What did the founders say about the dangers of foreign involvement in American elections or a president who might solicit such corrupt involvement?
George Washington, in his farewell address at the end of his presidency, argued that one of the greatest dangers to the United States involved the "insidious wiles" of foreign powers and their multiple avenues to improperly influence our political system. Washington urged Americans "to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government."
Thomas Jefferson also sounded the alarm about "entanglements" between the United States and foreign governments, which he and other founders viewed with "perfect horror" due to the corruption that could result. Jefferson knew that a republic could not function if its chief executive would abuse his office"and the public trust"by soliciting personal political assistance from a foreign government.
John Adams had similar beliefs, writing to Jefferson in 1787 that he understood Jefferson's apprehension about "foreign Interference, Intrigue Influence." Adams, too, was concerned about corruption in the political system, leading him to assert that America should not conduct elections too often. "As often as Elections happen," Adams wrote, "the danger of foreign Influence recurs."
Alexander Hamilton warned specifically about a foreign power's ability to cultivate a president or another top official. In Federalist Paper Number 68, published in 1788, Hamilton wrote:
These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistry of the Union?
The founders set up our system of checks and balances among three branches of government, in part, to restrain potential presidential corruption. They knew:
... that if the checks and balances proved to be not strong enough to restrain the executive, or if the legislative and judicial branches, convinced by a crisis, yielded too much power to the executive"well, that way lay tyranny, because a president would then be able to do whatever he pleased, even if in the process he destroyed the republic.