>Non-Fiction: “A Team of Rivals”

I downloaded sample of this book from Amazon, after seeing Doris Kearns on TV and after seeing the movie “Lincoln”. The sample was fascinating enough so that I wound up reading the entire book.

To begin with the book “A Team of Rivals” is a pleasure to read. The writing is excellent and of course the story is fascinating. I always find it reassuring when reading history that people back then were just as we are today. In particular Lincoln’s political squabbles could easily be mistaken for events from today’s news. For example, a senator bemoaned the lack of civility in Senate debates, which he attributed to ban on dueling.

As for Lincoln, the book portrays him as a brilliant man with superb political instincts, yet still a “nice guy”. He seemed to have an uncanny ability to bring people together. In fact that’s where the title of the books is taken from “A Team of Rivals”.  When Lincoln surprisingly won the Republican nomination, he decided to pick his rivals in that race as the closest members of his cabinet.  For example, he choose William Seward for the post of Secretary of State, even though Seward was the one expected to be the President.  He similarly picked the other candidates for all significant cabinet posts.

Whereas the book covered most of Lincoln’s life and concentrated on his Presidency during the Civil War, the movie “Lincoln” was loosely based on a single chapter. By now everyone should know the story of the passage of the 13th amendment of the US Constitution, which outlawed slavery in any form.

An important point regarding this amendment was made by Lincoln (both in the movie and the book), and that was that the Proclamation Emancipation – which was an executive order issued by the President – would not be applicable after the Civil War ended. Therefore, the amendment was necessary.

As expected the book ends with Lincoln’s assassination. What I did not know was that there was  a plot to kill the President, Vice President and the Secretary of State. Of the three assassins, the one who was supposed to kill Vice President had a change of mind and backed out at the last moment. Unfortunately the one who targeted William Seward nearly accomplished his task. He broke into Seward’s home and injured Seward and one of his sons (who barely survived).

Although the book is quite long, I enjoyed reading it and I think you would too,