The Fact Behind Whether a Native American Government Encouraged the US Constitution (Part2)
In This Review
6. The Great Council was neither elected or ruled by majority
One of the 50 sachems that gathered as The Great Council to decide Iroquois matters was elected through an election among his peers. Each sachem was appointed by their hereditary titles. Also, no tribe members permitted to speak for the sachems in council. The messages sent from and to the council to chieftains individually were delivered by war chiefs. They also held appointed hereditary positions or by particular merits, such as outstanding ability as a fighter. Only men were able to sit on the council. Only men with a valid voice can be a part of the council’s
discussions and be a part of its discussions. They made decisions not through a vote taking the policy that was decided by a majority vote, rather through consensus. Failure to reach an agreement, the council did not take any action at all the council regarding the issue being considered. A consensus was a result of agreement among the members present.
The hereditary status for the members was determined by matrilineal lineages. Disputes regarding the legitimate succession for one of the sachems with hereditary blood resolved by the elder women members of clans. The body that governed the Iroquois Confederation was not elected democratically. It was a result of an inheritance nobility, if you will. It was not able to make decisions on issues by voting the issues, and had few to no authority over the issues that were put before it. Only the sachems were able to raise questions for discussion, while the individuals of the tribes couldn’t. Also, none of the sachems unilaterally control members of the Council, except if they did it through extraordinary speech that could influence the council members to agree with his ideas, regardless of what they were. It is possible that there would be or, more precisely, no chief or supreme monarch with unlimitless authority in the Iroquois Confederation.
7. The land cession treaties enhanced colonial contacts with Iroquois leaders
In the 1720s , colonial governors in The British colonies on the east coast were battling conflict on all fronts. Pirates, and in the time of war, privateers as well as ships of war from the enemy were threatening the small communities that huddled on the coast. Plantations and settlements further inland were prone to assaults and attacks by indigenous people living along the frontier. Many tribes of indigenous people such as the Iroquois fighting each other, further jeopardizing these frontier villages. In 1721, groups of the Iroquois were fighting some Virginia tribes. The year 1721 was the year Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood invited representatives from the Five Tribes to Williamsburg, Virginia. The gathering, which took place in October were attended by representatives from five tribes, three of whom perished during the discussion. Additionally, there were members from members of Virginia tribes who came in the suspicion of being responsible for murdering members of the Iroquois representatives.
Spotswood reached agreements with Iroquois that stated that they agreed that the Five Tribes recognized the Potomac River as the border between their lands and the lands that are legally owned by their Virginia tribes. So an English governor signed a treaty of peace with the Indians. The governor also made a promise that the respective tribes could not enter the border without the permission from the Governor of Virginia or his designated representative. Spotswood was able to leave the meeting with a greater awareness of the strength of the Iroquois Confederation, and its capacity to influence the future relationships with British North America and the Natives. Spotswood demanded a meeting with the Iroquois governors and sachems in the colonial colonies Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland and Pennsylvania, to be held close to Albany in the season of 1722. This Albany Conference became the largest ever held between Natives along with the British up to that point.
8. The British acceptance of Iroquois power resulted in the Treaty of Albany in 1722
Alexander Spotswood recognized the growing threat to Britain from France at the beginning of the 18th century. He also understood the strength that was the Iroquois Confederation, both militarily speaking, and also in its unifying way of governing. For Spotswood the lands claimed by the Iroquois provided an ideal defensive line with French Canada as well as their Native allies, as well as their allies in the British colonies in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia that then extended into beyond the Ohio River. The Virginia governor was aware that the Iroquois possessing something that the British colonies didn’t and that was unity of purpose between five distinct entities. In the Albany Conference, Albany Conference brought together, for the first time the four British colonies that were seeking a common goal, an agreement to end war with the Five Tribes, mutually beneficial for everyone. It also recognized the power of Five Tribes to negotiate and arrive at a conclusion as a single.
The capability to work together as a team of Iroquois was well-known to numerous Americans throughout the years that followed One of them later was able to confront his fellow Iroquois, Benjamin Franklin. It was the capacity of the five nations to work together that impressed Franklin and not the concepts that individual freedom or a democratic government. In 1722, the Treaty of Albany, ratified and signed by the representatives of the Great council along with the four colonies that participated, was a major part of Franklin’s thoughts for the rest of his life. The idea of nations that were distinct independent of government, forming an even more powerful unit in certain matters which led to his famous sketches of a snake that represented the colonies that was cut into smaller pieces, which were then destroyed. Franklin’s subsequent dealings to the Iroquois also helped him gain an appreciation for their immense military and diplomatic ability.
9. Canasatego and the Treaty of Lancaster
The administration of the Iroquois Confederation first gained the attention of Benjamin Franklin following another conference with the Six Tribes and representatives of the colonies of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The conference, which took place at Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1744 was in danger of disintegrating because of the conflict between the colonies. According to the accounts that were published at the time the chieftain from the Onondaga tribe named Canasatego spoke to the colonial leaders, scolding the group for their lack of unity. “We have a few more things to add and that is that we strongly advocate unity and good agreement among our fellow brethren. Always agree, but keep an unshakeable friendship with each other, and both of us will be stronger”. The conference took place in the midst of King George‘s War, another of the wars that fought that fought between France, Britain, the colonies, as well as those of the Native tribes.
Similar to what they did in the Albany conference more than two decades prior The Mohawk were not able to take part in at the Lancaster conference this was a sign the Iroquois unit wasn’t as solid in the sense that Canasatego claimed. There were already fractures within the confederation that led towards the tribes being on opposite sides in the American Revolution. However, his speech was interpreted by Franklin as a solution to the problems of the colonies with Britain in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, which was part of the Seven Year’s War. Franklin employed the metaphor of unity and reflected on it in writing as well as in public debate as the colonies pushed towards independence and self-government during the second half of 18 century. century. People who support that Iroquois impact on the Constitution mention the Canasatego speech as proof of their influence on the thought process that was formulated by those who were the Founders who lived in Philadelphia.
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