Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin


Although a long read (~800 pages), this book is the best biography I’ve read. Not only because of the opportunity to learn more about Abraham Lincoln, but the author does a great job writing the narrative in all other other cabinet members’ viewpoints (William Seward, Edwin Stanton, Salmon Chase, etc.) . This adds up to provide readers a great perspective of the Union’s leadership throughout the Civil War.

Some quotes that resonated with me throughout the book:

  • “Lincoln… developed ambitions far beyond the expectations of his family and neighbors. It was through literature that he was able to transcend his surroundings”
  • “It did not matter whether the reading be done in a small town or a large city, by oneself or in the company of others. The books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places…Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”
  • “I consider the central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us, of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose. If we fail it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.”
  • “A man watches his pear-tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe pear at length falls into his lap!”
  • “It was by ignoring men, and ignoring all small causes, but by closely calculating the tendencies of events and the great forces which were producing logical results” – Swett’s secret to Lincoln’s gifted leadership
  • Lincoln was “the most truly progressive man of the age, because of he always moves in conjunction with propitious circumstances, not waiting to be dragged by the force of events or wasting strength in premature struggles with them.”
  • “I am a living witness that  one of your children may look to come here (the White House) as my father’s child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise, and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright…The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.”
  • A young Lincoln wrote, “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other ambition so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.”
  • “With malice toward none; with charity for all”

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