Read Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitution by Lawrence Goldstone Online


An eye-opening examination of America's foundation On September 17, 1787, at the State House in Philadelphia, thirty-nine men from twelve states, after months of often bitter debate, signed America’s Constitution. Yet very few of the delegates, at the start, had had any intention of creating a nation that would last. Most were driven more by pragmatic, regional inteAn eye-opening examination of America's foundation On September 17, 1787, at the State House in Philadelphia, thirty-nine men from twelve states, after months of often bitter debate, signed America’s Constitution. Yet very few of the delegates, at the start, had had any intention of creating a nation that would last. Most were driven more by pragmatic, regional interests than by idealistic vision. Many were meeting for the first time, others after years of contention, and the inevitable clash of personalities would be as intense as the advocacy of ideas or ideals.No issue was of greater concern to the delegates than that of slavery: it resounded through debates on the definition of treason, the disposition of the rich lands west of the Alleghenies and the admission of new states, representation and taxation, the need for a national census, and the very make-up of the legislative and executive branches of the new government. As Lawrence Goldstone provocatively makes clear in Dark Bargain, "to a significant and disquieting degree, America’s most sacred document was molded and shaped by the most notorious institution in its history."Goldstone chronicles the forging of the Constitution through the prism of the crucial compromises made by men consumed with the needs of the slave economy. As the daily debates and backroom conferences in inns and taverns stretched through July and August of that hot summer--and as the philosophical leadership of James Madison waned--Goldstone clearly reveals how tenuous the document was, and how an agreement between unlikely collaborators—John Rutledge of South Carolina, and Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut--got the delegates past their most difficult point. Dark Bargain recounts an event as dramatic and compelling as any in our nation’s history. ...

Title : Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitution
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780802714602
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitution Reviews

  • Matt
    2018-12-09 23:54

    Welcome to the second entry in my self-imposed reading project, the History of Slavery in America. First and foremost, this project is part of my commitment to overacting to things that happen to me on the internet. Secondly, I hope to learn a few things, and to curate a list of books that can transport an interested reader through the history of slavery in America (hence my on-the-nose, passively-styled project title). I detailed the genesis of this project in my review of Robert Pierce Forbes’s The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath. In the interest of belaboring my points, which I am wont to do, I will briefly re-explain. In other words, indulge me a rant. This all began with a review I wrote on a Stonewall Jackson biography. Jackson was a Confederate general who gained great fame during the war, and who has remained an icon ever since. I gave a resoundingly positive review of the book. Of the man, I had less charitable things to say. At the time, I didn't think I was taking a controversial stance. I wasn’t bagging on Gandhi, after all. This was a man who arguably betrayed his country and fought for a “nation” whose raison d’être was the protection of race-based slavery, which formed the economic, political, and social base of Southern society. In my opinion, my critique of Jackson was rather nuanced. The reasons I loathe the man extend beyond the simple fact that he fought for a rebellion intent on maintaining a system of human chattel. No, Jackson was a jerk of the first magnitude. He had the three H’s down pat: he was hyper-religious; a hypochondriac; and a hypocrite. History has heightened his achievements and downplayed his failures. He was quick to sandbag worthy subordinates while ignoring his own failures, such as his inexplicable loss of interest during the Seven Days Battle. And of course, his present-day infallibility was gained at the expense of foes who barely rate a mention in history books: John Fremont and James Shields during the Valley Campaign; John Pope at Second Bull Run; and Joe Hooker at Chancellorsville. Sometimes I wonder, is it the nickname? Would we still have to suffer the ghost of Thomas Jackson if his nickname had been “Mule’s Ass” instead of “Stonewall”? I don’t know. But this is the world we live in, and people love Stonewall. A couple of his loyal guardians rose to his defense. Words were exchanged. Judgments were rendered. In summation, I was a postmodern politically correct revisionist who didn’t understand the “cultural, socio-political, or philosophical context of the era.”Now, there are a lot of things I don’t understand. Daylight Savings Time. Organic chemistry. Love. The Civil War is not one of those things. I do understand it. Which is why the mildest of insults angered me more than anything that could’ve been said about my mother. I have mulled the phrase “cultural, socio-political, or philosophical context of the era” far more than is healthy. And far, far more than was necessary. I tried to divine what lay beneath the passion of the Stonewall groupies. To a certain extent, I can never know why two people from the world of the internet love a dead Confederate so much that they’d get mad at me. It probably goes far deeper than I want to know. (I mean, there are literally thousands of heroes who didn’t fight for slavery to choose from. But they went with this guy). Eventually, though, I gave them enough credit to construct a Hegelian dialectic. Thesis (from me): Slavery is the seminal event in American history, from the founding of the Republic to the present day. Antithesis (from the Stonewall trolls): Slavery was a secondary or tertiary characteristic of the Civil War, and by extension, American History. Accordingly, Stonewall Jackson should be placed on Mount Rushmore, right over Lincoln’s face. Synthesis: To be determined. From this exchange, and my response to it, I created the History of Slavery in America project. Eventually, this will be a list that I have read, reviewed, and culled, that aims to show, in overwhelming fashion, the impact that slavery has had on this country. (In the end, it will also prove that Stonewall Jackson knew damn well what he was doing when he donned Rebel gray). Dark Bargain by Lawrence Goldstone is the title I chose to cover era in which the U.S. Constitution was written. Frankly, it is a book I chose by necessity. There aren’t a lot of narrative histories on the Constitution that look at the event through the prism of slavery. Most books, indeed, seem inclined to be just the opposite, celebrating the genius of the document, and the inarguably brilliant men who created it. I had a good amount of trepidation when I purchased this title. I’d never heard of it, or its author. The somewhat-inflammatory title and diminutive size (it’s less than 200 pages and the size of a pocket Bible) put me in the mind of a colonial-era handbill (“Hear ye, hear ye! The Constitution is a pact with Satan! Also, Brother Goodly has been buggering his chickens again!) As a rule, I don’t like polemics, and it doesn’t matter if the polemic is telling me something I want to hear. Happily, this is the farthest thing from a screed imaginable. It is efficiently written, well researched, and closely argued. And it never tries to go too far. If there isn’t evidence for something (e.g., a quid pro quo between the passage of the Northwest Ordinance and the Three-Fifths Compromise) Goldstone say so. Dark Bargain starts where all books about the Constitution must: with the failure of the Articles of Confederation. The Articles created a very loose republic with a weak central government that lacked an executive and a court system. Under this charter, “its thirteen members lived under thirteen constitutions with thirteen different ways to value money, thirteen different rules of commerce, and thirteen views on how all the problems of the nation should be solved.” From the start, Federalists such as Madison and Hamilton wanted something stronger to bind the colonies. In Goldstone’s telling, one of the chief instigators in getting delegates to attend the Constitutional Convention was the fear of slave revolt. Experiences in the West Indies, in Jamaica, and during the Stono Rebellion in South Carolina, had demonstrated the potential consequences of servile insurrection. And the handling of Shay’s Rebellion demonstrated the advantages of a strong central government. Once you read this book, the phrase “ensure domestic tranquility” found in the Constitution’s preamble takes on a whole new meaning. The most overt and infamous intersection between the U.S. Constitution and slavery comes in the form of the Three-Fifths Compromise. The Three-Fifths Clause is found in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, right below the preamble. (And it’s still there, engraved in stone. Vitiated by later amendments, true, but still there). Today, we are mostly shocked by the fact that the “Empire of Liberty” not only figured a black person as three-fifths of a white person, but that they put it in ink four paragraphs(!!!) below their bold declaration of Union: “to establish justice” and to “ensure the blessings of liberty.” This alone is enough to make you shake your head. But in historical terms, the Three-Fifths Compromise had another, more important political meaning, because it dealt with congressional apportionment – that is, how the number of State representatives would be figured. Northerners wanted apportionment based on their populations This would have put the less-populous South at a distinct disadvantage. The South, therefore, wanted to count their property as well. And by property I mean slaves. This would give the South more representatives, and more legislative power, despite having far fewer people. The towering figure in this critical phase – in Goldstone’s narrative – is not James “the Father of the Constitution” Madison, a lofty idealist and political theorist, but the South Carolinian John Rutledge, pragmatic and local-minded. Rutledge fought hard, and successfully, to ensure that the South would have a minority check on American government for decades to come. It was Rutledge, and the South, who most drastically shaped the Constitution by utilizing a powerful minority veto. The Three-Fifths Compromise isn’t the titular “dark bargain,” however. That moniker instead refers to the agreement to allow the international slave trade to continue existence for several more years, in exchange for ratification. The discussion on the slave trade is fascinating because it explores the nuances of the South, rather than treating it as a monolithic whole. The Upper South, such as tobacco-planting Virginia, wanted to ban the international slave trade. Tobacco planting was relatively less intense work, and Virginia planters had a surplus of slaves. For a variety of reasons, they wanted to reduce this surplus (threat of revolt; idle capital; reduced prices). The Upper South didn't need the international slave trade. Since their needs and their morality intertwined on this point, they were actually in favor of prohibiting this most ghastly aspect of a ghastly practice. The Lower South – South Carolina and Georgia – made its money off the extremely labor-intensive task of rice planting. (Recall this was the time before Eli Whitney made Cotton king). Toiling in the malarial swamps, slaves died at an alarming rate. The Lower South therefore relied upon the slave trade to replenish their stocks. Goldstone does a really nice job summarizing the differences among the Southern States, making distinctions that are dwelt upon at great length in other works. Unlike this review, Goldstone’s book is pithy and focused, and altogether an excellent and efficient primer on slavery’s role in our founding document. *Once again, here is the complete list of books in the History of Slavery in America reading project. It has been revised and expanded. The titles that have been struck-through are those I have completed and reviewed. 1. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in America, by Ira Berlin 2. Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits, and the Struggle for a Constitution, by Lawrence Goldstone 3. The Missouri Compromise and its Aftermath, by Robert Pierce Forbes 4. Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, by William Freehling 5. The Impending Crisis: 1848-1861, by David M. Potter6. The Road to Disunion Volume 1: Secessionists at Bay, by William Freehling7. The Road to Disunion Volume 2: Secessionists Triumphant, by William Freehling8. America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union, by Fergus M. Bordewich9. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, by Walter Johnson10. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward Baptist11. Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865, by James Oakes12. The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South, by Bruce Levine 13. Reconstruction, by Eric Foner

  • Lobstergirl
    2018-11-15 15:49

    The desire of the southern states to keep slavery going was the biggest driver of what ended up in our Constitution, argues Goldstone convincingly. That idea you had about how high-minded and idealistic the Founding Fathers were - well, put it away. Most of them were motivated by the economic interests of their own state and region, far more than by the idea of forming a union. James Madison was seemingly one of the few who was motivated solely or mostly by his wishes for union, and it was precisely this desire for compromise at all costs that enabled him to allow such pro-slavery positions into the document. The lower South had everyone else over a barrel, and they knew it. We think of Madison as the "Father of the Constitution," but you may as well give that title to John Rutledge of South Carolina, argues Goldstone. Rutledge got everything he wanted into the Constitution, while most of Madison's propositions went by the wayside.I'm pretty ignorant of many of the nuances of American history. I didn't know, for example, that the upper South and lower South had completely different ideas about slavery and the slave trade. The lower South (the Carolinas, Georgia) depended on the slave trade - imports of slaves from Africa - because of the crops they grew, rice and indigo. (The colonial era predated the cash crop of cotton.) Rice was wickedly difficult to grow and harvest, requiring swamps and brutal labor conditions, and slaves' life expectancies on rice plantations were lower than slaves' life expectancies on the tobacco plantations of the upper South (Virginia and Maryland). The convention delegates from Virginia, such as George Mason, although he owned 300 slaves and was one of the wealthiest men in America, wanted to abolish the slave trade. Naturally there was an economic motive for this: slaves in Virginia bred amply, there was an oversupply, and the upper South wanted to sell their oversupply to the lower South. But the lower South could buy slaves from overseas much more cheaply than the upper South was willing to sell them. A slaveowner put a lot of capital investment into a slave, raising him or her from babyhood to adulthood and working age, and slaveowners like George Mason weren't going to sell a slave in his prime below cost.The topic of slavery and the Constitution is a fascinating and horrible one. There's a lot of interesting material here. But there's also a lot of dry recitation and details about committee work, which accounts for the 3-stars.

  • Sally Sugarman
    2018-11-25 20:31

    In this fascinating, but sad, account of the writing of the Constitution that transformed thirteen colonies into the United States of America, Goldstone presents an engrossing account of the people and the process of the event. The early colonists come alive in the details that Goldstone provides aided by the pictures of them throughout the book. The sadness comes from the issue that makes it a dark bargain. Slavery is central to the story. The representatives from the five southern states were not going to budge on the issue. The difference between the Southern states that grew tobacco and those that grew rice were interesting, since tobacco used up the land after several seasons encouraging the move west. Both North and South were concerned about the western territory would be integrated into the country. Virginia, which was tobacco growing, also had an excess of slaves so it was willing to accede to a future limit on imports of slaves so it could sell its slaves to the other slave owners. The northern states that were anti-slavery were mostly concerned with shipping and commerce. They were concerned about having to go to war to defend the slave owing states, but with the Shay rebellion, they were nervous about uprising. Shays Rebellion was much less than the fear raising stories that were circulated at the time. Shay and others were soldiers who had never gotten paid and so took up arms to get what was owed them. They were quickly subdued, but they made the North frightened, not quite as much as the South who lived in fear of a slave rebellion. What was clear about all of the men gathered in Philadelphia was that they did not believe that the populace should vote for those who ran the government, thus the electoral college. There were idealists and pragmatists who for the first months talked about principles, setting a friendly tone as they got to know each other. As things got down to the details, there were more heated disagreement, much of it centered around the three fifths of a person by which metric the slaves were to be counted. The meetings were kept secret from the public and we only know about them from the notes individual participants kept. The balance between states and national rights were an issue as were the economic interests of Northern capitalists and Southern slave owners. There was a great deal of difference in these economies as well as the cultures of these two regions. The pragmatists who were willing to compromise won out over the idealists. Goldstone makes the point that it was not the idealistic Federalist James Madison who was the Father of the Constitution as our mythic history likes to believe, but the pragmatic and slave owing John Rutledge who actually was. The irony is that what the pragmatist each gave to the other side wasn’t necessary, but the nationalists on both sides were willing to compromise. I look forward to reading other accounts of this event, but Goldstone makes it vivid so that the one wants to learn more about how our country was formed through this dark bargain with slavery. There were some passionate speeches against the “peculiar institution,” but these complex, fallible men did their best from their perspectives

  • Lady Jane
    2018-12-02 16:58

    Fascinating examination of the development of the US Constitution, reminding us once again why there are two things -- legislation and sausage--we'd prefer not to see made. Includes really interesting character and background sketches of convention delegates and focuses heavily on those that most participated and were most influential, rather than history's heavy hitters, such as Washington and Franklin. Displayed how slavery, our national sin, was a driving force and dealbreaker in the proceedings. Ultimately, it became an economic bargaining chip as even those who were virulently against slavery on moral grounds abandoned their ideals in the face of personal and regional economic loss, postponing clarification and a day of reckoning for future generations. Not a work of hagiography, Dark Bargain shows the struggles with self-interest and "deals with the devil" that existed from our nation's inception that led to the Civil War and whose effects still remain with us.

  • Fredrick Danysh
    2018-11-27 17:57

    An excellent discussion of the Articles of Confederation and its short comings and the process of writing and passing the United States Constitution. The role of slavery is addressed as are several other issues. An excellent read on the Constitution.

  • Kristin
    2018-11-28 18:33

    Smartly written and carefully researched. A recommended read to anyone -- particularly those who often invoke "what the Founders intended." As Goldstone proves, the Constitution isn't an infallible document sprung out of the founders' head, but instead a record of compromise and self-interest. Very very engaging.

  • William Gortowski
    2018-11-24 21:00

    Not as focused on the slave POV as I expected but a good history read just the same.

  • Charles Berteau
    2018-11-23 21:49

    Review carried forward from "I'm Reading"I really enjoyed this book, a detailed but brief look at how the topic of slavery wove through the Constitutional Convention. Firstly, the book is an enjoyable overall primer on the convention itself, and its evolution over the summer of 1787 - from an expansive, gentlemanly discussion to a pragmatic, self-interested, knockdown negotiation.Madison, usually credited as the father of the Constitution because of his role in bringing the convention together and his opening draft, faded into the shadows as the going got tough. The book makes a strong case that John Rutledge, leader of the South Carolina delegation, truly deserves the Father of the Constitution sobriquet. Certainly he was a master manipulator, and helped to engineer a result in which the Northern states agreed to every key deep South position.From the the Three-Fifths Compromise through to the deferral (to 1808) of the right to abolish slave importation, dark bargains were made. It's fascinating and sobering stuff!

  • Philip Mckenzie
    2018-11-10 22:56

    Dark Bargain has an interesting premise, to dig into the framing of the Constitution by evaluating it from an economic perspective which of course would be tied to our predominant trade, slavery. The book does a good job, of confronting the realities of building a free nation on the backs of enslaved people. It fleshes out characters beyond the usual suspects i.e. Madison, Jay, etc. It fails however in humanizing enslaved peoples and shedding a real light on the human toil of slavery. It's a good read but I view it as supplemental material...

  • Fraser Sherman
    2018-12-08 21:42

    Goldstone's thesis is that slavery had a huge impact on the Constitutional Convention. It shaped not only the three-fifths clause, but debates over tariffs, westward expansion (the South always had an eye to whether future states would be free or slave), and even the definition of treason (earlier drafts could have made it possible for states to define abolitionism as treason). I've seen some of this touched on elsewhere (Gary Wills The Negro President shows the impact of the three-fifths clause on future elections) but this covered a lot I didn't know, and did so well.

  • DJ Yossarian
    2018-11-10 17:43

    I think Goldstone's argument that slavery played a crucial role in the outcomes of the Constitutional Convention holds up well throughout this short book, and I learned an incredible amount about the participants and the circumstances of that seminal event in U.S. history. Still, there was something not quite rigorous enough about it that sort of nagged at me now and again. In any event, it's not going to stop me from delving into his "Inherently Unequal" when I get the chance.

  • Sarah
    2018-11-17 18:39

    Well written and a good example of what went on in the early days of our nation and how the institution of slavery shaded even one of our founding documents. The seeds of dissent and disagreement that would blossom into the Civil War are clearly already planted before Washington even took office as President.

  • Msualumni33
    2018-12-02 18:39

    This book contains the kind of information that every American student should learn in school but sadly does not. It explains clearly and concisely the bargains that were made between large states and small states and north and south with regard to slavery. Utterly fascinating reading. IN fact, I am getting ready to re-read this book. I highly recommend it.

  • Rae
    2018-11-29 18:56

    so sensible that it fails to challenge readers' illusions or to provoke thought beyond the text. maybe i'd've been more surprised if i was a honky.recommended for: honkies