Winner of the Lincoln Prize
Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Abraham Lincoln's political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.
On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.
Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was the result of a character that had been forged by experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because he possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.
It was this capacity that enabled Lincoln as president to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.
We view the long, horrifying struggle from the vantage of the White House as Lincoln copes with incompetent generals, hostile congressmen, and his raucous cabinet. He overcomes these obstacles by winning the respect of his former competitors, and in the case of Seward, finds a loyal and crucial friend to see him through.
This brilliant multiple biography is centered on Lincoln's mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation's history.
Pulitzer Prize winner Goodwin (No Ordinary Time) seeks to illuminate what she interprets as a miraculous event: Lincoln's smooth (and, in her view, rather sudden) transition from underwhelming one-term congressman and prairie lawyer to robust chief executive during a time of crisis. Goodwin marvels at Lincoln's ability to co-opt three better-born, better-educated rivals each of whom had challenged Lincoln for the 1860 Republican nomination. The three were New York senator William H. Seward, who became secretary of state; Ohio senator Salmon P. Chase, who signed on as secretary of the treasury and later was nominated by Lincoln to be chief justice of the Supreme Court; and Missouri's "distinguished elder statesman" Edward Bates, who served as attorney general. This is the "team of rivals" Goodwin's title refers to.The problem with this interpretation is that the metamorphosis of Lincoln to Machiavellian master of men that Goodwin presupposes did not in fact occur overnight only as he approached the grim reality of his presidency. The press had labeled candidate Lincoln "a fourth-rate lecturer, who cannot speak good grammar." But East Coast railroad executives, who had long employed Lincoln at huge prices to defend their interests as attorney and lobbyist, knew better. Lincoln was a shrewd political operator and insider long before he entered the White House a fact Goodwin underplays. On another front, Goodwin's spotlighting of the president's three former rivals tends to undercut that Lincoln's most essential Cabinet-level contacts were not with Seward, Chase and Bates, but rather with secretaries of war Simon Cameron and Edwin Stanton, and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. These criticisms aside, Goodwin supplies capable biographies of the gentlemen on whom she has chosen to focus, and ably highlights the sometimes tangled dynamics of their "team" within the larger assemblage of Lincoln's full war cabinet.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A MUST-read by one our country's leading historian
I figured with the Holidays again at hand and the new Lincoln movie out in theaters, there might be renewed interest in downloading this book and wanted to leave a review for those potential purchasers.
I have an intense interest in both current events/politics and history, but I honesty couldn't have told you the last time I successfully read a book, for pleasure, cover to cover. Until this engrossing read from Doris Kearns-Goodwin. It meets and I believe exceeds the "hype," and draws you into the lesser-known stories of Lincoln, those around him, and our country during such a fragile moment in our still young democracy.
So if you're debating this as a gift for the Holidays, and maybe are discouraged by either the length of the read or by your honest assessment of how much reading you actually do--- go for it. This book has something for everyone.
Team of Rivals
Excellent political work that focuses on Lincoln's ability to lead a group of different personalities as president including politicians who were anti-Lincoln before his election.
A Sweeping History of the Civil War
If you read one book about the Civil War, this is that book. Tracing Lincoln's career as America's history we see a nation doomed to war. We forgot that in 1860 the south shipped 1billion pounds of cotton. The problem? The north held their debt.
The north hated slavery and forcing the south to give it up, would make their economy collapse overnight.
Goodwin is at the height of her powers creating this sweeping yet intimate portrayal of the United States at her darkest hour.