Winner of the Lincoln PrizeAcclaimed 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 presidentOn May 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 angryThroughout the turbulent s, 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 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 desiresIt 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 warWe 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 throughThis brilliant multiple biography is centered on Lincoln s mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation s history Put aside whatever you re reading now yes, even those compelling vampire romance books and pick up this book It s that good Even though Goodwin is writing about Lincoln s cabinet, her work is eerily contemporary, given Obama s situation Everyone but a handful of people thought Lincoln had risen too fast and was too untried to take charge of a desperate crises facing the country Goodwin uses the main characters diaries, letters, journals, and speeches to show how that opinion gradually cha Put aside whatever you re reading now yes, even those compelling vampire romance books and pick up this book It s that good Even though Goodwin is writing about Lincoln s cabinet, her work is eerily contemporary, given Obama s situation Everyone but a handful of people thought Lincoln had risen too fast and was too untried to take charge of a desperate crises facing the country Goodwin uses the main characters diaries, letters, journals, and speeches to show how that opinion gradually changed If Obama has half of Lincoln s greatness of heart, we are in good hands I heard Goodwin talk about this book on NPR, and she sounded like she d been an eyewitness to the events Sold me the book.On June 17th I ve been a hundred pages from the end for ten days I don t want Abe to die.July 17th Okay, I finally made myself finish Abe s dead and I m a wreck.In this book Goodwin puts Abraham Lincoln in the context of his peers, many of whom ran against him for the first Republican nomination for president remember they d just invented that party and one of whom, I heard Goodwin talk about this book on NPR, and she sounded like she d been an eyewitness to the events Sold me the book.On June 17th I ve been a hundred pages from the end for ten days I don t want Abe to die.July 17th Okay, I finally made myself finish Abe s dead and I m a wreck.In this book Goodwin puts Abraham Lincoln in the context of his peers, many of whom ran against him for the first Republican nomination for president remember they d just invented that party and one of whom, Stanton, had treated him with outright contempt in a law case years before Seward accepted the job of Secretary of State thinking Lincoln would be his puppet, and Chase literally ran his second campaign for president out of the Department of the Treasury Lincoln understood them all, tolerated them all, put them all to work for the nation that needed them so badly, and jollied, coaxed, cajoled and reasoned them all to victory A reporter asked him how he could take all these vipers to his bosom and Lincoln replied that these were the best and most able men available and their country needed them, and that he wouldn t be doing his job if he didn t put them to work for it There can t be anyone who has ever occupied the Oval Officeselfless than Abe.This book is wonderfully written, accessible even to the most casual reader, full of humor and choler and kindness and vitriol, and wisdom Goodwin has that ability known only to the best historians David McCullough does, too to pluck the exact quote necessary from the record to illuminate the scene she is describing, and make the transition from past to present seamless Listen to Goodwin on Lincoln in his 1862 state of the union address pp 406 7 he closed his message with a graceful and irrefutable argument against the continuation of slavery in a democratic society, the very essence of which opened the way to all, granted hope to all, and advanced the condition of all In this just, and generous, and prosperous system, he reasoned, labor is prior to, and independent of, capital Then, reflecting upon the vicissitudes of his own experience, Lincoln added The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him Clearly this upward mobility, the possibility of self realization so central to the idea of America, was closed to the slave unless and until he became a free man.The American Dream, articulated, in words guaranteed to be understood by everyone You close this book knowing not just about these people, you actually feel like you know them, especially Abe.Impossible, after reading this book, not to wonder what our nation would look like had Lincoln survived his second term Impossible not to grieve his loss As a history lover, I m a bit of a snob While everyone is rushing to purchase the newest warm milk entry from David McCullough, I make a show of purchasing turgid, poorly edited treatises put out by university presses about some guy who did something long ago that doesn t really matter any Of course, as every snob eventually learns, being snobbish is like slamming a hammer down on your thumb you only hurt yourself and everyone thinks you re an idiot When it was published, Team of Rivals As a history lover, I m a bit of a snob While everyone is rushing to purchase the newest warm milk entry from David McCullough, I make a show of purchasing turgid, poorly edited treatises put out by university presses about some guy who did something long ago that doesn t really matter any Of course, as every snob eventually learns, being snobbish is like slamming a hammer down on your thumb you only hurt yourself and everyone thinks you re an idiot When it was published, Team of Rivals became the it book of popular fiction, achieving something of the mass audience of McCullough s John Adams That meant, of course, that I put on my beret, grew a pencil mustache, and turned up my nose at the very notion of reading it While I was ignoring Team of Rivals, however, it did somethingthan sell millions of copies it added something to the cultural lexicon.The phrase team of rivals is this year s perfect storm Used by Doris Kearns Goodwin to describe Abraham Lincoln and his Presidential sounding board, it has been hijacked by cable newscasters as a quick way to add false insight into President Obama s selection of the Cabinet To demonstrate my belief that the phrase was overused, I decided to play the team of rivals drinking game while watching Wolf Blitzer one afteroon At some point, I blacked out Before I did, however, my pillow came to life and told me that Stephen A Douglas cheated during his debates with Lincoln by using a teleprompter Then I threw up in the fireplace Anyway, my point is, I ve forgotten what I was talking about, due to the short term memory loss I have from playing the team of rivals drinking game Now I remember I eventually got over myself and read Team of Rivals And it appears that everyone reading it on the subway was right it s super Team of Rivals is a Lincoln book that manages to find a fresh angle on a man written about as much as Jesus Rather than placing Lincoln directly front and center, Goodwin focuses on Lincoln s cabinet, providing us with mini biographies of Salmon Chase Secretary of the Treasury , Edward Bates Attorney General , and William H Seward Secretary of State The book starts with the Republican National Convention of 1860, where Lincoln faced off with Chase, Bates, and Seward the favorite This is the best part of the book learning about the lives of these three exceptional men Goodwin does an amazing job making these characters come to thrilling life in just a few pages She weaves them together while highlighting both their similarities and their differences For instance, she introduces Lincoln s Treasury Secretary Salmon Portland Chase, in contrast to the ever buoyant Seward, possessed a restless soul incapable of finding satisfaction in his considerable achievements He was forever brooding on a station in life not yet reached, recording at each turning point in his life regret at not capitalizing on the opportunities given to him.Then there s my favorite character, Edwin Stanton, the beautifully bearded Secretary of War Six years younger than Chase, Stanton was a brilliant young lawyer from Steubenville, Ohio He had been active in Democratic politics from his earliest days A short, stout man, with thick brows and intense black eyes hidden behind steel rimmed glasses, Stanton had grown up in a Quaker family dedicated to abolition He later told the story that when he was a boy his father had like the father of Hannibal against Rome made him swear eternal hostility to slavery Stanton originally thought Lincoln an incompetent boob Lincoln didn t take this personally, and replaced the actually incompetent Simon Cameron with Stanton after the first year of the war The two developed an incredible working relationship, and upon Lincoln s death, it was the distraught Stanton told the world he uttered the immortal phrase Now he belongs to the Ages Strikingly, no one around Lincoln s death bed remembers Stanton saying this Maybe he just thought it, and wished he d said it After giving us a quadruple bio of Lincoln, Seward, Chase and Bates, the rivals for the nomination, Goodwin takes us through the Civil War Her focus is not on the ins and outs of the various battles, which have been well covered in several million books rather, she views everything through the prism of Lincoln s cabinet This is a well told, lucid, propulsive story Even someone who s never read a book on Lincoln or the Civil War will follow along just nicely this is why Goodwin is such a marvelous popular historian, in the vein of McCullough I do have one major complaint, however, and it is fairly substantive The book s title and its focus is its thesis that Lincoln s team of rivals, his disparate cabinet, was a good thing This just isn t borne out in the story she tells Bates, after a big rollout, nearly disappears Salmon Chase is a wrong fit from the start, and Lincoln eventually has to appoint him to the Supreme Court to get rid of him Lincoln had to sack Cameron and install Stanton, who eventually turned out to be a good choice In the end, Lincoln took on a great deal of responsibility himself Long before Truman, the buck stopped with him Some of his big moments, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, came as a surprise to his Cabinet Indeed, the Emancipation Proclamation shows how bad the team of rivals idea can be It sharply divided the cabinet, with Lincoln receiving advice of varying degrees Bates and Stanton for it immediately Chase and Caleb Smith against it Then there was Seward, a smart man who wasn t as smart as Lincoln William Henry Seward s mode of intricate analysis produced a characteristically complex reaction to the proclamation After the others had spoken, he 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 Curiously, despite his greater access to intelligence from abroad, Seward failed to grasp what Lincoln intuitively understood that once the Union truly committed itself to emancipation, the masses in Europe, who regarded slavery as an evil demanding eradication, would not be easily maneuvered into supporting the South.Here, Goodwin is telling a great story This is a powerful narrative that takes something we all sorta know about the Emancipation Proclamation and gives us all the nitty gritty details in a fascinating manner This is what great history writing is all about However, this scene also helps also demolishes her thesis This was a bickering, troublesome, quarreling cabinet Lincoln was left to make his own decisions though in fairness to Seward, he did have the clever idea of waiting until a victory in battle to announce the Proclamation I also don t agree with the foundation of Goodwin s thesis that Lincoln was a dark horse candidate and felt he needed to nominate Seward, Chase, Bates, et al in order to shore up his Presidency Lincoln was not the unknown, backwoods rustic portrayed by Goodwin Rather, he was an extremely talented and successful lawyer was backed by a coterie of powerful ex Whigs and Republicans and had become nationally famous during and after the Lincoln Douglas Debates Heck, the convention was held in Chicago, Illinois Coincidence Hardly Team of Rivals continues beyond the Civil War and Lincoln s assassination, following the lives of the Cabinet members beyond the Administration Seward, of course, had the most impact post Lincoln His purchase of Alaska ensured our great nation decade after decade of iconoclastic, individualistic citizens who hate the intrusion of the Federal Government but love the hundreds of millions of dollars they get from the Federal Government Thanks, Seward Ya big dumb jerk The end of the book is touching, powerful, and melancholy I admit I got chills when Goodwin related a story told by Tolstoy Tolstoy was visiting a tribal chief in the Caucuses and he was regaling the tribe with stories of Alexander, Frederick the Great and Caesar When Tolstoy stood to leave, the tribal chief stopped him But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world We want to know something about him He was a hero He spoke with a voice of thunder he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rockHis name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived Tell us of that man If you want to learn about that man, and the great thing he achieved, or even if you think you know the story front to back, this is a readable, genuinely enjoyable addition to the Lincoln canon Please forgive me resorting to a tired trick and leading off with a definition from the dictionary, but there is a point to it pol i ti cian 1 a person experienced in the art or science of government especially one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government2A a person engaged in party politics as a profession2B a person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow usually short sighted reasonsAmericans these days seem to think that 2B is the only Please forgive me resorting to a tired trick and leading off with a definition from the dictionary, but there is a point to it pol i ti cian 1 a person experienced in the art or science of government especially one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government2A a person engaged in party politics as a profession2B a person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow usually short sighted reasonsAmericans these days seem to think that 2B is the only definition for the word, and even the first meaning is considered an insult because if you actually know how the government works, then you re guilty by association Hell, politicians now deny being politicians as they try to get reelected to political office while screaming about how all politicians suck Or the Tea Party just finds the angriest moron around to run It s weird that it s become such a dirty word because one of the greatest Americans by almost any sane person s standard was Abraham Lincoln While the myth may be that he was just this humble log splitter and backwoods lawyer who bumbled into the White House during one of the country s darkest hours and fortunately turned out to be the perfect leader for the time, the truth is that Abe was one super bad ass politician in the sense of definitions 1 and 2A, but luckily 2B didn t apply at all.All American kids hear about Abe in school We learn about the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address and the 13th Amendment, but they never really tell you how Abe managed to win a war that should have permanently split the country and end an evil institution that even the Founding Fathers had just left as some future generation s problem Reading Team of Rivals gives you an understanding of how Lincoln accomplished this, and the simple answer is that he was a politician of uncanny skill He had a great sense of timing as well as being empathetic enough to see the other side of any argument while never swaying once he had fully committed himself to a course of action he thought right or necessary The thing that made him unique was the almost inhuman way he could put his own ego and anger aside to find ways to work with people he had every reason to distrust or even hate As this book details, Lincoln s selection and handling of his own cabinet highlight what made him such a great president He managed to convince some of the biggest power brokers and politicians of his day, many of whom he had beaten out for the presidency, to work for the common good as members of his administration Even though this meant dealing with constant bickering and political intrigue, Lincoln still got outstanding achievements from all of them, and most of the men who once saw him as an overmatched fool eventually came to regard him as one of the smartest and most honorable men of the age.Well researched and written in an entertaining style, this book also shows how little has changed in American politics The tactics of the kind of people who would defend slavery and smear Lincoln seem familiar in many ways They just used newspapers instead of a cable news channel and talk radio.One odd thing I started this after seeing the Spielberg movie, and I knew that only a small part of the book was actually about the passage of the 13th Amendment that the movie centers on However, there s not nearly as much as I thought there would be It seems like only a few pages are spent on it, so it s a little weird that the movie would cite it so heavily On the other hand, the details of Lincoln s personality in here are all over Daniel Day Lewis s great performance