The Iroquois Constitution

During the bi-centennial year of The Constitution of the United States, a number of books were written concerning the origin of that long-revered document. One of these, The Genius of the People, alleged that after the many weeks of debate a committee sat to combine the many agreements into one formal document. The chairman of the committee was John Rutledge of South Carolina. He had served in an earlier time, along with Ben Franklin and others, at the Stamp Act Congress, held in Albany, New York. This Committee of Detail was having trouble deciding just how to formalize the many items of discussion into one document that would satisfy one and all. Rutledge proposed they model the new government they were forming into something along the lines of the Iroquois League of Nations, which had been functioning as a democratic government for hundreds of years, and which he had observed in Albany. While there were many desirable, as well as undesirable, models from ancient and modern histories in Europe and what we know now as the Middle East, only the Iroquois had a system that seemed to meet most of the demands espoused by the many parties to the debates. The Genius of the People alleged that the Iroquois had a Constitution which began: “We the people, to form a union. . .”

That one sentence was enough to light a fire under me, and cause me to do some deep research into ancient Iroquoian lore. I never did find that one sentence backed up in what writings there are concerning the ancient Iroquois. But I DID find sufficient data and evidence to convince me that the Iroquois most certainly did have a considerable influence on the drafting of our own Constitution, and we present-day Americans owe them a very large debt. At the time of the founding of the Iroquois League of Nations, no written language existed; we have only the early stories which were passed down from generation to generation, until such time as there was a written language, and interpreters available, to record that early history. One such document is listed below.

There are several other documents now available in various places which refer to the original founding of the Iroquois, and they seem to substantiate this document as probably truthful and accurate. This version was prepared by Arthur C. Parker, Archeologist of the State Museum in New York in 1915, and published by the University of the State of New York as Bulletin 184 on April 1, 1916. It is entitled: The Constitution of the Five Nations – or – The Iroquois Book of the Great Law. In it, you will find close parallels to our Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches of government as originally described in our U. S. Constitution.

Leave a Reply