Contributions of the Iroquois, 10

karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Tue, 2 Jul 1996 10:29:25 -0600

Johansen (1982:83) quotes Conner (1965) as saying that "Franklin could
not help but admire the proud, simple life of America's native inhab
itants. There was a noble quality in the stories...which he told of
their hospitality and tolerance, of their oratory and pride." Franklin
saw in Indians' conduct "a living symbol of simplicity and 'happy
mediocrity,' exemplifying essential aspects of the Virtuous Order."
Depiction of this "healthful, primitive morality could be instructive for
transplanted Englishmen, still doting on 'foreign Geegaws.' Happiness,
Franklin wrote, 'is more generally and equally diffused among savages
than in our civilized societies.'"

"'Happy mediocrity' meant striking a compromise between the
overcivilization of Europe, with its distinctions between rich and poor
and consequent corruption, and the egaliatraian, democratic societies of
the Indians that formed a counterpoint to European monarchy. The
Virtuous Order would combine both, borrowing from Europe arts, sciences,
and mechanical skills, taking from the indians aspects of the natural
society that Franklin and others believed to be a window kon the pasts of
other cultures, including those from which the colonists had come. There
is in the writings of Franklin, as well as those of Jefferson, a sense of
using the Indian example to recapture natural rights that Europeans had
lost under monarchy. ... Franklin (as well as Jefferson) sought to erect
an amalgam, a combination of indigenous American Indian practices and the
cultural heritage that the new Amricans had carried from Europe. In
discussing the new culture, Frankln and others drew from experience with
native Amricans which was more extensive than that of the European
natural rights philosophers. The Amrican Indians' theory and practice
affected Franklin's observations on the need for appreciation of diverse
cuiltures and religions, public opinion as the basis for a polity, the
nature of liberty and happiness, and the social role of property.
American Indians appear frequently in some of Franklin's scientific
writings" (Johansen 1982:83-84)

Karl Schwerin SnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131

There are people who will help you get your basket
on your head because they want to see what is in it.
-- African proverb