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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,014221742 (4.45)2 / 696
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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HIGHLY advise this book for any leader ( )
  FaithBurnside | Aug 17, 2022 |
Once in a lifetime you come across books of such magnificence and vitality that you feel compelled to alter your life in emulation of their protagonists.

Goodwin's 'Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln' is such a book.

Do not be fooled by the title. This is not a book about Lincoln's cabinet, but rather Lincoln himself who captained a disparate and fractious cabinet through the storms of economic reforms, social reforms and a war which threatened to extinguish the adolescent American Republic.

Goodwin captures the poignant struggles of wood splitter turned President while providing insights into his mind and refinement of the leadership craft.

More emphatically, we do not lose sight of Lincoln as a human when he confronts all-round tragedy.

One of the classics of 21st century historigraphy. ( )
  Amarj33t_5ingh | Jul 8, 2022 |
I am so glad I read this book.

An excellent narration and accounting of the facts and events. I have become skeptical of possible misinformation or an author's addition or opinions and was thrilled to find an author whose goal is to present the story as it was. ( )
  KeithK999 | Jun 16, 2022 |
> Rather than upbraid slaveowners, Lincoln sought to comprehend their position through empathy. More than a decade earlier, he had employed a similar approach when he advised temperance advocates to refrain from denouncing drinkers in “thundering tones of anathema and denunciation,” for denunciation would inevitably be met with denunciation, “crimination with crimination, and anathema with anathema.” In a passage directed at abolitionists as well as temperance reformers, he had observed that it was the nature of man, when told that he should be “shunned and despised,” and condemned as the author “of all the vice and misery and crime in the land,” to “retreat within himself, close all the avenues to his head and his heart.” Though the cause be “naked truth itself, transformed to the heaviest lance, harder than steel,” the sanctimonious reformer could no more pierce the heart of the drinker or the slaveowner than “penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw. Such is man, and so must he be understood by those who would lead him.” In order to “win a man to your cause,” Lincoln explained, you must first reach his heart, “the great high road to his reason.”

> armies of scholars, meticulously investigating every aspect of his life, have failed to find a single act of racial bigotry on his part. Even more telling is the observation of Frederick Douglass, who would become a frequent public critic of Lincoln’s during his presidency, that of all the men he had met, Lincoln was “the first great man that I talked with in the United States freely, who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color.”

> “Do not misunderstand the apparent inaction here,” McClellan wired Lincoln; “not a day, not an hour has been lost, works have been constructed that may almost be called gigantic—roads built through swamps & difficult ravines, material brought up, batteries built.” In another letter to his wife, he rationalized his continuing delay with the dubious contention that the more troops the enemy gathered in Yorktown, “the more decisive the results will be.”

> Chase’s strongest claim to beat Lincoln for the nomination in 1864 lay with the unswerving support he had earned among the growing circle of radical Republicans frustrated by Lincoln’s slowness on the slavery issue. The bold proclamation threatened to undercut Chase’s potential candidacy … [Seward] expressed his worry that the proclamation might provoke a racial war in the South so disruptive to cotton that the ruling classes in England and France would intervene to protect their economic interests. As secretary of state, Seward was particularly sensitive to the threat of European intervention

> A memorable story circulated that when a delegation brought further rumors of Grant’s drinking to the president, Lincoln declared that if he could find the brand of whiskey Grant used, he would promptly distribute it to the rest of his generals!

> He was beginning to think that it was time for a change in the cabinet, he began. “Why I started to go to ‘the front’ the other day, and when I got to City Point they told me it was at Hatcher’s Run, and when I got there I was told it was not there but somewhere else, and when I get back I am told by the Secretary that it is at Petersburg; but before I can realize that, I am told again that it is at Richmond, and west of that. Now I leave you to judge what I ought to think of such a Secretary of War as this.” ( )
  breic | Apr 5, 2022 |
This is where I have to admit that I know nothing about the Civil War, so some of the revelations in this book are probably old news. But it really never occurred to me that had Maryland seceded with the other Southern states, Washington DC would have been surrounded by enemy territory. And the fact that you could hear the cannons from Washington cast the whole conflict in a new light for me. ( )
  nbornstein | Mar 5, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 220 (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."
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Goodwin, Doris Kearnsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Toren, SuzanneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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A group of very

disparate men uniting

for a common cause.

(legallypuzzled)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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