Charlotte's Reviews > Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
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Sep 13, 11

Read in September, 2011

I have wanted to read this book ever since I did Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, No Ordinary Time, and I enjoyed it very much. Interestingly, Newsweek had a list a few weeks ago of all the books President Obama has read since his inauguration and Team of Rivals was the first one. As I read it, well actually listened--to all 36 CD's (!), I could occasionally see things Obama has done that reflect examples set in this book. While long and detailed, I found it extremely well written.

Abraham Lincoln competed with three other men, William Seward, Edward Bates, and Salmon Chase for the Republican nomination. None of them saw Abe as a serious competitor, but he respected their talents and gave each of them a position on his cabinet, then rounded out his cabinet appointments with three democrats-thus the title, Team of Rivals. While obviously there were differences of opinions, they did come to work together amazingly well through the most trying time our country has endured, and also stay on track for other needs of the country (ie building the railroad.) Because Goodwin researched and wrote about all four men, and their families and this time in history she was able to access sources not generally used in books about Abraham Lincoln. She was also much kinder in her treatment of Mary Todd Lincoln that in some books I have read.

There is so much I could say about this book, but I'll just mention two things that I found particularly interesting. Lincoln was the first Republican president and the party was still quite young. I couldn't help but be amazed at how different from, the Republican party of today it was. In fact in many ways the Republican and Democrat stance's almost seem to have reversed--ie the phrase Conservative Democrats appeared a number of times--though didn't refer to the whole party. The second was how presidential campaigns were conducted at that time--an interesting example, President Lincoln had become a popular speaker, but did not speak publicly at all between the time he was nominated and elected. His role in the campaign was entirely behind the scenes, and even there, never critical of his rivals!
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