Friday, December 22, 2006

Books #1: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin's most recent book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln turns out to be one of the most interesting and compelling works on Lincoln I've read. In it Goodwin examines how Lincoln, after defeating a number of seemingly much better qualified rivals to capture the Republican nomination and then the election of 1860, recruited these same rivals to serve in his war cabinet. These men were not only Lincoln's rivals, but competed with each other for political power and influence. Edward Bates, Edwin M. Stanton, Salmon P. Chase, and, perhaps most important, William H. Seward brought a variety of attitudes, beliefs, and skills to serving in Lincoln's cabinet. Each believed himself to be more qualifies for the position than the rough and unlettered Lincoln. He used each of their strengths to balance against his own weeknesses as well as his own, making his cabinet ever more strong and effective.

While showing the political implications of Lincoln's management, Goodwin also details the effect of their families on each of the people. Through this device, she realizes these men as truly human and full. As she did so effectively in her book about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Goodwin demonstrates the ways that people's domestic arrangements inform and illuminate their public selves. This book, in addition to being fascinating history is a great read.