Team of Rivals
I’m currently reading “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s a political biography of Lincoln and three men he ran against for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination – William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edward Bates – all three eventually joining his administration as his Secretaries of State, Treasury and Justice, respectively. The book reveals Lincoln as a pragmatic politician, recruiting his rivals in a bid to unite the young Republican party (which had formed during the early 1850s) and bringing in Whig and Democrat party members to provide counterbalance to his Cabinet and to appeal to border states during the onset of the Civil War.
The book will serve as the basis for a biopic of Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis and directed by Steven Spielberg, set to be released in December 2011 – hence my desire to read it before seeing the film.
The book is about 750 pages long and I have about 100 pages left. It’s easy to read and quite insightful. I read about one chapter a night, more on the weekends. If I hunker down, I could finish it by this weekend. But I’m in no rush. I have the book checked out until January 2.
An amusing anecdote from page 503: In the Senate, Willard Saulsbury of Delaware took to the floor to prevent a vote sustaining the administration on the suspension of habeas corpus. He could hardly keep his footing during a liquor-fueled harangue, while he inveighed against the present “in language fit only for a drunken fishwife”, calling him “an imbecile” and claiming that he was “the weakest man ever placed in a high office”. Called to order by Vice President Hamlin, he refused to take his seat. When the sergeant at arms approached to take Saulsbury into custody, he pulled out his revolver. “Damn you”, he said, point the pistol at the sergeant’s head, “if you touch me I’ll shoot you dead.” The wild scene continued for some time before Saulsbury was removed from the Senate floor.