He was assassinated almost 150 years ago, and yet mankind is still enthralled by the man who was Abraham Lincoln. Building upon an already solid foundation of Lincoln scholarship, Doris Kearns Goodwin presents us with a riveting description of Lincoln’s personal and political skills. We are simultaneously exposed to the life histories of Lincoln, Edward Bates, Salmon Chase, and William Seward as they each move through the political world of the mid 1800s. Each man is opposed to slavery, and each believes that he alone is the country’s best hope for eliminating this scourge and ushering in a new era of prosperity for American citizens. Only Lincoln, however, sees the image completely and recognizes that preserving the Union and displaying to the world the ability of people to govern themselves will lead to the promised land.
Lincoln (as we already know) outmaneuvers his fellow contenders, and is elected president of the United States in 1860. The Southern states initiate secession from the Union before he is even inaugurated. Once in Washington, he immediately makes history by appointing all of his Republican rivals to his Cabinet and spends the next four years not only guiding his country through the Civil War, but also maintaining the peace in his own administration, as his team does not always get along.
This is a serious tome (754 pages), and it does get off to a bit of a slow start. By the time 1860 rolls around on page 237 (the story begins in earnest around 1820 to 1830) and the Republican convention is preparing to convene in Chicago, the pace quickens and seems to go much faster. Even though Civil War and Lincoln fans already know how the story is going to develop, the inside details of the politics and personal interactions are totally spellbinding.
Rated: Mild, for just under two dozen mild terms; all except one are quotations.