Almost that same has happened to Abraham Lincoln. The president, who was once known, as the savior of black community as he brought an end of slavery, was later found to be a supporter of the institution. Some people even accused Lincoln of lacking any intention to abolish slavery and felt that the end came as a by-product of the success of Northern Army in the Civil war. It is then desirable and even recommended that we focus more on the verifiable facts instead of sketchy anecdotes. Goodwin's book helps in setting the record straight as far as Lincoln's leadership tactics and political genius are concerned.
The book opens with the election scene in May 1860 when William Henry Seward was expected to win almost effortlessly. Seward did not win but tried every possible tactic to threaten Lincoln's accession to the throne by showing that his approval would be important for a variety of things including the cabinet that would be chosen. Lincoln was clever enough to know that he needed the support of people like Seward but had to accomplish this by means of subtle domination. Being the president, he couldn't allow others to use him as a puppet while they acted as the real power behind the coveted seat.
He entered into mind games with Seward and later with other important cabinet that fortunately for him produced favorable results.
The psychodrama that started in the cabinet gives an insight into the leadership skills and style of Lincoln's. Lincoln started his game plan with three rivals: Seward, Salmon R Chase, and Edward Bates- all three had been Republican nominees in 1860. It was obvious that Lincoln was under qualified when compared with better education, family and political connections and experience of the three rivals. Apart from that, Lincoln had had a rough ride to the top. He had not smoothly sailed to the office of the President and everyone including Seward felt he could be manipulated. Goodwin details the skill with which Lincoln tried to win these men over. He used their experience and political acumen as his strength and won the grudging respect of the very people who once looked down upon him. He also realized that he needed to join the various factions within the Republic Party to be able to create a workable combination. The party was a chaotic group of a variety of movements including the Conscience Democrats, the Compromised Democrats, the Whigs, the Nativists, the Free-Soilers, and the Liberty Party. Lincoln had to work on these factions to generate a sense of unity.
Even with this account of his leadership skills, a reader could have problems. While Goodwin argues that Lincoln was always at his leadership best when he played one cabinet member against another, there are accounts of his poor management of generals and some of these are quite well documented. Goodwin makes everything looks so effortless for Lincoln but it could be far from the truth. However for now, Goodwin account appears to be based on vast research though sadly the author forgets to cite information at times.
The most striking is the tale of Lincoln-Stanton relationship that can serve as an example of humble leadership. There are times when even the best of leaders would come across a person of greater intellect and that is what happened to Lincoln when he met Edward Stanton, a brilliant lawyer from Ohio. They first met in 1855 when Lincoln was dropped