Team of Rivals
The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
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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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Reading Group Guide
Team of Rivals is a biographical portrait of President Abraham Lincoln and the men who served with him in his cabinet from 1861 to 1865. Three of his cabinet members, Secretary of State William H. Seward, Attorney General Edward Bates, and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, had previously run against Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals focuses on Lincoln’s mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities and political factions on the path to the abolition of slavery and victory in the Civil War.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1.Letters and diaries provided the greatest resource for Doris Kearns Goodwin in recreating the emotional lives of Lincoln and his cabinet. What will historians 200 years from now use to recreate our inner lives?
2.What are the leadership lessons that our new president can learn from a study of Lincoln’s emotional intelligence and political skills?