Doris Kearns Goodwin’ book “Team of Rivals” was a knee read because it covers an extraordinary period of American history. The author’s narrative focus is on the sixteenth president of the United States of American Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. The stage is set with the scene of the national Republican convention in Chicago in May 1860. Some of Lincoln’ fierce competitors are Senator William Henry Seward, Governor Salmon Chase of Ohio and Edward Bates. Lincoln manages to coexist with his rivals in a strangely unifying way.
Reading Goodwin’ book during this particular time of the year when political campaign fever is rising in the United States is fitting. The current natures of debates over contentious issues which range from fiscal responsibility, foreign to domestic policy are reminiscent of the epoch of which the author of “Team of Rivals” writes. However, unity between the warring parties is anything but scarce. I am inclined to the think that the threat of slavery and its prevalence as a dominate theme during the political career of Abraham and his contemporaries might of served as a convening factor.
I was eager to read “Team of Rivals” because of an ongoing desire to study the historical context that surrounded the end of slavery in the United States and character values that influence the antislavery response. In the past, I acquired knowledge of American civil history in which Abraham Lincoln was credited for freeing slaves in American. In the United State citizenship test, one of the questions reads as follows; “Which American president freed the slaves?” Goodwin does an impressive job in articulating the environment of the time.
The political climate was one of compromise. Lincoln was willing to doing everything for unity. It seems probable that Lincoln takes a middle position as he navigates the issue of slavery. According to Goodwin, Lincoln clarifies when he reveals:
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it: and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because it helps to save the Union.”
Perhaps it was strategic and tactical for him to take such a balanced approach in order to send a clear and impartial message for the over role unity of the country. Indeed a house divided can not stand. Slavery was a cancer to national unity and therefore it had to be stopped.
Lincoln’s ability to rally against slavery is inspirational! About Lincoln’s view regarding slavery Goodwin notes that it is “… as an evil not to be extended…” His humble past compared to the political experience, prestige and material of wealth of his counterparts is tells a lot about Lincoln’s ability to outwit his opponents.
Goodwin writes about the humility of Abraham Lincoln and how he expressed openness to positive criticism as a leader. In one instance Goodwin writes about Lincoln’s invitation for corrective input “ … But I want to add one thing: When you see me doing anything that for the good of the country ought not to be done, come and tell me so, and why you think so”.
The world needs more leaders like Lincoln.