It’s been claimed that credit should be given to the Iroquois for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other vital instruments of liberty. The ideas expressed in these documents of liberty and representative government were not derived from Western Christianity but rather borrowed from Native American minority groups without given their due credit. “Anthropologist Thomas Riley asserts that the League of the Iroquois served ‘as a model for the confederation that would make up the United States.’ Alvin Josephy credits the Iroquois with being ‘particularly influential’ on the thinking of the framers in Philadelphia.’ Jack Weatherford observes that the Iroquois provided a blueprint’ by which the settler might be able to fashion a new government.’” What is the evidence for such claims? A letter written by Benjamin Franklin in 1754:
It would be a strange thing if six nations of ignorant savages should be capable of forming a scheme for such a union, and be able to executive it in such a manner as that it has subsisted for ages and appears indissoluble, and yet that a like union should be impracticable for ten or a dozen English colonies, to whom it is more necessary and must be more advantageous, and who cannot be supposed to want an equal understanding of their interests.
Franklin’s point was obvious; he was making a point of comparison: “if the barbarians can work out their problems, surely we civilized men can agree on a union.” Elisabeth Tooker’s study of this thesis shows the profound differences between the “six nations” and the American Union. “Tooker concluded that the Iroquois claim to be the secret force behind the American Constitution is a myth, sustained by ideology.” She writes:
Research over the past several decades has revealed that the sources of thought embodied in the Constitution are more varied and its history more complex than had previously been suspected, and there has been something of a revolution in this regard. But of all the influences that have been uncovered and assessed in recent years, none points to an Indian one.
The goal in all of this is to strip America’s founding from its English Christian roots. On the one side, we have the those who claim that the Enlightenment did it all, and on the other side we have those who tout the civility of wisdom of native peoples.
Dinesh D’Souza, The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society (New York: The Free Press, 1995), 356.
D’Souza, The End of Racism, 356.
Elizabeth Tooker, “The United States Constitution and the Iroquois League,” in James A. Clifton, Invented Indian: Cultural Fictions and Government Policies (Edison, NJ: Transaction Books, 1990), 108