Thursday, November 1, 2007

Native American Influence on the Constitution

Recent scholarship on the history of the early American republic has uncovered some interesting insights into what influenced the establishment of our nation. One of the most interesting studies in recent years has to do with the influence of various Native American tribes on the Constitution. Certainly there is no doubt that numerous factors influenced the creation of the Constitution. It is unlikely that only one source or influence was at work. With that in mind, I think it is worth mentioning what some historians have been discussing when it comes to Native American influence on the creation of the Constitution. Here is a short quotation from James Mann, one of the leading writers on this topic:

"So vivid were these examples of democratic self-government [from colonial Indian history] that some historians and activists have argued that the [Indians'] Great Law of Peace directly inspired the American Constitution. Taken literally, this assertion seems implausible. With its grant of authority to the federal government to supersede state law, its dependence on rule by the majority rather than consensus and its denial of suffrage to women, the Constitution as originally enacted was not at all like the Great Law. But in a larger sense the claim is correct. The framers of the Constitution, like most colonists in what would become the United States, were pervaded by Indian images of liberty"


1 comment:

Lindsey Shuman said...

I think you are right. While there is no doubt that the Enlightenment, etc were the most influential forces in shaping our Constitution, we still need to think about the Native American influence. They clearly made an impact on colonial society, why not government?