(HOST) This President’s Day Weekend, commentator Edith Hunter has been thinking about Abraham Lincoln, and what qualities made him an effective leader.
(HUNTER) I have just finished reading Team of Rivals, The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.It is a masterful job of research and writing. The author presents the four men who were rivals for the Republican nomination for president in 1860 – William Henry Seward, Salmon P. Chase, George Bates, and Abraham Lincoln. She then weaves together the story of their lives, especially after 1860.
The author describes the genius that Abraham Lincoln showed in including each of his rivals in his original cabinet – Seward as Secretary of State, Chase as Secretary of the Treasury, and Bates as Attorney General. Quotes. “He resolved to surround himself with the strongest men from every faction of the new Republican Party – former Whigs, Free Soilers, and anti-slavery Democrats.” End of quote. He was careful, also, to chose men from every part of the still-growing country.
Because of Lincoln’s consummate gift of meeting people where they were, he was able to convince men with very different opinions to work together. He showed – quotes – “a quick-witted adaptation to individual characteristics and peculiarities.” End of quote.
He was always a reconciler. When a difficult problem arose, Lincoln would tell a story, enabling him to communicate with the humblest as well as the most sophisticated.
Most people thought that Seward, his leading rival for the nomination, would be the most bitter in defeat. Not so. He and Lincoln worked together magnificently.
Salmon Chase, born in Cornish, NH, on the other hand, had been bitten badly by the “presidential bug.” Time and again he undercut Lincoln as he chased his own presidential ambition, only to be embraced by the president as part of his team, and praised as a most effective secretary of the treasury.
Before making up his mind, Abraham Lincoln weighed all the options. But when he finally decided on a course of action, he stood firm. At the same time, he was quick to admit when he had a made a mistake. The author recounts several instances in which a general would decide on one course of action and Lincoln would urge a different one. When the general’s decision proved correct, Lincoln was the first to admit that he had been wrong.
With the Civil War almost over, the fate of the Confederate President was discussed. “He must be hung,” said one. Lincoln’s response: “Let us judge not, that we be not judged.”
This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.
Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.