On this date… July 4, 1744… Pennsylvania

Exactly how much the formation of the United States of America was inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy is a matter of debate. But we do know that on the 4th of July in 1744, Canasatego, a Lord of the Onondaga, gave this advice to the British colonists:

“We heartily recommend Union and a good Agreement between you our Brethren. Never disagree, but preserve a strict Friendship for one another, and thereby you, as well as we, will become the stronger. Our wise Forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations; this has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighbouring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and, by your observing the same Methods our wise Forefathers have taken, you will acquire fresh Strength and Power; therefore whatever befalls you, never fall out one with another.”

In 1775, on the eve of the American Revolution, the colonists remembered, and addressed the Iroquois:

“Our forefathers rejoiced to hear Cannassateego speak these words. They sunk deep into their hearts. The advice was good; it was kind. They said to one another, ‘The Six Nations are a wise people. Let us hearken to them, and take their counsel, and teach our children to follow it. Our old men have done so. They have frequently taken a single arrow, and said, Children, see how easy it is broken. Then they have taken and tied twelve arrows together with a strong string or cord, and our strongest men could not break them. See, said they, this is what the Six Nations mean. Divided, a single man may destroy you; united, you are a match for the whole world.’ We thank the Great God that we are all united; that we have a strong confederacy, composed of twelve provinces, New Hampshire, etc. These provinces have lighted a great council-fire at Philadelphia, and have sent sixty-five counsellors to speak and act in the name of the whole, and consult for the common good of the people, and of you, our brethren of the Six Nations, and your allies.”

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And so, in the Great Seal of the United States, an eagle clutches a bundle of thirteen arrows, one for each colony.

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