Friday, April 8, 2011
Book Review-Team of Rivals
I will give one example. Lincoln early on had difficulty getting along with his Secretary of War Cameron. Several times Cameron threatened to quite if he did not get his way, knowing Lincoln would never accept. Or so he thought. During one disagreement Lincoln accepted his offer by writing him a letter saying he had accepted and planned on nominating Cameron as ambassador to Russia. Cameron was crushed by the news and considered himself fired and worried what the public humiliation would do. Cameron had treated the President very badly while in office including publicly insulting him. Now that Lincoln had a chance for revenge, he did not take it. In letters to the press Lincoln set himself up for disgrace, taking all the blame on himself. He even brought Cameron in and asked his advice on his replacement. Cameron suggested Edwin Stanton, who Lincoln had already decided on, but let Cameron leave thinking Stanton was his idea. Cameron was a man who detested Lincoln, who was fired by Lincoln, yet as Goodwin writes, “Cameron would never forget this generous act. Filled with gratitude and admiration, he would become . . . one of the most intimate and devoted of Lincoln’s personal friends. He appreciated the courage it took for Lincoln to share the blame at a time when everyone else had deserted him. Most other men in Lincoln’s situation, Cameron wrote, “would have permitted an innocent man to suffer rather than incur responsibility.” Lincoln was not like most other men, as each cabinet member, including the new war secretary, would soon come to understand.” (Goodwin, 413)
This is just one example of the kind of man Lincoln was. He allowed himself to look foolish when it came to dealing with his leading General, George B. McClellan. As long as little Mac was the best man for the job, he would keep his job. It was not the constant insults that got Mac fired, it was his ineptitude on the battlefield. Lincoln was not a perfect man. In my own book and recent article I wrote about the Kentucky governor’s election in 1863, Lincoln restricted civil liberties to the point of being unconstitutional. It is hard to judge him, he was trying to save the nation. Goodwin bring to life this extraordinary president with her ability to tell a great story. The book is 755 pages, but reads easy and her writing style makes it easy to finish. In the end it was one of the more enjoyable book I have read. As I said it made me look at my own life and my dealings with people. If I could try to be more like Lincoln, life would be just that much easier.
One exciting note is that I believe they are making the book into a movie, possibly staring Daniel Day Lewis. We are due for a good Lincoln book, but no matter how good it is you still need to read the book. There is no way any movie can cover all the information.