Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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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. Agent, Amanda Urban. 400,000 first printing; BOMC, History Book Club main selection; film rights to Steven Spielberg/DreamWorld Entertainment. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Lincoln redux. Nevertheless, popular historian Goodwin offers fresh ground by which to judge the almost overdone sixteenth president. She is fascinated by the growth of Lincoln's political genius, which resulted in two rather startling situations having to do with his career. First, that despite coming from nowhere, he won the 1860 Republican nomination, snatching it from the anticipating hands of three chief contenders, all of whom were not only well known but also known to be presidential material: William Seward, senator from New York; Salmon Chase, governor of Ohio; and Edwin Bates, distinguished politician from Missouri. Second, that once Lincoln achieved the nomination and won the election, he brought his rivals into his cabinet and built them into a remarkable team to lead the Union during the Civil War, none of whom overshadowed the prairie lawyer turned president. Goodwin finds meaningful comparisons and differences in not only the four men's careers but also their personal lives and character traits. She extends her purview to the women occupying important space next to them (the wives of Lincoln, Seward, and Bates and the daughter of the widower Chase). The knowledge gained here about these three significant figures who well attended Lincoln gain for the reader an even keener appreciation of the rare individual that he was. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2005 Booklist


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Noted historian Goodwin attempts the ambitious task of capturing in a single volume the complex relationship between President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. Her thesis, as indicated in the subtitle, is that Lincoln possessed the political genius to harness the best effort from erstwhile rivals for the presidency, cabinet members with personal animosities toward each other, and secretaries with different goals and political agendas. By succeeding in welding querulous advisers into a winning team, Lincoln demonstrated an unusual level of political acumen. Lincoln certainly possessed rare political skills, but earlier works have already discussed that fact, revealing the weakness of Goodwin's book. While this work is elegantly written and certainly readable, there is little new information in the text. Instead, Goodwin centers the book on well-known political debates (e.g., concerning the Emancipation Proclamation) and anecdotal accounts of Lincoln and the cabinet, concentrating more on personality clashes than on achieved outcomes. The result is a mass of information that fulfills the book's thesis, but neither appreciably adds to the knowledge of Lincoln's administration nor adds or detracts from Lincoln's legacy. ^BSumming Up: Optional. Undergraduate collections. S. J. Ramold Eastern Michigan University


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winner for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; The Home Front and World War II, presents a study of Abraham Lincoln that focuses on his unique political talents during the last decade and a half of his life. The author seamlessly intertwines discussion of Lincoln with her tracing of his three main rivals for the 1860 Republican nomination for President, Salmon P. Chase, Edward S. Bates, and William H. Seward. By placing these men in subsequent key cabinet positions, President Lincoln, according to Goodwin, transcended emotional and personal grievances while still retaining complete control of administrative decisions at the height of the Civil War. She asserts that Lincoln's keen ability to interpret people enabled him to reach compromise and maintain working relationships during the sectional crisis and throughout his presidency. Goodwin's use of primary-source materials is exhaustive (120 pages of notes and no bibliography), but her overuse of exact quotes often detracts from the flow of her analysis. This book should be supplemented by other Lincoln scholarship, such as David Herbert Donald's Lincoln, Phillip S. Paludan's The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and Mark E. Neely's The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America. Despite its shortcomings, Goodwin's work will be a beneficial addition to public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/05.]-Gayla Koerting, Univ. of South Dakota Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In a multiple portrait that includes William Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates, Lincoln's rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, Goodwin limns the political genius that brought Lincoln to the Presidency. With at 16-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.