Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.pdf
The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods.
Ten years in the making, this engaging work reveals why "Lincoln's road to success was longer, more tortuous, and far less likely" than the other men, and why, when opportunity beckoned, Lincoln was "the best prepared to answer the call." This multiple biography further provides valuable background and insights into the contributions and talents of Seward, Chase, and Bates. Lincoln may have been "the indispensable ingredient of the Civil War," but these three men were invaluable to Lincoln and they played key roles in keeping the nation intact. --Shawn Carkonen
The Team of Rivals Team of Rivals doesn't just tell the story of Abraham Lincoln. It is a multiple biography of the entire team of personal and political competitors that he put together to lead the country through its greatest crisis. Here, Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles five of the key players in her book, four of whom contended for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination and all of whom later worked together in Lincoln's cabinet. 1. Edwin M. Stanton
Stanton treated Lincoln with utter contempt at their initial acquaintance when the two men were involved in a celebrated law case in the summer of 1855. Unimaginable as it might seem after Stanton's demeaning behavior, Lincoln offered him "the most powerful civilian post within his gift"--the post of secretary of war--at their next encounter six years later. On his first day in office as Simon Cameron's replacement, the energetic, hardworking Stanton instituted "an entirely new regime" in the War Department. After nearly a year of disappointment with Cameron, Lincoln had found in Stanton the leader the War Department desperately needed. Lincoln's choice of Stanton revealed his singular ability to transcend personal vendetta, humiliation, or bitterness. As for Stanton, despite his initial contempt for the man he once described as a "long armed Ape," he not only accepted the offer but came to respect and love Lincoln more than any person outside of his immediate family. He was beside himself with grief for weeks after the president's death.
2. Salmon P. Chase
Chase, an Ohioan, had been both senator and governor, had played a central role in the formation of the national Republican Party, and had shown an unflagging commitment to the cause of the black man. No individual felt he deserved the presidency as a natural result of his past contributions more than Chase himself, but he refused to engage in the practical methods by which nominations are won. He had virtually no campaign and he failed to conciliate his many enemies in Ohio itself. As a result, he alone among the candidates came to the convention without the united support of his own state. Chase never ceased to underestimate Lincoln, nor to resent the fact that he had lost the presidency to a man he considered his inferior. His frustration with his position as secretary of the treasury was alleviated only by his his dogged hope that he, rather than Lincoln, would be the Republican nominee in 1864, and he steadfastly worked to that end. The president put up with Chase's machinations and haughty yet fundamentally insecure nature because he recognized his superlative accomplishments at treasury. Eventually, however, Chase threatened to split the Republican Party by continuing to fill key positions with partisans who supported his presidential hopes. When Lincoln stepped in, Chase tendered his resignation as he had three times before, but this time Lincoln stunned Chase by calling his bluff and accepting the offer.
3. Abraham Lincoln
When Lincoln won the Republican presidential nomination in 1860 he seemed to have come from nowhere--a backwoods lawyer who had served one undistinguished term in the House of Representatives and lost two consecutive contests for the U.S. Senate. Contemporaries attributed his surprising nomination to chance, to his moderate position on slavery, and to the fact that he hailed from the battleground state of Illinois. But Lincoln's triumph, particularly when viewed against the efforts of his rivals, owed much to a remarkable, unsuspected political acuity and an emotional strength forged in the crucible of hardship and defeat. That Lincoln, after winning the presidency, made the unprecedented decision to incorporate his eminent rivals into his political family, the cabinet, was evidence of an uncanny self-confidence and an indication of what would prove to others a most unexpected greatness.
4. William H. Seward
A celebrated senator from New York for more than a decade and governor of his state for two terms before going to Washington, Seward was certain he was going to receive his party's nomination for president in 1860. The weekend before the convention in Chicago opened he had already composed a first draft of the valedictory speech he expected to make to the Senate, assuming that he would resign his position as soon as the decision in Chicago was made. His mortification at not having received the nomination never fully abated, and when he was offered his cabinet post as secretary of state he intended to have a major role in choosing the remaining cabinet members, conferring upon himself a position in the new government more commanding than that of Lincoln himself. He quickly realized the futility of his plan to relegate the president to a figurehead role. Though the feisty New Yorker would continue to debate numerous issues with Lincoln in the years ahead, exactly as Lincoln had hoped and needed him to do, Seward would become his closest friend, advisor, and ally in the administration. More than any other cabinet member Seward appreciated Lincoln's peerless skill in balancing factions both within his administration and in the country at large.
5. Edward Bates
A widely respected elder statesman, a delegate to the convention that framed the Missouri Constitution, and a former Missouri congressman whose opinions on national matters were still widely sought, Bates's ambitions for political success were gradually displaced by love for his wife and large family, and he withdrew from public life in the late 1840s. For the next 20 years he was asked repeatedly to run or once again accept high government posts but he consistently declined. However in early 1860, with letters and newspaper editorials advocating his candidacy crowding in upon him, he decided to try for the highest office in the land. After losing to Lincoln he vowed, in his diary, to decline a cabinet position if one were to be offered, but with the country "in trouble and danger" he felt it was his duty to accept when Lincoln asked him to be attorney general. Though Bates initially viewed Lincoln as a well-meaning but incompetent administrator, he eventually concluded that the president was an unmatched leader, "very near being a 'perfect man.'"
The Essential Doris Kearns Goodwin
Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream
More New Reading on the Civil War
Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk
Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War by Charles Bracelen Flood
The March: A Novel by E.L. Doctorow
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
While Goodwin's introduction is a helpful summary and explanation for why another book about Lincoln, her reading abilities are limited: Her tone is flat and dry, and her articulation is overly precise. But the introduction isn't long and we soon arrive at Richard Thomas's lovely and lively reading of an excellent book. The abridgment (from 944 pages) makes it easy to follow the narrative and the underlying theme. Pauses are often used to imply ellipses, and one is never lost. But the audio version might have been longer, for there is often a wish to know a little more about some event or personality or relationship. Goodwin's writing is always sharp and clear, and she uses quotes to great effect. The book's originality lies in the focus on relationships among the men Lincoln chose for his cabinet and highest offices: three were his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, and each considered himself the only worthy candidate. One is left with a concrete picture of Lincoln's political genius—derived from a character without malice or jealousy—which shaped the history of our nation. One is also left with the painful sense of how our history might have differed had Lincoln lived to guide the Reconstruction.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
The Constitution makes no provision for a president's cabinet. After all, no one in the Constitutional Convention in 1787 ever thought the office of the president would require much more than secretarial help. If there was to be a council of state or an assembly of sage heads in the new republic, the Framers expected that it could be found in the Senate. But the Senate, as George Washington discovered, was too political and fractious a body to play that role. And the men he had invited to serve as his executive secretaries -- Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox -- were of such extraordinary abilities that by the end of Washington's first administration, a "cabinet" of advisers and administrators with wide latitude to execute presidential policy was already emerging.
This did not mean that the president's cabinet acquired any predictable shape. Cabinets have been recruited by wildly different rules, from the purest cronyism (under Andrew Jackson) to the purest impartiality (under John Quincy Adams, who tried to construct a cabinet that included some of his deadliest political opponents). Sometimes cabinet secretaries have been submissive messengers of the president's will; sometimes they have used their independent political power to subvert his policies. Not even the size of the cabinet has remained stable. Washington had a cabinet of four (if we include his attorney general); John Adams added a fifth, the secretary of the navy, in 1798. George W. Bush has 15 cabinet posts, along with four other cabinet-rank executive positions. To date, almost no serious critical literature exists to give it all coherence.
Which means that the task the popular historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has set for herself in writing the history of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet in Team of Rivals is neither easy nor immediately attractive. But this immense, finely boned book is no dull administrative or bureaucratic history; rather, it is a story of personalities -- a messianic drama, if you will -- in which Lincoln must increase and the others must decrease.
By the time Lincoln became president, cabinet-making had reached the point where cabinet members threatened to overshadow the president who had nominated them. The weak-kneed presidents of the 1850s -- Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan -- were routinely upstaged or subverted by their secretaries of war and state. And Lincoln did not look at first like any great improvement. He had earned a leading place in Republican Party politics in Illinois and snatched some fleeting national attention by challenging the mighty Stephen Douglas for the Senate in 1858 -- and almost winning the Democrat's seat. But Lincoln enjoyed nothing like the stature of New York's William H. Seward, Ohio's Salmon P. Chase (the John McCain of mid-century Republicanism), Pennsylvania's Simon Cameron or Missouri's Edward Bates. Yet obscurity cut both ways: Seward, Chase and the others had spent so long in the political limelight that each had acquired a legion of unforgiving enemies. Lincoln, at least, had offended none, and so the nomination swung to him. But once elected, he had to come to terms with the damaged egos of the party's jilted, and there was no guarantee that they would defer to this little known circuit lawyer from the prairies. Losing the nomination humiliated Seward, and Chase writhed with ambition for the presidency. These were exactly the sort of advisers whom Lincoln, as an executive-branch novice, would have been well advised to keep far away from Washington. Instead, he offered the State Department to Seward, the War Department to Cameron and the Treasury to Chase, knowing that (in the days before the creation of a professional civil service) he was also handing them the keys to the federal patronage system and the opportunity to build rival political empires of their own.
Lincoln did this partly because he had no real choice. He was painfully aware of his outsider status in Washington, and with no close political allies of national stature, he had no one else to whom he could turn to give his administration political ballast. Partly, Lincoln was guided by his long association with the Whig Party. The Whigs split and disintegrated as a national political party in the mid-1850s, and Lincoln had gone over to the new Republican Party in 1856. But his old political habits retained their hold on him, including the lofty Whig assertion that they were above partisanship -- statesmen rather than party hacks, dedicated to promoting national unity rather than special interests. It was entirely consistent with Lincoln's old Whig instincts to create "an administration of all the talents" (to borrow an old parliamentary phrase), even if the people he invited into it could be expected to stab him in the back.
But Lincoln's selection of a cabinet of rivals was also an expression of a shrewdness that few people could appreciate in 1861. Keeping Seward and Chase within his administration gave him more opportunities to control them and fewer opportunities for them to create political mischief. It also guaranteed that, in any controversy, he could count on Seward and Chase to back-stab each other, allowing him to emerge afterward as the all-powerful settler of disputes. And to improve his chances for command by limiting their ability to roil the political waters, Lincoln added two of his loyalists, Montgomery Blair as postmaster general and Gideon Welles as secretary of the Navy, to serve as his bulldogs if any of the others grew uppity. Seward, Chase or Bates might have uncorked this plan by simply refusing Lincoln's initial proffer of a cabinet post. But the president had correctly guessed that none of them could bring himself to refuse even secondhand prestige. From that moment, Goodwin observes, Lincoln had them in his power, and he never let them go. "He is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of the Union, all at once," marveled Lincoln's secretary, John Hay, in 1863. "I never knew with what tyrannous authority he rules the Cabinet, till now. The most important things he decides and there is no cavil."
Team of Rivals tells the story of Lincoln's prudent political management as a highly personal tale, not a political or bureaucratic one. Goodwin's Seward is primarily the wounded but ultimately resilient politico who becomes Lincoln's cheerleader, rather than the manager of a vast network of diplomatic personnel and paperwork. Goodwin's Chase is the envious, holier-than-thou puritan whose passion for recognition and affirmation reduces everyone, including his daughter Kate, to a cipher for his own advancement; the book gives us very little about Chase's superb management of the Treasury. These are not novel interpretations, but the portraits are drawn in spacious detail and with great skill. In this respect, Team of Rivals is a strictly conventional sort of narrative that does not press much beyond the horizons set in 1946 by Burton J. Hendrick's classic Lincoln's War Cabinet. But good narrative in American history is what we lack, and Goodwin's narrative powers are great.
Like Seward and Hay, Goodwin comes to the close of Team of Rivals amazed and delighted to find "that Abraham Lincoln would emerge the undisputed captain of this most unusual cabinet" and thereby "prove to others a most unexpected greatness." Those who had known Lincoln before would have nodded appreciatively. Leonard Swett, who rode the Illinois circuit courts with Lincoln in the old days, once remarked that "beneath a smooth surface of candor and an apparent declaration of all his thoughts and feelings, he exercised the most exalted tact and the wisest discrimination. He handled and moved men remotely as we do pieces upon a chessboard." That "tact" saved the Union. It also mastered his cabinet. Team of Rivals will move readers to wonder whether the former might have been easier than the latter.
Reviewed by Allen C. Guelzo
Copyright 2005, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Critics generally agree that Goodwins 10-year project on Honest Abe paid off. Many lauded the well-rounded, intimate, and admiring portrait she paints of our 16th president by weaving some good old-fashioned storytelling with the hard facts. Abes cabinet members, Seward in particular, also receive their due. Despite the more than 100 pages of footnotes that chronicle Goodwins impressive primary research, a few critics found the book redundant, its first third difficult to read, and Lincolns stand on race nearly ignored. Overall, however, most reviewers found Team of Rivals remarkably resonant today, given the young Lincolns brash attacks on President Polk, who he claimed pushed the country into the needless Mexican War. For an inside look at Abes political genius, Goodwins work is a good place to start.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer spins a historical tale around Lincoln's unexpected rise to the presidency and his surprising, but brilliantly calculated, choice of three ex-rivals as members of his Cabinet. Richard Thomas sheds his "good old boy" persona to deliver the strategies and party politics of Abe's public office with strength and vigor, and the great sorrows of his private life in a subdued, anguish-filled tone. There are a few dry patches, cataloging historic events, but Thomas never gives in to the boredom. The Civil War is presented in vividly dramatic detail, capped by an inspiring Gettysburg Address and a dignified account of Lincoln's assassination. A masterful bio, read by a master storyteller. M.T.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
*Starred Review* Lincoln redux. Nevertheless, popular historian Goodwin offers fresh ground by which to judge the almost overdone sixteenth president. She is fascinated by the "growth of Lincoln's political genius," which resulted in two rather startling situations having to do with his career. First, that despite "coming from nowhere," he won the 1860 Republican nomination, snatching it from the anticipating hands of three chief contenders, all of whom were not only well known but also known to be presidential material: William Seward, senator from New York; Salmon Chase, governor of Ohio; and Edwin Bates, distinguished politician from Missouri. Second, that once Lincoln achieved the nomination and won the election, he brought his rivals into his cabinet and built them into a remarkable team to lead the Union during the Civil War, none of whom overshadowed the prairie lawyer turned president. Goodwin finds meaningful comparisons and differences in not only the four men's careers but also their personal lives and character traits. She extends her purview to the women occupying important space next to them (the wives of Lincoln, Seward, and Bates and the daughter of the widower Chase). The knowledge gained here about these three significant figures who well attended Lincoln gain for the reader an even keener appreciation of the rare individual that he was. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"An elegant, incisive study....Goodwin has brilliantly described how Lincoln forged a team that preserved a nation and freed America from the curse of slavery."
-- James M. McPherson, The New York Times Book Review
Doris Kearns Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time, which was a bestseller in hardcover and trade paper. She is also the author of Wait Till Next Year, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with her husband, Richard Goodwin.
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.