An Indian Democracy Essay

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An Indian Democracy

Donald Grinde is the author of The Iroquois and the Founding of the American Nation, one of the earliest books to argue for an Indian influence on the formation of the American democracy. Since Grinde’s publication and Bruce Johansen’s a year later, there has been a great deal of debate over this issue. Many of the most prominent opponents of the influence thesis have failed to distinguish between the arguments of more extreme authors, such as Gregory Schaaf, who claim that the Iroquois Gayanashagowa was copied by the U.S. Constitution, and those with a more moderate stance, like Johansen and Grinde, who simply point to a clear influence (Johansen, 1998). This paper intends to argue along the lines of these latter
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However, there is a great deal of documentation showing that Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and Wilson all worked regularly with native nations. To receive no knowledge of those tribes’ political systems during their intercourse defies logic and the historical record sited by the moderate proponents of influence (Johansen, 1998).

Another opponent of the influence theory, Michael Newman argued that the Iroquois “ancestors did not guide Madison’s hand in writing the Constitution.” Both antagonists presented here stand firmly by their conviction that our founders did not copy Indian ways. Both effectively challenge and refute Schaaf and others with such extreme claims. Neither author, though, says anything interesting since theirs is an obvious point to argue. Furthermore, neither author convincingly denies the less extreme argument of native influence proposed by Johansen and Grinde. That is, natives had a significant impact on the great political minds during the formation of the U.S. This influence is recognizable through their research, and should be acknowledged (Johansen, 1998).

Hauptman finally begins to address the type of evidence uncovered by the proponents of the influence thesis. He points to James Wilson’s disregard for Indian rights during his land speculations as evidence of his disrespect for natives. He goes on

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