Re: The Iroquois and the Constitution

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Sat, 3 Feb 1996 20:48:35 -0500

On Wed, 31 Jan 1996, Jim Moore wrote:

> I was at a conference about 10 years ago -- which means I'm gonna
> get all the details wrong -- but actually apparently Ben Franklin
> was quite impressed by the Iroquois at some meeting where a treaty
> was worked out, and invited some down to the Continental Congress
> to explain their set-up.

Spent the day in the library again.

In none of the basic sources on the 1787 constitutional convention
("Continental Congress"?) is there any mention of the presence of Indians,
let alone Iroquois.

However, in D. Johansen's "Native American Societies and the Evolution of
Demoncracy in America, 1600-1800" (Ethnohistory 1990:279-289), there is
the comment that at the 1754 Albany Congress [at which Franklin was one of
the Pennsylvania delegates], "the Mohawk sachem Tiyanga (whom the British
called Old Hendrick) described the Iroquois systemn to the delegates."

However, as Elizabeth Tooker rightly noted, (Rejoinder to Johansen, same
volume), "If ... Johansen had read the proceedings of the Albany
Conference with any care, he would have noticed that Hendrick was invited
. . . to explin the grievances of the Mohawk and other Iroquois, which he
did. He did did not describe the "Iroquois systemn to the colonial
delegates." He did not even mention the Iroquois system in his speeches
other than to note that the Iroquois had once been a powerful people..."