The Steven Spielberg movie entitled Lincoln (out now in theaters with Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln) is based on this thoroughly researched work of nonfiction. Now mind you, it is very well written but it does require concentration, a quiet little alcove and some coffee as it is very detailed and quite lengthy (over 700 pages plus a ton of notes at the end).
Goodwin delves into the unique characters of Lincoln’s political rivals. Not only does she portray their upbringing and determined personalities, but she also displays to readers their machinations and political ambitions. Each of these cabinet members with their enormous egos once viewed Lincoln with contempt for what they saw as an uneducated country bumpkin with little political experience, no social connections, and no money. However, during the course of the presidency, they grew to appreciate the genius that brought them together. It was under intense pressure that Lincoln was able to create a coalition which bound the team and brought out the best of each member. Lincoln was better able to watch and control their intrigues by having them close by and busy utilizing their talents. The method worked and in the end, they were able to hold the country together and bring it out of the Civil War.
Some of the very best excerpts from the book come during the Republican presidential nomination process where each rival saw his votes dwindling at each re-vote. Ballots were cast and counted numerous times at the convention until the nominee reached the needed 233. There was great surprise at how Lincoln (the long-shot) gained momentum as delegates began to switch their votes to him. Other interesting portions of the book are Lincoln’s dealings with his military Generals like McClellan. McClellan was often shockingly disrespectful to the president, and Lincoln consistently met him more than half-way (occasionally he was even turned away by servants because McClellan was too occupied to meet with him).
I read this book a few months ago in preparation for the movie, and now after seeing the movie, I’m ready to reread the book. The Spielberg movie focuses on the very end portion of the book, but the book in its entirety would make a wonderful miniseries. I highly recommend it, particularly to those interested in politics and leadership.