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

Lawrence Goldstone, Author . Walker $24 (230p) ISBN 978-0-8027-1460-2

This superficial account advances the unoriginal thesis that "sectionalism and slavery are key to understanding" the Constitutional Convention. Goldstone (The Friar and the Cipher ) recreates the convention, focusing in particular on four delegates: George Mason, a Virginia planter who ultimately refused to sign the Constitution; John Rutledge, a South Carolina lawyer and statesman; Oliver Ellsworth, a dour Connecticut attorney turned judge; and Roger Sherman, a Massachusetts native transplanted to Connecticut, who had risen from cobbler and almanac maker to respected politician. Sherman was the architect of the so-called Connecticut Compromise, which included the plan that states' representation in the House, but not the Senate, would be based on population. Goldstone rehearses the genesis of the three-fifths compromise (that for purposes of taxation and legislative apportionment, slaves would count as 3/5 of a person), the debate over the office of the president and the other key convention controversies. On the whole, Goldstone tells us nothing new. He insists that the framers were acting out of self-interest, not principle—an argument first advanced, with much more nuance, by the great historian Charles Beard in 1913. In short, this is the type of thin and derivative book that gives "popular history" a bad name. 30 b&w illus. not seen by PW . Agent, Henry Dunow. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/01/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 230 pages - 978-0-8027-1507-4
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-8027-1836-5
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