Our Constitution defines limits of the federal government and its power over its citizens and the states. Ours is a republic, with states’ rights and the rights of the people being paramount and protected, restricted to them.
Our republic is built predominantly on the philosophies of Locke, Voltaire and Paine. Our founders Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and others defined the structure, functions and restrictions on the power of a central government. Having just thrown off a king, our founders were leery of creating another supreme “Prince.”
If your parents and teachers taught you anything of value, you already know this. Here is a truth of a highly influential organization that contributed greatly to our constitutional philosophies of government, the Native American Iroquois Confederation.
Yup, those “savages” had a highly functioning republic 450 years before us that rivaled those of Greece and Rome. Washington, Franklin, Penn, Hamilton, Madison and Adams recognized the highly functional Iroquois government as worthy of emulation. The basis of this confederation was the independent rights of the five to seven tribes (basically families) and every individual in them. Sachem (chosen by each tribe) represented the tribes in all Confederation council meetings which settled disputes between tribes to prevent fighting, coordinated inter-tribal support to redress grievances, addressed territorial incursions by non-Iroquois tribes, acted to recover from natural disasters, and a host of other issues as needed.
Passionate orators led discussions to arrive at agreements and courses of action to be voted on, one vote per tribal sachem. Sounds democratic, but it most assuredly was not, since each tribe was entitled to its own vote and course of action. A vote of four to three only meant that four tribes would act on the decided action, while the remaining three would not, with no repercussions.
Democracy (majority rule) would have required the tribes in the minority to acquiesce to the will of the majority and, to them, an unacceptable imposition on their personal and tribal freedoms. An example in Franklins time saw a famine resolved by the Confederation Council by coordinating each tribe sharing a percentage of their food with those tribes most affected. All tribes contributed so all would be hungry, but none would starve.
Franklin envisioned this to be the way the states of these United States would operate through coordination (not dictates) with the federal government or even a majority of it. A true republic. Not Plato’s. Much freer than that, with the central government limited, controlled, responsible to the people, the true source of power.
Confederation women, mothers, were powerful advisors on the Council of Women. They made all day-to-day tribal decisions and had absolute veto power over any Confederation desire to go to war. As the Great Spirit’s source of life, no member of the tribe could be put in harm’s way until the Council of Women approved, period.
Our federal government has been usurping our rights for over a century, but the pace has exploded in the last 200 days. Our president claims a great desire for unity while continually pushing a wider and wider range of dictates trampling the rights of every one of us and our tribe (state). We must relearn and apply the incredible importance of states’ rights (10th Amendment) in resisting the radical overreach of our federal government.
Adendum: In the book “History of Sulllivan’s Campaign against the Iroquois” by A. Tiffany Norton, Benjamin Franklins attendance as a Pennsylvania Colony representative at the British Board of Trade congress in Albany, N.Y. in 1754 is noted. The BBT, Colonial representatives and the Iroquois met to discuss a treaty with the Iroquois and a plan to unify the 13 Colonies. Franklin proposed a written plan for Colonial unity, that the Iroquois recognized as adopting much of their process and recommended it as a basis for future relations with the British. The Iroquois reportedly supported Franklins unity plan, the BBT and all 13 Colonies rejected it. Colonial unity was not something the Crown wanted.
So Franklin, though this and other means, personally interfaced with the Iroquois and would have known the tenets of their individual rights and freedoms. In 1751 Franklin wrote concerning the Iroquois and the need for a similar approach to unity and freedom for the Colonies, saying basically, If the savages could do it successfully for ages, then the Colonies truly in great need of unity and freedom could too.
While I am aware that many historians line up on both sides of the Franklin / Iroquois U.S. constitutional debate, contemporaries of Franklin support the view that the Iroquois brand of government was used by Franklin to build our “Distinctly American Republic” and its constitution. Then as now, history or today’s headlines, there is no irrefutable fact that cannot be discussed, twisted and altered to support a target agenda. Is it possible that Franklin developed the Iroquois Confederation governmental operations on his own, or is it more likely that he learned of ropes, believed them to be good, and just took them?