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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
7,895208758 (4.44)2 / 654
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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I found this book to be the most interesting and most in depth of the books about Abraham Lincoln that I have read this summer. It ought to be, it's the longest. As such, it was able to go into more detail about the interactions between the cabinet members, and the behind the scenes machinations that other books just hinted at. The scope is limited, so material that didn't involve the cabinet might not get covered. Still, there were some cabinet members that got little coverage.

Here are a few things that caught my attention as I read it.

Mary Todd's loss of her mother was followed by "a severe stepmother ... combined with a family history of mental instability ... produced in Mary what one friend described as 'an emotional temperament much like an April day, sunning all over with laughter one moment, the next crying as though her heart wouild break.'" (Page 96)

"In Lincoln's time, this combination of symptoms - feelings of hopelessness and listlesness, thoughts of death and suicide - was called hypochondriasis ('the hypo') or 'the vapours.'" (Page 99)

"'Melancholy,' writes the modern novelist Thomas Pynchon, ' is a far richer and more complex ailment than simple depression. There is a genberous amplitude of possibility, chances for productive behavior, even what may be identified as a sense of humor.'" (Page 103)

Lincoln "was by all accounts, a gentle and indulgent father who regularly took the boys on walks... played with them... and brought them to his office where he worked. While Herndon believed that Lincoln was too indulgent, that the children 'literally ran over him,' leaving him ;powerless to withstahd their importunities,' Lincon maintained that children should be allowed to grow up without a battery of rules and restrictions. Mary recalled his saying. 'Love is the chain whereby to lock a child to its parent.'" (Page 106)

"To many opponents of slavery in later years, including AbrahamLincoln, the [Northwest] Ordinance of 1787 became, like the eclaration of Independence, asacred cocument expressing the intent of the founding fathersto confine slavery within the boundaries of the existingstates, prohibitingforever its future spread." (Page 110)

"Eddie's death left an indelible scar on [Mary Todd Lincoln's] psyche - deepening her mood swings, magnifying her weaknesses, and increasing her fears. Tales of her erratic behavior began to circulate, ...(page 131)

"Though Lincoln did not drink, smoke tobacco, use profane language, or engage in games of chance, ne never condescended to those who did. (Page 150)

"'It will be a great advantage to you to cultivate a noticing habit,' (Chase to his daughter) (Page 155)

"I have heard celebrated orators who could start thunders of applause without changing any man's opinion. Mr. Lincoln's eloquence was of the higher type, which produced conviction in others because of the conviction of the speaker himself." (Page 165)

"Lincoln had nothing but distain for the discriminatory beliefs of the Know Nothings. ... 'As a nation, we began by declaring that all men are created equal. We now prctically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes. When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance." (Page 180-181)"

"'Can't you go for Douglas now?' Like boys who have set a bird-trap, they are watching to see if the birds are picking at the bait and likely to go under.'" (Page 197)

Page 298 and 299 cover some treason in Washington.

Lincoln long believed, as we have seen, that "with public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed." (Page 469)

Moreover,since "contrived grinning in photographs have not yet become obligatory," many faces,like Lincoln's, took on a melancholy cast. (Page 545)

This book went into more depth and was more interesting than any of the other books I have read about Abraham Lincoln. It just makes me want to learn more.
( )
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
REVIEW NOTES: Quoted by www.ombudizen.com 2011-11-28: Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree
with you without fear of retaliation.
– Doris Kearns Goodwin .
  librisissimo | Apr 22, 2020 |
An incredible book. I majored in history as an undergraduate and there is a very limited amount I remember of the Civil War. I remember battle names, cities, some of the major players, and little else. This book takes things to a personal level for the major players: Lincoln and his Cabinet. Interactions, friendships, and hardships are played out. Do you know who Hannibal Hamlin is? Well unless you pay attention to the book you may still not know after reading it; mainly because he had no real role...even as Vice President. This book is pretty much the mirror image of what I learned...fascinating book. Highly recommended ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
This in-depth look into the lives of Lincoln and his closest advisors meets the hype. It tells the life histories of President Lincoln, his attorney general Bates, his treasury secretary Chase, and his secretary of state Seward. All four had a chance of being nominated as the Republican candidate in Chicago, but Lincoln secured the nod. In turn, he placed the other three in his cabinet.

Although their initial impression of Lincoln was that he was a mere "prairie lawyer," Lincoln soon surpassed their expectations. He earned their respect (even admiration) for his ability to lead the Union during the Civil War with "malice towards none and charity towards all."

Kearns-Goodwin's book has won the praise of Barack Obama, who used this book as a template in forming his Cabinet. Indeed, this book provides an excellent study on leadership, as Obama's support describes. Lincoln took a position of power, effected change, encountered and overcame difficulties, and won the respect of his fellows.

This 1000-page tome tells that tale to a new generation. It deserves to be placed near the front of a long line of Lincoln biographies - near Nicolay and Hay's 10-volume work and Sandburg's 4-volume take. ( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 25, 2020 |
Most insightful, entertaining, and moving. I listened to the Audiobook and was so impressed, I have put this on my birthday list! I want to give it a thorough reading as well.

There is so much more insights here besides that of Lincoln - others in his cabinet, Mary Todd, US Grant, and just the general tenor and feel of the country at the time.

Great, great book. If you have any interest in this time period, you need to read this book. ( )
  redbird_fan | Jan 13, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 208 (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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"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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Haiku summary
A group of very

disparate men uniting

for a common cause.


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