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Americans and their historians have long viewed constitution-making in the Founding Era as a local event with global repercussions. It is a story of American ideals and interests in which American drafters, voters, and ratifiers made key decisions. Americans then began to work out the meaning of their constitutions in state and federal institutions, which required that some officeholders be citizens. Only after the ratification of the federal Constitution did foreign nations take heed, through imitation and (later) force. This myth of the originally authentic, and later diffusionist constitution, is not limited to the United States.It has been the dominant conception of constitution-making
in many times and places.
In fact, American constitution-making began as an international process. All the American constitutions of the Founding Era, state and federal, were made with foreign, as well as domestic, audiences in mind. International factors, from wartime imperatives to calculations of long-term commercial advantages, contributed to American constitution-making from the beginning. Indeed, the founding documents of the early United States⎯the state constitutions, the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Model Commercial Treaty⎯were designed at least in part as diplomatic instruments that, together, formed a revolutionary portfolio. Furthermore, the foundational documents articulated an Enlightenment-inflected vision of an international order of “civilized nations,” among which commerce would balance power.