Doris Kearns Goodwin once again has created a great political portrait. The author of the opus, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream has gone further back into American history to write about Lincoln and his times.
Lincoln was the long shot candidate for a new political party called the Republicans. He was from the "west", that is, Illinois, a tall, gaunt, and a very unsophistiicated man in comparison to his rivals for the party and the presidency: Seward, Chase, Bates, and Stanton. Yet he was able to win the party nomination and later the election. His rivals who all desperately, even delusionally, wanted to be president instead became part of his government and for a considerable time were able to work for this unlikely man.
Although Goodwin's story is how this group of competitive men came under Lincoln's political genius, her other story is about Lincoln's connection to the American people. We learn about Lincoln's depression, family tragedies, and an ambitous wife. What got him through this, and a horrific civil war, was his sense of humour and his ability to connect directly with the average ciitizen and the soldiers fighting in the bloody fields. Lincoln's other asset was his abilities to tell wonderful stories and to give an unforgetable speech. These always linked him to his people in a very direct and simple way. For instance Goodwin describes how the famous Gettysburg Address came about, how short it was, and how it stunned its first audience. But more importantly, "Lincoln had translated the story of his country and the meaning of the war into words and ideas accessible to every American." This remember was the age before television, radio, and mass media. Lincoln's entire speeches were printed in newspapers great and small across the nation for all to read and think about. The United States of America of today owes its existance to this generous and kind man who truely was the father of his nation.
Many, many books have been written about this monumental president, and many more books about the Civil War. Doris Kearns Goodwin tells her story well, and even adds new insight into this man and this period of American history. At the end of it, one wonders what more he could have accomplished if he had lived to complete his second term in office.