A TEAM OF RIVALSByDORIS KEARNS GOODWINAs the 1860 Republican convention in Chicago approached, the contest for the presidential nomination appeared to be between William Seward, Salmon P. Chase and Edward Bates. This biography brings out the political acumen of Abraham Lincoln, a lightly regarded attorney from Springfield Illinois who became a compromise choice of that convention.Following the election, President elect Lincoln designated William Seward as his secretary of state, Salmon Chase, secretary of treasury and Bates as attorney general. His cabinet was rounded out with three former Democrats, Gideon Welles, Montgomery Blair and Edwin M. Stanton. Every member of his cabinet was more prominent and better educated than the President elect. This powerful cabinet served the administration and the country superbly through the four, terrible years that followed. Although initially no one in the cabinet held the new president’s abilities and prospects in high esteem, they came to revere him as an unmatched leader.Ms Goodwin brings out the fact that while slavery was an issue from the time of the country’s founding, the civil war was about secession. President Lincoln did not feel he had the constitutional authority to end slavery and knew that there was not enough public support in the North to sustain the conflict for that purpose.
Indeed, the Emancipation Proclamation was a military move to level the playing field with Confederate troops who used slaves to build fortifications and do other grunt work.The author discusses the role of the Kansas-Nebraska act which negated the Missouri Compromise that limited slavery to the original slave states when the union was formed. Under Kansas-Nebraska, the way was opened for the South to take slavery into the territories.With tension over slavery exacerbated on both sides and a vacillating President Buchanan the South began a series of preemptory moves against military installations in South Carolina. The new President Lincoln set as his first priority the preservation of the Union.Ms Goodwin offers many insights into the Lincoln’s family and social life as well as the cabinet members that brings the history alive for the reader. At 757 pages, “A Team of Rivals” is absorbing and well worth the read.