Tuesday, April 21, 2009

1860s: Lincoln

The 1860s were obviously dominated by the Civil War, and the leading character was Abraham Lincoln. I have read books on him before and visited the excellent new museum and related places in Springfield, IL two years ago. I was still left wanting to know more about his personal ambitions and drive that would lead him to the pursue the Presidency and his moral ambitions and drive that would lead him to act as he did. The Lincoln-Douglas debates in his actual words were a great lead up to this. So for this pivotal decade I read Doris Kearns Goodwin's very popular, "Team of Rivals".

My review: 5 / 5 stars

Okay, I'm officially on the bandwagon that this is a very good book. Lincoln (and Seward once he's SoS) still seem a little too idolized and larger than life, but it is amazing what they accomplished and how they did it. The other characters, especially Salmon Chase, are just as compelling, and in many cases I wanted to hear even more about them. While there are a million and one books about Lincoln, this is definitely a top recommendation, especially for the lens of how he managed and used his cabinet. The obvious contemporary comparisons have been made in the media as Obama and Hillary allegedly both loved this book and her appointment is a not unsimilar to Lincoln's appointment of Seward. But I would stop there. Lincoln was not trying to build cross-party cooperation to get things done in Congress as the Republicans essentially controlled everything and there were no Southern Democrats in sight. His primary political purpose was keeping a new party together during a horrific national crisis. I would not dare to compare the Civil War concerns with any economic hiccup we are having now.

(Read February 2009)

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