) that "I look up with you to the Federal convention for an amendment to our federal affairs. Yet I . . . am astonished at some people's considering a kingly government" [see Boyd, ed., Papers of Jefferson, XI, pp. 683-684.]).
Quoted from Augusta Chronicle and Gazette of the State, May 15, 1790. For accounts of Rhode Island Tammany Societies see Marcus W. Jeregan, "The Tammany Societies of Rhode Island," Papers from the Historical Society of Brown University, 1897, VIII.
New York Journal, August 10, 1790. See also: Augusta Chronicle and Gazette of the State, May 15, 1790. For accounts of Rhode Island Tammany societies see Marcus W. Jernegan, "The Tammany Societies of Rhode Island," Papers From the Historical Seminary of Brown University, (1897), VIII. See also: New York Journal, July 23, 1790. M'Gillvray was very familiar with this rhetoric. At a June 10, 1787 conference with the Iroquois, he had heard the Iroquois refer to themselves as the "Grand Council" and he had heard the Iroquois refer to the American government as the "Grand Council of America." The Creeks replied to the Iroquois using the term "Great Council of the Americans." Americans at the conference were aware that the Creeks and the Iroquois intended to form "a strong chain of defence to save our lands, protect our wives, and rear our children, that they may long possess the inheritance we shall leave to them" (see Georgia Gazette, November 27, 1787). Apparently, the Saint Tammany Society was widespread by this time. In Augusta, Georgia (the state capital) on May 1, 1790, the governor (Edward Telfair) was made sachem of the Tammany Society. At the banquet on the banks of the Savannah River, twelve toasts were given (all but Rhode Island had joined the new union under the constitution). Tammany and Alexander M'Gillvray were toasted. In a reference to the new constitution, the 150 people assembled toasted the following: "May the new fire we have kindled in peace never be extinguished in blood." In a reference to Rhode Island, the Saint Tammany Society of Augusta, Georgia concluded their twelfth toast in this manner: "May the Seminoleans of Rhode Island see their error, and no longer be styled wanderers." (Ibid., July 16, 1790.) Obviously, the symbols of the Iroquois and their relationship to the constitution had become idiomatic through the spread of Saint Tammany Society throughout the United States. Jefferson and Madison continued their interest in Native American ideas by examining Indian languages on Long Island, New York (see "Unquahog tribe, Puspatuck Settlement, Brookhaven, Long Island, N.Y. taken by Thomas Jefferson, June 13, 1791 in the presence of James Madison and General Wm. Floyd," in Indian Boxes, Box 1, Mss. Div., NYPL).
"Constitution and Roll of Members of St. Tammany Society, 1789-1916," Mss. Div. NYPL.; "Society of Saint Tammany, or Columbian Order, Mss. Div. NYPL, pp. 1-38. See also: Diary or Loudon's Register, July 4, 1792, in Library of Congress.
Edward J. Sheehan, comp., 225th Anniversary Program, Old Fort Hunter and Queen Anne Chapel at Fort Hunter, N.Y. (St. Johnsville, New York: Press of the Enterprise and News, 1937), p. 4. For a more in depth discussion of the Improved Order of Red Men see George W. Lindsay, Official History of the Improved Order of Red Men (Boston: Fraternity Publishing Company, 1893) and Paul A. W. Wallace, Indians in Pennsylvania (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1961), p. 182.
The Tammany Society and the native American imagery on which Adams and others drew remained active in its original incantation as long as American Indian nations were the primary North American diplomatic business of the United States, or until at least the end of the second Jefferson administration. It began its decline into a corrupt society of bosses as the revolutionary generation died. See Morris R. Werner, Tammany Hall (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1928) for an analysis of the evolution of Tammany Hall.
Van Doren and Boyd, eds., Franklin's Indian Treaties (quoted from the introduction). See also Paul A. Wallace to William N. Fenton, September 8, 1960 in Paul A. Wallace Papers, Box 2 in American Philosophical Society.
How short memories proved, even when they were recorded on paper that promised the old treaties would be observed "as long as the rivers run and the grass grows." Few in the late eighteenth century anticipated the day when toxic waste in what was left of the rivers would keep the grass from growing at all.
In the course of their daily business, Washington and Jefferson got to know many Indian sachems at a time when native peoples still occupied most of the land assigned to the United States by the European-arranged peace of 1783. Washington's relationship with the Seneca sachem Cornplanter was exceptionally close, and that is why the Iroquois sachem serves as a particularly good example of what happened to native peoples after the revolutionary generation passed away. Original contributions were forgotten, and a shroud of ignorance called into service of westward expansion.
Washington believed that a permanent military establishment bred tyranny, and so he all but dissolved the United States' armed forces after the revolution. This left no real enforcement behind treaty arrangements made between the new federal government and Indian nations. With sanctions virtually nonexistent, squatters overran Indian lands the length of the frontier.
The Senecas had supported the British during the revolution, and became the target of scorched-earth raids by soldiers under Washington's command in 1779, devastating corn fields that Anthony F. C. Wallace [(in Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (New York: Knopf, 1970)] estimated had produced a million bushels a year. Most of the Senecas fled the carnage, and some never returned, building new villages in British Canada. Others, including Cornplanter, did reconstruct their homes, replanted their fields, and attempted to reassemble their lives. As they did so, the Allegheny Senecas occasionally sent war parties against encroaching whites. United States peace commissioners approached Cornplanter, who initially said he did not want to deal with representatives of a nation that had so much Seneca blood on its hands.
As time passed, however, Cornplanter decided gradually to forgive the past, in part because good trade relations would help the Senecas rebuild. In time, Cornplanter became so friendly with President Washington that a substantial number of Senecas, led by Red Jacket, criticized him severely for giving up too much land in exchange for peace. During the 1780s and 1790s, Cornplanter even became a sort of minister without portfolio for the United States, journeying several times to he Ohio Valley to make peace after United States commissioners had failed.
Meeting with Washington during 1790, Cornplanter raised the criticism of his people: "We will not conceal from you that the Great God, and not men, has preserved the Cornplant's from the hands of this nation. . . For they [the Senecas] ask continually, where is the land on which our children and their children after them are to lie down upon?" [Cited in George S. Snyderman, "Concepts of Land Ownership Among the Iroquois and Their Neighbors," in William N. Fenton, ed., Symposium on Local Diversity in Iroquois Culture, (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1939), p. 17.]
Washington pledged that the Seneca would retain a sliver of land along the Allegheny River, a small fraction of their original holdings. "In the future, you will not be defrauded of your lands," Washington pledged to Cornplanter. "[Y]ou possess the right to sell, and the right of refusing to sell your lands" [James Ross Snowden, The Cornplanter Memorial [Harrisburg: Singerly & Myers, 1867], p. 99. Alvin Josephy has described the flooding of the Allegheny Seneca reservation in more detail in Now That All the Buffalo's Gone (New York: Alfred A. Knopf., 1982).] The President's pledge was codified in the 1794 Pickering Treaty.
On February 28, 1797, Cornplanter was again in Philadelphia, again addressing Washington, saying: "Turn our faces which way we will, we find white people cultivating the ground which or forefathers hunted over, and the forests which furnished them with plenty, now afford but a scanty subsistence to us, an our young men are not safe in pursuing it. . . . What will be the situation of our children when those calamities increase?" (Snowden, Cornplanter Memorial, p. 109.)
It was a profound question for two men of the eighteenth century to ask as that era closed. Washington must have felt some pain, unable to enforce the pledges he had made, unable to restrain his own people. Washington, a believer in the rule of law, confessed to Thomas Lear April 3, 1791:
Until we can restrain the turbulence and disorderly conduct of our own borders, it will be in vain to expect peace with the Indians, or that they will govern their people better than we govern ours. [John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1939), Vol. 31, p. 267.]
One might reflect on how Washington, and Cornplanter's people would have felt had they known that in 1964, their bones would be removed from a cemetery on the Allegheny Reservation to make way for rising waters behind the Kinzua Dam, which flooded much of the tiny sliver of land the first president said he would protect. One would like to know what Washington might have said to the engineers of the Army Corps who designed the dam, or to the Senecas who today ask whether the first president asked Cornplanter if he knew how to swim.
Thomas Jefferson to John Rutledge, August 6, 1787, in Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, XI, pp. 701.
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