Team of Rivals (Goodwin)

Book Reviews 
Ms. Goodwin's narrative abilities, demonstrated in her earlier books, are on full display here, and she does an enthralling job of dramatizing such crucial moments in Lincoln's life as his nomination as the Republican Party's presidential candidate, his delivery of the Gettysburg address, his shepherding of the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) through Congress, and his assassination, days after General Lee's surrender. She shows how Lincoln's friendships with Seward and his secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, indelibly shaped his presidency, and how his masterly ability to balance factions within his own administration helped him to keep radicals and moderates, abolitionists and northern Democrats behind the Union cause.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


More books about Abraham Lincoln line the shelves of libraries than about any other American. Can there be anything new to say about our 16th president? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Having previously offered fresh insights into Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedys and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Doris Kearns Goodwin has written an elegant, incisive study of Lincoln and leading members of his cabinet that will appeal to experts as well as to those whose knowledge of Lincoln is an amalgam of high school history and popular mythology.
James M. McPherson - New York Times Book Review


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.
Allen G. Guelzo - Washington Post


(Audio version.) 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.
Publishers Weekly


In an 1876 eulogy, Frederick Douglass famously—and foolishly-asserted that "no man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln." Thirteen decades and hundreds of books later, that statement appears no closer to the truth than when Douglass uttered it. Although Lincoln may be the most studied figure in American history, there is no end to new interpretations of the man.... Goodwin's engaging new book ....argues that Lincoln's success in winning the election and in building an exceptionally effective administration lay in his extraordinary ability to empathize with his rivals. Much more than a biography of Lincoln, historian Goodwin's book also closely examines the lives of Lincoln's chief opponents for the Republican nomination—Edward Bates, Salmon P. Chase, and William H. Seward—all of whom appeared better qualified to be President than he. After Lincoln persuaded the three men-as well as other strong figures—to join his cabinet, it was expected that his former rivals would dominate him. Instead, the exact opposite occurred. —R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA
Library Journal


Well-practiced historian Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time (1994), examines Abraham Lincoln as a practical politician, focusing on his conversion of rivals to allies. Was Lincoln gay? It doesn't matter, though the question has exercised plenty of biographers recently. Goodwin, an old-fashioned pop historian of the Ambrose-McCullough vein, quotes from his law partner, William Herndon: "Lincoln had terribly strong passions for women—could scarcely keep his hands off them." End of discussion. Lincoln was, if anything, melancholic—possibly as the result of abuse on the part of his father—and sometimes incapacitated by depression. Thus it was smart politicking to recruit erstwhile opponents Salmon Chase and William Seward, who had very different ideas on most things but who nonetheless served Lincoln loyally to the point of propping him up at times during the fraught Civil War years. Goodwin indicates that Lincoln knew that war was coming, and he knew why: He'd been vigorously opposed to slavery for his entire public career, and even if "many Northerners...were relatively indifferent to the issue" of slavery and the westward expansion of the slave states, Lincoln was determined to settle it, even at catastrophic cost. Chase, Seward and his other lieutenants did not always fall immediately into step with Lincoln, and some pressed for compromise; when he declared the Emancipation Proclamation, writes Goodwin, he assembled the Cabinet and said that while he recognized their differences, he "had not called them together to ask their advice." They acceded, though by the end of the first term, enough divisions obtained within and without the White House that it looked as if Lincoln would not be reelected—whereupon he demanded that his secretaries sign a resolution "committing the administration to devote all its powers and energies to help bring the war to a successful conclusion," the idea being that only a Democrat would accept a negotiated peace. Illuminating and well-written, as are all of Goodwin's presidential studies; a welcome addition to Lincolniana.
Kirkus Reviews

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