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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 25, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 944 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684824906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684824901
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.8 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,271 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods.

Ten years in the making, this engaging work reveals why "Lincoln's road to success was longer, more tortuous, and far less likely" than the other men, and why, when opportunity beckoned, Lincoln was "the best prepared to answer the call." This multiple biography further provides valuable background and insights into the contributions and talents of Seward, Chase, and Bates. Lincoln may have been "the indispensable ingredient of the Civil War," but these three men were invaluable to Lincoln and they played key roles in keeping the nation intact. --Shawn Carkonen

The Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals doesn't just tell the story of Abraham Lincoln. It is a multiple biography of the entire team of personal and political competitors that he put together to lead the country through its greatest crisis. Here, Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles five of the key players in her book, four of whom contended for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination and all of whom later worked together in Lincoln's cabinet.
1. Edwin M. Stanton
Stanton treated Lincoln with utter contempt at their initial acquaintance when the two men were involved in a celebrated law case in the summer of 1855. Unimaginable as it might seem after Stanton's demeaning behavior, Lincoln offered him "the most powerful civilian post within his gift"--the post of secretary of war--at their next encounter six years later. On his first day in office as Simon Cameron's replacement, the energetic, hardworking Stanton instituted "an entirely new regime" in the War Department. After nearly a year of disappointment with Cameron, Lincoln had found in Stanton the leader the War Department desperately needed. Lincoln's choice of Stanton revealed his singular ability to transcend personal vendetta, humiliation, or bitterness. As for Stanton, despite his initial contempt for the man he once described as a "long armed Ape," he not only accepted the offer but came to respect and love Lincoln more than any person outside of his immediate family. He was beside himself with grief for weeks after the president's death.

2. Salmon P. Chase
Chase, an Ohioan, had been both senator and governor, had played a central role in the formation of the national Republican Party, and had shown an unflagging commitment to the cause of the black man. No individual felt he deserved the presidency as a natural result of his past contributions more than Chase himself, but he refused to engage in the practical methods by which nominations are won. He had virtually no campaign and he failed to conciliate his many enemies in Ohio itself. As a result, he alone among the candidates came to the convention without the united support of his own state. Chase never ceased to underestimate Lincoln, nor to resent the fact that he had lost the presidency to a man he considered his inferior. His frustration with his position as secretary of the treasury was alleviated only by his his dogged hope that he, rather than Lincoln, would be the Republican nominee in 1864, and he steadfastly worked to that end. The president put up with Chase's machinations and haughty yet fundamentally insecure nature because he recognized his superlative accomplishments at treasury. Eventually, however, Chase threatened to split the Republican Party by continuing to fill key positions with partisans who supported his presidential hopes. When Lincoln stepped in, Chase tendered his resignation as he had three times before, but this time Lincoln stunned Chase by calling his bluff and accepting the offer.

3. Abraham Lincoln
When Lincoln won the Republican presidential nomination in 1860 he seemed to have come from nowhere--a backwoods lawyer who had served one undistinguished term in the House of Representatives and lost two consecutive contests for the U.S. Senate. Contemporaries attributed his surprising nomination to chance, to his moderate position on slavery, and to the fact that he hailed from the battleground state of Illinois. But Lincoln's triumph, particularly when viewed against the efforts of his rivals, owed much to a remarkable, unsuspected political acuity and an emotional strength forged in the crucible of hardship and defeat. That Lincoln, after winning the presidency, made the unprecedented decision to incorporate his eminent rivals into his political family, the cabinet, was evidence of an uncanny self-confidence and an indication of what would prove to others a most unexpected greatness.

4. William H. Seward
A celebrated senator from New York for more than a decade and governor of his state for two terms before going to Washington, Seward was certain he was going to receive his party's nomination for president in 1860. The weekend before the convention in Chicago opened he had already composed a first draft of the valedictory speech he expected to make to the Senate, assuming that he would resign his position as soon as the decision in Chicago was made. His mortification at not having received the nomination never fully abated, and when he was offered his cabinet post as secretary of state he intended to have a major role in choosing the remaining cabinet members, conferring upon himself a position in the new government more commanding than that of Lincoln himself. He quickly realized the futility of his plan to relegate the president to a figurehead role. Though the feisty New Yorker would continue to debate numerous issues with Lincoln in the years ahead, exactly as Lincoln had hoped and needed him to do, Seward would become his closest friend, advisor, and ally in the administration. More than any other cabinet member Seward appreciated Lincoln's peerless skill in balancing factions both within his administration and in the country at large.

5. Edward Bates
A widely respected elder statesman, a delegate to the convention that framed the Missouri Constitution, and a former Missouri congressman whose opinions on national matters were still widely sought, Bates's ambitions for political success were gradually displaced by love for his wife and large family, and he withdrew from public life in the late 1840s. For the next 20 years he was asked repeatedly to run or once again accept high government posts but he consistently declined. However in early 1860, with letters and newspaper editorials advocating his candidacy crowding in upon him, he decided to try for the highest office in the land. After losing to Lincoln he vowed, in his diary, to decline a cabinet position if one were to be offered, but with the country "in trouble and danger" he felt it was his duty to accept when Lincoln asked him to be attorney general. Though Bates initially viewed Lincoln as a well-meaning but incompetent administrator, he eventually concluded that the president was an unmatched leader, "very near being a 'perfect man.'"

The Essential Doris Kearns Goodwin


Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II

Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream

More New Reading on the Civil War


Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk

Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War by Charles Bracelen Flood

The March: A Novel by E.L. Doctorow

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize–winner Goodwin (No Ordinary Time) seeks to illuminate what she interprets as a miraculous event: Lincoln's smooth (and, in her view, rather sudden) transition from underwhelming one-term congressman and prairie lawyer to robust chief executive during a time of crisis. Goodwin marvels at Lincoln's ability to co-opt three better-born, better-educated rivals—each of whom had challenged Lincoln for the 1860 Republican nomination. The three were New York senator William H. Seward, who became secretary of state; Ohio senator Salmon P. Chase, who signed on as secretary of the treasury and later was nominated by Lincoln to be chief justice of the Supreme Court; and Missouri's "distinguished elder statesman" Edward Bates, who served as attorney general. This is the "team of rivals" Goodwin's title refers to.The problem with this interpretation is that the metamorphosis of Lincoln to Machiavellian master of men that Goodwin presupposes did not in fact occur overnight only as he approached the grim reality of his presidency. The press had labeled candidate Lincoln "a fourth-rate lecturer, who cannot speak good grammar." But East Coast railroad executives, who had long employed Lincoln at huge prices to defend their interests as attorney and lobbyist, knew better. Lincoln was a shrewd political operator and insider long before he entered the White House—a fact Goodwin underplays. On another front, Goodwin's spotlighting of the president's three former rivals tends to undercut that Lincoln's most essential Cabinet-level contacts were not with Seward, Chase and Bates, but rather with secretaries of war Simon Cameron and Edwin Stanton, and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. These criticisms aside, Goodwin supplies capable biographies of the gentlemen on whom she has chosen to focus, and ably highlights the sometimes tangled dynamics of their "team" within the larger assemblage of Lincoln's full war cabinet.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Doris Kearns Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time, which was a bestseller in hardcover and trade paper. She is also the author of Wait Till Next Year, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with her husband, Richard Goodwin.

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Customer Reviews

This is a very interesting and well written book.
Margaret Vallejo
It humanizes President Lincoln and increases one's appreciation of this great man.
Win Nelson
You can't see the movie "Lincoln" without reading this book.
Marian Bibergall

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

378 of 402 people found the following review helpful By Jon Linden VINE VOICE on December 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Goodwin has created a gem of a masterpiece with her most recent book on Lincoln. In the millions of pages already written on the subject, there are no books that I know of that do in essence, a character study on Lincoln and his cabinet members. The 754 page text is one of the best ever written regarding the true and underlying nature of those men who served with Lincoln in his cabinet.

While events and persons such as Antietam, Jefferson Davis, Fort Sumter, Maryland's secession attempt and many other events receive short shrift from Ms. Goodwin, this treatment is as it should be for her book concentrates on the personality and character of Lincoln and his cabinet.

While Lincoln never committed himself during the convention to any of his rivals in terms of cabinet positions, to gain votes for his eventual nomination; he voluntarily chose most of his cabinet from men who were his greatest rivals for the Presidency. He did this with clear and present knowledge that they were the best men for the jobs and the country at the time. The incredibly impressive exposition of the character of these men and especially that of Abraham Lincoln and his political and personal acumen in holding them together is given new life in this book.

Through careful reading and perusal of literally thousands of personal letters from cabinet members and from President Lincoln, Goodwin is able to put together a wonderfully clear and unique picture of the character of these men. In addition, she is able to paint a picture of each in words, and point out how their true character differed often from the public perception that abounded.

Ms. Goodwin should be noted for her fine and excruciating work in creating this book which will remain as a must read classic for Lincoln scholars of the present and the future. All of us who track the Lincoln Presidency, 140 years after its termination are grateful for her assiduous work in creating this wonderful book.
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221 of 250 people found the following review helpful By Shawn S. Sullivan on November 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Doris Kearns Goodwin delivers and delivers well with "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln". The scope of her work is Lincoln's inner circle of Seward, Stanton, Chase and Bates but, more broadly, his ability to handle people and politics. Goodwin vividedly demonstrates Lincoln's uncanny timing regarding the implementation of emancipation and gives a fair assessment of his views regarding the "peculiar institution". This book is about Lincoln as a leader, a manager and a politician. It is also about his evolving vision about certain topics (i.e, how to handle slaves once freed) and his steadfast desire to hold the Union together, literally at all costs. His belief in the precepts of the Founding Fathers is at all times present.

For those wishing an expansive biography on Lincoln, try Lincoln by David Herbert Donald. For those wishing a broader view on the period and the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson. For those who would like a good but accurate piece of historical fiction, Lincoln by Gore Vidal or Freedom by William Safire.

This book is for those who want to see how Abe Lincoln led, managed, formulated stategy, handled very conflicting opinions, this is the book. A great read, if a bit choppy (perhaps a given with the nature of the subject matter).
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99 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Geraldine Ahearn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Doris Kearns Goodwin chronicles an intelligent narrative that draws the reader in immediately as she paints a colorful portrait of Lincoln, his life, and his political rivals. This enthralling story portrays how Lincoln freed America, and protected a nation. The author creates a Masterpiece that is not only elegant in style, but mesmerizing to the very end. Goodwin delivers an incredible, addicting, and rich account of the Civil War Presidency, and all its trials-and-tribulations. She includes a splendid historical view that's beautifully written about the history of several men on Lincoln's team, and the politics behind-the-scenes. I admire the books I collect on different Presidents and their lives and time in office. This is one of my favorite presentations about one of the most notable men in history. Enjoyable, comprehensive, concise, and educational. A Must read, and Highly Recommended!
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76 of 85 people found the following review helpful By J. Herstory on November 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Goodwins' book a Team of Rivals is amazing! It is almost 800 pages and is a major work that is stunning in its ability to engage the reader. It is a concurrent history of several men who were contemporaries of Lincoln. The contrast is astounding, as well as the personal and well documented, researched perspectives.

One of the major items which was a surprise to this reader, was the ability of these historical figures, many of whom are well known, was their ability in their personal writings, to speak of their emotional lives. The level at which they share their heart's yearnings and longings is beyond what most men today might be comfortable to share with wives and loved ones.

This is a historical view of the life and times of Lincoln and his political rivals. A book that is certainly well worth the time it takes to read!
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By David Keymer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer winner Goodwin has long demonstrated a feel for biography as a gateway into the past. In Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents, she has found an ideal subject for her attention. He is the more interesting to study because, unlike most presidents, who have sought to surround themselves in their cabinets with safe men who think like they do on important matters, Lincoln chose to build a cabinet out of men whose relationship to the president was problematic, if not downright risky. In 1861, Lincoln persuaded three of his rivals for the Republican nomination -Seward, Chase and Banks-to sit in his cabinet. They owed Lincoln nothing. As a rule, they saw Lincoln as a man of low ability and little promise, president by the accident of geography. Furthermore, some were enemies who would barely talk to each other. Yet, the cabinet did not dissolve in warfare and Lincoln established firm control over executive decisions, much to the surprise of Seward in particular, who had assumed that he, and not the president, would lead this group and be the true decisionmaker in Washington. In short while, Seward and Banks became firm allies of Lincoln; indeed, Seward became Lincoln's fastest friend in the Washington power ranks. When Stanton joined the cabinet as secretary of war, he too was converted to allegiance to Lincoln although he had publicly slighted him years before. The only cabinet member whose loyalty remained suspect was Chase, whose lust for the presidency in 1864 blinded him to his own duplicity as he sought to undermine Lincoln and gain support for his own candidacy.Read more ›
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