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

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3.86  ·  Rating details ·  59 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
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 inte
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Walker Books (first published 2005)
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Matt
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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’
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Lobstergirl

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 preci
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Sally Sugarman
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Lady Jane
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 proceedi ...more
Fredrick Danysh
Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: political, history
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
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not as focused on the slave POV as I expected but a good history read just the same.
Charles Berteau
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 a
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Philip Mckenzie
Sep 12, 2015 rated it liked it
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 goo ...more
Fraser Sherman
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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 ...more
DJ Yossarian
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
Sep 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2015
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
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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Lawrence Goldstone is the author of fourteen books of both fiction and non-fiction. Six of those books were co-authored with his wife, Nancy, but they now write separately to save what is left of their dishes.
Goldstone's articles, reviews, and opinion pieces have appeared in, among other publications, the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Hartford Courant, and Berkshi
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