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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

18 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

Excellent Read If A Little Bit Heavy On Idolatry

The book's premise is that Abraham Lincoln was not just a great President but one who also had the motivational ability to create a highly effective team comprised of many of his rivals. These were men who had hoped to become President. Instead, they took a subservient ...
The book's premise is that Abraham Lincoln was not just a great President but one who also had the motivational ability to create a highly effective team comprised of many of his rivals. These were men who had hoped to become President. Instead, they took a subservient role to a President whom Goodwin writes about in hagiographic terms.

The team of rivals consisted of one time Republican presidential candidates William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Salmon P. Chase, Treasury Secretary, and Edward Bates Attorney General. The other major player in this detailed work is Edwin M. Stanton, War Secretary.

This is a good read although the author is stretched at times to continually bring the overall premise together. The opening section of the book paints individual pictures of the major players, which I did not find particularly interesting. This I think is partly because some of the characters - Chase and Bates, at least to this reader are just not compelling in their own right. Thus it takes quite some time for the book to grasp this reader's attention.

Although peripheral to the main story, the hardships of life during the first half of the 19th century become very obvious. Chase lost three wives and two daughters before he was forty four, while Stanton between 1841 and 1846 lost his wife, a daughter and his only brother.

Another fascinating and heart rending aspect portrayed is how the Civil War tore families apart. Four of Mary Lincoln's siblings and three brothers-in-law fought on behalf of the Confederacy, while Bate's son also took up arms for the seceding states.

Team of Rivals is basically a biography of Lincoln with a different twist. It is not as detailed as other works - especially in relation to some Civil War episodes, because the author tries to paint pictures of so many characters. Her portrait of Lincoln to some extent lacks objectivity. Every Lincoln weakness or vacillation has a logic or rationale.

Lincoln undoubtedly was underestimated by rivals and media. One Democratic newspaper referred to him as "a third rate Western lawyer ... a fourth rate lecturer, who cannot speak good grammar." As a lawyer and in his early presidential years, the term "inspirational" does not come to mind. To some extent, his behavior did warrant this lack of respect.

His lack of authority over his generals in the early stages of the war must have been disturbing for his cabinet. General McClellan treated him with a disdain and discourtesy that was mind boggling. Had Lincoln been more forceful with Generals Meade and McClellan, it is entirely conceivable the war would have ended much earlier. Kearns (and other writers) has tried to paint Lincoln as an accommodating, understanding head of state. It is probably more accurate to suggest as Martin Luther King did that he was at some stages a "vacillating" president. Much has been written about Lincoln's leadership, but I think, the student of leadership can learn as much from what Lincoln did poorly as he did well.

Lincoln "grew" into the Presidency, winning over doubters and opponents slowly but surely with his down to earth, homely style. He most definitely has won over the author who paints Lincoln in very favorable terms no matter what the occasion. There is a tendency for the reader to become seduced by the portrait. Lincoln becomes more and more likeable, more and more presidential as the book develops. Ultimately, the rea

posted by IrishmanSpeaks on November 17, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

11 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

Woefully, deeply disappointing...

First, I sincerely apologise for the length of this review, but I hope you will wade through it. To facilitate reading without paragraph breaks, my paragraphs are numbered. (- - 1 - -) Some Heisman Trophies go to the wrong athletes and some literary awards go to t...
First, I sincerely apologise for the length of this review, but I hope you will wade through it. To facilitate reading without paragraph breaks, my paragraphs are numbered. (- - 1 - -) Some Heisman Trophies go to the wrong athletes and some literary awards go to the unqualified. Such is the praise heaped upon Ms. Goodwin, in spite of her Pulitzer Prize (which may say more about the quality of the Pulitzer than it does about her)--for this interesting concept, however terribly wrong-headed and historically-revisionist. I cannot believe that professional critics have so far missed the mark in their reviews of this book, ignoring its significant failings and just accepting its assumptions and assertions as fact. Is the study of history in America so bereft of truth that we can no longer recognize error when it is paraded before us? (- - 2 - -) I was absolutely stunned to read, right off the bat (pg. 9) that Lincoln's speech at the Cooper Union (NYC) on February 27, 1860 was 'the pinnacle of his success' in securing the Republican nomination! Does this woman (a Ph.D.?!?) not even realize why it was such a success? Does she not know that this speech, perhaps more than any other single speech of Lincoln's jaded career, set in stone--and for all posterity to read in horror that has been largely lost in his undeserved praise--Lincoln's calculated effort to enshrine slavery as a permanent fixture in America? His frank, but oft overlooked assertion that slavery┬┐s 'presence among us makes that toleration and protection a necessity' was a profoundly important factor in the subsequent war that would literally tear the heart out of this divided nation. Does she not realize the implications of his words, this poet-president (America's 'only' one[!!}, she opines. Amazing! What about Jefferson's Constitution or even the Declaration of Independence, for crying out loud?) (- - 3 - -) I say, this 'poet' and 'the great emancipator' flatly stated that constitutional protection of slavery had to be 'fully and fairly, maintained'? Do you understand that Lincoln was saying that because slavery exists, we must protect it?!? Why, he was so poetic, he wanted to deport all citizens of African descent to the continent of Africa and insure that his view that no black man was his intellectual or social equivalent remained the law of the land! (- - 4 - -) Have Americans never read what Frederick A. Douglas said about Lincoln? 'Illogical and unfair as Mr. Lincoln┬┐s statements are, they are nevertheless quite in keeping with his whole course from the beginning of his administration up to this day, and confirm the painful conviction that though elected as an antislavery man by Republican and Abolition voters, Mr. Lincoln is quite a genuine representative of American prejudice and Negro hatred and far more concerned for the preservation of slavery, and the favor of the Border Slave States, than for any sentiment of magnanimity or principle of justice and humanity.' He was, perhaps, more eloquent in that statement than in his famous plea, spoken in 1853, 'What stone has been left unturned to degrade us? What hand has refused to inflame the popular prejudice against us? What whit has not laughed at us in our wretchedness?' Lincoln was that stone, that hand, that whit. (- - 5 - -) Lincoln LOVED colonization because, as he said in his 1857 response to the Dred Scott decision, there is 'a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people, to the idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races' (I dare you to Google 'abraham lincoln' and 'liberia' in the same search). (- - 6 - -) Ms. Goodwin apparently does not even know that the Emancipation Proclamation was forced upon Lincoln--another little-realized fact of U.S. history, and particulary of Lincoln-lore--and when he finally caved into the pressure, he did nothing, Nothing, NOTHING for slaves in Northern held territory--like Louisiana, for examp

posted by Anonymous on January 6, 2006

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    Posted November 9, 2008

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    Posted December 27, 2008

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