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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of…

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (edition 2006)

by Doris Kearns Goodwin

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6,635187568 (4.43)2 / 630
Title:Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Authors:Doris Kearns Goodwin
Info:Simon & Schuster (2006), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:history, Civil War, biography

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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin


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The author states at the end of her book, that she and her husband spent 10 years researching, discussing and debating who Lincoln was. Those efforts are clearly seen in the intimate potrait she gives of Lincoln. You come away feeling you have experienced his life, but more than that you come away loving and admiring a man who was perhaps the greatest leader our country has produced. It seems especially relevant to read right now as our country is again in a great crisis economically. The leadership provided by Lincoln during a time of intense crisis -his magnaminity of spirit, his resoluteness of character and his common sense wisdom - stands as a shining example of what can be overcome by this nation and its leaders when its cause is true. Warring factions were united under Lincoln largely because of his unusual ability to accept differences of opinion without demonzing the man. The books focus exclusively on Lincoln, and while civil war battles are mentioned the perspective never leaves Lincoln so most of the war details are left out. This in no way detracts from the book however, as Lincoln himself and his connection with his team made largely out of his rivals is a most engaging subject. ( )
  KenMcLain | Jul 18, 2017 |
I have to admit that even though I thought I knew about the civil war and Abraham Lincoln, I learned so much from this book. Lincoln truly was a political genius and a really great humanitarian. This is the first book that I have read by the author, Doris Kearns Goodwin. Goodwin is an author of presidential biographies. I really enjoyed the book because of how it showed the executive office of the presidency and his cabinet working. The same politically ploys that exist today was present in the 1800s. This book also was a knew look at the Civil War. I was very upset with General McClellen, I thought he should be tried for treason. The war could have been so much shorter with less lives lost if he would have done his job right.
Lincoln wasn't without his mistakes. I think he should have dealt with guy a whole lot sooner but on the most part, Lincoln was very shrewd and a nice guy. Finally the book provides a look at slavery, abolitionist, political parties including the birth of the republican party. This was a nonfiction book that fit well with Cloudsplitter and Good Lord Bird.
  Kristelh | May 26, 2017 |
Excellent description of the life of Mr. L., ( )
  addunn3 | May 20, 2017 |
It's difficult to know when you pick up a book regarding Lincoln and the Civil War whether it will be a book that adds to your knowledge and understanding of the man and time or if it merely repeats information that you already know and adds nothing of value. Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals" hits the mark on so many areas and in such a fashion that it is hard to overstate the contribution she brings to the subject of Abraham Lincoln.

This book is written in such a true voice, and is so diligently researched that the persons, places and times come alive with such realism as to make you weep. The last 50 pages were as difficult as any to read as Lincoln's end is told and it's impact is devastating to the reader.

Goodwin's brillance in focusing on the interaction of the great men of the era, with Lincoln at their center will stay with me for a long time. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Phenomenal. A book that manages to capture a truly great man, perhaps unmatched in history, along with a time so turbulent that the future of the world depended on its outcome.

Lincoln stands among the greatest men in world history. He emancipated over 4 million slaves. He restore a collapsed union. People know this. Yet what is often not known is how entirely improbably his odds were.

Lincoln grew up a poor farmer's child who through self-education, in a place where there were hardly any books, and where hard work in the field was respected whereas learning was not at all respected, managed to elevate himself from poverty. He moved to Springfield, Illinois, learned law by himself, passed the bar, earned a solid reputation as a lawyer, worked his way into politics, made countless friends and allies, and in the end persevered to become president partially through luck, but mostly through a stunning ambition, dedication and ability to endure hardship.

He wasn't expected to beat Seward, Bates or Chase for the republican nomination of 1860. He did so anyway. He wasn't expected to be anything close to competent as a president. He turned out to be. He made a team out of his rivals, created a cabinet as divided as his party, soothed countless egos, stood his ground, endured stream upon stream of criticism, often made up or misconstrued. When battles were lost, the blame fell on him and his cabinet. An appointment that pleased one angered another and vice versa. Generals despised each other, and so did cabinet members.

Yet Lincoln was loved by the people and, during the very end of his life, respected even by those who criticised his every move only a year or so before. Those close to him saw him for what he was; an endlessly kind, patient, magnanimous, brilliant, humorous man, who was not vain and took no personal pride in what he did. He worked for those around him, for the future of the union and its people.

Rarely is anyone flawless, and if one appears to be so a sense of often justifiable unease tends to rise up. But Lincoln came close. He pardoned (perhaps too) many soldiers, was magnanimous towards the defeated south, held no grudges, appointed those who had wronged him again and again, who beat him when he was down. He brought laughter when death was all around, when the future of the union seemed bleak. Only after his death it was realized that without Lincoln, things probably would have turned out disastrously, for the union, the slaves, and the world. "Now he belongs to the ages," secretary of war, Edwin Stantion, said on Lincoln's deathbed. And the ages have been kind on him. Those who were close to him new what he was, a moral giant, a remarkable human-being, the embodiment of a humanitarian, and countless studies, biographies and analysis haven't been able to come up with a bad thing one could say about Lincoln.
  bartt95 | Jan 15, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 187 (next | show all)
"We needed the strongest men of the party in the cabinet," Lincoln replied. "These were the very strongest men. Then I had no right to deprive the country of their services." They were indeed strong men, Goodwin notes. "But in the end, it was the prairie lawyer from Springfield who would emerge as the strongest of them all."
"But this immense, finely boned book is no dull administrative or bureaucratic history; rather, it is a story of personalities -- a messianic drama, if you will -- in which Lincoln must increase and the others must decrease."
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"The conduct of the republican party in this nomination is a remarkable indication of small intellect, growing smaller. They pass over ... statesmen and able men, and they take up a fourth rate lecturer, who cannot speak good grammar." —The New York Herald (May 19, 1860), commenting on Abraham Lincoln's nomination for president at the Republican National Convention.
"Why, if the old Greeks had had this man, what trilogies of plays—what epics—would have been made out of him! How the rhapsodes would have recited him! How quickly that quaint tall form would have enter'd into the region where men vitalize gods, and gods devinify men! But Lincoln, his times, his death—great as any, any age—being altogether to our own." —Walt Whitman, "Death of Abraham Lincoln," 1879.
"The greatness of Napoleon, Caesar or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of Lincoln. His example is universal and will last thousands of years. ... He was bigger than his country—bigger than all the Presidents together ... and as a great character he will live as long as the world lives." —Leo Tolstoy, The World, New York, 1909.
For Richard M. Goodwin, my husband of thirty years
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On May 18, 1860, the day when the Republican Party would nominate its candidate for president, Abraham Lincoln was up early.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A group of very

disparate men uniting

for a common cause.


Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743270754, Paperback)

The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods.

Ten years in the making, this engaging work reveals why "Lincoln's road to success was longer, more tortuous, and far less likely" than the other men, and why, when opportunity beckoned, Lincoln was "the best prepared to answer the call." This multiple biography further provides valuable background and insights into the contributions and talents of Seward, Chase, and Bates. Lincoln may have been "the indispensable ingredient of the Civil War," but these three men were invaluable to Lincoln and they played key roles in keeping the nation intact. --Shawn Carkonen

The Team of Rivals Team of Rivals doesn't just tell the story of Abraham Lincoln. It is a multiple biography of the entire team of personal and political competitors that he put together to lead the country through its greatest crisis. Here, Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles five of the key players in her book, four of whom contended for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination and all of whom later worked together in Lincoln's cabinet. 1. Edwin M. Stanton
Stanton treated Lincoln with utter contempt at their initial acquaintance when the two men were involved in a celebrated law case in the summer of 1855. Unimaginable as it might seem after Stanton's demeaning behavior, Lincoln offered him "the most powerful civilian post within his gift"--the post of secretary of war--at their next encounter six years later. On his first day in office as Simon Cameron's replacement, the energetic, hardworking Stanton instituted "an entirely new regime" in the War Department. After nearly a year of disappointment with Cameron, Lincoln had found in Stanton the leader the War Department desperately needed. Lincoln's choice of Stanton revealed his singular ability to transcend personal vendetta, humiliation, or bitterness. As for Stanton, despite his initial contempt for the man he once described as a "long armed Ape," he not only accepted the offer but came to respect and love Lincoln more than any person outside of his immediate family. He was beside himself with grief for weeks after the president's death.

2. Salmon P. Chase
Chase, an Ohioan, had been both senator and governor, had played a central role in the formation of the national Republican Party, and had shown an unflagging commitment to the cause of the black man. No individual felt he deserved the presidency as a natural result of his past contributions more than Chase himself, but he refused to engage in the practical methods by which nominations are won. He had virtually no campaign and he failed to conciliate his many enemies in Ohio itself. As a result, he alone among the candidates came to the convention without the united support of his own state. Chase never ceased to underestimate Lincoln, nor to resent the fact that he had lost the presidency to a man he considered his inferior. His frustration with his position as secretary of the treasury was alleviated only by his his dogged hope that he, rather than Lincoln, would be the Republican nominee in 1864, and he steadfastly worked to that end. The president put up with Chase's machinations and haughty yet fundamentally insecure nature because he recognized his superlative accomplishments at treasury. Eventually, however, Chase threatened to split the Republican Party by continuing to fill key positions with partisans who supported his presidential hopes. When Lincoln stepped in, Chase tendered his resignation as he had three times before, but this time Lincoln stunned Chase by calling his bluff and accepting the offer.

3. Abraham Lincoln
When Lincoln won the Republican presidential nomination in 1860 he seemed to have come from nowhere--a backwoods lawyer who had served one undistinguished term in the House of Representatives and lost two consecutive contests for the U.S. Senate. Contemporaries attributed his surprising nomination to chance, to his moderate position on slavery, and to the fact that he hailed from the battleground state of Illinois. But Lincoln's triumph, particularly when viewed against the efforts of his rivals, owed much to a remarkable, unsuspected political acuity and an emotional strength forged in the crucible of hardship and defeat. That Lincoln, after winning the presidency, made the unprecedented decision to incorporate his eminent rivals into his political family, the cabinet, was evidence of an uncanny self-confidence and an indication of what would prove to others a most unexpected greatness.

4. William H. Seward
A celebrated senator from New York for more than a decade and governor of his state for two terms before going to Washington, Seward was certain he was going to receive his party's nomination for president in 1860. The weekend before the convention in Chicago opened he had already composed a first draft of the valedictory speech he expected to make to the Senate, assuming that he would resign his position as soon as the decision in Chicago was made. His mortification at not having received the nomination never fully abated, and when he was offered his cabinet post as secretary of state he intended to have a major role in choosing the remaining cabinet members, conferring upon himself a position in the new government more commanding than that of Lincoln himself. He quickly realized the futility of his plan to relegate the president to a figurehead role. Though the feisty New Yorker would continue to debate numerous issues with Lincoln in the years ahead, exactly as Lincoln had hoped and needed him to do, Seward would become his closest friend, advisor, and ally in the administration. More than any other cabinet member Seward appreciated Lincoln's peerless skill in balancing factions both within his administration and in the country at large.

5. Edward Bates
A widely respected elder statesman, a delegate to the convention that framed the Missouri Constitution, and a former Missouri congressman whose opinions on national matters were still widely sought, Bates's ambitions for political success were gradually displaced by love for his wife and large family, and he withdrew from public life in the late 1840s. For the next 20 years he was asked repeatedly to run or once again accept high government posts but he consistently declined. However in early 1860, with letters and newspaper editorials advocating his candidacy crowding in upon him, he decided to try for the highest office in the land. After losing to Lincoln he vowed, in his diary, to decline a cabinet position if one were to be offered, but with the country "in trouble and danger" he felt it was his duty to accept when Lincoln asked him to be attorney general. Though Bates initially viewed Lincoln as a well-meaning but incompetent administrator, he eventually concluded that the president was an unmatched leader, "very near being a 'perfect man.'"

The Essential Doris Kearns Goodwin
Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream

More New Reading on the Civil War
Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk
Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War by Charles Bracelen Flood
The March: A Novel by E.L. Doctorow

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:14 -0400)

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This multiple biography is centered on Lincoln's mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation's history. Historian Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius, as the one-term congressman rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals to become president. When Lincoln emerged as the victor at the Republican National Convention, his rivals were dismayed. Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery led inexorably to civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was because of his 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 that enabled Lincoln to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union.… (more)

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