Rating

8

Qualities

  • Background
  • Engaging
  • Inspiring

Recommendation

If you saw the Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln, you might have wondered who all those other guys were. Get ready to find out. Before Daniel Day-Lewis won his Academy Award, bookshelves sagged under the weight of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s fast-paced, fascinating, 900-plus pages, take on Abraham Lincoln and the three men he took with him to power during America’s greatest struggle. You’ll meet Secretary of State William H. Seward, who lost the Republican nomination to Lincoln but became one of his closest friends; the endlessly plotting Salmon P. Chase, Treasury secretary and presidential wannabe; and Lincoln’s placid attorney general, Edward Bates, among other fascinating characters. You may even get more detail than you want: The book explores the four principals’ childhoods, youths and early careers before it even ventures into the 1860 election and the US Civil War. In fact, the plot of the Spielberg film – passing the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution – doesn’t even kick in until well past page 600. But getAbstract thinks history lovers can’t go wrong here. Hours spent with Lincoln, America’s master politician, are never wasted. You’ll marvel at his tact, intelligence, patience and all the other qualities that made him one of the US’s greatest presidents.

Summary

Four Men, One Dream

In May 1860, the new Republican Party of the United States met to nominate its presidential candidate. The party arose from the demise of the Whig Party amid the political fragmentation in the run-up to the American Civil War. During this period, the US grappled with the problem of slavery in the South versus the abolitionist fervor that had taken hold in the North. For years, America’s leaders had attempted to paper over such tensions with stopgap legislation such as the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. But eventually, conflict over extending slavery into new western territories became inevitable.

In this frenzied atmosphere, Republicans convened in Chicago to choose among four diverse candidates. The first, New York Governor William H. Seward, was the presumed front-runner with a reputation as a progressive who favored African-American rights. The second, Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase, was devoutly antislavery due to strong personal and religious beliefs, but he lacked the glad-handing conviviality of more natural politicians like Seward. The third, Edward Bates of Missouri, was the favored candidate of Maryland’s powerful Blair...

About the Author

Doris Kearns Goodwin is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the best-selling biographies No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.


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