Helms School of Government
Government: Politics and Policy
Sargent, Kayla, "Clan Mothers and Founding Fathers: The Impact of the Iroquois Confederacy on American Constitutionalism" (2020). Senior Honors Theses. 963.
The American Constitutional tradition was influenced by many different sources, such as Scripture, English Common Law, and the governmental structure of ancient Greece and Rome. However, many Constitutional scholars often fail to realize that the Founding Fathers looked beyond Europe for inspiration. One source to which they may have turned was the Iroquois Great Law of Peace. The Great Law of Peace was the first constitution in North America, potentially as early as 1450, and passed down via oral tradition until it was written down in the 1880s. The Great Law of Peace brought together the Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Cayuga nations together peacefully, with a sixth tribe, the Tuscarora, joining around 1722. The Iroquois continue to govern themselves under the Great Law even today. This thesis will seek to understand the impact that the Iroquois Confederacy may have had on the American constitutional tradition.