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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of…
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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Author)

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By far one of the best history books I have read. The author has gone into so much detail in every aspect of Lincoln's life - I am not quite sure what could have been left out. The thorough inclusion of each member of Lincoln's cabinet officer adds so much depth to this work.

I completely enjoyed the recent movie based on this book and found it very interesting that the book only spent one chapter covering what the movie delt with. ( )
  labdaddy4 | Aug 25, 2014 |
This this volume about Lincoln's life, his presidency, and the complex group of people who made up his cabinet has received a lot of praise. And I can understand why. It's clearly written; it focuses on the human aspects of things rather than just on the dry whats, wheres, and whens; and it's full of lots and lots of detail. If you have a particular interest in Lincoln or the American Civil War, this is probably a book you want to read.

I confess, though, that it might have had a little too much detail for me, to the point where I got bogged down a bit in the middle and sometimes had trouble keeping the large cast of characters straight. The truth is, I don't have a burning personal interest in this particular period of history. I picked this book up partly because I like good non-fiction and was attracted by the glowing recommendations I'd seen for it, and partly because I feel as if I should perhaps read books like this as a way of offsetting the damage done by badly taught high school American History classes.

And I do feel like I've accomplished some of that in reading this. If nothing else, I now feel like I have a much better sense of Lincoln -- not just the myth of Lincoln, but the man. Although maybe, in this case, the man and the myth actually aren't all that far apart. I know that I came away from the book feeling a tremendous liking and admiration for Lincoln, to the extent that I found myself positively dreading the end of the book, knowing what was in store for him and desperately not wanting it to happen.

Rating: Despite the fact that I found it such slow going, I'm going to give this one a 4/5, as I can't help but feel that any problems I had with it were my own, and in the end I'm very glad I read it. ( )
  bragan | Aug 3, 2014 |
This book so very important, and good reading. Every politician with aspirations beyond mere common political misbehavior should read this book. ( )
  Benedict8 | Jul 16, 2014 |
Superb. Initially daunted by an 800 page tome on the Civil War, i found itnunputdownable. Reads like a great novel. Taking the 3 rivals in the Republican nomination as enrichment to the Lincoln life gives a broad avenue for the story. Lincoln himself almost comes alive and seems indeed a fine man. I still laugh at some of his jokes as well as weing with him over the wasteful deaths and for him when he dies. And withal a subtle mind for political tactics and grand military strategy. I began to see how he at least thought the Union worth fighting for, and politics meant it could not be presented as a war of liberation. But still I find it hard to grasp how all those fine young men were willing to give their lives for an abstract idea, especially as most of the Northerners were as racist as their slave-driving Southern neighbours. ( )
  vguy | Jun 21, 2014 |
It has been said that more books have been written about Abraham Lincoln than any other historical figure except Jesus Christ. Given that Jesus was born 1800 years before Lincoln, that's saying a lot about who Lincoln is. The question then becomes, do we really need another Lincoln book? We need this one. This book follows the parallel careers of Lincoln, Salmon Chase, William Seward, and Edward Bates. The first part of the book details all of their lives. The Lincoln material was familiar, but it was fascinating to read about the others. All 4 of them were candidates for the Republican nomination in 1860. The book goes into great detail about the machinations of the convention, arguably one of the most important in US history. I started to wonder how the Civil War would have been fought if anyone besides Lincoln had won the nomination. After the election, the book focuses primarily on Lincoln, as it should. It shows Lincoln's true character in forgiving his enemies, and allowing minor incidents to go without major retribution. It also shows the others' growing realization that, whatever their previous impressions, Lincoln was the right person for the presidency at that time. It's hard to say "Spoiler alert" in a history book, since everyone knows the ending. It also focuses on Lincoln's views on slavery and emancipation, which is what Steven Spielberg focused on in his movie "Lincoln", which is based on this book. The book also details Lincoln's last day. You get the impression that if Lincoln had been president during Reconstruction, some of the acrimony that arose would have been alleviated. All in all, a great book about Lincoln. I can definitely see why Steven Spielberg chose this book to turn into a movie. ( )
  jmcgarry2011 | May 9, 2014 |
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"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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Epigraph
"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.
Dedication
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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:38 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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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