Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

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Simon and Schuster, Sep 26, 2006 - Biography & Autobiography - 916 pages
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One of the most influential books of the past fifty years, Team of Rivals is Pulitzer Prize–winning author and esteemed presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s modern classic about the political genius of Abraham Lincoln, his unlikely presidency, and his cabinet of former political foes.

Winner of the prestigious Lincoln Prize and the inspiration for the Oscar Award winning–film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, directed by Steven Spielberg, and written by Tony Kushner.

On May 18, 1860, 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 angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, 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 more 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 desires.

It 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 war.

We 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 through.

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.

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Great Read

User Review  - mobilelaw -

You will learn a lot about the savvy political strategy that Abraham Lincoln used to construct his cabinet. Given the political divisions in Washington today this is an eye opener. Read full review

Review: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

User Review  - Stuart Mccunn - Goodreads

An unfortunately addictive book. It reads like a fine novel despite being an accurate account of the time. The book really takes an intelligent view of Lincoln's presidency by not focusing on him but ... Read full review

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C During the Civil War
Political Map of the United States circa 1856
Second Floor of the Lincoln White House
The Peninsula Campaign
Battlefields of the Civil War 496
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Page vi - Shall I tell you what this collision means ? They who think that it is accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefore ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces; and1 it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slave-holding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation.
Page xii - Could he, without embarrassment to you, or detriment to the service, go into your military family with some nominal rank, I, and not the public, furnishing his necessary means ? If no, say so without the least hesitation, because I am as anxious and as deeply interested that you shall not be encumbered as you can be yourself.
Page vi - The pageant ended. On the 5th of March, the judges, without even exchanging their silken robes for courtiers' gowns, paid their salutations to the president, in the executive palace. Doubtlessly the president received them as graciously as Charles the First did the judges who had at his instance subverted the statutes of English liberty. On the 6th of March, the supreme court dismissed the negro suitor...
Page xii - When you were about leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful ; but feeling that you were the better judge; and remembering that "nothing risked, nothing gained," I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours ; for I believe none of us went further than to acquiesce.
Page xiii - This inaugural strikes me in its grand simplicity and directness as being for all time the historical keynote of this war; in it a people seemed to speak in the sublimely simple utterance of ruder times.
Page xii - ... adjutant-general; and on February 23 he was attached to the staff of the general-in-chief. The new acquisition to the company at headquarters soon became exceedingly popular. He had inherited many of the genial traits of his father, and entered heartily into all the social pastimes at headquarters. He was always ready to perform his share of hard work, and never expected to be treated differently from any other officer on account of his being the son of the Chief Executive of the nation.
Page xiii - Even in his freest moments one always felt the presence of a will and an intellectual power which maintained the ascendancy of the president." In his relations to his cabinet "it was always plain that he was the master and they were the subordinates. They constantly had to yield to his will, and if he ever yielded to them it was because they convinced him that the course they advised was judicious and appropriate.

About the author (2006)

Doris Kearns Goodwin's interest in leadership began more than half a century ago as a professor at Harvard. Her experiences working for Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House and later assisting him on his memoirs led to her bestselling Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She followed up with the Pulitzer Prize-winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. She earned the Lincoln Prize for the runaway bestseller Team of Rivals, the basis for Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning film Lincoln, and the Carnegie Medal for The Bully Pulpit, the New York Times bestselling chronicle of the friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts. Visit her at or @DorisKGoodwin.