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Winner of the Lincoln Prize

Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates 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.

Topics: War, United States of America, American Civil War, Slavery, American Government, Politics, Presidents, Female Author, Abraham Lincoln, 21st Century, American History, Informative, Civil War Period, Leadership, Civil and Political Rights, and Made into a Movie

Published: Simon & Schuster on
ISBN: 9781416549833
List price: $17.99
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I am intrigued by this part of the history of the US, and have read a few books about the Civil War and the times before and afterwards. This book adds the aspect of Lincoln's relationships with the men he chose to be his closest advisers on his Cabinet. I found it wonderfully enriching and it really held my interest. It appears to be well-researched and concerned with presenting an honest picture of Lincoln and others. Caveat: I didn't realize until the end that I was listening to an abridged version.more
And I thought I knew enough about Abraham Lincoln. Doris Kearns Goodwin brings to life Lincoln, the major political figures of his day, and the major issues. She also recaps the history of attempts to deal with slavery through the first half of the nineteenth century. I understand American history much more thoroughly after reading this book.more
As good as everyone says. Well-researched, well-written, completely absorbing. It probably helps a little that I have a tiny crush on Lincoln, but this book doesn't need much help, if any.more
This is, by far, one of the greatest history books I have ever read. Doris Kearns Goodwin attacks all angles of President Lincoln's cabinet, as well as his personal relationship with his wife (Mary Todd) and sons. Not only is Lincoln's point of view presented, but so is Sec. of State Seward's, Sec. of War Stanton's, Sec. of the Treasury Chase's, Sec. of the Navy Welles', and almost every other important political figure in the cabinet.Although this book is over 750 pages, it is well worth the time invested, and you will be surprised at how easily it flows. I highly recommend this book to all history lovers and Lincoln scholars. You will come away with a deeper appreciation and an even higher level of respect for the 16th President of the United States of America.more
This is a long book and it has taken me 3 months to read it. It a well worth reading. It follows Lincoln from his early years as a circuit lawyer, through his running for office and winning the Republican Party nomination in1860. What's amazing about Lincoln is that he placed the 3 rivals for the nomination into his cabinet, Seward, Chase and Bates. Seward became Secretary of State and over time, Lincoln,s closest friend. There are very good biographies of all 4 men, with Chase and Seward as the most interesting after Lincoln. Lincoln was president from the first month of the civil war and up until about one month after the end. The book portrays the humanity, kindness, intelligence, forgiveness, fairness o Lincoln. His ability to weigh all sides of an issue and to think strategically of the outcomes is very well done. This is well worth reading.more
Excellant, easy to read for everyone.more
Not much to add to the other reviews. This is simply a brilliant take on a subject that has been exhaustively tackled by previous writers, some of whom went on to win Pulitzer Prizes for their work. The difference is that Goodwin shifts the focus from Lincoln alone to Lincoln and the other men who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860. We get background biographies of Seward, Bates and Chase and a brief background of the more well-known Lincoln. We then follow them from the 1850's to the Republican convention of 1860 which surprisingly resulted in Lincoln winning the nomination. Few people realize he was no better than the fourth favorite; one shudders to think of where history would have gone if he had not been nominated. From there it's campaign season and the election which catapulted Lincoln to the White House and history.Through the course of the Civil War we see the rivalries between Lincoln's cabinet-members, but in the end, his decision to include his former rivals in his adminstration resulted in a stronger White House better equipped to deal with the struggles of the war. It's fascinating to see that much of what we think of as the tropes of modern politickin - the verbal and written attacks, smear campaigns, lobbying and jockeying for positions in the administration - also existed in different forms back then. It seems half the new president's schedule is taken up with receiving petitioners applying for jobs in the government.Much is made of historians such as Goodwin whose text is taken up with over 50% quoted material as opposed to original writing. While this can be distracting, even jarring to the reader at times, it adds a level of authenticity since the book is comprised of so much first hand source material. Therefore, this review is both for the writing and the research involved in putting such a work together.more
I can't say anything more articulate than what other reviewers have already written, except to say that I found myself far more engrossed in and moved by this book than I ever imagined possible. I am by no means a history buff, and I feared this would be a tedious account of every battle of the Civil War--but it was really a character study of Lincoln and the members of his cabinet. I came away feeling awed and humbled by Lincoln's magnanimity, humanity, empathy, and willingness to be challenged and to challenge his own thinking. I can see why Goodwin admitted to Stephen Colbert that she found Lincoln sexy! At the very least, he's become a real hero of mine via this remarkable book.more
Wonderful author, great subject, incredible human being....how lucky we were.more
Before reading this marvellous, comprehensive yet eminently accessible biography I was lamentably ignorant about the life of Abraham Lincoln - I knew that he was tall and that he was assassinated (Oops! Sorry if that spoils the ending for anyone!), but very little else. Professor Goodwin's excellent book has certainly remedied that.The "Team of Rivals" to which the title alludes was the four leading contenders (Lincoln, William Seward, Edward Bates and Salmon Chase) for the Republican nomination for the 1860 Presidential election. It was a great testament to Lincoln's personal charisma that he was able to secure the cooperation of the three people whom he defeated to secure that nomination, and then to induce them to serve in his Cabinet. Professor Goodwin details the prior history of all four rivals, and we see the whole panoply of class and family prosperity laid out. Perhaps the only things they shared in common were their growing hatred of slavery and their heavy baggage of personal tragedy ... and their sheer determination to improve (themselves and their people).She also offers a concise, yet still appalling, history of slavery within the United States. One aspect of my previous ignorance of the details of Lincoln's life was reflected in my subscription to the general canonisation of him. I was, therefore, surprised to find that while Lincoln abhorred the practice of slavery, he was less emphatic in his acknowledgement of freed slaves' rights for absolutely equal treatment. For instance, as late as 1860 he was still unconvinced of the appropriateness of African-Americans serving as jurors. Indeed, within the Team of Rivals it was William Seward who took the lead on seeking untrammelled equality of rights.Professor Goodwin covers the Civil War with great clarity, evoking the horror of a nation torn in two but never clogging the reader's attention with unnecessary detail. Similarly, her coverage of the passage of the key legislation through the two Houses is handled sensitively, and the potentially dry material relating to political process is handled in a lively way.I wish that more biographies managed to achieve Professor Goodwin's adept combination of scholarly depth and clarity of expression.more
I found this book to be a quick and easy read, despite its length. It's well written, well-organized, and easy to follow. The focus on the interaction between Lincoln's cabinet members is an interesting angle that totally justifies the time spent introducing the main characters. In fact, unlike many of the reviewers on this site, I found the pre-story (1860 and earlier) to be the most compelling and tightly written part of the book. After the war starts, the focus on the cabinet fades, which seems like a wasted opportunity after such a solid introduction.My other disappointment in the book was the lack of focus on the Cabinet's reaction to events on the battlefield. For example, in Kearns, the Battle of Shiloh gets less than one sentence: "After a ghastly battle at Shiloh two months later left twenty thousand casualties on both sides, the Union would go on to secure Memphis and the entire state of Tennessee." Twenty thousand casualties was a watershed at that time, but if we were to go by Kearns' book, the Cabinet never discussed it. In contrast, after a 30-page narrative of the Battle of Shiloh, here is how Shelby Foote concludes: Total casualties in all three of the nation's previous wars -- the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War: 10623+6765+5885 -- were 23273. Shiloh's totaled 23741, and most of them were Grant's . . . [Grant] later said quite frankly that, from Shiloh on, "I gave up all idea of saving the Union except by complete conquest."Of course, Kearn's book is not the place for the narrative we find in Shelby Foote, but in a book about the workings of Lincoln's cabinet, I would have liked to learn what Lincoln, Seward, Stanton, and Welles thought and said about the battle. Instead we're treated to a three-page discussion of the wedding of a cabinet member's daughter, and other gossip about various ways Mary Lincoln insulted various cabinet members and their families.Nevertheless, I am grateful to this book for introducing me to some of the major characters in the cabinet, whom I hope to find the time to get to know better in other biographies. Also, its description of the months between the election of 1860 and Fort Sumter does a great job of highlighting just how taken aback the Republicans were by the South's desire to secede. This turning point in history has always puzzled me, and I appreciate how Kearns has contributed to my understanding of the clash of cultures that brought on the war.more
Such a wonderful book for understanding evolution of Lincoln's thinking on the slavery issue. Movie a big disappointment if you love all of history. December 2012more
The good: if you don’t know much about the background to the US Civil War, you will by the end of this book. Goodwin describes events in great detail and I now feel equipped to read Battle Cry of Freedom, which I bought years ago and had a go at but got bogged down, and Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Donald. There is lots of great material in this book - American politics in the 1850s and 1860s, changing attitudes to slavery, and the legal issues around secession and the slide into civil war. The book definitely gets better and the last 300 pages verged on gripping in places.The bad: By choosing to write not just a straight biography of Lincoln, but instead to focus on some of his cabinet, we get to read the early lives of Chase (Treasury secretary), Bates (um... I forget), and Seward (secretary of state), as well as their every waking thought. These three guys were also in line to run for President in 1861. I could have done without much of this, or at least some heavy editing. Then Stanton (secretary of war) and Welles (secretary of the navy) get chucked into the mix later in the book. Others aren’t in it at all – I kept wondering what the VP, Hamlin, spent his time doing. Although I felt like Goodwin did a great job at making the characters distinct, there was so much repetition. Yes, I got it that Chase was desperate to be President until he ended up as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Yes, I got it that Seward and Lincoln started off as rivals for the Presidency – with Seward the favourite by a mile – and ended up working really well together and becoming very close. And Goodwin treats Kate Chase (Salmon’s daughter) like tabloids today treat Kate Middleton. I didn’t need to know all about her wedding and how long Lincoln stayed at the reception.Lincoln was obviously an amazing guy but I found myself wanting Goodwin to write something – anything – negative. His ability to lead from the side comes through, as does his integrity most of the time. I’m not sure I’d describe him as a genius based on her book. I like a bit more criticism in my non-fiction. There just isn’t that much analysis in the book and the writing style had me falling asleep. And I’m not afraid of chunky non-fiction. And there wasn’t really that much about the horrific civil war either. Maybe Goodwin felt she wasn’t writing a history of the civil war and too much background would have made it even longer.more
This was a great biography of not only Abraham Lincoln but also of the men that made up his cabinet. Goodwin shows readers not only of the great accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln but also the men and events that helped shape his decisions. I really enjoyed reading this book; it was very informative without being too dry. I would definitely recommend this book to those interested in Abraham Lincoln and the civil war. If you are willing to read a long but very fascinating book then this is the book for you.more
It took me a long time to finish this book (over a year) which is very unusual for me. I read it in spurts while reading many other books in-between. With this type of historic book that was most likely a mistake. I ended up enjoying it a great deal ... but there were times I was just overwhelmed with all the facts and quotes and details. It was obvious Goodwin did her homework but I doubt anyone except an American history buff or bonafide Lincoln fan would truly enjoy it. But those that do should come away with an even deeper appreciation for Lincoln and the pivotal role he played during one of the bleakest periods in our nation's history.more
Did you ever read a book when your heart just wasn’t in it? Everyone you know has raved about the book and you are left wondering what it is you failed to see. This has happened to me a couple of times lately (The Beautiful Mysterycomes immediately to mind, and I might be Louise Penny’s biggest fan and had waited impatiently for an entire year for its publication!) When I started reading Doris Kearnes Goodwin’s mammoth book about how Lincoln chose a cabinet comprised of men he had run against or whose policies ran counter to his own, I was fully expecting to be completely absorbed in a compelling narrative. Instead I all too often found myself, (yawn) having a hard time maintaining interest and every time I sat down with the book I noticed that in the time I would normally have knocked off a hundred pages in any other book, I was horrified to find I’d only read twenty or twenty five pages in this one. Keep in mind, the book is 754 pages without the end notes. I thought I’d never get to the end. I kept waiting for…..something ….anything…to click. And then it got to a battle of wills: I will finish this book and I will discover the “thing” that everyone else loves about this book. I WILL LOVE THIS BOOK!Sadly, it all escaped me and I was left feeling simply disappointed. Yes the story is told from the humble beginnings of Lincoln’s early life and leads up to his unlikely nomination, over more qualified and much more experienced, candidates, by the Republican Party for the presidency in 1860. I think I knew all this already. It told how he brought together improbable individuals, particularly his former rivals for the nomination William Seward, Edward Bates and Salmon Chase. The rest of his cabinet came from the Democratic Party. Unusual, especially as compared to the tense and vociferous divide we have between today’s political parties, but again, no compelling narrative. Mary Lincoln is portrayed as a very unstable personality, verifying all that I already knew about her. And it broke my heart when she and the president lost their sweet son Willie. As the war rages we meet the incompetent McClellan, who my partner was just swearing at on the TV several months ago as he watched a program on the Military channel. At that time, he explained to me, in detail, the uselessness of the Civil War general, spoiling it for me to read about now. It’s not until Grant takes on a greater role that the war starts to turn in Lincoln’s direction. Interesting that Goodwin gave such short shrift to the bloodiest battle of the war. Only a couple paragraphs for the Battle of Gettysburg where over 50,000 soldiers gave their lives. That seems like a complete oversight for a book that almost drowns in tiny, insignificant details and minutiae. The last hundred pages were the best part of the book. Well written, compelling, somehow suspenseful even though I (and everyone else) knows that Lincoln will be assassinated, and by whom, and how, and the collateral damage that will ensue, as well.So I have no answers. I don’t know what made this book seem like a slog through knee-deep molasses with heavy rubber boots, but that’s how it came off to me, one lonely voice in a sea of over-exuberant admirers.more
Doris Kearns Goodwin quotes Tolstoy saying: “Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country - bigger than all the Presidents together. When conservatives aren't trying to co-opt Lincoln as a Republican in order to entice the votes of Democrats, they often decry him as a usurper of state's rights and seem to dislike him as much as they do Obama, and for good reason. Both men seemed weak at times because they strove so hard for political compromise putting the good of the country above the desires of even their most ardent supporters. Both seem without vengeance in dealing with those who oppose them. But what is hated about both is that they promoted human rights above economic rights. Goodwin's book explains the meaning of the Gettysburg address and Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address so that even those of us who had to memorize them in school finally understand the enormity of his words. And stupid John Wilkes Booth who so loved the South did it immeasurable damage by expressing his vengeance in killing the man who may have been able to bring the country together at the end of the Civil War: With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about US history and about the contributions one person can make to the world.more
Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals is panoramic and wonderful. The broad outlines of the story are well-known, but just in case, I'll give a Spoiler Alert, for those who don't want to know more about the book before reading it. And apologies in advance for the length of this - it's a big book!It starts with Lincoln on the lawyer circuit in Illinois, gaining renown as a storyteller and orator. It then takes us through his adolescence and his marriage to Mary, and his astute jockeying for the Republican nomination over more celebrated and well-heeled rivals. After that is his election, and his forming of the cabinet of the best possible men from which the title derives, including those he defeated in the election. His attempts to avoid civil war, his learning to be commander-in-chief and to get the generals he needs to win the war (get out of here, McClellan!), the waging of the Civil War, and his brief time after its conclusion comprise the rest.He famously educated himself, somehow overcoming that log cabin upbringing."Lincoln's book hunger was regarded as odd and indolent. Nor would his community understand the thoughts and emotions stirred by his reading; there were few to talk to about the most important and deeply experienced activities of his mind." He'd have been a great LTer, yes?He even read geometry books, and worked on math problems in his office, to improve himself.He lost loved ones early in life to disease - including his mother, his sister, and the great love of his life, Anne Rutledge. Contemporaries often remarked on his melancholy look that would become animated and sharply intelligent as soon as he began talking to people or telling stories. Seems like it would be hard not to be melancholy with what he experienced throughout his life - including those early losses, and the devastating war that he was responsible for, that killed over 600,000 Americans (out of 31.5 milllion in the country then), more than the rest of our wars put together.The ubiquity of death by disease and in childbirth is staggering to read about. At the same time, families of nine and ten and more children were common - although those numbers would dwindle as family members were struck down by diseases such as tuberculosis. His wife Mary Todd's family had 16 children; her mother died in giving birth to her seventh child, and her stepmother had nine more children.I loved learning that Lincoln was an irrepressible storyteller, constantly illustrating his points with down to earth stories, and Goodwin persuasively conveys his honesty, integrity, and personal charm. He was well aware of his physical deficiencies. When someone called him two-faced, he responded, "If I had two faces, do you really think I would have picked this one?" I read somewhere (not in this book) that he may have had Marfan's disease, a genetic disorder that causes unusual height and long, thin limbs.A surprise for me was how personally vilified he was by rivals and skeptics, especially early in his career. "Ape", "long-armed gorilla", "imbecile", "second-rate Illinois lawyer", the list goes on and on. He came out of "nowhere" to be elected, and there were many who doubted his qualifications. Goodwin's portrayal of the rivals also is compelling - especially Salmon Chase, chock full of his belief in his wonderfulness and his predestination to be president, who instead became Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Seward, a beloved politician who was expected to carry the nomination easily and instead bitterly lost to Lincoln. Seward became Secretary of State and an admiring close friend of Lincoln. He ended up calling Lincoln, this unknown upstart from Illinois, "the best and wisest man he had ever known."Goodwin's extensive research supports that conclusion. Lincoln's ability to keep his eye on the big picture, to defuse animosity and to cause opponents to work productively with him, reluctantly or enthusiastically, and his sense of timing, waiting for the opportune moment for success, all come through vividly. It is fascinating to watch Lincoln inch his way toward emancipation of the slaves and passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. His pragmatic approach, beginning with pushing for a restriction of slavery to those states in which it already existed and not permitting its extension to new states, to publicly proclaiming, to assuage fears, that slaves would not be given rights equal to whites, to advocating full equality, is a much fuller and thought-provoking story than I had known before reading this book. Even after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a carping congressman said, "Strange phenomenon in the world's history when a second-rate Illinois lawyer is the instrument to utter words which shall form an epoch memorable in all future ages."Lincoln's astounding eloquence, as an "instrument to utter words", is heard throughout this book. I was happy that she gave us the Gettysburg address in full, and it is quite moving to read it in context. I can't say enough about what a good book this is. You finish wishing you had a chance to meet this great man, whose kindness to others was perhaps his most fundamental trait.more
I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Doris Kerns Goodwin and had her sign my copy of Team of Rivals. This book is a favorite of President Obama. It's easy to see why as the book is very clear and detailed account of Lincoln's rise to the Presidency thru the great Civil War and ultimately his tragic assasination. The book explains the crital relationships between Lincoln's political rivals his family and friends and his relationships with his Generals in the war. A fantastic read for any historian.more
A fabulous book describing the administration of Lincoln's tenure as president. Taken from both republican and democratic perties thie group lead the country during the Civil War and overcame their own prejudices to save the Union. five starsmore
Goodwin’s thorough, but slowly-meted biography of Lincoln does something other writers have never done. Most have the president already standing on a pedestal, rising to meet the challenge and awaiting his actions to be written into legend. Not Goodwin, she identifies three men more qualified and accomplished for the presidency and contrasts that with Lincoln’s humble origins and rise to power. She presents images of Lincoln not often recalled, especially since most of the history taught in school is taken up with the legend, images of his beard, stove top hat, and his log cabin. Goodwin reveals Lincoln the man. A man who has often been portrayed as morose or morbid, but instead someone whose eyes would light up when telling one of his many anecdotes. His charm, wit, and humanity are told in exemplary detail. These are attributes that provided Lincoln surprisingly astute political acumen, a side not often revealed and demonstrates a wonderful lesson to today’s politicians, but also reveal a magnanimous human being who had “a singular ability to transcend personal vendetta, humiliation, or bitterness.”(p. 175)The first half of the book doesn’t deal at all with the presidency. Goodwin discusses at length the origins New York Senator William H. Seward, Ohio governor Salmon P. Chase, Missouri’s distinguished elder statesmen Edward Bates and finally second-rate Illinois Lawyer Abraham Lincoln. This part of the book, while an interesting study of all aspects of these men, their family history, marriages, and the environment from which their spring, can be a bit tedious. It’s a bit of a slog to get to the middle section. However, there is large pay-off in witnessing Lincoln’s dark-horse nomination in the Republican Party and then to demonstrate how he can take his rivals and get them to turn out votes for him to win the Presidency. Particularly William Seward, as the favored candidate for the Republican Party narrowly defeated by Lincoln gets his native New York to go over to Lincoln to secure his election. He brings all these rivals into his cabinet. Goodwin beautifully weaves Lincoln’s tactics throughout his campaign and provides a great contrast to his rivals. In most biographies, the subject stands alone, but by demonstrating, what were at the time more palatable candidates for president than Lincoln it emphasizes his ability to lead. It wasn’t so much that he was magnanimous, giving positions to his formal rivals to pacify them, but that his nature was so inclusive, his cause so great, that they flocked to help him in his campaign, and it naturally continued in his cabinet After the election, the Civil War naturally takes up the rest of the book. Lincoln still grapples with his cabinet with all their rivalries and favorites and is able to calm his “family” while pressing the end of slavery and the war. These details are very well known and it’s difficult to focus on just the cabinet and the personal lives of the figures here. The Civil War rages on and it’s like telling a story with cannon firing in the background. Goodwin does an excellent job providing the intimate details and fully painting a picture of Lincoln as a caring and generous man. A man that was the same in the presidency as before it, Lincoln kept true to his nature and Goodwin presents him in such a living and breathing way he was someone that you wished to have known in real life. Even gauging the reactions at his death, the sense of mourning is palpable as reflected by those around him and his cabinet members. I think it is best reflected in this part about Seward who was recovering from his injuries from an assassination attempt on him the same night as Lincoln:“News of Lincoln’s death was withheld from Seward. The doctors feared that he could not sustain the shock. On Easter Sunday, however, as he looked out the window toward Lafayette Park, he noticed the War Department flag at half-mast. “He gazed awhile,” Noah Brooks reported, “then turning to his attendant,” he announced, “The President is dead.” The attendant tried to deny it, but Seward knew with grim certainty. “If he had been alive he would have been the first to call on me,” he said, “but he has not been here, nor has he sent to know how I am, and there’s the flag at halfmast.” He lay back on the bed, “the great tears coursing down his gashed cheeks, and the dreadful truth sinking into his mind.” His good friend, his captain and chief, was dead.” P. 745more
All I could think about when I got this book was "great another book about Lincoln as President." I did not expect any new information or insight. I am pleased to state that I was wrong. A truly insightful and important book that is now a must read in both the Lincoln cannon and the history of the Civil War. It is a very good view of Lincoln as the master politician something we tend to forget in our idolatry. Lincoln was human and had to make very difficult decisions all the while confronting a cabinet of primadonnas that all thought they could do the job better. However, it is also clear that the the cabinet did think Lincoln a well meaning baboon, they also learned to respect him and managed for 4 very turbulent years work together to preserve the union.more
A history lesson that reads like a fast‐paced novel. A great and true tale about the astonishing courage of America's greatest President.more
As good as the hype.more
The very substantial (over 900 pages in print or 42 hours in audio) examination of the political career of Abraham Lincoln. It begins with Lincoln's nomination as the Republican party's canditate for president in 1860, but then flashes back to examine the political paths that led Lincoln, and his 3 rivals for the nomination, to that point. It ends after Lincoln's death, but an epilogue briefly describes the life and accomplishments of those who had been closest to Lincoln until their own deaths. The key point - at least in my mind - was that Lincoln was a natural politician. He had the innate ability to get people to do what he wanted them to do by making them believe that they also wanted the same thing. He was reasonable, always willing to listen to opposing viewpoints, but always making his own decision. He was a master at diffusing tense situations and potential scandals. He was humble, but not weak. He was generous whenever he could be. He was willing to give nearly anyone the benefit of the doubt in a given situation. He had the rare ability to see the strengths of men he disliked or disagreed with and was willing to give them appointments to high and powerful positions in the government if he believed they were the best men to serve the interests of the country. I'm sure the book is not flawless and that a more learned historian would be able to point out inaccuracies. But I give the book 5 stars for its ability to make the political atmosphere of the day, the problems facing the nation and its people and its leaders, clear and easy to grasp by ordinary but interested readers. Highly recommended.more
This book is simply amazing! Best book I have ever read. Highly recommendedmore
For many years I have enjoyed history, politics and studying leadership. "Team of Rivals The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," by Doris Kearns Goodwin allowed me to enjoy all of these in one book.Team of Rivals goes far beyond just a biography of events, but delves deep into the character of Lincoln. When Lincoln began to form his Cabinet team he did not take the normal route of patronage. He had two political goals in mind. First to unite the moderate and radical factions of the Republican Party and second to select the person who had the best skills to fulfill the specific Cabinet role. With the ability to meet these two goals he was able to accomplish his two Presidential goals, reunite the nation and end slavery. The people he found were his rivals for the Republican nomination. He built a team who often disliked each other, and still had their own agendas. But Lincoln found away to bring them together as a team and successfully accomplish all four goals.Lincoln was a very skillful and shrewd politician, but he stayed true to his beliefs and passion for our great country.Here are a few of the leadership principals that were evident in the life of Abraham Lincoln: Willingness to take responsibility. Even when one of his Cabinet members made an error, or even went against Lincoln's wishes, he would step up and take full responsibility without calling out the person in error. He was not concerned with who received credit. Lincoln could see beyond the current actions of his Cabinet members and his Union Generals and see their potential. Lincoln was long suffering. Because he could see the true potential of others, he gave them multiple chances to rise to the occasion. Only after many failed attempts would he remove someone who was not performing well. Lincoln stayed true to his values and principles to reunite the country and slavery. When the bloody war was finally over he worked to welcome the South back into the Union without holding a grudge, or seeking revenge or punishment.Goodwin also includes a lot of personal information that shows Lincoln as a master story teller, devoted husband and father. He would often use his stories to diffuse deep political tension, and drive home his point.To me the book was a bit long (over 700 pages). Almost the 1st half of the book is a mini-biography of Lincoln and each of his primary Cabinet members. It is not until page 329 that you get to Lincoln's inauguration. I feel that Goodwin sums up the book when she states,"By calling these men to his side, Lincoln had afforded an opportunity to exercise their talents to the fullest and to share in the labor and glory of the struggle that would reunite and transform their country and secure their own places in prosperity." p. 747This a great book for any fan of Lincoln, history or politics. It is also a great guide on leadership based on values and principles held by Abraham Lincoln who lived it out during the greatest crisis of our nation.more
Focusing on the intriguing choices made by Lincoln as his cabinet members, this account of the US civil war period is a good read. The book deviates a little from its main purpose throughout the high-level account of the civil war that is included. In that section, we learn a bit about the relationship that Lincoln had with his generals. That isn't the best worked out part of the book though. In a way, one could skip this part altogether and still capture the main message of the book: Lincoln was a master at putting the right people in the right place politically.more
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I am intrigued by this part of the history of the US, and have read a few books about the Civil War and the times before and afterwards. This book adds the aspect of Lincoln's relationships with the men he chose to be his closest advisers on his Cabinet. I found it wonderfully enriching and it really held my interest. It appears to be well-researched and concerned with presenting an honest picture of Lincoln and others. Caveat: I didn't realize until the end that I was listening to an abridged version.more
And I thought I knew enough about Abraham Lincoln. Doris Kearns Goodwin brings to life Lincoln, the major political figures of his day, and the major issues. She also recaps the history of attempts to deal with slavery through the first half of the nineteenth century. I understand American history much more thoroughly after reading this book.more
As good as everyone says. Well-researched, well-written, completely absorbing. It probably helps a little that I have a tiny crush on Lincoln, but this book doesn't need much help, if any.more
This is, by far, one of the greatest history books I have ever read. Doris Kearns Goodwin attacks all angles of President Lincoln's cabinet, as well as his personal relationship with his wife (Mary Todd) and sons. Not only is Lincoln's point of view presented, but so is Sec. of State Seward's, Sec. of War Stanton's, Sec. of the Treasury Chase's, Sec. of the Navy Welles', and almost every other important political figure in the cabinet.Although this book is over 750 pages, it is well worth the time invested, and you will be surprised at how easily it flows. I highly recommend this book to all history lovers and Lincoln scholars. You will come away with a deeper appreciation and an even higher level of respect for the 16th President of the United States of America.more
This is a long book and it has taken me 3 months to read it. It a well worth reading. It follows Lincoln from his early years as a circuit lawyer, through his running for office and winning the Republican Party nomination in1860. What's amazing about Lincoln is that he placed the 3 rivals for the nomination into his cabinet, Seward, Chase and Bates. Seward became Secretary of State and over time, Lincoln,s closest friend. There are very good biographies of all 4 men, with Chase and Seward as the most interesting after Lincoln. Lincoln was president from the first month of the civil war and up until about one month after the end. The book portrays the humanity, kindness, intelligence, forgiveness, fairness o Lincoln. His ability to weigh all sides of an issue and to think strategically of the outcomes is very well done. This is well worth reading.more
Excellant, easy to read for everyone.more
Not much to add to the other reviews. This is simply a brilliant take on a subject that has been exhaustively tackled by previous writers, some of whom went on to win Pulitzer Prizes for their work. The difference is that Goodwin shifts the focus from Lincoln alone to Lincoln and the other men who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860. We get background biographies of Seward, Bates and Chase and a brief background of the more well-known Lincoln. We then follow them from the 1850's to the Republican convention of 1860 which surprisingly resulted in Lincoln winning the nomination. Few people realize he was no better than the fourth favorite; one shudders to think of where history would have gone if he had not been nominated. From there it's campaign season and the election which catapulted Lincoln to the White House and history.Through the course of the Civil War we see the rivalries between Lincoln's cabinet-members, but in the end, his decision to include his former rivals in his adminstration resulted in a stronger White House better equipped to deal with the struggles of the war. It's fascinating to see that much of what we think of as the tropes of modern politickin - the verbal and written attacks, smear campaigns, lobbying and jockeying for positions in the administration - also existed in different forms back then. It seems half the new president's schedule is taken up with receiving petitioners applying for jobs in the government.Much is made of historians such as Goodwin whose text is taken up with over 50% quoted material as opposed to original writing. While this can be distracting, even jarring to the reader at times, it adds a level of authenticity since the book is comprised of so much first hand source material. Therefore, this review is both for the writing and the research involved in putting such a work together.more
I can't say anything more articulate than what other reviewers have already written, except to say that I found myself far more engrossed in and moved by this book than I ever imagined possible. I am by no means a history buff, and I feared this would be a tedious account of every battle of the Civil War--but it was really a character study of Lincoln and the members of his cabinet. I came away feeling awed and humbled by Lincoln's magnanimity, humanity, empathy, and willingness to be challenged and to challenge his own thinking. I can see why Goodwin admitted to Stephen Colbert that she found Lincoln sexy! At the very least, he's become a real hero of mine via this remarkable book.more
Wonderful author, great subject, incredible human being....how lucky we were.more
Before reading this marvellous, comprehensive yet eminently accessible biography I was lamentably ignorant about the life of Abraham Lincoln - I knew that he was tall and that he was assassinated (Oops! Sorry if that spoils the ending for anyone!), but very little else. Professor Goodwin's excellent book has certainly remedied that.The "Team of Rivals" to which the title alludes was the four leading contenders (Lincoln, William Seward, Edward Bates and Salmon Chase) for the Republican nomination for the 1860 Presidential election. It was a great testament to Lincoln's personal charisma that he was able to secure the cooperation of the three people whom he defeated to secure that nomination, and then to induce them to serve in his Cabinet. Professor Goodwin details the prior history of all four rivals, and we see the whole panoply of class and family prosperity laid out. Perhaps the only things they shared in common were their growing hatred of slavery and their heavy baggage of personal tragedy ... and their sheer determination to improve (themselves and their people).She also offers a concise, yet still appalling, history of slavery within the United States. One aspect of my previous ignorance of the details of Lincoln's life was reflected in my subscription to the general canonisation of him. I was, therefore, surprised to find that while Lincoln abhorred the practice of slavery, he was less emphatic in his acknowledgement of freed slaves' rights for absolutely equal treatment. For instance, as late as 1860 he was still unconvinced of the appropriateness of African-Americans serving as jurors. Indeed, within the Team of Rivals it was William Seward who took the lead on seeking untrammelled equality of rights.Professor Goodwin covers the Civil War with great clarity, evoking the horror of a nation torn in two but never clogging the reader's attention with unnecessary detail. Similarly, her coverage of the passage of the key legislation through the two Houses is handled sensitively, and the potentially dry material relating to political process is handled in a lively way.I wish that more biographies managed to achieve Professor Goodwin's adept combination of scholarly depth and clarity of expression.more
I found this book to be a quick and easy read, despite its length. It's well written, well-organized, and easy to follow. The focus on the interaction between Lincoln's cabinet members is an interesting angle that totally justifies the time spent introducing the main characters. In fact, unlike many of the reviewers on this site, I found the pre-story (1860 and earlier) to be the most compelling and tightly written part of the book. After the war starts, the focus on the cabinet fades, which seems like a wasted opportunity after such a solid introduction.My other disappointment in the book was the lack of focus on the Cabinet's reaction to events on the battlefield. For example, in Kearns, the Battle of Shiloh gets less than one sentence: "After a ghastly battle at Shiloh two months later left twenty thousand casualties on both sides, the Union would go on to secure Memphis and the entire state of Tennessee." Twenty thousand casualties was a watershed at that time, but if we were to go by Kearns' book, the Cabinet never discussed it. In contrast, after a 30-page narrative of the Battle of Shiloh, here is how Shelby Foote concludes: Total casualties in all three of the nation's previous wars -- the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War: 10623+6765+5885 -- were 23273. Shiloh's totaled 23741, and most of them were Grant's . . . [Grant] later said quite frankly that, from Shiloh on, "I gave up all idea of saving the Union except by complete conquest."Of course, Kearn's book is not the place for the narrative we find in Shelby Foote, but in a book about the workings of Lincoln's cabinet, I would have liked to learn what Lincoln, Seward, Stanton, and Welles thought and said about the battle. Instead we're treated to a three-page discussion of the wedding of a cabinet member's daughter, and other gossip about various ways Mary Lincoln insulted various cabinet members and their families.Nevertheless, I am grateful to this book for introducing me to some of the major characters in the cabinet, whom I hope to find the time to get to know better in other biographies. Also, its description of the months between the election of 1860 and Fort Sumter does a great job of highlighting just how taken aback the Republicans were by the South's desire to secede. This turning point in history has always puzzled me, and I appreciate how Kearns has contributed to my understanding of the clash of cultures that brought on the war.more
Such a wonderful book for understanding evolution of Lincoln's thinking on the slavery issue. Movie a big disappointment if you love all of history. December 2012more
The good: if you don’t know much about the background to the US Civil War, you will by the end of this book. Goodwin describes events in great detail and I now feel equipped to read Battle Cry of Freedom, which I bought years ago and had a go at but got bogged down, and Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Donald. There is lots of great material in this book - American politics in the 1850s and 1860s, changing attitudes to slavery, and the legal issues around secession and the slide into civil war. The book definitely gets better and the last 300 pages verged on gripping in places.The bad: By choosing to write not just a straight biography of Lincoln, but instead to focus on some of his cabinet, we get to read the early lives of Chase (Treasury secretary), Bates (um... I forget), and Seward (secretary of state), as well as their every waking thought. These three guys were also in line to run for President in 1861. I could have done without much of this, or at least some heavy editing. Then Stanton (secretary of war) and Welles (secretary of the navy) get chucked into the mix later in the book. Others aren’t in it at all – I kept wondering what the VP, Hamlin, spent his time doing. Although I felt like Goodwin did a great job at making the characters distinct, there was so much repetition. Yes, I got it that Chase was desperate to be President until he ended up as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Yes, I got it that Seward and Lincoln started off as rivals for the Presidency – with Seward the favourite by a mile – and ended up working really well together and becoming very close. And Goodwin treats Kate Chase (Salmon’s daughter) like tabloids today treat Kate Middleton. I didn’t need to know all about her wedding and how long Lincoln stayed at the reception.Lincoln was obviously an amazing guy but I found myself wanting Goodwin to write something – anything – negative. His ability to lead from the side comes through, as does his integrity most of the time. I’m not sure I’d describe him as a genius based on her book. I like a bit more criticism in my non-fiction. There just isn’t that much analysis in the book and the writing style had me falling asleep. And I’m not afraid of chunky non-fiction. And there wasn’t really that much about the horrific civil war either. Maybe Goodwin felt she wasn’t writing a history of the civil war and too much background would have made it even longer.more
This was a great biography of not only Abraham Lincoln but also of the men that made up his cabinet. Goodwin shows readers not only of the great accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln but also the men and events that helped shape his decisions. I really enjoyed reading this book; it was very informative without being too dry. I would definitely recommend this book to those interested in Abraham Lincoln and the civil war. If you are willing to read a long but very fascinating book then this is the book for you.more
It took me a long time to finish this book (over a year) which is very unusual for me. I read it in spurts while reading many other books in-between. With this type of historic book that was most likely a mistake. I ended up enjoying it a great deal ... but there were times I was just overwhelmed with all the facts and quotes and details. It was obvious Goodwin did her homework but I doubt anyone except an American history buff or bonafide Lincoln fan would truly enjoy it. But those that do should come away with an even deeper appreciation for Lincoln and the pivotal role he played during one of the bleakest periods in our nation's history.more
Did you ever read a book when your heart just wasn’t in it? Everyone you know has raved about the book and you are left wondering what it is you failed to see. This has happened to me a couple of times lately (The Beautiful Mysterycomes immediately to mind, and I might be Louise Penny’s biggest fan and had waited impatiently for an entire year for its publication!) When I started reading Doris Kearnes Goodwin’s mammoth book about how Lincoln chose a cabinet comprised of men he had run against or whose policies ran counter to his own, I was fully expecting to be completely absorbed in a compelling narrative. Instead I all too often found myself, (yawn) having a hard time maintaining interest and every time I sat down with the book I noticed that in the time I would normally have knocked off a hundred pages in any other book, I was horrified to find I’d only read twenty or twenty five pages in this one. Keep in mind, the book is 754 pages without the end notes. I thought I’d never get to the end. I kept waiting for…..something ….anything…to click. And then it got to a battle of wills: I will finish this book and I will discover the “thing” that everyone else loves about this book. I WILL LOVE THIS BOOK!Sadly, it all escaped me and I was left feeling simply disappointed. Yes the story is told from the humble beginnings of Lincoln’s early life and leads up to his unlikely nomination, over more qualified and much more experienced, candidates, by the Republican Party for the presidency in 1860. I think I knew all this already. It told how he brought together improbable individuals, particularly his former rivals for the nomination William Seward, Edward Bates and Salmon Chase. The rest of his cabinet came from the Democratic Party. Unusual, especially as compared to the tense and vociferous divide we have between today’s political parties, but again, no compelling narrative. Mary Lincoln is portrayed as a very unstable personality, verifying all that I already knew about her. And it broke my heart when she and the president lost their sweet son Willie. As the war rages we meet the incompetent McClellan, who my partner was just swearing at on the TV several months ago as he watched a program on the Military channel. At that time, he explained to me, in detail, the uselessness of the Civil War general, spoiling it for me to read about now. It’s not until Grant takes on a greater role that the war starts to turn in Lincoln’s direction. Interesting that Goodwin gave such short shrift to the bloodiest battle of the war. Only a couple paragraphs for the Battle of Gettysburg where over 50,000 soldiers gave their lives. That seems like a complete oversight for a book that almost drowns in tiny, insignificant details and minutiae. The last hundred pages were the best part of the book. Well written, compelling, somehow suspenseful even though I (and everyone else) knows that Lincoln will be assassinated, and by whom, and how, and the collateral damage that will ensue, as well.So I have no answers. I don’t know what made this book seem like a slog through knee-deep molasses with heavy rubber boots, but that’s how it came off to me, one lonely voice in a sea of over-exuberant admirers.more
Doris Kearns Goodwin quotes Tolstoy saying: “Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country - bigger than all the Presidents together. When conservatives aren't trying to co-opt Lincoln as a Republican in order to entice the votes of Democrats, they often decry him as a usurper of state's rights and seem to dislike him as much as they do Obama, and for good reason. Both men seemed weak at times because they strove so hard for political compromise putting the good of the country above the desires of even their most ardent supporters. Both seem without vengeance in dealing with those who oppose them. But what is hated about both is that they promoted human rights above economic rights. Goodwin's book explains the meaning of the Gettysburg address and Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address so that even those of us who had to memorize them in school finally understand the enormity of his words. And stupid John Wilkes Booth who so loved the South did it immeasurable damage by expressing his vengeance in killing the man who may have been able to bring the country together at the end of the Civil War: With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about US history and about the contributions one person can make to the world.more
Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals is panoramic and wonderful. The broad outlines of the story are well-known, but just in case, I'll give a Spoiler Alert, for those who don't want to know more about the book before reading it. And apologies in advance for the length of this - it's a big book!It starts with Lincoln on the lawyer circuit in Illinois, gaining renown as a storyteller and orator. It then takes us through his adolescence and his marriage to Mary, and his astute jockeying for the Republican nomination over more celebrated and well-heeled rivals. After that is his election, and his forming of the cabinet of the best possible men from which the title derives, including those he defeated in the election. His attempts to avoid civil war, his learning to be commander-in-chief and to get the generals he needs to win the war (get out of here, McClellan!), the waging of the Civil War, and his brief time after its conclusion comprise the rest.He famously educated himself, somehow overcoming that log cabin upbringing."Lincoln's book hunger was regarded as odd and indolent. Nor would his community understand the thoughts and emotions stirred by his reading; there were few to talk to about the most important and deeply experienced activities of his mind." He'd have been a great LTer, yes?He even read geometry books, and worked on math problems in his office, to improve himself.He lost loved ones early in life to disease - including his mother, his sister, and the great love of his life, Anne Rutledge. Contemporaries often remarked on his melancholy look that would become animated and sharply intelligent as soon as he began talking to people or telling stories. Seems like it would be hard not to be melancholy with what he experienced throughout his life - including those early losses, and the devastating war that he was responsible for, that killed over 600,000 Americans (out of 31.5 milllion in the country then), more than the rest of our wars put together.The ubiquity of death by disease and in childbirth is staggering to read about. At the same time, families of nine and ten and more children were common - although those numbers would dwindle as family members were struck down by diseases such as tuberculosis. His wife Mary Todd's family had 16 children; her mother died in giving birth to her seventh child, and her stepmother had nine more children.I loved learning that Lincoln was an irrepressible storyteller, constantly illustrating his points with down to earth stories, and Goodwin persuasively conveys his honesty, integrity, and personal charm. He was well aware of his physical deficiencies. When someone called him two-faced, he responded, "If I had two faces, do you really think I would have picked this one?" I read somewhere (not in this book) that he may have had Marfan's disease, a genetic disorder that causes unusual height and long, thin limbs.A surprise for me was how personally vilified he was by rivals and skeptics, especially early in his career. "Ape", "long-armed gorilla", "imbecile", "second-rate Illinois lawyer", the list goes on and on. He came out of "nowhere" to be elected, and there were many who doubted his qualifications. Goodwin's portrayal of the rivals also is compelling - especially Salmon Chase, chock full of his belief in his wonderfulness and his predestination to be president, who instead became Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Seward, a beloved politician who was expected to carry the nomination easily and instead bitterly lost to Lincoln. Seward became Secretary of State and an admiring close friend of Lincoln. He ended up calling Lincoln, this unknown upstart from Illinois, "the best and wisest man he had ever known."Goodwin's extensive research supports that conclusion. Lincoln's ability to keep his eye on the big picture, to defuse animosity and to cause opponents to work productively with him, reluctantly or enthusiastically, and his sense of timing, waiting for the opportune moment for success, all come through vividly. It is fascinating to watch Lincoln inch his way toward emancipation of the slaves and passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. His pragmatic approach, beginning with pushing for a restriction of slavery to those states in which it already existed and not permitting its extension to new states, to publicly proclaiming, to assuage fears, that slaves would not be given rights equal to whites, to advocating full equality, is a much fuller and thought-provoking story than I had known before reading this book. Even after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a carping congressman said, "Strange phenomenon in the world's history when a second-rate Illinois lawyer is the instrument to utter words which shall form an epoch memorable in all future ages."Lincoln's astounding eloquence, as an "instrument to utter words", is heard throughout this book. I was happy that she gave us the Gettysburg address in full, and it is quite moving to read it in context. I can't say enough about what a good book this is. You finish wishing you had a chance to meet this great man, whose kindness to others was perhaps his most fundamental trait.more
I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Doris Kerns Goodwin and had her sign my copy of Team of Rivals. This book is a favorite of President Obama. It's easy to see why as the book is very clear and detailed account of Lincoln's rise to the Presidency thru the great Civil War and ultimately his tragic assasination. The book explains the crital relationships between Lincoln's political rivals his family and friends and his relationships with his Generals in the war. A fantastic read for any historian.more
A fabulous book describing the administration of Lincoln's tenure as president. Taken from both republican and democratic perties thie group lead the country during the Civil War and overcame their own prejudices to save the Union. five starsmore
Goodwin’s thorough, but slowly-meted biography of Lincoln does something other writers have never done. Most have the president already standing on a pedestal, rising to meet the challenge and awaiting his actions to be written into legend. Not Goodwin, she identifies three men more qualified and accomplished for the presidency and contrasts that with Lincoln’s humble origins and rise to power. She presents images of Lincoln not often recalled, especially since most of the history taught in school is taken up with the legend, images of his beard, stove top hat, and his log cabin. Goodwin reveals Lincoln the man. A man who has often been portrayed as morose or morbid, but instead someone whose eyes would light up when telling one of his many anecdotes. His charm, wit, and humanity are told in exemplary detail. These are attributes that provided Lincoln surprisingly astute political acumen, a side not often revealed and demonstrates a wonderful lesson to today’s politicians, but also reveal a magnanimous human being who had “a singular ability to transcend personal vendetta, humiliation, or bitterness.”(p. 175)The first half of the book doesn’t deal at all with the presidency. Goodwin discusses at length the origins New York Senator William H. Seward, Ohio governor Salmon P. Chase, Missouri’s distinguished elder statesmen Edward Bates and finally second-rate Illinois Lawyer Abraham Lincoln. This part of the book, while an interesting study of all aspects of these men, their family history, marriages, and the environment from which their spring, can be a bit tedious. It’s a bit of a slog to get to the middle section. However, there is large pay-off in witnessing Lincoln’s dark-horse nomination in the Republican Party and then to demonstrate how he can take his rivals and get them to turn out votes for him to win the Presidency. Particularly William Seward, as the favored candidate for the Republican Party narrowly defeated by Lincoln gets his native New York to go over to Lincoln to secure his election. He brings all these rivals into his cabinet. Goodwin beautifully weaves Lincoln’s tactics throughout his campaign and provides a great contrast to his rivals. In most biographies, the subject stands alone, but by demonstrating, what were at the time more palatable candidates for president than Lincoln it emphasizes his ability to lead. It wasn’t so much that he was magnanimous, giving positions to his formal rivals to pacify them, but that his nature was so inclusive, his cause so great, that they flocked to help him in his campaign, and it naturally continued in his cabinet After the election, the Civil War naturally takes up the rest of the book. Lincoln still grapples with his cabinet with all their rivalries and favorites and is able to calm his “family” while pressing the end of slavery and the war. These details are very well known and it’s difficult to focus on just the cabinet and the personal lives of the figures here. The Civil War rages on and it’s like telling a story with cannon firing in the background. Goodwin does an excellent job providing the intimate details and fully painting a picture of Lincoln as a caring and generous man. A man that was the same in the presidency as before it, Lincoln kept true to his nature and Goodwin presents him in such a living and breathing way he was someone that you wished to have known in real life. Even gauging the reactions at his death, the sense of mourning is palpable as reflected by those around him and his cabinet members. I think it is best reflected in this part about Seward who was recovering from his injuries from an assassination attempt on him the same night as Lincoln:“News of Lincoln’s death was withheld from Seward. The doctors feared that he could not sustain the shock. On Easter Sunday, however, as he looked out the window toward Lafayette Park, he noticed the War Department flag at half-mast. “He gazed awhile,” Noah Brooks reported, “then turning to his attendant,” he announced, “The President is dead.” The attendant tried to deny it, but Seward knew with grim certainty. “If he had been alive he would have been the first to call on me,” he said, “but he has not been here, nor has he sent to know how I am, and there’s the flag at halfmast.” He lay back on the bed, “the great tears coursing down his gashed cheeks, and the dreadful truth sinking into his mind.” His good friend, his captain and chief, was dead.” P. 745more
All I could think about when I got this book was "great another book about Lincoln as President." I did not expect any new information or insight. I am pleased to state that I was wrong. A truly insightful and important book that is now a must read in both the Lincoln cannon and the history of the Civil War. It is a very good view of Lincoln as the master politician something we tend to forget in our idolatry. Lincoln was human and had to make very difficult decisions all the while confronting a cabinet of primadonnas that all thought they could do the job better. However, it is also clear that the the cabinet did think Lincoln a well meaning baboon, they also learned to respect him and managed for 4 very turbulent years work together to preserve the union.more
A history lesson that reads like a fast‐paced novel. A great and true tale about the astonishing courage of America's greatest President.more
As good as the hype.more
The very substantial (over 900 pages in print or 42 hours in audio) examination of the political career of Abraham Lincoln. It begins with Lincoln's nomination as the Republican party's canditate for president in 1860, but then flashes back to examine the political paths that led Lincoln, and his 3 rivals for the nomination, to that point. It ends after Lincoln's death, but an epilogue briefly describes the life and accomplishments of those who had been closest to Lincoln until their own deaths. The key point - at least in my mind - was that Lincoln was a natural politician. He had the innate ability to get people to do what he wanted them to do by making them believe that they also wanted the same thing. He was reasonable, always willing to listen to opposing viewpoints, but always making his own decision. He was a master at diffusing tense situations and potential scandals. He was humble, but not weak. He was generous whenever he could be. He was willing to give nearly anyone the benefit of the doubt in a given situation. He had the rare ability to see the strengths of men he disliked or disagreed with and was willing to give them appointments to high and powerful positions in the government if he believed they were the best men to serve the interests of the country. I'm sure the book is not flawless and that a more learned historian would be able to point out inaccuracies. But I give the book 5 stars for its ability to make the political atmosphere of the day, the problems facing the nation and its people and its leaders, clear and easy to grasp by ordinary but interested readers. Highly recommended.more
This book is simply amazing! Best book I have ever read. Highly recommendedmore
For many years I have enjoyed history, politics and studying leadership. "Team of Rivals The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," by Doris Kearns Goodwin allowed me to enjoy all of these in one book.Team of Rivals goes far beyond just a biography of events, but delves deep into the character of Lincoln. When Lincoln began to form his Cabinet team he did not take the normal route of patronage. He had two political goals in mind. First to unite the moderate and radical factions of the Republican Party and second to select the person who had the best skills to fulfill the specific Cabinet role. With the ability to meet these two goals he was able to accomplish his two Presidential goals, reunite the nation and end slavery. The people he found were his rivals for the Republican nomination. He built a team who often disliked each other, and still had their own agendas. But Lincoln found away to bring them together as a team and successfully accomplish all four goals.Lincoln was a very skillful and shrewd politician, but he stayed true to his beliefs and passion for our great country.Here are a few of the leadership principals that were evident in the life of Abraham Lincoln: Willingness to take responsibility. Even when one of his Cabinet members made an error, or even went against Lincoln's wishes, he would step up and take full responsibility without calling out the person in error. He was not concerned with who received credit. Lincoln could see beyond the current actions of his Cabinet members and his Union Generals and see their potential. Lincoln was long suffering. Because he could see the true potential of others, he gave them multiple chances to rise to the occasion. Only after many failed attempts would he remove someone who was not performing well. Lincoln stayed true to his values and principles to reunite the country and slavery. When the bloody war was finally over he worked to welcome the South back into the Union without holding a grudge, or seeking revenge or punishment.Goodwin also includes a lot of personal information that shows Lincoln as a master story teller, devoted husband and father. He would often use his stories to diffuse deep political tension, and drive home his point.To me the book was a bit long (over 700 pages). Almost the 1st half of the book is a mini-biography of Lincoln and each of his primary Cabinet members. It is not until page 329 that you get to Lincoln's inauguration. I feel that Goodwin sums up the book when she states,"By calling these men to his side, Lincoln had afforded an opportunity to exercise their talents to the fullest and to share in the labor and glory of the struggle that would reunite and transform their country and secure their own places in prosperity." p. 747This a great book for any fan of Lincoln, history or politics. It is also a great guide on leadership based on values and principles held by Abraham Lincoln who lived it out during the greatest crisis of our nation.more
Focusing on the intriguing choices made by Lincoln as his cabinet members, this account of the US civil war period is a good read. The book deviates a little from its main purpose throughout the high-level account of the civil war that is included. In that section, we learn a bit about the relationship that Lincoln had with his generals. That isn't the best worked out part of the book though. In a way, one could skip this part altogether and still capture the main message of the book: Lincoln was a master at putting the right people in the right place politically.more
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