The philosophical and pragmatic minds of the delegates who crafted the United States Constitution are explored in the latest Goldstone study, Dark Bargain. The thesis for his study, the underlying influence of slavery upon the writing of the American Constitution, becomes readily apparent in the first chapter and then is bolstered by in-depth facts regarding the mindset of the statesmen. That “to a significant and disquieting degree, America’s most sacred document was shaped by the most notorious institution in history.” (13)
To support his thesis, Goldstone details the Constitutional framework viewed through the undercurrent of influences that were prevalent in colonial America. The foremost, slavery, drove a wedge into the writing of the Constitution, pitting the sophist Yankee contingent against the pragmatist Southern states. Dark Bargain describes several select members of the constitutional delegation, two Southerners and two Northerners, whose sway over the other delegates dictated how the document was to be written.
Goldstone selects George Mason (probably the most powerful of the Virginia planter class) and John Rutledge (presented as the “father” of the Constitution") to characterize the mentality of the genteel Southern pragmatist. He chooses lawyers Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth to represent the North. While detailing the lives of these the delegates, Goldstone describes the forces that were shaping the country, such as the drive for more lands in the west, the struggle between states’ rights and federalism, and taxes on foreign imports. While these themes were important to constructing the reader’s perspective on colonial America, they do not contain a strong argument on how slavery effected the writing of the constitution and support his thesis in minor ways.
It is not until the 10th chapter, when Goldstone’s main theories on the influence of slavery in the writing of the Constitution are discussed, beginning with the issue of congressional representation. He argues persuasively that the 3/5th rule was important in keeping the Southern states a part of the nation and that the many delegates considered “blacks not equal to whites, but equally as valuable.” (119) Interestingly, while considered a “unique species of property,” slaves could be considered human enough to enjoy representation in the South.