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Did the Iroquois Confederacy Influence the Drafting of the Constitution of the United States?
When the framers of the U.S. Constitution gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to create a new form of government for the United States, they examined many types of democratic systems and political organizations. Was one of them the Iroquois Confederacy, an alliance of five Indian nations located in present-day New York State? Supporters of the thesis that the Iroquois influenced the drafting of the U.S. Constitution argue that it resembled that of the Iroquois Confederacy in several key ways, including its federalist structure and a decision-making process that incorporated both a separation of powers and a system of checks and balances. Opponents of the thesis, however, argue that the government of the Iroquois Confederacy differed significantly from the one outlined by the U.S. Constitution, including its reliance on unanimity, rather than majority rule, in making decisions, and that the framers had little knowledge of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Let your students get the facts and decide for themselves: Did the Iroquois Confederacy influence the drafting of the Constitution of the United States? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in American History’s clear and unbiased examination of the Iroquois influence thesis this month.
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