My first book recommendation of 2006: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s also the sixth book I have read so far this year (completed January 25, 754 pages).
The story of Abraham Lincoln, particular the years of his presidency during the horrors of the Civil War, never cease to entertain, inform and enlighten. This is especially true with Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. The book focuses on Lincoln’s efforts to secure the Presidency, his decision to place his rivals to the Republication Presidential nomination in his cabinet and his relationship with those men. Salmon Chase never ceased to believe he should be President and pursued the office while serving as Secretary of the Treasury. Lincoln tolerated Chase’s ambition because he was an able administrator. Edward Bates and William Seward served ably as well as loyally. Seward, who had the greatest claim to the Presidency, became Lincoln’s confidant and friend.
The book emphasizes the greatness and rarity of Lincoln’s moral character. It was exactly this quality that has set him aside -- then and now -- from generations of politicians and guaranteed his immortality. Goodwin illustrates Lincoln’s political genius – he deftly managed his nomination as Republican candidate for the presidency and balanced the composition of his cabinet throughout his Administration so as to blunt the worst of the political opposition. And while we do not think of Lincoln as a people person, Goodwin shows he was exactly that. Lincoln built lasting relationships, gained the admiration of most of his Cabinet (Chase excepted) and, from the time he was a child, delighted in entertaining any gathering in which he found himself with well-crafted, humorous yarns. She dispels the image of Lincoln as a gloomy man, given to a continual state of depression. Lincoln felt the magnitude of the war’s horror, but also envisioned “the new nation conceived in liberty” that would arise from the end of slavery.
Well written, impeccably researched, Team of Rivals belongs on every reading short list.