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[The Iroquois are] the Romans of this western world, who
composed a federal Republic.

               --De Witt Clinton, 1811[1]

To the American public and scholars outside of history and Political Science, the study of the development of American government appears to be a non-controversial topic that is supported by long held images taught them since grade school. However, few people realize the intense debate that has raged in the last generation over the basic evidence concerning the development of the United States Constitution. Scholars unaware of this debate that attempt to deal with the notion of a Native American factor in the development of American government erroneously believe that there is an established data base with a well developed scholarly consensus on the wellsprings of American government. In fact, basic assumptions about the veracity of fundamental records relating to the creation of the Constitution have created quite a bit of confusion as to the rationales for the writing of the fundamental instrument of American government. The result has been that "established" histories of the formation of the Constitution, and major sources relating to it, have been called into question. Realizing the changes in Constitutional scholarship, the authors have endeavored to discern the impact of Native American polities on the evolution of American government. With these factors in mind, what can be concluded from following analysis by John Adams?

If Cicero and Tacitus could revisit the earth, and learn that the English nation had reduced the great idea to practice . . . and that the Americans, after having enjoyed the benefits of such a constitution a century and a half, were advised by some of the greatest philosophers and politicians to renounce it, and set up governments of the ancient Goths and modern Indians -- what would they say? That the Americans would be more reprehensible than the Cappadocians, if they should listen to such advice.

It would have been much to the purpose, to have inserted a more accurate investigation of the form of government of the ancient Germans and modern Indians; in both, the existence of the three divisions of power is marked with a precision that excludes all controversy. The democratical branch, especially, is so determined, that the real sovereignty resided in the body of the people, and was exercised in the assembly of king, nobles, and commons together. [2]

Lodging in an isolated spot, with just this one quotation for reference, we could deduce several things: first, that John Adams was critical of tribal governments like "the ancient Goths and modern Indians" but saw merit in their dedication to the notion of a separation of powers (it should be kept in mind that the central thesis of Adams' Defence was the notion of the separation of powers); second, that his discourse implies that other people, or groups of people, supported a replication of tribal governments, at least in part. Otherwise, Adams would have had no reason to argue as he did. Thirdly, Adams' comment demonstrates that he and other Non-Indians of the time understood, that Native Americans maintained organized political structures. Fourth, Adams' argument implies that the United States' fundamental law was built in an atmosphere of debate, and those that participated in the debate factored American Indian societies into their political equation. In general, Adams' statement registered the conservative angst of the times that there was a possibility that the country might abandon many of its English traditions and go "tribal" or revert to a natural state.

The first of these deductions demonstrates the critical faculties of Adams, and the rest imply a new thread in our national intellectual tapestry, one which has been but sketchily researched until now.

On ground so well worn as the history of the United States Constitution, just the idea that such a significant new thread could emerge after two centuries has been a compelling reason for the intense interest and debate. In formulating this study, one is made aware of two principles that animate the discussion of any historical event that has been studied as often, and as minutely, as the development of the United States Constitution: first, that arguing from a monocausal viewpoint puts the judicious scholar at immense risk. As the number of historians examining any subject increases so do the number of rationales for it. Secondly, the credibility of any argument bears on the quality of evidence upon which it rests.

James H. Hutson, chief of the Library of Congress' Manuscript Division, has written that whatever consensus scholars shared regarding the the Founders' motivations was shattered in the late twentieth century, following "the collapse . . . of the Beard thesis,"[3] which argued that the Founders were motivated primarily by practical economic interests. First proposed in 1913, the Beard thesis became but one of many contending interpretations by the 1950s.

Hutson takes dead aim at some of the standard sources often used to interpret the motivations of the Founders at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The notes of some of the principal players were incomplete, or plainly altered years after the Convention to meet the needs of the individuals' political affiliations, according to Hutson, who agrees with Heinmann and Kelso that James Madison's notes, for example, were "edited quite liberally to make them accord with the positions Madison took on political disputes long after the Convention."[4]

To construct an edifice of scholarship on such shifting sands of documentary evidence should make one wonder why the primary source material produced inside the Convention is often approached much like a set of holy codices, to be cited in isolation from the social, ideological and political currents which tossed United States society in the late eighteenth century. Such a concentration also tends to isolate the Convention from nearly two centuries of European settlement along the Atlantic Seaboard which preceded it.

As they debate the validity of others' sources, historians also often share a penchant for locating one or two distinct, overriding motivations for an epochal event. In the history of the Constitution, it has been argued by some that the Founders were primarily practical men, and by others, that they were primarily driven by ideology. Hutson finds that scholars have argued models for the Constitution as diverse as the writings of Machiavelli, the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment, and the philosophical systems of Locke and Montesquieu.[5] Often, the documentary sources on the origins of the Constitution are very confusing. Charles Pinckney, Constitutional Convention delegate from South Carolina, recalled in 1788 that the delegates were skeptical of European governmental systems since

From the European world no precedents are to drawn for a people who think they are capable of governing themselves. [6]

Indeed, Pinckney's statement compels us to examine alternative Non-European models that were available at the Constitutional Convention since he clearly implies that the Convention looked outside of the European experience for ideas of self government.

In attempting to assess the impact of Native American societies in this intellectual equation, the authors will be seen as overzealous by some. But the argument can be couched in the same context as the many others that have been made over the years, allowing those who continue to research this vein to put the matter into perspective, realizing that the enormity of the evolution of America's character and Constitution, is bigger than any single rationale. The authors are prepared to argue, along with Hutson that one does "not, however, mean to be understood to endorse the Beardian view that the practicality of the delegates implied an indifference to ideas or a penchant for rationalizing when they employed ideas."[7]

Indeed, the most influential of the Founders gathered to share ideas in search of practical solutions to national problems. Adams' Defence of the Constitutions of the United States makes evident the role of philosophy in this context. Adams searched ancient and contemporary political systems for governmental structures that would serve the practical aspirations of the people of the United States. He realized that such a government had to be couched in a democratic philosophy that still animated the new nation a bare decade after the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War.

American Indians comprised a large part of the United States' practical diplomatic and economic business at the time of the Convention. To argue that opinion leaders of the time such as Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Wilson, among others, did daily business with the native nations that still occupied much of the territory the United States had been allotted at the Treaty of Paris in 1783, and then came away from that experience knowing nothing of their political systems defies logic, and the historical record. If anything, Adams' arguments cautioned against slavishly replicating native models but recognized that the Founders debated the virtues and vices of Native American societies, along with many others, as they cast their intellectual net in search of precedents from which to borrow and synthesize into a new system.

Much of the Constitution's traditional history seems to write out of the picture Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson as well as American Indians, who left us no "codices." The aged and ailing Franklin left his intellectual footprints mainly in the public press before and during the Convention, and died shortly after, leaving no notes to be embellished except for the Albany Papers which he did in consultation with Matthew Carey.[8] Franklin's impact on the Convention itself should not be minimized, however, for it was to him that Adams replied in arguing that the Founders should not emulate "ancient Goths or modern Indians" too closely. Jefferson spent the summer of 1787 as ambassador to France, of course, succeeding Franklin, and left his own impact most clearly on the Bill of Rights, appended later. However, Thomas Jefferson did write John Rutledge as Rutledge was finishing the first draft of the Constitution. In that letter Jefferson observed that most European governments were autocratic monarchies while "The only condition on earth to be compared with [our government] . . . is that of the Indians, where they still have less law than we."[9] Jefferson viewed American government and its American Indian aspects as a great improvement over the European models which he viewed as "governments of kites over pidgeons."[10]

Noting Franklin and Jefferson's relative absence in the scholarly debate over the Constitution itself, are we to assume that Franklin, primary advocate of political union as early as the Albany Plan, decided to retire from this business after his role in composing the Articles of Confederation? Is one to assume that Jefferson, whose Declaration of Independence fired the revolution, turned away from nation-making in 1787, only to return in full force a couple of years later? The political constituencies both men represented still participated in the debates throughout the United States in the late 1780s, even if their imprint is largely missing from the records of the Convention itself.

While he cautions against slavish reliance on the records of the Convention itself, Hutson also raises intriguing questions about the effect on the outcome of conversations that were never recorded. Hutson cites William Samuel Johnson to confirm that there were after-hours conversations "among all the little parties of members."[11] The atmosphere for such conversation is enhanced by the realization that many of the delegates stayed in the same rooming houses, or at taverns such as the Indian Queen. A similar argument can be made for interpretation of other important events in colonial history, such as the Albany Conference. Any event involving large numbers of people making important decisions, in colonial times or ours, is bigger than the written record it leaves behind. This strengthens the argument for inspection of the social and political milieu that surrounds the event, for the building of a mosaic of evidence that places statements made on any particular written record into the larger context from which they spring. Any time the affairs of Native Americans are at issue, oral history also may come into play as well, for it is the major medium by which tribal people in the Americas transfer recollections from generation to generation.

Along with after-hours conversations and other informal channels of communication, anyone who delves into the decisions made at an important meeting should closely inspect the comments and contributions of ancillary figures -- people who did not hold officially delegated power, but who recorded proceedings, contributed expertise, or were otherwise consulted by people with decision-making power. In building our case, the writings of Charles Thomson have been especially important in this regard. Because such people often had fewer political motivations than principal participants, their recollections are often less subject to after-the-fact embellishment. Often, as in Thomson's case at the Continental Congress, it was their job to record proceedings, not to mold the outcome. Conversely, Hutson notes wryly that an active participant at the Constitutional Convention like Madison could hardly speak and take notes at the same time.[12]

Too much of the Constitution's history interprets the development of the document as a battle between federalists and their opponents. Differing points of view existed on the fine points of the new government's structure, but, as William Samuel Johnson's recently discovered letter points out, "the universal sense [was] that our greatest danger of failure was from the great extent of the union."[13] The overriding concern of the time was to find a structure practically and ideologically suited to thirteen distinct colonies spread out over an area that was enormous by European standards, as the decade-old union quivered near collapse under the Articles of Confederation. The League of the Iroquois provided an appealing example of such a structure to Franklin and his allies. Franklin, himself, had expressed his admiration of the confederacy as an example for the colonies as early as 1751. Late in the century, as the question of unity faced the former colonies once again, the idea resurfaced, necessitating Adams' rebuttal to Franklin, cited above. From Franklin's Lancaster Treaty account of 1744, one can follow the image of the bundle of arrows borrowed from the Iroquois Great Law down through the creation of the Great Seal of the United States (see figure 40). From 1776-1782, various committees of Congress had tried to design a Great Seal of the United States. At one point, Charles Thomson entertained the idea of placing less than thirteen arrows in the eagle's left claw on the Gteat Seal (probably six, since this is the number spoken of at Lancaster in 1744, to represent the Six Nations). Later, the Congress decided to use thirteen arrows, one for each of the former colonies. Thus, it can be seen that an Iroquois symbol was used (albeit altered as to the number of arrows) as a symbol of unity.[14]

Figure 40

Figure 40. Great Seal of the United States of America. Obverse, left: reverse, right. The final version of the Great Seal of the United States of America was designed by Charles Thomson (adopted Deleware), secretary of Congress. After refusing to follow the recommendations of three congressional committees, the Congress turned the matter over to Thomson on June 13, 1782. Within a few months, Thomson designed a seal incorporating the American bald eagle clutching a bundle of arrows (Thomson had proposed five or six arrows, while Congress favored thirteen) that was reminiscent of the imagery of the League of the Iroquois and their crucial role in the birth of the United States. From the start, the committee to design a seal emphasized the synthesis of native and European cultures. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson had proposed that one of the figures on the coat of arms of the United States be a "leatherstocking" or frontiersman in Native American buckskin garb. Jefferson noted that the proposed motto underneath the coat of arms was "E Pluribus Unum."

The authors concur with Hutson's assertion that a major aim of Constitutional scholarship ought to be identification of the major areas of consensus shared by the delegates to the Convention. On this subject, he approvingly utilizes a list contributed by Herbert J. Storing -- "separation of powers, checks and balances, government by consent, and the rule of law."[15] Considering the case one can make for Native American contributions to democratic ideology, Storing's list of ideas contains several concepts that Europeans on their way to becoming Americans found in the indigenous societies of North America for almost two centuries before the Constitutional Convention. References to these concepts in the context of native societies are sprinkled liberally throughout the papers of Franklin, Jefferson, and other influential Founders. When John Adams, in his Defence, discussed some of these ideas in the context of native societies, he was recognizing that they had been played out on the transatlantic ideological stage for many years. The Constitution has an historical genealogy in America as well as in Europe, and native polities were definitely a part of it. It would be a historical anomaly to assume that Europeans that immigrated to North America lived without genetic, cultural, intellectual and diplomatic interaction with its Native people. Furthermore, it was feared that Europeans lving in a sea of Native Americans might go "Native."

During the ratification period, American Indian governments were discussed extensively in the nation's foremost magazines. In March of 1788, Charles Thomson stated that the "Iroquois . . . [are] like the old Romans in the time of Gaul."[16] Thomson also asserted that some European writers believed they were:

adverse to society and social life. Can anything be more inapplicable than this to a people who always live in towns or clans? [17]

As one rather active participant in the debate regarding native contributions to our founding ideology has written, "Everything that colonists wrote about Indians, of course, has a bearing on the images they held of the Indian and consequently may be evidence of the influence of those images on American institutions, even those institutions they chose not to copy."[18] This was precisely the case, and it opens a very large playing field for research and debate regarding such influence, or lack thereof. The use of the word "copy" is rather troubling, however, because it conjures up an image of the new Americans evolving a system of governing themselves on a cafeteria line, where they could only choose or refuse certain ideas as they were, in their already-cooked totality. Obviously, the United States' creators were free to borrow some from one dish, and mix it with others, free even to bring their own spices, or to ask the kitchen to remove certain ingredients from the dishes offered. A synthesis -- and that is what our system came to be -- opens all these choices. In this context, an argument can be established that the Founders availed themselves of some indigenous American ingredients that heretofore have not been widely recognized.

In so doing, one must look at North American history as the continent's original inhabitants might have seen it, through aboriginal eyes, an intellectual experiment in context of a history still seen principally through European eyes. The authors assume that native peoples, as well as peoples of European ancestry, were causal agents in the colonial and early national history of the United States. It is important to understand that American Indian people (in their scholarship and tribal traditions) clearly perceive the History of North America in a more interactive and synthesis oriented way. Print oriented scholars that ignore the Native viewpoints on North American history tend to amplify the divisiveness, racism, violence and segregation that developed out of the eventual establishment of colonial domination[19]

However, changing the fundamental perceptions and viewpoints of our history can be difficult. While visiting Colonial Williamsburg, a visitor would be surprised to find that the village is hardly a colonial replication. It is largely missing the native peoples who mingled daily with the colonists. Similarly, between the 1920s and 1970s, the streets and structures of Colonial Williamsburg did not include blacks, another statement telling more about the dominant assumptions of history during that half-century than it does about the record itself. In 1790, the United States' first census reported that about 19 per cent of the country's population was black -- and over 90 per cent of them slaves.[20] A representation of Williamsburg -- the political capital of a slave-holding, plantation-based colony -- seems historically ludicrous without blacks on its streets. Today, American Indians are still absent from Williamsburg even though no less a source than Thomas Jefferson observed that before the American Revolution:

Indians . . . were in the habit of coming often, and in great numbers to the seat of our government [Williamsburg], where I was very much with them. [21]

As with the absence of blacks in Williamsburg's history, the authors contend that the sources are readily available to reasses the role of American Indians in our history, but there is a lack of will and consciousness to implement such a process. Indeed. there is still a tendency to ignore Thomas Jefferson's statement that he "was very much with" Indians in spite of his own words on the matter.[22]

Like it or not, the United States has always been a multicultural country. To understand its history as it happened (and not as an exercise in selective perception), one must continue to rediscover all our roots. All of us must try to abandon the distinct cultural blinders of the twentieth century so that records of the eighteenth century can speak to us in a more concise and informative way. American history is not only the story of the unfolding of a democratic society but also it should be an examination of all of the intellectual and cultural wellsprings that were a part of the multicultural and multiracial tapestry that is our history. The current interpretations of the development of the United States Constitution that do not include North American perspectives are "charter myths" that serve the basic needs of a society so young that it is still very unsure of itself. As America becomes more sure of itself and all of its roots, our history can then be expanded to include all viewpoints and perspectives on the development of the Constitution. When everyone realizes that the story of both the Iroquois and the American Constitutions involves the intellectual notion of two distinct "charter myths" (Anglo and American Indian) intersecting in the mid to late Eighteenth century then we can place the process of American Constitution making in a more balanced North American perspective. There is documentary proof that American Indian people and their ideas played a role in the evolution of American government since they were physical present at certain key events relating to the development of American government. In other instances, it is known that American Indian ideas were a part of the discourse on Non-European governmental alternatives. In the final analysis then, the "charter myth" of American government is both an extension of European traditions and North American traditions.


  1. William W. Campbell, The Life and Writings of De Witt Clinton (New York: Baker and Scribner. 1849), p. 210.

  2. John Adams, The Works of John Adams. (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851). IV, p. 296. See Elisabeth Tooker, "Rejoinder to Johansen," Ethnohistory XXXVII, 3 (Summer, 1990), p. 291 for an example of how Adams' quote was used in an attempt to refute any notion that American Indian governments had any impact on the development of the Constitution of the United States. Tooker conveniently omits the second paragraph in her rejoinder which qualifies the statements in the preceding paragraph. Thus, Tooker ignores Adams' admonition to obtain an "accurate investigation of the form of government of the ancient Germans and the modern Indians." Tooker believes that the "Indians did not have the system of government Adams seems to suppose they did" (Ibid., p. 291), and yet one has no insight into how she arrives at this assumption. Actually, Adams knew some very basic things about American Indian governments and specifically the Iroquois. For instance, Adams knew long before Lewis Henry Morgan of the "fifty families" of the Iroquois, the fundamental structures of the Iroquois Confederacy, and he also discussed what was obviously the Iroquois White Dog Sacrifice in his discourse (Adams,Defence, IV, pp. 511, 566, 567). Tooker knows that "The key to the structure of the League is the Roll Call of the Chiefs, and . . . The fifty name-titles on the Roll Call of the Chiefs" (See Elizabeth Tooker, "The United States Constitution and the Iroquois League," Ethnohistory, XXXV, 4 (Fall 1988), p. 331).

    She also claims that Morgan's "discovery" of the Roll Call with "fifty positions" lodged in a clan or kinship oriented chieftainship system validates Morgan's work since subsequent ethnographers, independent of Morgan, have reached similar findings. However, Tooker is blissfully unaware that John Adams talked of the "fifty families." One could argue that Adams' "discovery" of the "fifty families" of the Iroquois validated his knowledge of the Iroquois several generations before Morgan's work. Since Adams speaks of the "fifty families" rather casually and frequently in the Defence, one could infer that he believed such knowledge of the Iroquois to be commonplace. If the knowledge of the basic structure of the League of the Iroquois was commonly known then should not scholars reassess Lewis Henry Morgan's and anthropology's role in the development of our understanding of the Iroquois? Tooker is also unaware that John Adams knew of the Iroquois White Dog Sacrifice and its connection to going to war (See Elizabeth Tooker, "The Iroquois White Dog Sacrifice in the Latter Part of the Eighteenth Century," Ethnohistory, XII, 2 (Spring 1965) for Tooker's speculations on the earliest observations of the White Dog Sacrifice. She omits any reference to Adams' observations and how he coupled them with the "fifty families").

    Tooker's penchant for ignoring new evidence in the debate over Native American influence upon American government is quite evident. In an article on the Iroquois roots of American government controversy in 1988, Tooker believed there was no documentary evidence to support the thesis that Iroquois government played a role in the evolution of American government after 1775 (see Tooker, "Iroquois League," p. 310). Her emphasis then turns to the notion of "image" of the American Indian since she contends that it was not until the development of modern anthropology under Lewis Henry Morgan that "an account of the Iroquois form of government" became available. Thus, she believes there was a veil that impaired any fundamental knowledge of Iroquois government until the arrival of Lewis Henry Morgan and modern anthropological methods (Ibid., pp. 310-311). Moreover, she states that John Locke is an "honorary founding father of the United States" as though it were conventional wisdom, and she does not even bother to cite her source for this assertion (Ibid., p. 306). Tooker has chosen not to address the fact that the U.S. Constitution was toasted in 1790 by Thomas Jefferson, John Jay and others as "our tree of peace . . . [that shelters] us with its branches of union" (see New York Journal, August 10, 1790). Similarly, she refuses to comment on the presence of the Iroquois at the Continental Congress during the debates on Independence when delegates were desperately looking for an alternative to the tyranny of the British monarchy. She seems unaware that many delegates believed that upon declaring independence that they would be returning to a natural state. (see Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, V, pp. 430-431). Instead, she complains about "so little evidence" on the idea of Native American influences on American government (see Tooker, "Rejoinder," p. 291).

    In her "Rejoinder to Johansen" in 1990, Tooker was forced to deal with some of the evidence about Iroquois influence after 1775. She selectively quotes a statement by John Adams on the British Constitution's desirability over American Indian governments as proof that the Indians did not have a system of government that "Adams seems to suppose they did" (Tooker, "Rejoinder," p. 291). Tooker fails to quote John Adams' ensuing paragraph in which Adams advocates a more accurate examination of the government of "modern Indians." She accuses Johansen of arguing that if perceptions of Indian society by the founding fathers were important then "our debt is not to the Indians but to the images" (Ibid.).

    Instead of paying attention to Adams' discourse on American Indian governments and their various rites, Tooker believes that Franklin and Jefferson "saw the Indian through Locke's eyes, not through Indian eyes" (Tooker, "Rejoinder," p. 294), but when we check her sources on this statement none are found. We are asked to "believe" that the "pragmatic" Franklin and the Indian linguistic scholar, Jefferson, were totally influenced as to their ideas about American Indians through the reading of John Locke. Yet, Adams was critical of European writings on American Indians. He stated that among Indians "their royal and aristocratical dignities are much more . . . hereditary . . . than late writers on this subject have allowed." (Adams, Defence, IV, p. 298). Although Tooker believes John Locke to be an "honorary founding father," she ignores John Adams scathing criticism of Locke's "Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina" (see John Locke, The Work of John Locke (London: C. and J. Rivington, 1824), IX, pp. 175-199 for a copy of the "Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina"). In commenting on the "oligarchical sovereignty" of the "Constitutions of Carolina," Adams asked, "who did Locke . . . think would live under his government? He should have created a new species of beings to govern, before he instituted such a government" (see Adams, Defence, IV, pp. 365-369).

    Taking Tooker's analysis of Locke, the Indians and the founding fathers' images of Indians "through Locke's eyes," (Tooker, "Rejoinder," p. 294), one could ask the question of just how much of Locke was respected by founding fathers like Adams and are historians dealing with an "image" of Locke in the minds of people like Adams. Moreover, if Adams was concerned about the practical implementation of Locke's Constitutional ideas then what about his skepticism about Locke and other European thinkers' knowledge of Indians (for Adams' critical appraisal of the knowledge of European writers on Indian topics, see Adams, Defence, IV, p. 298). Taking Adams' thoughts literally one could conclude that Locke was not an "honorary founding father" and that Locke had no influence on the U.S. Constitution because Adams examines his ideas and then discounts them. Tooker completely ignores Jefferson's disdain for European portrayals of American Indians and his description of the Iroquois confederacy in his Notes on Virginia [see Paul L. Ford, ed.The Works of Thomas Jefferson (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1904-1905), III, pp. 454-458 & 494-504], his seeking of information from the Creek chief, Alexander M'Gilvray (see Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, XI, p. 414, and the realization that in his youth, Jefferson was with American Indians a great deal [Lester J. Cappon, ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959),II, p. 307]. Jefferson was also highly critical of James Adair and Lafitau's writings on American Indians (Ibid., II, pp. 305-306). She also ignores the fact that Franklin printed Indian treaties and that some scholars assert that Franklin "got his ideas from the Iroquois" for the Albany Plan. [See Julian P. Boyd, "Meet Dr. Franklin: Friend of the Indian," in Roy N. Lokken, ed., Meet Dr. Franklin (Philadelphia: Franklin Institute, 1981), p. 239].

    Finally, Tooker's analysis of the period from the Albany Plan to the Constitution ignores much of the "established" scholarship on the period. For instance, Jack P. Greene observes in Peripheries and Center: Constitutional Development in the Extended Polities of the British Empire and the United States (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), p. ix that colonial efforts to unify were important precedents for the development of the United States Constitution. In in his study, Greene examines the evolving

    structures and theories of constitutional organization in the extended polities of both the early British Empire and the revolutionary United States between the founding of Virginia in 1607 and the adoption of the federal Constitution in 1788. (Ibid.)

    Greene believes that the search for

    national union . . . was a . . . persistent concern for British Americans [and] it provides an underlying unity to early American Constitutional history from the colonial through the early national periods (Ibid., p. 3).

    Tooker disagrees with Greene's perceptive work by asserting that

    Only after the success of the Revolution could the various earlier plans of union be seen as forerunners of the federal union (see Tooker, "Iroquois League," p. 331.).

    Thus, Tooker's assumptions about the development of the Constitution that run counter to "established" scholarship clearly color her perceptions of Canassatego's Speech of 1744, the Albany Plan, the Articles of Confederation and how these events affected the Founding Fathers in their search for unity and a distinct American government. The reader is left wondering what is the basis for her assumptions as to the evolution of American government.

  3. James H. Hutson, "Riddles of the Constitutional Convention," William and Mary Quarterly XLIV, 3 (July, 1987), p. 411.

  4. Fritz F. Heinmann and Hugh E. Kelso, "Politics and the Constitution -- a Dual Review," Iowa Law Review, XXXIX (1953), p. 139, cited in Hutson, p. 413.

  5. Hutson, "Riddles," p. 420. It should be noted that as an anthropologist, Elisabeth Tooker seems blissfully ignorant of the debate about models for the United States Constitution and tends naively to think of John Locke as an "honorary founding father" (see Tooker, "Iroquois League," p. 306).

  6. Charlestown Columbia Herald, June 9, 1788.

  7. Hutson, "Riddles," p. 422.

  8. For the "Albany Papers," see American Museum, V, January and February, 1789.

  9. Thomas Jefferson to John Rutledge, Paris, August 6, 1787, in Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), XI, p. 701.

  10. Ibid.

  11. William Samuel Johnson to unknown correspondent, August, 1804, William Samuel Johnson Papers, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford. Cited in Hutson, p. 418.

  12. Hutson, "Riddles," p. 421.

  13. William Samuel Johnson to unknown correspondent, August, 1804, William Samuel Johnson Papers, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, cited in Hutson, p. 420. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina concurred with Johnson and seemed to reject European precedents in creating a new American government when he observed that

    all European Republics were extremely limited in size and that We know none a tenth as 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. (See Charlestown Columbian Herald, June 9, 1788).

  14. The evolution of the Great Seal can be seen in these documents: Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, V, pp. 517-518, 689-691, and Ibid., XXII, pp. 338-340; Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, I, p. 497n; Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (Washington: The Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1921-1936), V, p. 149n; Charles Thomson to William Barton, June 24, 1782, Ibid., VI, p. 374, and note by William Barton, n.d., Ibid., VI, p. 374n-375n. For the committee reports and Thomson's work on the Great Seal, see Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774-89, National Archives (M247, Roll 31, Item no. 23). For a discussion of Thomson's role in the development of the Great Seal, see Gaillard Hunt, The History of the Great Seal of the United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909), pp. 33-37.

  15. Herbert J. Storing, ed., The Complete Anti-Federalist, 7 vols. (Chicago, 1981), cited in Hutson, p. 422.

  16. Columbian Magazine, II, 3, p. 136. It is interesting to note here that Robert Venables's article "The Founding Fathers: Choosing to be Romans," Northeast Indian Quarterly, VI, 4 (Winter 1989), p. 52 concludes that the Founding Fathers (although he only cites James Madison and John Adams) examined the political institutions of American Indians when framing the Constitution but "were far more interested in classical Greece and Rome." He believes that the Founding Fathers ultimately saw their era "in the historical perspective of Ancient Greece and Rome" and that two thousand years earlier the Romans had vanquished the "tribal peoples of Northern Europe." In that historical period the Founding Fathers' ancestors "had played the role of the Indians." Venables believes that American Indian ideas were essentially rejected because the "Founding Fathers were determined to be the Romans" and not American Indians because "the Romans possessed a greater unity" than American Indian confederacies (Ibid.). Venables fails to include the fact that Thomson in 1788 called the Iroquois, "Romans." Moreover, De Witt Clinton in 1811 characterized the Iroquois as the "Romans of this western world, who composed a federal Republic" (see William W. Campbell, The Life and Writings of De Witt Clinton (New York: Baker and Scribner, 1849), p. 210). In fact, Clinton returns repeatedly to the Iroquois as Romans analogy in writing on the Iroquois (see Ibid., pp. 217-218, 237, 241, 265). Venables also erroneously asserts that in 1787 "some of the American Indians north of the Ohio were attempting to unify under a new confederation" (see Venables, `Romans," p. 52). With little evidence, Venables concluded this "new confederacy was unable to convince the [Iroquois] . . . to join it" (Ibid., p. 52). Actually, accounts by American Indian leaders like the Great Creek Chief, Alexander M'Gilvray, demonstrate that the Iroquois and other Northern Nations were in contact with the Iroquois Grand Council. The accounts also show that the Iroquois Grand Council was working diligently to create a large barrier American Indian confederacy from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. M'Gilvray reported that on June 10, 1787, a wampum belt of "amity from 24 [Indian] nations" was delivered to the the Creek Nation by "a deputation of Mowhawks, Iroquois, Hurons, Oneidas, and Shawanese" ("Extract of a Letter from Col. Alexander M'Gilvray, Chief of the Creek Indians, June 30, 1787," Georgia Gazette, November 27, 1787). The record shows that the Iroquois delegation was favorably received by the Creeks and that they had created a "friendly league of all the Red Nations to defend their lands and families" (Ibid.). Like Tooker, Venables ignores Charles Pinckney's observation after the Constitutional Convention that "from the European world no precedents are to be drawn for a people who think they are capable of governing themselves" (see Charlestown Columbian Herald, June 9, 1788).

  17. Ibid.

  18. Tooker, "Rejoinder," p. 291.

  19. See Tooker, "Iroquois League," pp. 325-326 for a discussion of Iroquois scholarly traditions on the Influence on American government debate. However, she does not address the oral tradition of the Iroquois on the notion of influence after the American Revolution.

  20. Of course, the First Census of the United States, 1790 contained inconsistencies and errors so these are just ball park numbers. For statistics on all races, white, Negro, other races, free Negro and slave: 1790-1840, see Sixth Census of the United States: 1840, Compendium (Washington: Blair and Rives, 1841), pp. 96-98, 366-371. Total population figures by race were also corrected in the Ninth Census of the United States. For a critical analysis of U.S. Historical Statistics and classification by race, see Bureau of Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970, Bicentennial Edition, Part 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1975), p. 4.

  21. Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, Monticello, June 11, 1812 in Lester J. Cappon, ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters, II, p. 307. A similar problem exists at Independence Hall in Philadelphia where there is clear evidence that the Iroquois and other American Indians were at the debates on Independence in May and June of 1776, and American Indian governmental systems were a factored in discussions on the nature of the new government that was to be established after Independence (see Ford, ed., Journals of Congress, V, p. 430 and VI, p. 1078 for James Wilson's analysis of the impact of the visit by the Iroquois in May and June of 1776. See also Pennsylvania Gazette, May 29, 1776, and Benjamin Rush's Notes in Smith, ed., Letters of the Delegates, V, pp. 577-578 and IV, pp. 99 & 281 for further examples of American Indian presence at Independence Hall before, during and after the Declaration of Independence).

  22. Ibid. See also Tooker, "Rejoinder," p. 291.

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