Independence Day


Independence Day again — time to look back and reflect on the origins of this Country — time to gaze back through the mists of time, where somewhere we may yet watch as our Puritan forefathers purchase the land for a few beads. Or, pushing the clock ahead a bit, we could observe Benjamin Franklin a few years before the Revolution, when he was publishing his famed Almanack and was universally revered and honored by his fellow townfolk. We could even leap further ahead yet, to watch as the Founding Fathers create our Constitution, using the democratic tenets of Ancient Greece as its model.

Well, we could look back on all that — but we can't. None of what I just mentioned happened that way. As far as the beads go, you may already know that, first off, it was only Manhattan Island that was the objective of that legendary Real Estate deal. Secondly, the purchase was not made by Puritans or any other English types — it was the Dutch who had laid claim to the area now known as New York, and specifically it was acting Governor Peter Minuit who supposedly purchased Manhattan for twenty four dollars in glass beads. As it turns out, though, there were probably no beads involved in the transaction, either — at least not the glass sort that legend and certain nineteenth century New York historians with a bit too much imagination would have it! It was, however, customary to trade Wampum — shell beads used as currency by Native and European alike — to seal deals such as this.

As far as Ben Franklin, he typically stirred up too much trouble to be revered in those days. The final straw however came in the 1760's, when, on learning of a retaliatory massacre on some innocent Native Americans by some misguided Scotch immigrants, Franklin fired off the angriest column he'd ever produced. He was summarily drummed out of local politics and shipped off to England. And this is on the eve of the Revolution!

Finally, the Constitution was not based on anything remotely European, but was closely modeled on the constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy — a political covenant that had been created between 1400 and 1500 AD!