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ORGANIZATION OF THE IROQUOIS. 47 formed, these separate portions readily resumed their ancient tie of fraternity. Thus, of the Turtle clan, all the members became brothers again, — nominal members of one family, whether Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, or Senecas; and so, too, of the remaining clans. All the Iroquois, irrespective of nationality, were therefore divided into eight families, each tracing its descent to a common mother, and each designated by its distinctive emblem or totem. This connection of clan or family was exceedingly strong, and by it the five nations of the league were linked together as by an eightfold chain. The clans were by no means equal in numbers, influence, or honor. So marked were the distinctions among them, that some of the early writers recognize only the three most conspicuous, — those of the Tortoise, the Bear, and the Wolf. To some of the clans, in each nation, belonged the right of giving a chief to the nation and to the league. Others had the right of giving three, or, in one case, four chiefs;while others could give none. As Indian clanship was but an extension of the family relation, these of other tribes. The eight clans of the Iroquois were separated into two divisions, four in each. Originally, marriage was interdicted between all the members of the same division, but in time the interdict was limited to the members of the individual clans. Another tribe, the Choctaws, remote from the Iroquois, and radically different in language, had also eight clans, similarly divided, with a similar interdict of marriage. Gallatin, Synopsis, 109. The Creeks, according to the account given by their old chief, Sekopechi, to Mr. D. W. Eakins, were divided into nine clans, named in most cases from animals: clanship being transmitted, as usual, through the female.
chiefs were, in a certain sense, hereditary; but the law of inheritance, though binding, was extremely elastic, and capable of stretching to the farthest limits of the clan. The chief was almost invariably succeeded by a near relative, always through the female, — as a brother by the same mother, or a nephew by the sister's side. But if these were manifestly unfit, they were passed over, and a chief was chosen at a council of the clan from among remoter kindred. In these cases, the successor is said to have been nominated by the matron of the late chief's household.1 Be this as it may, the choice was never adverse to the popular inclination. The new chief was "raised up," or installed, by a formal council of the sachems of the league; and on entering upon his office, he dropped his own name, and assumed that which, since the formation of the league, had belonged to this especial chieftainship. The number of these principal chiefs, or, as they have been called by way of distinction, sachems, varied in the several nations from eight to fourteen. The sachems of the five nations, fifty in all, assembled in council, formed the government of the confederacy. All met as equals, but a peculiar dignity was ever attached to the Atotarho of the Onondagas. There was a class of subordinate chiefs, in no sense hereditary, but rising to office by address, ability, or valor. Yet the rank was clearly defined, and the new chief installed at a formal council. This class 1 Lafitau, i. 471.
embodied, as might be supposed, the best talent of the nation, and the most prominent warriors and orators of the Iroquois have belonged to it. In its character and functions, however, it was purely civil. Like the sachems, these chiefs held their councils, and exercised an influence proportionate to their number and abilities. There was another council, between which and that of the subordinate chiefs the line of demarcation seems not to have been very definite. The Jesuit Lafitau calls it "the senate." Familiar with the Iroquois at the height of their prosperity, he describes it as the central and controlling power, so far, at least, as the separate nations were concerned. In its character it was essentially popular, but popular in the best sense, and one which can find its application only in a small community. Any man took part in it whose age and experience qualified him to do so. It was merely the gathered wisdom of the nation. Lafitau compares it to the Roman Senate, in the early and rude age of the Republic, and affirms that it loses nothing by the comparison. He thus describes it: "It is a greasy assemblage, sitting sur leur drrrierr, crouched like apes, their knees as high as their ears, or lying, some on their bellies, some on their backs, each with a pipe in his mouth, discussing affairs of state with as much coolness and gravity as the Spanish Junta or the Grand Council of Venice."1 The young warriors had also their councils: so,
1 Lafitau, i. 478. too, had the women; and the opinions and wishes of each were represented by means of deputies before the "senate," or council of the old men, as well as before the grand confederate council of the sachems.
The government of this unique republic resided wholly in councils. By councils all questions were settled, all regulations established, —social, political, military, and religious. The war-path, the chase, the council-fire, —in these was the life of the Iroquois; and it is hard to say to which of the three he was most devoted. The great council of the fifty sachems formed, as we have seen, the government of the league. Whenever a subject arose before any of the nations, of importance enough to demand its assembling, the sachems of that nation might summon their colleagues by means of runners, bearing messages and belts of wampum. The usual place of meeting was the valley of Onondaga, the political as well as geographical centre of the confederacy. Thither, if the matter were one of deep and general interest, not the sachems alone, but the greater part of the population, gathered from east and west, swarming in the hospitable lodges of the town, or bivouacked by thousands in the surrounding fields and forests. While the sachems deliberated in the council-house, the chiefs and old men, the warriors, and often the women, were holding their respective councils apart; and their opinions, laid by their deputies before the THE GREAT COUNCIL. 51 council of sachems, were never without influence on its decisions. The utmost order and deliberation reigned in the council, with rigorous adherence to the Indian notions of parliamentary propriety. The conference opened with an address to the spirits, or the chief of all the spirits. There was no heat in debate. No speaker interrupted another. Each gave his opinion in turn, supporting it with what reason or rhetoric he could command, — but not until he had stated the subject of discussion in full, to prove that he understood it, repeating also the arguments, pro and con, of previous speakers. Thus their debates were excessively prolix; and the consumption of tobacco was immoderate. The result, however, was a thorough sifting of the matter in hand; while the practised astuteness of these savage politicians was a marvel to their civilized contemporaries. "It is by a most subtle policy," says Lafitau, "that they have taken the ascendant over the other nations, divided and overcome the most warlike, made themselves a terror to the most remote, and now hold a peaceful neutrality between the French and English, courted and feared by both."1 1 Lafitau, i. 480. Many other French writers speak to the same effect. The following are the words of the soldier historian, La Potherie, after describing the organization of the league: "C'est done la cette politique qui les unit si bien, a peu pres comine tous les ressorts d'une horloge, qui par une liaison admirable de toutes les parties qui les composent, contribuent toutes unanimement au merveilleux effet qui en resulte."— Hist. del'Amirique Septentrionale, iii. 32. He adds: "Les Francois ont avoiiii eux-memes qu'ils e'toieDt