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The Founding Fathers Feared Foreign Influence—And Devised Protections Against It

When the Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia during the 1787 Constitutional Convention, they represented a loosely held confederacy of Atlantic states recently freed from British rule. If the American experiment was going to work, the founding fathers knew that they had to insulate their new republic from deep-pocketed interests and old alliances from Europe. 

Through a course of heated conversations and compromises, safeguards against foreign influence as a corrupting force were built into the Constitution.

“The founders had just broken free from one empire, and the idea that some other empire was going to swallow them up was a constant source of fear for them,” says Mary Sarah Bilder, law professor and constitutional historian at Boston College Law School, and author of Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention.

American statesmen like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were no strangers to the backroom deals and soap-opera plot lines of 18th-century European politics. Gift-giving was common practice among foreign dignitaries, as was bestowing of titles of nobility on foreign political friends. Intermarriage of royal families was another classic way to bind the interests of two nations together.

If the United States was going to be different, the framers needed a founding document that fully recognized and defended against the corrupting influence of foreign money and power, particularly on the president.

Article II of the Constitution gives such power to the president to run the executive branch that a president under the influence of a foreign nation would be far more dangerous than any other single individual,” says Stephen Saltzburg, professor at The George Washington University Law School. “That kind of conflict, between loyalty to the United States and loyalty to a foreign nation, would be intolerable.”

Read entire article at History.com