Monday, June 1, 2009

Team of Rivals Reading Group


''Team of Rivals" is also an America ''coming-of-age" saga. Lincoln, Seward, Chase et al. are sketched as being part of a ''restless generation," born when Founding Fathers occupied the White House and the Louisiana Purchase netted nearly 530 million new acres to be explored. The Western Expansion motto of this burgeoning generation, in fact, was cleverly captured in two lines of Stephen Vincent Benet's verse: ''The stream uncrossed, the promise still untried / The metal sleeping in the mountainside." None of the protagonists in ''Team of Rivals" hailed from the Deep South or Great Plains.
_______________________________

From a review by Douglas Brinkley, 2005

293 comments:

  1. Thanks, Gintaras. Hopefully you will get your book soon.

    While you catch up, and we wait for Robert to get off from work (I hope you will take the lead on this, Robert!), I will say that the book -- although we know the outcome -- starts out like a real page turner. The two top contenders (Seward and Chase) seemed much more likely to be leaders of the new Republican party. They certainly were more committed to what appears to have been a primary Republican cause -- ending slavery. And they had the cannons and parades waiting.

    Lincoln was not only a dark horse, but the way Goodwin describes him, he seemed to be almost a pig in a poke (or for Chartres un chat en poche). He was so interested in success that he wasn't willing to take a strong position on any issue that might offend a voter.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Funny, because Miller (in Lincoln's Virtues) paints an entirely different picture. While, Lincoln was a long shot he was very much a contender, and had set himself up well for the convention with his Cooper Union Speech. It seems that the Republican big wigs were already hunting for someone other than Seward or Chase, given the strong sectionalism in the country and the slim chance either of these two candidates had winning the general election. Lincoln emerged rather quickly as that alternative, according to Miller, although the Seward faction struggled mightily to keep their candidate up front. But, with the convention being in Chicago (another possible hint the Republicans were looking to the Midwest for a unifying candidate) Lincoln had the edge by not only securing his home state but positioning himself in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, this was an interesting opening, and I can hardly wait until you read it and see what you think.

    She says that they picked Chicago basically to avoid any advantage to Seward or Chase -- sort of saw it as neutral territory. Of course it was one of Lincoln's supporters who suggested it knowing they could bring people in but apparently no one took Lincoln seriously at that point.

    As for Lincoln himself, she paints a sort of contradictory picture (from my reading -- others may have read this differently). There was one comment she made that really sticks out in my memory. Something to the effect that Lincoln didn't want to say anything that would offend anyone so that he would always be everyone's second choice (or something like that -- I'll have my book handy next time).

    I also got the impression -- but I'll have to check to see if she really said this or not -- that Seward and Chase were believed to be too "radical" to get elected. Lincoln was more centrist on several questions so he could draw in anti-slavery Democrats and those who didn't oppose slavery -- at least in the South.

    But Goodwin's Lincoln leaves me with lots of question about his ambition. I will say he reminds me more and more of Obama, without the charisma.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Although I should add that Lincoln was apparently quite the charmer. Kept people spellbound with his funny stories and reciting Shakespeare, Byron, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  5. One of the things Miller noted in Virtues is that Lincoln was one of the early Whigs to recognize the power of conventions. This is one of the few things Lincoln seemed to admire of the Jackson Democrats. He had a hard time convincing other Whigs but eventually got them to come around to conventions. That being said, I think Lincoln better understood the dynamics of convention politics than Seward or Chase, knowing how to position himself for the later ballots. Chase shot his wad early, and Seward soon found himself alone against a much more adroit politician in a political ring that was foreign to him.

    ReplyDelete
  6. That being said, I don't think Lincoln could have pulled it off if the convention had been in New York or Boston or Philadelphia. But then the Republicans probably would have found themselves with another "Henry Clay" and Stephen Douglas or John Breckinridge very well may have become President.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good Evening: I finished the little Frederickson book today and its excellent.

    I think it was Herndon who pointed out that Lincoln's ambition was fierce and always active. Although he had withdrawn for a time in the 1850's, the Kansas Nebraska Act brought him roaring back. That he was well known, at least in Illinois is a given. That his debates with Douglas made him a national figure goes without saying. Douglas was already a national figure, the guy who replaced Clay and the guy who was instrumental in forging the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas Nebraska Act.Lincoln was always concerned that he make a name for himself--he wanted future generations to remember him. That he was humble in the sense that he knew himself and his limitations was true. That he was humble in the usual sense that the word has morphed itself into being, came only afer his death. He was never a reluctant anything.

    Goodwin does say that he wanted to be everyone's second choice. That was a very shrewd move as he was very well aware that Seward looked like a shoe-in and Chase was probably rated second. 'Tis better to be on home turf if your banking on being #2 at the outset--thus Lincoln and his men pushed for Chicago---another shrewd move if ever there was one. By the time of the Convention Lincoln was very much a national figure, especially after the Cooper Union Speech, which was a pretty snazzey PR job by any standard. His ambivalent stand on slavery helped. I think it was Frederickson rather than Goodwin who pointed out that Lincoln was just a little to the right of center. His two opponents were far, far from the center. It is easier to compromise from the center that from the far left or far right. So Lincoln as is pointed out tried to please everyone--alienate no one.

    He was as dumb as a fox

    ReplyDelete
  8. Carpenter's First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation is the portrait presented on the front cover of the book and at the heading of the discussion. To identify the characters in the portrait, we have sitting, from left to right: Stanton, Lincoln Welles,Seward and Bates; standing in the rear are Chase, Smith and Blair. The two books on the floor near the vacant chair (why the vacant chair)are THE WAR POWERS OF THE PRESIDENCY and Joseph Story's COMMENTARIES ON THE CONSTITUTION.

    Carpenter also included Simon Cameron in the portrait...Where is Cameron in the scene above?

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a sanity saver you are, Robert! I have been trying with various degrees of success at various points in reading ToR to match up photos in the book with those depicted in the cover's group portrait. (Only Welles was easy)

    I loved the maneuvering to get to be everybody's second choice.

    Here's the first of what may be a series of OTW observations: As for Lincoln acting in a manner to keep from making enemies, something about the description of his behavior (like that referred to by avrds) seemed to me so very similar to that of women who survive abusive relationships. (Yeah, I know, leave the work at work. Still, can't help thinking about the similarity between political survival and other kinds.)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Here's another invitation to comment, if anyone is willing to humor me: If Lincoln had not been around, which of the rivals would you have preferred to win the nomination? Me, I keep vacillating between those with positions I agree with and those with whom I sympathize on non-political grounds, like losses suffered.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Robert and New York, good to see you both here. Looks like we're off to a good start!

    NY, I doubt seriously that I would have been a Lincoln supporter. He was, as Robert noted, much more conservative on many of the issues that I'm assuming I would have cared about. Although Seward makes a move to the center later, my guess is I would have supported him (and his wife) for President.

    At one point, I think Goodwin says that Lincoln was maybe hoping for Vice President.

    Gintaras, that's interesting about Lincoln's understanding of convention politics. The entire process was not at all what I thought had happened. I wish I had read Miller's first book more recently. I browsed through it when you were reading it, but I've forgotten many of the specific details.

    But that's where Goodwin is so good -- she really shows the other major players which helps highlight Lincoln's strengths and weaknesses in relation to them.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Now that I've had time to sleep on new York's question, I'm wondering if Lincoln was all that prepared to be president. He certainly didn't have the experience.

    I've passed the point that Lincoln has finally fired the Secretary of War, but McClellan continues as his nemesis. I'm beginning to wonder whether or not thousands of lives could have been saved if he had been a more competent commander in chief. He keeps saying he is in charge, but the Union sure took a beating under his early watch.

    Maybe Goodwin should have titled the book Team of Incompetents and Rivals.

    ReplyDelete
  13. McClellan came highly recommended, by Winfield Scott himself, despite having so little battle experience, so it is understandable that Lincoln would put his trust in him. I don't think anything could have prepared Lincoln or any other president for the Civil War, which is why he tried so desperately to avoid it. I think the one thing he could have done was include a Southerner or two in his cabinet.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "I'm wondering if Lincoln was all that prepared to be president. He certainly didn't have the experience".

    Let me see...JQA ws quite prepared, but ended up mediocre as President and the two most prepared for the office, James Buchanan and Herbert Hoover, were the worst of the lot. Experience seems to count little when it comes to the Presidency. Character, elusive though it may be, counts; a positive world view is most important; and a healthy reliance on the help of others. Successful presidents surround themselves with their superiors and weigh their advice. Unsuccessful presidents are famous or their yes men and rigidity.

    Lincoln's ability to change during his life and certainly during his time in office assured that although mistakes were made they were not repeated. Fexibility and growth led to success. Jefferson Davis was famous for his rigidity -- did not seem to have near the fexibilty necessary to adjust to changing circumstances. He had a much narrower world view---change wasn't an option. Lincoln was filled with empathy, Davis was a cold, unfeeling, remote man out of touch with his fellow man. Lincoln would go shopping on his his own--he knew his butcher as a frend. Davis would never lower himself to such a level.

    Lincoln's humanity--his sense of being as one with his his fellow man--an indentification process which is rare indeed among leaders was perhaps his greatest asset as president.

    Could you imagine Buchanan or Seward or Chase having a spittin' contest with the guys down the road---I can see Lincoln doin' it and then going home to read some Shakespeare

    ReplyDelete
  15. Another point: Both FDR and Lincoln had at least one thing in common...both were able to gauge where the people were at any given point...both slowly but surely pulled the public along if they could and if they couldn't, they waited until public opinion was ready for whatever they wanted to do. They were never far behind, nor to far ahead of the public.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Interesting, Robert.

    I totally agree with all of your comments, and agree that he walked into something for which no one could have been prepared.

    But just to keep this sort of preliminary discussion going, I can't help but compare Lincoln's lengthy learning curve on any number of issues with Stanton's almost instantaneous results at the Department of War.

    Obviously Lincoln couldn't have done that in his case, but he did seem to let things drag on too long, particularly in the case of McClellan. He was practically faced with an internal revolt or coup over his lack of decisiveness on this issue.

    I think it was Seward who said in Lincoln's defense that you work with what you have, but in Lincoln's case he had a general who could organize a half a million men, but could not lead them into battle. If a war is to be fought, it would seem like you want to get it over with as soon as possible.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Gintaras, I think everyone had very high opinions of McClelland, particularly McClelland. And Lincoln understood that firing him might lead to a huge loss of morale for his troops, who apparently worshiped him. But then he kept them out of battle so what soldier wouldn't appreciate that?

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm sort of rambling here just to help get things started, but I think this book would be great discussed in order if others are interested in that. It's such a rich resource and has so many (often hidden) opinions worth exploring. Would that work for you Gintaras?

    If so, Robert, would you be willing to take the lead on it?

    ReplyDelete
  19. "Obviously Lincoln couldn't have done that in his case, but he did seem to let things drag on too long, particularly in the case of McClellan. He was practically faced with an internal revolt or coup over his lack of decisiveness on this issue"

    Now that I think of it, I'm more inclined to agree with you, but with with the following reservation: I think it easier see the procrastination from afar than it was when it was going on-although there were people around him who were telling him to act. Lincoln was always slow to act. His counterparts, both Seward and Chase, were rather faster on the draw.And you are right, McClellan was vastly more popular than Lincoln and his Cabinet. I wonder if Seward as President might not have kicked butt and gotten action out of McClellan--but if he did, the unanswerable question might be: What would have happened had McClellan been defeated?

    I'm at work right now--loafing on a slow day--when I get home this evening I'll look through Chapter 1 and post on it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks, Robert.

    Since I'm assuming NY is still reading, and Gintaras hopefully will be soon, I think that will be a good way to point us all in the same direction.

    I still haven't finished the book either, although I'm getting there (Lincoln has finally fired McClellan so maybe now the North can _move_ in his words).

    Plus there are others here who have already read the book so hopefully they will join in too.

    In the meantime, I'm just struggling with my own questions about this entire period as they come up in my readings.

    My initial question has been, and still is, where to find the "real meaning" of the civil war. In retrospect as you say, it's easy to define one thing or another as the cause or the solution, but while both McPherson and Goodwin point to slavery, they often quote newspapers or letters from that period that raise serious questions about that interpretation at least for the North.

    Goodwin soft peddles Lincoln's "save the union" response to Greeley in a way that helps me see that in a new light (I will save the union with slavery or without slavery -- basically either way makes no difference to me sort of response), but then she quotes letters and commentary after the proclamation that basically says no one in the North will fight if it becomes a war about slavery. Even McClellan says something to that effect.

    Plus, I'm still not convinced one way or the other about Lincoln in all of this (although I agree with all you said about him above). In retrospect his greatness is secured, but I can't help but wonder if he might have been one who had greatness thrust upon him.

    As for McClellan, he's a tough one to deal with. Because of her focus, Goodwin doesn't place too much emphasis on him, but McPherson writes an entire book on Lincoln's interactions with his generals -- esp. McP. As I noted earlier, it's amazing that Lincoln accomplished what he did with what he had to work with. Amazing too that the South didn't call Lincoln's bluff and invade the capital and get it over with.

    Enjoy your slow day. Summer is here at last, even in Montana.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yes, NYT is still reading, just reached the nomination and meant to keep a list of the things that had they been otherwise, the nomination would have also--like getting the convention for Illinois, Seward's decision to travel abroad at a time when he should have been out stumping, the impact of Greeley's Grudge, even such small but maybe key events like Lincoln's supporters forging tickets to the convention hall and packing it so when other candidates' supporters showed up, too bad. (Goodwin doesn't even hint that Honest Abe had a hand in that so I won't go there either, though I will note his very sly way of urging his supporters to be cautious about negative statements about him that others/political opponents might misinterpret though he, Abe, knows the one he's writing to is ever loyal, etc., etc.--did anyone else have an eyeroll moment there?)

    In the background--or reading between the lines, if you prefer--I'm also sensing some variety in political styles, with those of the "Above the Fray" school pretending or thinking of themselves as on a sort of higher plane, unlike those of the "Desperately Seeking" school, rushing about, making promises or hinting at benefits to come in exchange for current support. (The strength of the patronage system is one of the many things I'd forgotten about.)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Good Evening: Chapter One introduces the reader to the main characters in the book. Goodwin gives rather vivid pen portraits of them, begining with Lincoln himself, who was a very awkward, homely looking guy whose walk was probably the strangest thing about him--Goodwin says he looked like he needed oiling when he walked. There was no "flow" to the man--he shambled, and shambled stiffly. Anyhow, in the opening segment we find him in his office on nomination day. We are given a quick update as to how he got to where he was and how he was, in spite of his ugliness and awkwardness, a very engaging individual. His powers of speech overcame his drawbacks. His ability to tell stories, some of them ribald and racist, even in his own day and age, endeared him to others.

    Without going into much of his early life. Goodwin starts him off with the 1858 campaign for the Senate, a race which he loses to Douglas, but which re-introduces him to the nation. (He was not "unknown" in 1858--he was just not thought of as a leading national figure). Goodwin quite rightly points to the Cooper Union Speech as the "pinnacle of his sucess," That was in February of 1860, just a few short months prior to the Convention. On May 10th the Illinois Republican Party nominated him as a candidate for the upcoming national Convention. He was looked on as a moderate by the Chicago Press and as a man who "would come into the contest 'with no clogs, no embarrassment,' an 'honest man'. Lincoln went into the race with only one term in Congress to his credit. This was his only national political experience--2 years in Congress was not much of a record. He was a two time loser for the Senate. He faced two formdable opponents who were miles ahead of him in experience and name recognition ...William Henry Seward and Salmon P Chase. His strategy was to offend no one and to try and be everyone's second choice. Goodwin describes a scene at the end of the section on Lincoln which indicates that "flatness" seen so often in Lincoln--a seeming lack of fire or verve--a lack of emotional involvement at a time when it should be at its peak--he has a conversation with an advisor and friend and, at the end of it, merely states that he is going to his office again, to practice law---and so goes on with his day as if nothing else in his life is going on.Strange man--his defense against the possibility of defeat is to deny the possibility of success and to outwardly detach from the event itself.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Good evening, Robert.

    Thanks for starting us off. I think you got her introduction to Lincoln perfectly, which is why I questioned his ambition.

    For someone who said he wanted to be President, he didn't really act like someone who was out to win the national vote -- other than the fact that he was willing to go out and make speeches while Seward traveled around Europe. I'm assuming that's what NYT was getting at, and can't help but wonder if this was some sort of carry over from the days of Jefferson et al. when it was considered unseemly as you used to remind us to seek public office.

    As Goodwin later shows, it sounds like Lincoln may have actually enjoyed his time on the road as a lawyer.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Plus, I can't help but notice the similarities with Obama, which Goodwin, as I think I noted earlier, couldn't have known to emphasize. Really interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  25. NY, Lincoln's political style seems to be a bit like playing chess -- an analogy I think Goodwin uses at some point. He seems to understand if he does this now and then does that next, he can get some of his opponents to make a mistake.

    As Robert said earlier, he was dumb like a fox.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks for the renewed set-up, robert, and for the reminder about AL's distinctive walk. When I read the description of how he lifted his whole foot with each step, I was reminded of an expression from farm folk in my youth: "He walks like he's walking a plowed field."

    ReplyDelete
  27. Interesting that Miller never addressed why Lincoln wanted to be President. Lincoln seemed more a party man than an individualist. Miller noted that he put other candidates' names before his own for what was essentially a Whig Congressional seat from Illinois. He took the seat the third time around, as was his "turn," and promptly stepped down afterward as the others had done before him. He probably could have won another term if he chose to run again. The fourth time around the Whigs lost the seat because of a weak candidate.

    He was very active in the Whig Party and one of the key Midwestern representatives in the fledgling Republican Party. He seemed a realist when it came to promoting presidential candidates, going with Taylor, the Mexican War general over his personal hero, Henry Clay, in 1848, because he thought Taylor could win. Again the party over personal preference. He gave eulogies at both Clay's and Taylor's funerals. Clearly his for Clay was much more heartfelt.

    Did Lincoln think he could "win" the 1860 election due to the demographics of the election, and the fact that it didn't favor Seward or Chase? Or, did he feel a special purpose as the result of the Lincoln-Douglas debates which thrust him to national attention? Did he feel that he could stave off a civil war, given that he was probably the most moderate of the Republicans seeking the presidency? Whatever his personal thoughts, he seemed to keep them close to the hip.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Gintaras, that's sort of my impression too but according to Robert, Herndon saw Lincoln as extremely ambitious. It's hard to figure out how he got where he got given his sort of laid back persona.

    And I agree that he appears to have been one of those people who was willing to do the right thing for his party and for those around him -- from stepping aside when needed to assuming responsibility for mistakes rather than letting someone take a fall.

    In Renegade, the book you link above, Wolffe says that Obama only rose to the occasion of the primary/general when there was a real fight and the outcome was contested. Otherwise he would lose interest in the process. Lincoln appears to be just the opposite, enjoying not the contest but the process itself.

    ReplyDelete
  29. That's why I see him as someone who achieved greatness or, even more likely, had greatness thrust upon him.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I remember reading how the Whigs and Republicans both put party first and that the president was not seen as a driving force, but rather someone sympathetic to the party and its agenda. They saw the strength of their parties in Congress. This seemed to be the way Lincoln was schooled, and I think he ran for President because he felt he could best put the interests of the Republicans forward. I also think he felt he could best stave off a bloodbath over slavery expansion into the new territories, as he was more intimately familiar with this issue than his east coast contemporaries.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I have enjoyed the Goodwin book because it shows how moderate, to say the least, Lincoln was on the slavery issue when compared to the other leading contenders (except the Quaker slaveholder -- Bates I think?). Much more abstract in his thinking and overall objections to slavery.

    As I said earlier, I think I would have been a Seward supporter, but then I'm always championing the idealist, not necessarily the one who can win.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I think books like Virtues and ToR also helps one realize that a pragmatic view is often better suited for the White House than an idealistic one, and that appears to be the path Obama has chosen to take. At one point, he was spotted with a copy of ToR under his arm.

    ReplyDelete
  33. From the upcoming NYTimes magazine article on health care ("Taking the Hill"):

    “How do I say this delicately?” [Baucus] asked. “President Bush, he liked being president. You know, there are be-ers, and there are doers. And I think he liked being president, as opposed to doing.” Obama, on the other hand, strikes Baucus as a doer. “You’ve really got to work at it, rather than just enjoying the job,” he said.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/magazine/07congress-t.html

    ReplyDelete
  34. Without looking it up I think Lincoln got the Presidential Bug after the Debates with Douglas. There were earlier indications of his goal, but they seem to me to have been vague, but certainly the run up to the candidacy could only have emerged after 1854. It was the Kansas Nebraska Act which brought Lincoln out a self imposed political retirement. He had returned to lawyering after 1849 if I'm not mistaken. The Kansas affair shook him to the core because he perceived that if it were left alone, slavery would be legitimized nationally. I'd have to read up on this, but I think this is where the ambitions really took hold.

    As to his affect being in conflict with his ambitions, affect is how one presents himself to others. Given Lincoln's background, his flatness is understandable. He chose to give no signal to others what he felt emotionally, having gone through numerous failures. Besides, he had an underlying melancholia which followed him througout his life. But in spite of it, he was optimistic and he could overcome his negative side by the use of humor.I find that very common. If you really want to be funny while you tell a joke--keep a straight face--be flat as a pancake--it always works.

    As to Lincoln wanting the Presidency to avert a Civil War. I don't think anyone really thought of Civil War until well after the election.

    As to why we fought the war, I agree that it was initially to preserve the Union. The nation wouldn't stand for fighting for abolition. Though slavery certainly "caused" the war, the rationale to fight it preservation--to conserve the Union.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I don't know at what point in the book it was, but I seem to recall Goodwin pointed out his ambitious nature quite early on, describing how he bemoaned the fact that the greatness of the founders/founding of the new country left nothing for his generation.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thanks, Robert.

    That timing makes sense although he never seemed to have the anti-slavery passion or record that some of his other rivals had. But I'm sure the act of running for national office against Douglas -- giving speeches and moving a crowd to action -- could become extremely motivating. Plus, I get the impression from Goodwin that he really enjoyed being out in the world, be it in politics or in lawyering.

    Regarding the war, you got exactly at what I've been fussing about as of late -- that the nation didn't mobilize to fight to end slavery. (And later in the book, Goodwin provides all sorts of arguments in line with this idea.) In the McPherson book on Lincoln's presidency, you really get the sense that the attack on Fort Sumter was like a 9-11 of sorts. And the response was immediate.

    NY, I remember the comment about how Lincoln believed the founders had hoarded all the opportunities for greatness, and that there was nothing left for politicians to aspire to. I hadn't read it as a sign of Lincoln's ambition at the time, but I'm sure you're right.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I picked this up off the web, so I can't guarantee its accuracy, but I was looking for the quote "the taste is in my mouth a little," which McPherson quotes. This is apparently excerpted from David Donald's book on Lincoln:

    "The warm reception that Lincoln's speeches received . . . during the last half of 1859 gave plausibility to suggestions that he ought to be nominated for high office. The idea had emerged right after the 1858 election, when some of his followers, bitter over his defeat and convinced "he is one of the best men God ever made," began to ask: "Can't we make him President or vice." . . .

    Neither Lincoln or anybody else took these suggestions very seriously. He did not think himself presidential timber [and] to all such suggestions he gave essentially the same answer. "I must, in candor, say I do not think myself fit for the Presidency," he wrote the admiring editor of the Rock Island Register, who wanted to promote the simultaneous announcement of Lincoln's candidacy in Republican newspaper across the state.

    In issuing these disclaimers Lincoln was not being coy, but realistic. To all outward appearances he was less prepared to be President than any other man who had run for that high office. Without family tradition or wealth, he had received only the briefest of former schooling. Now fifty years old, he had no administrative experience of any sort; he had never been governor of a state or even mayor of Springfield. A profound student of the Constitution and of the writings of the Founding Fathers, he had limited acquaintance with the government they had established.

    . . . [But] when Lincoln allowed himself to consider the possibility of running for President, his chances for securing the Republican nomination seemed better than average. The party had several strong candidates, but all had flaws.

    * * * * *
    The success of Lincoln's Eastern trip [in February 1860] edged him a step closer to becoming an avowed candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. As recently as January he had been hesitant about making a race. Conferring with [Norman] Judd, [Ozias] Hatch, Jackson Grimshaw, and a few other prominent Illinois Republicans who pressed him to run, he expressed doubt whether he could get the nomination if he wished it. Only after a night of reflection -- and doubtless conferences with Mary Lincoln, who was even more ambitious than he was -- did he authorize the little group to work quietly for his nomination. . . .

    By April he wrote to [Lyman] Trumbull, who inquired about his intentions: "I will be entirely frank. The taste is in my mouth a little."

    ReplyDelete
  38. NYT, I think that Lincoln shared pretty much the same impression of Jackson Democracy as did Tocqueville. He found himself alone in his congressional district in this regard, as Miller noted in Lincoln's Virtues, but he didn't change his view. Eventually, the Whigs gained a foothold in his district, giving him an outlet for his views, and the rest as they say is history.

    ReplyDelete
  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  40. A president's success follows when there is ''a healthy reliance on the help of others. Successful presidents surround themselves with their superiors and weigh their advice''


    True. But how lucky that there was a convergence of wise and knowledgeable men at the time of their presidency.

    We think of the era of our Founding Fathers as that which witness the greatest convergence of intellectuals in our history. And while that is undoubtedly true, Lincoln was fortunate in having many gifted people in his administration - people who generally had one direction in mind.

    Adams had gifted people in his administration such as Calhoun and Clay. Yet, his four years were not successful. Perhaps it was because there wasn't that same sense of direction. Or perhaps that JQA was not able to enlist them to work as team in order to fix the mess that the USA was in.

    It is great to have a strong team. But unless everyone is on the same page and headed in the right direction as declared by the coach or manager, the team will not have the success it should have. Perhaps this was Lincoln's greatest attribute was his ability to lead his team in the direction he sought.

    ReplyDelete
  41. True, Trippler. And then there's dynamism or momentum of leadership, as in the Will Rogers line: "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

    ReplyDelete
  42. Trippler: Your post certainly puts a dent in my proposition. After thinking it over a bit I realize that there were preseidents who had excellent cabinets composed of member who were superior, and yet those presidents either failed or weren't among the best. The three I'm thinking of are JQ Adams, the one you point out, and also Warren G Harding. Hebert Hoover also had a fine cabinet--with Andrew Mellon as Secretary of Treasury--and yet blew it.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Interesting! I'm not familiar with many of these presidencies, but at least in the early days didn't many of them appoint the opposition to positions in the cabinet as part of the cabinet protocol? I'm thinking of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, but I'm sure there were others like Lincoln.

    What I find so fascinating about Lincoln's leadership skills is that he may not have been able to get them all pointed in the right direction considering their different backgrounds and beliefs -- it must have been a bit like herding cats -- but he did manage to get them in the end to do no harm in spite of all the flying letters of resignation.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Anyone interested in also discussing Seward and Chase from the beginning of the book? I find them equally interesting and they were both totally new to me.

    ReplyDelete
  45. It's been a while since I read this book but it wasn't my impression that Lincoln succeeded in getting everyone on the same page and going in the right direction. Rather, he was able to tolerate dissent within his own cabinet and still keep things moving where he thought they should go. That was his real strength it seems to me. If you've ever found yourself in a leadership role, then you know that isn't easy to do.

    I remember thinking while reading the book that Lincoln seemed like the quintessential "wise father." He knows that his children will from time to time chafe under his dictates; he also knows that if they didn't he wouldn't be doing his job.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hi, Rick.

    That was my impression, too, and what I was trying to get at above. You stated it much more effectively.

    It was clear by the near revolt that they managed within the cabinet that they saw themselves almost like a coalition government rather than "ministers" to implement Lincoln's policies.

    Again, I just don't know enough about how the cabinet was viewed in those days to compare this with others. But I think Lincoln had his hands full with this group since they ranged from true abolitionists to, at best, slavery apologists. And they all appeared to have very different ideas of how to pursue the war -- or not.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Coalition government indeed!

    I can't remember if Goodwin discusses how many other presidents before Lincoln filled their cabinets with other presidential aspirants. It is almost comical to watch Lincoln deal with these men -- especially Chase and Seward -- who were not shy about letting him know that they considered themselves much better suited for the White House. It's is also instructive, from the standpoint of leadership, to notice how effective Lincoln was at neutralizing their ambitions.

    I was reminded, and maybe Goodwin was too, of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, who wanted "men about me who are fat;/Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o' nights." What a contrast in leadership styles.

    ReplyDelete
  48. God, now I lost the post I just made a minute or so ago. I was going to post on Seward, but I think I'll wait and see if the computer adjusts things--its as if there are two threads for A TEAM OF RIVALS. One here and the other when you click into "recent comments." Is anyone else having problems?

    ReplyDelete
  49. ''Lincoln seemed like the quintessential "wise father." He knows that his children will from time to time chafe under his dictates; he also knows that if they didn't he wouldn't be doing his job.''


    Great perception on your part.

    I quickly found a passage which you were likely alluding to and it is on page 104 re EMPATHY:

    ''Lincoln ... possessed extraordinary empathy ... to understand their motives and desires ... His crowning gift of political diagnosis ... was due to his sympathy which gave him the uncanny power to forecast what his opponents would do.''

    June 6, 2009 6:49 PM

    ReplyDelete
  50. Robert, sorry you lost your post.

    The ToR "reading group" towards the top of the screen is the most recent thread on the book, but if you click on and respond to a recent comment, it takes you to whichever room the last comment was made in.

    Plus, I have noticed that the site can sometimes show or not show a recent post, sort of at random. I don't think it's entirely stable, but it seems to work well enough to keep us going.

    I hope you'll revisit Seward since I find him extremely interesting and know nothing about him other than what Goodwin has written.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Trip, I wonder if this is what Obama means by "empathy?" I think that was indeed at the root of Lincoln's greatness. Miller talks about it extensively in Lincoln's Virtues, noting Lincoln's ability to see and often sympathize with the actions of his political opponents. His speeches were remarkably well nuanced, although I imagine the Southern fire-eaters didn't pay close attention to them, but rather used them to vent their indignation.

    It seemed that what Lincoln wanted to do most was contain slavery, not irradicate it, as he knew how much pain and anguish would be involved, but with the Southern states constantly pressing the issue of expansion into the new territories, and Midwestern senators, like Douglas, seemingly willing to go along with it, Lincoln no doubt had to ratchet up his rhetoric, which he did in his debates with Douglas.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Good morning: My "lost post" wasn't lost after all. It was in other TOR site...sorry. Here it is anyway:

    Miller's views on Lincoln are fascinating...for instance (so we can coordinate the two books)in the section having to do with the 1860 Republican nomination, he states that Seward was the frontrunner and that Lincoln did not get the nomination because of any "distinctive personal qualities" he may have had--but rather the delegates did not believe their front runner could not win enough electoral votes from the key swing states needed to win. Lincoln emerged as the best alternative to Seward and "the best candidate to win those states." (Miller, Virtues, 394)

    ReplyDelete
  53. I agree with Gintaras. Lincoln was a Constitutionalist in that he knew he couldn't abolish slavery. It was sanctioned by the Constitution. He believe that if it were confined to where it was, if it were not allowed to grow, it would wither and die eventually. The problem with the abolitionist was that they wanted to end it forthwith. But--then what do you do with 4 million people? How do you compensate owners for the loss? What happens to the economy? Lincoln was a free market man? What happens to wages? Where do the planters get the cash to pay the newly freed slaves for their labor? Morality's nice, reality is frightening. The North didn't want the freedmen coming up and taking jobs---the Irish detested the negro--look at the Draft riots in 1863--they were really race riots.

    So Lincoln's Conservative stance allowed him to gain the support of states necessary to assure a Republican victory in November, while Seward's stance frightened them. They may have been agreeable to "freedom"--but not to "freedom now."

    Which brings me to Seward--Iconoclast--a voice crying out WAR WAR, there's going to be WAR!!! Seward, a former Anti-Mason (a good subject for a future discussion).

    ReplyDelete
  54. Lincoln and the kids lived an unpretentious house on a corner in Springfield, Illinois; Seward on a 5 acre estate of sorts. Lincoln slogged along in his strange walk; Seward swaggered.Lincoln wallowed at times in self doubt;Seward exuded self confidence. By the time the Convention rolled around there was little doubt Seward was the man--he had the experience and the personality--and, it seemed--the votes.He was 4 years in the State Senate, two terms as Governor of New York and 12 years as US Senator. Qualifications were superb. Personality excellent. He was managed by none other than Thurlow Weed---political boss extraordinaire (described by one of Seward's biographers as a "used carriage salesman").

    I think the best way to describe Seward is to say that he was a pragmatist. Someone once pointed out that everyone knew what hole he would go down into, but never knew from which hole he would emerge. He was a nationalist--wanted the nation to go from sea to shinning sea, an expansionist--wanting to annex the islands--an abolitionist--an orator of the first order.He was exteremely popular among Republicans and feared by the Slavocracy. Seward wanted to free the slaves. In the same breath,though, he knew the issue had brought on the very real possibility of physical conflict. Goodwin quotes Schutz that Seward was often ahead of public opinion. (Lincoln tried to stay abreast of public opinion, wainting often for it to catch up with his ideas). Given his pragmatism, he believed politics to be a game--so that when he lost in a move, he readily accepted it and crawled down into another hole. In 1860, therefore, it should have been no surprise for Seward to enter into Lincoln's rabbit patch and find a new hole to enter.

    I don't mean to make Seward a cyncical man, or an unprincipled man--he was neither--but he was a very practical man who with the help of Weed, knew which way was up and was keenly able to right himself after a fall.

    Seward was so confident of his victory at the convention, he was preparing his acceptance letter.

    ReplyDelete
  55. NOTE: I should note that Goodwin, later in the book, points out that Seward was not an abolitionist, believing that slavery as it existed could not be touched (Goodwin, 192). However, as she points out, his speeches seemed to indicate he was. Read pages 191-194 for a fuller explanation of his position and how it was interpreted by the South. Impressions are more powerful that reality.

    I don't want to go too far ahead in the book.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Good morning, everyone.

    Thanks for all the good information, Robert.

    What attracted me to Seward -- and to the book because Goodwin shows how he stands in such stark contrast to Lincoln -- is that Seward was the "leader of the political anti-slavery movement." He believed that there was a "higher law" than the Constitution when it came to slavery and was willing to act on his beliefs (e.g., the protection of free blacks in New York and of Germans and Irish immigrants). So I see him (based on Goodwin) as more of an idealist vs Lincoln the pragmatist.

    Goodwin defines Sewards's support of the parochial schools for Catholics as a political move to get more votes, but his stands didn't seem to particularly well designed to endear him to a larger constituency other than maybe Irish and Germans, assuming they could become citizens. That said, as a good Whig and then Republican, he is certainly smart enough to understand that immigration equals cheap labor and development.

    From Goodwin's telling he seemed to be motivated by what was right, not what was necessarily politically expedient. And yet, when the time came, he seemed to be more in tune than even Lincoln with the consequences of certain measures like emancipation later.

    Someone in the book is quoted as saying that Seward stayed ahead of public opinion on issues like slavery. And his wife seems to have been even more ahead of him in that regard.

    So I guess I see him as a good politician but someone who also stood for issues of importance like ending slavery, even if it did ultimately lead to conflict with the South. And he had a taste of what that meant with the fight over the Virginia ship and its slaves.

    ReplyDelete
  57. "Morality's nice, reality is frightening."

    This is why reading history is so enlightening and relevant. There are always a million reasons the opposition can list to not do what is right.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Oh, yeah, and I don't want to forget his defense of the ironically named Freeman when everyone (except his wife) advised against it. "He was faithful" as his tombstone says.

    ReplyDelete
  59. "There are always a million reasons the opposition can list to not do what is right". Avrds

    Suppose an angel of God came down a said to Senator Seward or to Governor Chase: " you stand where you stand on very noble ground, but be forwarned that your election will cause a war which cost the lives of 650,000 and lead to the ending of slavery, but leave the freed slave subjugated and without substinative rights for a hundred years with thousands lynched and more thousands dead prematurely because of poor health and nutrition brought on by their treatment". Would they still do what they considered right? Would the price of morality be too high?

    Sometimes there are unintended and unanticipated consequences to the implimentation of morality.

    Lincoln took the war as God's retribution for 300 years of the lash. Seward spoke of a Higher Law, superceding the Constitution--but if he invoked that higher law and the War came as a result of its invocation, we might today look differently on things. Lincoln waited until the South started things, not from the viewpoint of Slavery, but from the viewpoint of secession and the attempted dissolution of the Union--he called it an insurrection. His was a war for the preservation of the Union. Seward might have invoked the Higher Law and fought for Freedom for the Slave---and thus forfeited the support needed for victory. Pragmatist that he was, he might have crawled down the hole of compromise.

    Just a thought--history as it might have been.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Yes, very interesting thought! I was thinking about all the reasons why Guantanamo can't be closed, which can lead to inaction, but it also applies here to be sure.

    The question you raised for Seward and Chase would surely give them pause. Seward in particular seemed to have thought through many of the ramifications of some of his bolder ideas -- and even those of Lincoln -- once he was in the cabinet and had the reality of the situation to deal with.

    On the other hand, the question you raised could equally have been asked of Lincoln -- would he have been willing to pursue union at all costs if he had known that it would have resulted in the loss of more than 1/2 million lives? Some in his cabinet were urging sanctions, for example, which seemed like one of many legitimate responses. I've always half wondered why they didn't just let them go, sort of like Texas and its governor today.

    Just to be clear: I raise these questions not because I dislike Lincoln or question his legacy -- on the contrary, I quite admire him and what he was able to accomplish particularly given what he had to work with. But, in his historical context, his positions on slavery and race seem to have been quite moderate when compared to his contemporaries. And as Gintaras noted earlier, sometimes moderates make for the best leaders (I think Obama falls in that category, too -- I often disagree with him but still think he will be considered a great president).

    But it's much more fun to question Lincoln and his legacy than just sit back and take him and the end result for granted. And it makes for better history as McPherson said of the questions raised by the Lincoln deniers and others in the South who question his significance in history.

    Besides, thinking back to the NY Times, if we all take the position of Grant, who will be Lee?

    ReplyDelete
  61. I'm working with a steering committee on undergraduate education in DC and one of the committee members said this about the goal of undergraduate education: Students should learn how to think like Darwin and write like Lincoln.

    Since they are all scientists, I think I was the only one there who "got it," but I thought that just about summed it up perfectly.

    ReplyDelete
  62. "who will be Lee?" Considering the military traditions of the time and of the antebellum South, I still regard Lee's surrendering (no, not that surrender) his U.S. military career because he was unable to be disloyal to his home state as a most poignant moment in the human drama. Another subject for contrafactual speculation is to consider what would have happened if his skills had been used in service to the union. Would matters have concluded sooner, how much sooner, with how many fewer lives lost? (I don't think it was entirely S'ern chauvinism that rated his skills so highly, but there may have been all kinds of revisionism on the matter, for all I know. I'm sure there are folks in here with much greater knowledge.)

    Aside to avrds: "undergraduate education in DC"?? Is the steering comm. in DC or the educ. in DC or both? Sounds intriguing. Will you elaborate, perhaps in Meander?

    ReplyDelete
  63. Avrds:

    I agree Seward became more responsible when he entered the Cabinet(that is, after he tested Lincoln's limits)I think the realism came as a response to the responsibilty placed on him as a Cabinet member. Senators can expound as they like, but they are a part of a collective which legislates, but does not lead. In the Executive Branch, the preservation of the state is paramount and is more directly in the hands of the President. The nature of responsibility changes accordingly.

    In the question I posed, which would be great to present to college students, I directed them towards Seward and Chase as their thrust involved, first and foremost, the question of Slavery. The case of Lincoln is different. He took an oath of office requiring that he "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." No head of state ever voluntarily consented to the dissolution of his state. Rather, heads of state, per se are their to defend their state against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That phraseology is, I think, a part of the standard oath all federal officials take. So Lincoln's job was a given-preserve the Union. Anything less would be treasonous. Slavery therefore became secondary. So regardless of what the angel revealed, Lincoln might still have seen it as his duty, as terrible as it might end up. He would know he did his job---to preserve the nation.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Hi, Robert.

    Interesting distinction and one that helps explain the whole origin of the war question.

    I guess the feeling I get from reading Goodwin in particular as she opens the book with all the mini-profiles is that while Lincoln approached the issue of slavery from a more abstract and "political" perspective, Seward and Chase basically put their careers on the line by taking principled stands. That is what draws me to them as potential candidates -- although it does not necessarily make them electable as she shows. Chase sort of deconstructs as the pressures mounts but, so far at least, Seward proves himself to be equal to Lincoln once in office. I find him very interesting, even if he did buy Alaska.

    ReplyDelete
  65. "Senators can expound as they like, but they are a part of a collective which legislates, but does not lead."

    Is this a matter of scale, level of gov't, context, situation, individuals etc.? I can think of Senators that I certainly consider to be leaders--in formulating, enlisting support for and seeing to fruition legislation, as well as Presidents whose leadership abilities...well, I'll be charitable.

    Years ago I was asked a question about what defines a leader. The rather gimmicky answer was "followers."

    ReplyDelete
  66. Actually, robert, the New Republicans did feel that Congress should lead, and not the executive branch, but the war gave Lincoln much stronger executive authority. After the war, all the initiatives came from Congress through the Radical Republicans, which Andrew Johnson tried to veto everyone in turn, only to result in an impeachment trial bringing brought against him, which he survived by one vote in the Senate.

    As a practical matter, it is difficult to lead through Congress, but the Gingrich-led Republicans tried to do the same in the 1990s.

    ReplyDelete
  67. And Congress did pass an amazing list of new-direction legislation once the Democrats got out of the way. I wonder if we will see something similar after the next election (2010)?

    ReplyDelete
  68. Regarding Congressional leadership, I agree with your posts. There were two eras in which this country experienced weak presidencies and complinmentary legislative leadership. Both eras produced great men, both in the Senate and in the House in order to compensate for a weakened Presidency. I refer to the 1840-1860 period and, of course, to the the post civil war era to the time of Grover Cleveland. In the end, in the 1840-1860 era, the great Compromisers died and the nation fell apart--whether because of weak Presidents or inept Congressional leadership--but in any case, it led to disaster. After the War, Congressional leadership led to the excesses of Reconstruction and to untold corruption and drift until Cleveland asserted authority and the system slowly righted itself. I see such attempts as failures. Basically, in America, Congressional government doesn't work. It's not working now, as Obama is trying to reassert Executive authority. It leads nowhere. (just an opinion--no proof do I have). The only time I saw Congressional government work was that brief period where Lyndon Johnson was Majority Leader and Sam Rayburn the Speaker. Newt Gingrinch tried to emulate that era and failed, partly because ideology trumped objectivity (and still does).

    ReplyDelete
  69. Thanks, Robert.

    This is why I so enjoy these discussions -- I know very little presidential/political history except what we discuss here and, before, at the Times.

    ReplyDelete
  70. I just remembered we were still going over the Rivals and Chase was next: Chase is interesting for his versatility and his enormous ego driven ambiion for greatness. His daughter was as interesting as he and was a influence in Washington. Chase started out as a Whig, then helped organize the Liberty Party--a short lived national party formed by Whigs and Van Buren "Barn Burners" out of New York. It failed. He then helped start the Free Soil Party and finally ended up a Republican. He was a very prominent lawyer and his position on slavery, as noted in his Wikopedia biography, was that he "contended that slavery was local, not national, and that it could exist only by virtue of positive state law. He argued that the federal government was not empowered by the Constitution to create slavery anywhere, and that when a slave leaves the jurisdiction of a state where slavery is legal, he ceases to be a slave, because he continues to be a man and leaves behind him the law that made him a slave".
    He was a Senator from Ohio from 1849 to 1855, opposed both the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. He then went on to be Governor of Ohio from 1856 to 1860 and was then re-elected Senator for the term beginning in 1861--when Lincoln picked him as Secretary of the Treasury.

    He wanted the Presidential Nomination in 1860, and was probably the second most favorite candidate going in. But he had made too many enemies along the way, had aligned himself with Democrats in the 1840s (Liberty Party gig)and his views on the tarrif weren't up to snuff for the Repblicans. So he lost.

    His tenure as Secretary of Treasury was impressive enough to have historians rank him among the best there ever was, put his face on a $500 bill, and to this day, has the world's largest bank named after him (Chase Bank, New York).He also did a pretty good job as Chief Justice.

    All in all, in spite of personality problems, he stands as one of the most impressive leaders of his day. I think his record outdoes Seward's--but that, of course, is personal opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Edward Bates: He's an interesting guy if only from the viewpoint that he really wasn't much of a national figure. He's almost always described as an amiable sort of guy (the guy next door)who was more family oriented than anything else. His political career was mostly at a local and state level, with, I believe, one term in Congress. He had an unabiding anti-slavery viewpoint, but not-so strangely, was as racist as the day is long. His plan was to deport all freed slaves to Africa. He and Lincoln got "into it" over the issue, even though Lincoln held fast to his colonization scheme until the bitter end.

    Bates kept a diary which had such interesting entries as: "The President is an excellent man, and in the main wise, but he lacks will and purpose, and, I greatly fear, has not the power to command."

    His affect was generally flat, he was passive for the most part and wasn't really the dynamic type. I get the impression that Douglas might have beaten the pants off him in the general election.

    ReplyDelete
  72. New book out: IMPEACHMENT: THE TRIAL OF PRSIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON AND THE FIGHT FOR LINCOLN'S LEGACY by David O. Stewart

    ReplyDelete
  73. Andrew Johnson is one of those presidents I prefer to explore tangentially, and reading the reviews, it seems I will keep Johnson on the periphery.

    It seems Stewart, like others, likes to believe that had Lincoln lived there would have been fewer quarrels over Reconstruction, but I doubt it as the Radical Republicans felt they had a mandate to reinvent the South, and I well imagine Lincoln would have pursued a path of reconciliation with the South as well.

    ReplyDelete
  74. I think of Lincoln as the great compromiser. I can't imagine him trying to pursue an agenda for equality in the South.

    As for the others, I'm not sure I still have them straight in my head.

    I thought Bates was the Quaker who owned slaves at least at one time and was only vaguely interested in ending slavery. I"ll have to go back and check the book -- starting out I had a hard time keeping them all straight since they were all new to me.

    I agree with Bates, though, when he says Lincoln lacked the power to command. I think Lincoln had a very difficult time managing an unmanagable group of generals -- his cabinet practically staged a coup over it. I'm not sure which member of the group would have done better under the circumstances.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Interesting background on Chase, Robert.

    There's a caption under the photo of his daughter and her rich young husband that suggests she married him to gain access to the fortune needed to pursue the presidency for her father. I must have missed that accusation -- or haven't reached it yet -- but she and her father did seem to be driven. Their social life alone would wear me out.

    He did go on to be extremely successful in the treasury according to Goodwin raising enough money to fight the war.

    I just couldn't help but be struck by all the deaths in his family he had to endure. That has to have a profound effect on a man.

    ReplyDelete
  76. I'm about 500 plus pages into the book but somehow must have slept through picking the vice president. Can someone help explain how that came about?

    ReplyDelete
  77. Thanks for saying that, avrds. I'm not so far along but I was also missing the background on Hamlin and now can't recall whatever it was that I once knew about how Veeps were chosen then.

    I did pick up on Bates as family man--and find myself wanting more info on both Julia Bates and Fanny Seward, another in a long series of "some day" lookups.

    And yes, the losses of women and children can be overwhelming to read about and consider. Then we get war...

    ReplyDelete
  78. I think just about every president has had difficulty with his commanding generals during times of war, and the fact that things got off to a pretty rough start for the Union in the Civil War was largely due to the incompetence of generals like McClellan, not what was going on back at the White House. You assume your generals can command, especially when they come so highly touted as Mac was. But, Lincoln eventually figured out he was dealt a bad hand of cards when it came to generals and took new ones that could handle the situation better.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Nobody missed anything on the selection of Hannibal Hamlin as Vice President---because there isn't any. She blew the subject off--probably because there's nothing to say. As with the Missouri Compromise, Maine was used as a balance state and Hamlin was it's Senator-'nuff said, he's the man," someone must have said--then they told Lincoln. Oh well, I'll see what Burlingame says and post some background later today.

    ReplyDelete
  80. Not much comes up on Hannibal Hamlin when you google him, nor does he have much of a bibliography at amazon. One of those forgotten figures in US history, passed over in favor of Johnson as VP in 64 as Lincoln looked to strike a reconciliatory note with the South.

    ReplyDelete
  81. I don't even know who Hamlin is -- that's how little I know about this period. As for Johnson, he's almost the same, although I do know his name because of the assassination.

    Funny that none of the books I've read has made much if anything of Lincoln's choice of Johnson as an attempt to reconcile with the South. Seems like that's a huge decision on his part, which is news to me. Thanks, Gintaras.

    It's also curious that there's no indication either VP choice had any role in the administration, if Goodwin is a good indicator. But then I guess that's why Adams said what he did about being vice president.

    Like NY, I'm interested in the selection process. When did it change from the second most votes and what role in general did the pick play in the campaign?

    ReplyDelete
  82. NY, I also find the women in this book extremely interesting. Seward's wife is particularly exceptional, but as you note, the daughters, too, seemed to be raised as the next generation of leaders in a world where women could never assume that role. I guess they had to learn to make their mark in other ways.

    I've also grown appreciative of Mary Lincoln, who has always seemed a bit of a shadowy and dark figure in the books I've read (all by men except for this one). I'd never heard, for example, of her accident in the carriage when she hit her head.

    A book came out a couple years ago on the Lincoln's time at the Soldiers Home that might be an interesting point of view.

    And yes, being surrounded by death like that must have made life simply different than we think of it now. At least now there's the illusion (in this country at least) that you can live a relatively long life. I can't imagine they lived under that illusion then.

    Maybe I should try the Gilpin book again. My guess is that's the world she describes.

    ReplyDelete
  83. And this just in.... (I wish I could be there):

    Title: Lincoln at the Movies
    Location: Tennessee
    Date: 2009-10-27

    Description: On October 27, President Abraham Lincoln will visit Tusculum College campus for Lincoln at the Movies. Beginning at 7 p.m., President Lincoln will discuss his portrayals in classic and contemporary films. This event is part of the Cicero Lecture Series and in partnership with the Arts Outreach Program ...

    ReplyDelete
  84. Hannibal Hamlin was fairly prominent in his day.He served in the House for a couple of terms, then in the Senate from 1848 to 1861.So though he may not have been a household name, he was "known". Basically he was, like Lincon, an anti-expansionist wih respect to slavery.

    After Lincoln secured the nomination, the various factions nominated Cassius Clay of Kentucky, John Hickman of PA, Nathaniel Banks of Mass., Henry Winter Davis of Maryland and Andrew Reader of Pennsylvania for Vice President. On the first ballot Hamlin had a clear lead with 194 votes, Clay had 58, Hickman got 51 and Reader pulled 38. Hamiln took it on the second ballot.

    Now, the problem was this: nobody bothered to ask Hamlin whether he wanted the job. He was a Seward man and Lincoln just killed his candidate. He was in Washington--playing cards with the "boys," when Schuyler Colfax and a few others came over and told him he was nominated VP--to whichHamlin clearly replied, "But I don't want the place." But, as we know, he then relented and took it.

    The other thing was that Lincoln didn't know either. I forget the details of his being informed. The important thing to remember is that this was not unusual in those days. candidates often had no control over their running mate. The game was to get a balancing act going--get a guy who can secure his state and be non-contoversial at the same time. VP candidates did next to nothing during the campaigns--and more than next to nothing when elected.

    I think it was during Grant's time that they nominated a guy and he refused point blank to accept the job, so they nominated a guy who was ambassador to Cuba, but it was damned near election day before he found out. In any case the poor guy died before inaugration day anyway....

    It took Lincoln until September to write to Hamlin and suggest they meet. At the meeting, though, Lincoln was gratious enough to give Hamlin an opportunity to suggest a candidate for Secretary of the Navy. Overall his role in the coming aministration was minimal.

    When 1864 rolled around it didn't surprise or hurt him that he wasn't renominated (except nobody told him until after the fact)

    We live in a different world today.

    ReplyDelete
  85. as a resut of the friction produced in the election of 1800 and as a result of the obvious difficulty of having the president burdened by his opponent as President of the Senate and as Vice President, Jefferson proposed and had passed the 12th amendment which became effective in 1804.

    The founders didn't envision the party system when they set up the Constitution, so they thought it wise to give the second most important job to the second most qualified man. A simple concept which produced the unintended consequence of having your mortal poltical enemy your successor in case of your death.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Corrrection: The Vice President I spoke of above was William King, who was elected to be Vice President under Pierce. He was in Cuba at thime of his election and took his oath of office down there about three weeks after March 4. He then return home and went immediately to his plantation where he died 4 days later--never went to Washington. He died of Tuberculosis.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Robert, thanks for all the background info. So does that mean that Jefferson was able to pick his vice president or was it too late for him? I know it had been a problem up to that point per our other discussions.

    As the new post above indicates, political and constitutional history is sort of being pushed out of the curriculum, which is too bad. When I was still taking classes, there was a class in Constitutional history, but it was only offered every other year, I think, and I wasn't able to fit it in.

    The campus where I did my doctoral coursework now offers a class in presidential history because Joan Hoff teaches there part time, but she wasn't teaching when I had classes.

    And often, at smaller universities like in Montana, a lot of these classes are taught at the undergraduate level so you can't take them anyway. Or if you do, you have to be really motivated. I took a senior-level Native American history course just because it was worth the three day a week lecture format to have a broader background in the subject area.

    ReplyDelete
  88. "We live in a different world today."

    Oh my, yes, and what a master of understatement you are, robert, as we emerge from an era of puppet presidency. Be honest, posters, how many of you saw Dick Cheney in his wheelchair at the inauguration and thought "Dr. Strangelove"? How many (like me) thought "Mr. Potter"? ("It's a Wonderful Life")

    I just reached Seward's just-post-inauguration "overreach" re foreign policy, so the idea that one could see oneself as the power behind the throne is not far from my mind.

    Thanks so much for the background on Hamlin--maybe having a cool name really was the best thing about him. Loved the story of the hapless "accidental veep."

    ReplyDelete
  89. ToA finally pitched up at my doorstep. Talk about taking the slowboat. I ordered it two months ago. I will make every effort to catch up.

    ReplyDelete
  90. There was more thought put into Johnson than there had been Hamlin, as it was believed McClellan represented a serious challenge to Lincoln, and he figured he needed to secure the border states in the election. Judging by McClellan's campaign poster,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1864_US_election_poster.jpg

    it would have been a hellish administration with Vallindingham as Sec. of War.

    Seems Chase, Wade and others had serious misgivings in regard to Lincoln's chances. I think Lincoln and the Republicans over-estimated McClellan, and would have been better off picking one of their own as VP, but then there was no way of knowing Johnson would inherit the Oval House.

    ReplyDelete
  91. Welcome aboard, Gintaras. I struggled a bit at the beginnig because I didn't know any of the players, but since you are familiar with them all, it should be an easy read.

    Dr. Strangerlove is definitely appropriate. I'm sure the history of the vice presidency will be forever changed after Cheney's vice presidency (and his life after being in office in which he gets stranger and stranger).

    ReplyDelete
  92. What's interesting is to watch the change of the Cabinet's perception of Lincoln as a bumbling jokester into someone with real depth. I think he grew into the job, and wasn't necessarily suited for it in the beginning. But as someone else said, how could anyone prepare for what hit him on day one of the presidency?

    (This is where Miller's second book is excellent -- really gives a sense of what was going on from day one. Not exactly something anyone could prepare or plan for.)

    ReplyDelete
  93. I think I said that, and yes it is pretty hard to be ready for a civil war. Reading the first chapter it does seem Lincoln was a real long shot, but I was surprised how much chance she gave Bates, who had been out of the political picture as long as Lincoln and had nothing in between time to call atttention to him other than the Blairs fondness for him. Seems that if anyone was taking odds at the times, Seward and Chase had to be far in front of Bates or Lincoln. Anway, I see she mentions the Douglas debates and the Cooper Union Speech, which drew quite a bit of attention at the time, so I don't think his odds were that long.

    ReplyDelete
  94. Assuming she knows of what she writes, this is where I think she has really helped me better understand Lincoln and his presidency. He really was at the time the choice of least resistance. Plus, as someone also noted, he knew how to work the nominating system.

    I just ordered a copy of Foner's book "Our Lincoln" which has essays by a variety of historians. I find this discussion endlessly fascinating. Thanks everyone. (These discussions are what got me on this late PhD path to begin with.)

    ReplyDelete
  95. The interesting part is that the Republicans chose to go with Lincoln knowing Douglas had only two years previously beat him out for the US Senate. I suppose they felt that Lincoln had raised enough questions about Douglas' character that he could carry a number of states, if not his own. In the end, he carried Illinois too.

    ReplyDelete
  96. Goodwin's book reads well. More of a storyteller approach that the insightful study which William Lee Miller provided, but then she splits her time between the four men in the early going, giving each about equal space. While Seward certainly comes across as the most likable, one has to admire Salmon Chase's work ethic.

    ReplyDelete
  97. The 1860 Democratic Convention was far more interesting really, with the Democrats having to reconvene in Baltimore after failing to nominate a presidential candidate in Charleston, and then only with the exclusion of the Southern "fire-eaters" who demanded the extension of slavery into the territories written into the platform. I guess the Northern Democrats were determined not to give the Republicans the high road on slavery extension, with the hope of luring some of their defections back into the fold. Interesting that Andrew Johnson's name turns up on the Charleston ballots.

    ReplyDelete
  98. I wonder about Goodwin's view of Lincoln as a long shot. If you look at the balloting it wouldn't appear so.

    Ballot # 1 Seward 173; Lincoln 102; the Simon Cameron with 49, then Chase and Bates in that order, with less than 50 votes apiece.

    Ballot # 2 Seward 184; Lincoln 181---all the result falling way behind--and Simon Cameron out of the picture.

    Ballot #3 Lincoln 231 for the win, with Seward at 180

    Chase and Bates were secondary in the actual voting, never even hitting 50 votes apiece. It was all Seward v Lincoln all the way. Lincoln was no "dark horse"---he was a favorite....Chase and Bates were long shots

    ReplyDelete
  99. But did that have something to do with the venue? Seems like that was what helped him overcome his "dark horse" status more than anything.

    ReplyDelete
  100. I wonder, too, if he had been considered a serious contender if Seward or Chase's supporters would have agreed to it?

    ReplyDelete
  101. My point is that he was never a "dark horse" he was a leading contender, especially after the Debates with Douglas and even more so after Cooper Union. The venue, of course, had a lot to do with things, but not so much as to overcome a supposed dark horse status. Look at the sheer delegate response on the first ballot. It shows he's running a good second, with the supposed two other "front runners" coming up dismally. He took on one of the most popular Senators in the nation, and, without holding any public office, commanded over 100 votes on the first ballot. Nasty ole Simon Cameron got more votes that Chase or Bates who ran a poor fourth and fifth.

    ReplyDelete
  102. "does that mean that Jefferson was able to pick his vice president or was it too late for him? I know it had been a problem up to that point per our other discussions". (AVRDS)

    In 1804 the proposed 12th Amendment was not yet passed by the time the Presidential & Vice Presidential Candidates were to be chosen. In those days candidates were chosen by Congressional Caucus.Jefferson knew George Clinton was a prospect for the Vice presidency, but as Dumas Malone points out, he didn't have to be consulted before the caucus made its decision. They just went ahead an nomnated Clinton. Then informed Jefferson--but this time they made "proper arrangements" to prevent a reprise of the debacle of 1800. However, all that was made unecessary because the Twelfth Amendment was ratified in Jume, well before the November elections.

    ReplyDelete
  103. Thanks, Robert. I always learn something new here.

    ReplyDelete
  104. I agree with you robert. I think the Lincoln "dark horse" story is one of those propogated stories that have gained the patina of truth over the years. Miller pretty much dismissed it in "Lincoln's Virtues," saying the Cooper Union Speech was reprinted in so many newspapers that just about everyone knew who he was by the time of the Convention. The Lincoln-Douglas debates got similar widespread attention, which is why he was invited to give the Cooper Union address. At worst, Lincoln was the #3 man at that convention, I think he was more worried that Chase would foil his plans, although Cameron won more delegates on the first ballot than either Chase or Bates. Yet, Goodwin bypasses Cameron completely in the early going of her narrative, and he too served in Lincoln's cabinet.

    ReplyDelete
  105. "Goodwin bypasses Cameron completely in the early going of her narrative, and he too served in Lincoln's cabinet."

    Gosh, another one I know nothing about. Can you fill in a bit since she didn't?

    I see what you both are saying about the dark horse idea, but if Chase and Seward thought he posed a real threat, why did they accept Chicago as a compromise location? Seems like that's what assured his victory within the party -- now in the general, I think his speaking all around the country (or at leas in the north) did indeed help him win votes as you both note.

    ReplyDelete
  106. I think Seward, and probably Chase as well, figured their national stature would go with them where ever the convention was held. They were definitely the front runners. What they didn't calculate was Lincoln's organizational skills, which Miller said were very good, and after losing a close Senate vote to Douglas he apparently learned from his mistakes. I think it is the classic case of underestimating your opponents in the case of Seward and his capaign chief Thurlow Weed.

    ReplyDelete
  107. I spent a part of today figuring out why Goodwin would consider Lincoln a dark horse and David Donald would say he was not a dark horse (Donald, page 247). It's all about timing, and that includes the selection of the Convention city. The Republican National Committee selected Chicago in December of 1859, when Lincoln was, indeed somewhat of a long shot--and it mattered little where the Convention might be held. In mid-March of 1860, Lincoln was not considered a major candidate (Ecelbarger,The Great Comeback, page 188). Then came Cooper Union--and Lincoln, in a matter of weeks, emerged as as a national candidate. Cooper Union seems to have been the catalyst for his going at least to the being the Favorite Son of Illinois and then into the limelight as the Convention neared. By the even of the Convention he could no longer be called a Dark Horse. (Ecelbarger, page 195). Then came the maneuvering by his Team,which was so proficient and forceful that by the time the Convention opened it had become a race between him and Seward. According to McPherson in his new ABRAHAM LINCOLN, "circumstances converted him from a Favorite Son to a serious contender" (McPherson, page 25).

    Seward's prominence made him seem a more dangerous radical than Lincoln. His Higher Law Concept and the Irrepressible Conflict Speeces were really little different from Lincoln's House Divided Speech--but they seemed so and Seward looked as though he couldn't capture key states as a result. The fascinating part of it all isthat the key to the Nomination lay in the hands of Simon Cameron. In the end, wherever he went, so went the Convention. Seward though he had him, but Lincoln's team got him. In the meantime both Chase and Bates were out of the picture, their efforts had collapsed.

    So Lincol took it on the third ballot--have made a dramatic rise between March 15 and May 15--from being a Dark Horse to a leading contender by the time the convention opened.

    Goodwin's proposition is not all that far off, but she could have been clearer in showing his rise. By the way, Berranger's THE GREAT COMEBACK is very good.Another good text, which covers the Convention in detail is Reinhard Luthin's THE FIRST LINCOLN CAMPAIGN, published in 1944 and reprinted in 1964.

    ReplyDelete
  108. I remember Miller implying that Cameron may have been a "trojan horse," so to speak, as after the first round all his delegates went to Lincoln.

    ReplyDelete
  109. The Lincoln team had the convention well planned. For once, Thurlow Weed was out of his element.

    ReplyDelete
  110. That all makes perfect sense. Sometimes you just need to see things in order to understand how things transpired. Many thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  111. So far, I have resisted, but this book may yet get thrown across the room. Now that the war has commenced and there's so much more at stake than political prestige/power, I find myself grinding my teeth at the pomposities and pettiness of those continuing to nurse political grudges and to play ego games while carnage takes place just a little way down the road...

    I wonder if this is what has deterred me from Civil War reading for so long...or if it was an overemphasis on CW studies where/when I grew up.

    ReplyDelete
  112. NY, I've never been interested in the Civil War for a number of reasons, and find all of this very difficult to read about. Maybe that's why I question the Lincoln legacy (although he certainly cannot be held responsible for the initiation of the war).

    Not sure if you're there or not, but there is one point late in the book where Stanton calls an emergency meeting to outline an aggressive change in policy after losing a major battle. Lincoln shows up and tells one of his usual jokes, infuriating Stanton. Granted, everyone dealt with the carnage around them in different ways, but I'm still not completely comfortable with Lincoln during this ordeal.

    And you're right. In the meantime, there are people like Chase plotting behind his back to get the nomination. I understand the fight over reconstruction that appears to be looming, but it still seems like some of these men aren't living in the real world. But then maybe that is the real world for people in those positions.

    ReplyDelete
  113. "But then maybe that is the real world for people in those positions."

    Alas, it must be so. The huge ego needed to propel one into such a life course can be the thing that disables one when at (or close to) the exalted position sought from shouldering the tremendous responsibility thereof. (Kind of a convoluted way to express it, but I think you know what I mean.)

    ReplyDelete
  114. Goodwin reminds a bit of Barbara Tuchman, the why she lays out her narrative and provides a lot of domestic detail. I think one of the more interesting aspects of the book to this point is her portrayal of the wives, at least those who survived to tell the tale. She digs a lot into personal letters between the Sewards, laments there not being more to draw from between Abe and Mary, and notes how Chase was a pretty tough papa in regard to his eldest daughter. I'm not sure how this really furthers the central part of the narrative, other than Goodwin seems to feel that they all had strong domestic feelings as well as national feelings, and tried in their various ways to reconcile them. I doubt Seward ever seriously thought about chucking his political career over dear Frances, but apparently there are reams of love letters between them, which Goodwin poured over. I thought it was interesting the many degrees of Mary Lincoln's vindictiveness, especially over her husband losing his first senate bid to Lyman Trumbull. Mary, who was apparently close friends with Trumbull's wife, never spoke to her again. I imagine she also held a grudge against her husband for so easily giving away his delegates in that bid, when he was only 4 short of his bid, but history would vindicate him.

    ReplyDelete
  115. Nice to revisit that section through your eyes, Gintaras. I haven't read Tuchman, but I have enjoyed the layer of domestic history -- partially because the women are so interesting in themselves but also because it adds another layer to these men who otherwise could seem very detached from the real world, as NY notes above.

    Mary seems as ambitious as her husband, although I think Goodwin goes a long way to humanize her.

    Is this like other Goodwin books? I assumed one of her motives was to write a book about Lincoln that hadn't yet been written. Plus, how could you not want to dive into all the Seward letters? Those kinds of letters are where we often find out what's really going on. (McPherson uses McClellan's letters home to great effect in his book on the presidency. The _names_ he called the president.....)

    ReplyDelete
  116. Is this like other Goodwin books?

    It certainly is...If you liked this,read he one on FDR & Eleanor.

    it's late so I'll just do a short post.

    Just think, our most moral ands most revered president had his nomination secured through the services of one of the more corrupt figures of his day. Lincoln was "machine made." As was FDR,HST & JFK, not to forget Woodrow Wilson and possibly Grover Cleveland. The old city party bosses really didn't do a half bad job choosing the candidates. I sometimes think we ought to return to the system as primaries are now beauty contest and PR shows.

    I'll look up some Simon Carmeron. The old coot deserves some recognition for his deal making.

    ReplyDelete
  117. NO ORDINARY TIME is the FDR book. She also wrote:Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga.

    She's married to Richard Goodwin, LBJ's speechwriter. Kearns was a White House Fellow under LBJ and when he retired he hired her to help him write his memoirs, which she did. That resulted in Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, a sometimes emotional view of Johnson in decline--(or how in the end, everything got to him and he died, a crushed man--the last casualty of Vietnam)She also wrote a book on baseball. NO ORDINARY TIME also won a Pulitzer.She got into trouble a few years back on issues of plagarism---that's why I think there's so much documentation in this book. If I'm not mistaken, the publication was held up while she went over it with a fine tooth comb.

    I got to know her well enough by going to her lectures when she published books, but not well enough so she would remember my name--just my face.

    ReplyDelete
  118. "oodwin reminds a bit of Barbara Tuchman, the why she lays out her narrative and provides a lot of domestic detail."

    I'm sorry, but even after decades away from serious study of history I still count myself a Tuchman fan and can't put Kearns Goodwin in her league at all.

    I, too, recall Kearns Goodwin's bit o' trouble about carelessness in citing sources--she spoke to this in a television interview I saw--apparently she was careless in assimilating the work of one or more of her assistants. (Since she's not an academic, these are probably not some of the legion of grad. students compiling research for their sponsor/authors.)

    ReplyDelete
  119. Sorry about the dropped "G" in the above post.

    ReplyDelete
  120. My comment had more to do with their writing styles than levels of scholarship, althugh Goodwin's level strikes me as pretty good.

    I enjoyed her little piece on the Dred Scott case, and how many Republicans (including Lincoln and Seward) at the time thought there was a Democratic conspiracy involved here to try to render the Missouri Compromise null and void.

    Lincoln did a lot of research, going back to the 1787 Northwest Ordinance, to make his case against slavery in the territories, while Seward continued to evoke a "higher law," in response to Taney's statement which went far beyond the Dred Scott case and essentially opened the door for slavery in the territories.

    Goodwin also pricks a pin into her own "dark horse" theory by saying that by assuming the head of the Illinois Republicans in his bid for the US Senate in 1858, Lincoln made himself a national figure and possible presidential candidate, while Seward, Chase and Bates were similarly grooming themselves for 1860.

    Goodwin argues that the Dred Scott Case went a long way in bringing the Republican Party together.

    ReplyDelete
  121. I have really enjoyed Goodwin, so appreciate the comparisons. Having made my way through literally hundreds of dense academic books, there's something to be said for someone who can get the scholarship right and yet still tell a good story.

    I'm nearing the end, with mixed emotions. Sort of like finishing War and Peace... Not sure where to go next (although I think Nixon is calling my name).

    Glad your book finally got there, Gintaras. Once I finish the book -- maybe today -- I'll try to go back and follow along with everyone so I'm more specific in my comments.

    ReplyDelete
  122. It would seem the conspiracy theory comes from Fehrenbacher, who noted the "whisperings" that took place between Taney and Buchanan at Buchanan's inauguration. Buchanan's statment that Americans should accept the SC decision before the decision was rendered gave rise to this speculation. Here is a book link to Dred Scott v. Sandford,

    http://books.google.lt/books?id=cBcoT3Rtqq8C&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=democratic+conspiracy+dred+scott+case&source=bl&ots=R5N0QIGlg0&sig=_o3JV0qh0qso9MElNRnrzAQzurQ&hl=lt&ei=Ap84SqfjD8SEsAbk2aG1Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPA47,M1

    ReplyDelete
  123. Goodwin notes that Lincoln went further than just Taney and Buchanan, linking Douglas and Franklin Pierce as well in his Senate stump speeches. Douglas tried to wrestle himself free of the issue of slaves in the new territories by denouncing the Lecompton constitution, but Lincoln and his fellow Republicans were having none of it.

    ReplyDelete
  124. On thinking it over, gintaras, I think the difference I sense between Goodwin and Tuchman is that I think of Tuchman's works as broader in scope. She managed to incorporate social forces, or to show how individuals and their acts reflected or influenced social forces at work, more than Goodwin, whose focus seems more on individuals. She's not exactly an adherent of "the great man theory of history" but she always manages to find a way in which her subject was in the right with regards to any given issue or action, and she doesn't give the impression that she would tolerate much criticism of him (though she certainly must have read enough of it, and cites some of the more extreme examples obviously feeling them to be unfair).

    ReplyDelete
  125. New York, that's an interesting point. I think that's what I dislike the most about Goodwin -- it's not her championing of the great man theory so much as her subtle or benign presentation of it.

    While I know that more academic history is not as popular, at least it generally wears its interpretation on its sleeve. It states a point of view and then defends it. With Goodwin, you are left to determine her interpretation as you read since she presents her point of view (generally) as if it is fact.

    As with my critical questions about Lincoln, this is not to suggest I dislike Goodwin's writing. I love reading it and have truly enjoyed the way she has constructed her story from a variety of perspectives. But the book is written as if it has no interpretive point of view, which I don't think is the truth.

    ReplyDelete
  126. And while I'm at it -- and I know you all are tired of this so I'll try to keep it brief -- I think Lincoln generally has benefited from the outcome of history, not necessarily the day-to-day reality of it.

    It was on his watch the nation saw the end of slavery, which is a great thing, but it was also on his watch that the nation experienced the death of more than a half a million men who were not necessarily fighting to end slavery.

    I'm not blaming Lincoln for the war or the end results of the war, but I do think it's worth asking for the sake of argument could it have been different?

    Because the writing of history is really about the present, it's worth noting that this is the argument that someone like George Bush counts on -- that looking back, the results of his invasion of Iraq will make him seem like a liberator in the long term.

    In Bush's case, I'm sure that's not the case regardless of the long-term history of Iraq. As for Lincoln, I'm still not 100% convinced that the war he oversaw was worth the cost of so many lives. Or that someone else at the time might have been better at bringing the country to a peaceful (or less bloody) resolution of the nation's differences over slavery -- while still ending slavery as an economic institution.

    ReplyDelete
  127. Goodwin lets the characters speak for themselves and allows the reader to get a fuller picture of the total person--not just the "great man" image. The characters are very human. I think she writes this way because of the experience she had with Lyndon Johnson. here was this White House Fellow interacting with this very overwhelming man who was super-powerful, mythologized by the time she encountered him. Then she's asked to accompany him in retirement to help write his autobiography and she encounters a pathetic shadow of his old self, reduced to commanding daily reports of egg counts on his ranch, and demonstrating a helplessness and pathos in direct opposition of what she witnessed in the White House...his greatest fear in the end was dying alone...and he did. The humanity which she saw, I think, impressed her as nothing else did. Here was a guy who came from nothing to be President of the United States and while President engaged in a terrible war he couldn't extricate the nation from, with thousands and thousands of people killed, and yet, who gave the people of the nation more social legislation than FDR--reduced to counting eggs and dying very much alone and untended, just days before the war ended--the last casualty of Vietnam, the last casualty of his own hubris. I think it determined how she viewed people and how she would thereafter look at great men.

    (I just bought a Kindle Machine and have been playing with all night. I even pressed a button and ended up buying a book I don't want---I'm like a kid in a candy shop---books are usually $10 a pop).

    ReplyDelete
  128. GOD....I just went from Abe Lincoln to Lyndon Johnson in a flash--I'm going back to my Kindle before I get worse.

    ReplyDelete
  129. Robert, that's so incredibly important. I think that explains Goodwin and the writing of history generally (as well as Lincoln and Johnson) all in one post.

    Good luck with the Kindle. I like books too much to be tempted. At least not yet.

    ReplyDelete
  130. I can see NYT's point. Not to take anythign away from Goodwin, but she does have a rather narrow focus. She doesn't even mention Cameron until well into her narrative, and yet he figured pretty heavily into the Republican Convention. It is more or less 4 biographies woven together into one narrative, as these biographies converged into the Republican convention.

    ReplyDelete
  131. I agree with you in regard to Simon Cameron's near exclusion from the Convention. I also see it as an oversight or just an unfortunate ommision on the part of Goodwin. Without Simon Cameron Lincoln probably would have gone home empty handed. Cameron's maneuvering was most important.

    I was going to look up other versions of the convention when my new toy arrived. I'll look tonight after I get home.

    ReplyDelete
  132. Oh, cool, robert! I was just talking about the Kindle today with someone who noted my carrying around the substantial ToR (see, this isn't off topic, after all). We are both curious about its capabilities--she was wondering if you can enlarge the type/font so it would be like reading a large print edition of a book. If you enlighten me, I will be grateful and do likewise for her.

    In ToR, I'm reading about the social scene in D.C. during the early CW period and am reminded of how culturally Southern that area was--by which I mean the near-mania for that which seemed royal, as evidenced by how often descriptions of events and people and events featured terms like "regal beauty" (Kate Chase) and "our Queen" (Mary Lincoln), etc.

    Of course, some may say it is still is like that--recall the hoohah when the Queen visited for the 400th anniv. of Jamestown 2 yrs. ago. (The events made it fun to read the debunking bio of Pocahontas with the group then.)

    ReplyDelete
  133. Sorry for the repeat of "event" in the above...shoulda done a preview.

    ReplyDelete
  134. NY: Yes, the font can be raised to that level (as big as the large print books). On the querty board is a key (aA like)next to the spacer (on its right).

    I downloaded ToR to the machine for $10.

    Anyhow, I was reading about the convention from Volume I of Burlingame. He has no doubt that Lincoln's team wheeled and dealed not only Cameron, but others and that Cameron was indeed offered a position through his team at the Convention (he wasn't there). Years later Cameron all but admitted the deal by mentioning that Lincoln's men had bought all his people away. Cameron's men wanted a winner. Burlingame depicts Seward's people as cocky and self assured--"overbearing." "Their cocky inflexibility may have cost Seward the nomination." (Burlingame,VI,615)

    Having said that, Burlingame does not portray Cameron as a Kingmaker or a pivotal man in the process, but I still believe he was, in the sense that without him Lincoln would probably have lost the nomination. PA was absolutely vital for the nomination. That's a personal opinion)

    David Davis was quite a manager--who really didn't listen to Lincoln's "make no contracts that will bind me." He ignored the order."Lincoln ain't here" was his response as all the aides in the room laughed at the message.

    (I'm getting so much closer to buying the Burlingame set)

    ReplyDelete
  135. avrds -- Is any war worth the carnage and loss of life that took place during the Civil War? Probably not, especially if you're not sure the end result was worth the carnage. So maybe you're not so sure preserving the Union was a necessity? Not sure putting an end to slavery was a necessity?

    Does Lincoln benefit (unduly?) from the outcome of history? Or to put this another way, did he just happen to be in the right place at the right time? I certainly don't think so, although just about every Lincoln detractor I've ever read is certain that's the case.

    Perhaps I haven't read all of your posts closely enough.

    ReplyDelete
  136. Warning -- Off topic

    Rick, these are exactly the questions I'm grappling with, and why I think they make people uncomfortable. _I'm_ uncomfortable thinking about them but I'm so curious about it that I keep reading. This is not even my area of "professional" interest.

    So yes, I have read some of the points made by the Lincoln detractors -- that he "invaded" the South, that he trampled on the Constitution, that the North was imposing its will on the rest of the nation illegally, etc. -- and that's not at all where I'm coming from (although I like that McPherson responded that these are the kinds of questions that help us better understand the past even if we don't agree with them).

    Because I'm still a beginner in this area, and because the writing of history is as much about the present as the past as Fredrickson shows, I started with the question that seems fundamental to understanding this period: what really caused the Civil War? And more specifically, why did young men willingly -- at least at first -- give their lives to fight in it? Was it really as we are taught in school to free the slaves? I couldn't imagine (and still can't) that young northern men were willing to give their lives to free slaves in the south, as much as I might wish it to be true.

    I think everyone here has agreed generally that's not the case. Certainly Lincoln didn't set out to do that.

    So what happened during that period then? Reading McPherson's book on Lincoln's presidency -- and he is no Lincoln detractor -- you get the sense that the war ran Lincoln. That he did not respond to events on the ground in a timely fashion. That he couldn't figure out how to get his generals to do anything to the point that, as we saw in Goodwin, his cabinet practically staged a coup. And the way McPherson lays out the emancipation proclamation (again as a Lincoln supporter) it appears to be more of a military and strategic act rather than an idealistic one (Goodwin doesn't appear to agree).

    I also can't help but wonder if he hadn't been killed what his legacy would have been had he been in charge of reconstruction. As Gintaras noted, I don't think Lincoln would have let the humanitarians (interesting that they are called radicals) run wild in the South. On the contrary, I think he would have done just about anything he could to keep the peace with the South -- treating pro-slavery southerners as "the south" even though we know that slaves made a large portion of the population in many southern states.

    As a people we tend to glorify war and need to justify our acts with noble motives. I think the end result -- the end of slavery -- was indeed noble but I'm not convinced that's why the war was fought in the first place. My guess is that's something we've added in retrospect to give all the carnage, as you call it, "meaning" in the same way that Burns uses the grey-blue handshake as a symbol of a disagreement amongst brothers.

    Finally, as I always feel compelled to add -- this is not to say that Lincoln wasn't a great man of history. As Miller shows in both of his books, he was extremely thoughtful and careful with his words. And as Foner notes, he grew into his job, and the war weighed heavily on him over time.

    Plus, he did believe slavery was wrong, and worked through several ideas of how to deal with it (e.g., colonization). But I don't think he took any strong principled stands that would have put his career at risk the way others around him did. So in that way, he was more of a political animal than a moral leader.

    This is why I find the study of history so interesting -- exploring these kinds of questions. But I think this also bores everyone here. Happy to continue this privately because I still find it fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  137. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  138. avrds -- I removed my previous post because it had a stupid typo.

    You write: "I think the end result --the end of slavery -- was indeed noble but I'm not convinced that's why the war was fought in the first place."

    If you go back to 1860 and 1861, you can't help but notice that one Southern state after another explains its decision to secede because of the threat posed to the institution of slavery. That is why they seceded.

    ReplyDelete
  139. As Robert said much better than I could, "As to why we fought the war, I agree that it was initially to preserve the Union. The nation wouldn't stand for fighting for abolition. Though slavery certainly "caused" the war, the rationale to fight it preservation--to conserve the Union."

    ReplyDelete
  140. But the Union was at risk because of slavery. To say that "the nation wouldn't stand for fighting for abolition" is more than a little slippery, don't you think?

    ReplyDelete
  141. [To say that "the nation wouldn't stand for fighting for abolition" is more than a little slippery, don't you think?]

    Not really. Go back if you will to 1860--forget the progress of and the end of the war. In the first place, nobody thought there was going to be a war and then, when war did eventually loom, most thought it was going to be short. When Lincoln went to war, he went to war asserting his authority to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution and to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." As he said in his inaugural--he swore an oath bound in heaven. He was clearly trying to put an end to the "insurection". There was no thought going into this thing to end slavery. In fact he resisted all attempts by his generals to free slaves as the action went along.

    You are right that state after state in the South seceded believing slavery to be the issue--because the Republicans were clearly against slavery's EXTENSION--some of them wanted abolition--but most sought not to end the practice, but to restrict it. Lincoln was loud and clear about not being an abolitionist--he didn't like abolitionists. He believed he had no authority to end slavery under the Constitution, that's why in the end he wanted the Thirteenth Amendment.

    Any number of historians, though not all, are clear that the war was initially fought to keep the Union intact. Some people will tell you, as do I, that people wouldn't fight for the freedom for the slaves. Why? because it was thought they would then take jobs away from the White Man. Prejudice ruled in America in the 1800's--Negroes were judged inferior, even sub-human. Even Lincoln doubted they could ever be treated equally or live beside the white man.The 1863 "Draft Riots" in New York were Race Riots directed against the Negro--this in the midst of War--the Irish--the guys being drafted detested them and were refusing to be drafted to fight for their freedom.

    So the idea of why we fought is not so slippery at all--although it does make for a good exchange of views. McPherson wrote a book going into why soldiers fought. I have a copy--I'll look through over the weekend and see what his view is and then post on it. His book is: FOR CAUSE AND COMRADES: WHY MEN FOUGHT IN THE CIVIL WAR

    ReplyDelete
  142. By the way, where are we in the book?

    ReplyDelete
  143. Where I am in the book is pg. 450.

    I try to resist the idea that there was a single reason to fight, conjecturing there were many, highminded and otherwise, as there are today. (I also try to resist the easy answer: testosterone.)

    ReplyDelete
  144. I do recall when reading other works and when viewing certain movies--in this respect/on this subject it was "Glory"--questioning why people follow leaders into certain death.

    ReplyDelete
  145. I think most persons in the North weren't so much against slavery as they were against its expansion because of the Congressional power the 3/5's rule gave the South. Goodwin notes that the South saw its influence in the House of Representatives eroding with all the Western expansion taking place and the Missouri Compromise which said the territories being settled had to be free states. So, they sought to challenge Kansas and Nebraska.

    To Lincoln, this appeared to be the crux of the matter. The Lecompton Constitution amounted to usurpation, since most Kansans were not slave-holders, but then one could say that about most of the South as well, especially the border states, but they fell below the Mason Dixon Line.

    Douglas tried to do an about face, distancing himself from the Lecompton Constitution, which just about cost him the Democratic nomination in Charleston. As it was, the Southern states pulled out of the reconvened Baltimore Convention and put forward their own candidate in Breckinridge, who won far more states than Douglas did. If Douglas had been smart he would have accepted the corrupt constitution, but it seems he was a man of scruples after all, since there was no way he could explain such a decision to the Northern Democrats.

    The Southern states were primed for secession. Buchanan had essentially let them go down that slippery road toward rebellion and by the time Lincoln was elected, South Carolina was already poised to deliver its secession resolution. It did so before Lincoln even assumed office.

    ReplyDelete
  146. The Democratic Convention in Charleston went through 57 ballots with Douglas essentially stuck at 150 delegates. He was far ahead of his nearest challenger but shy of a majority. It wasn't until 110 Southern delegates walked out of the reconvened Baltimore Convention that Douglas got his majority. The reason: the Democratic Party would not adopt a southern-backed resolution supporting the extension of slavery into the territories.

    ReplyDelete
  147. From Gintaras: "the Democratic Party would not adopt a southern-backed resolution supporting the extension of slavery into the territories."

    Does Goodwin discuss this? I'll have to go back and look. Because this seems really critical to that period. From the little I've read about the Southern economy, it was the value of slaves as commodities, not workers, that Southern slave owners were most interested in protecting.

    If slavery expanded, they had a growing and very valuable resource. If slavery were contained to its existing locations, slaves became a liability since the availability of good farmable land was shrinking.

    NY, you're catching up with me. I'd better get going. I'm leaving town this week, so need to finish ToR so I can bring another book with me.

    ReplyDelete
  148. Robert, have we made it to Chicago yet? Or are others ready to move past that?

    ReplyDelete
  149. Actually, the expansion of slavery had an inverse on the cost of slaves, which is why a lot of wealthy slave-owners weren't that kean on the expansion of slavery. It was more an issue of representation in Congress. The fire-eaters wanted to re-introduce the overseas slave trade as well with the effect of reducing the cost of slaves so that more persons could afford them, but not surprisingly the wealthy slave-owners were against it.

    Anyway, the Northern Democrats hoped to make the expansion of slavery a non-issue in the 1860 campaign by not supporting it. Many of them were already against it.

    ReplyDelete
  150. Hmmmm. That's not what I _remember_ reading, but I'd have to dig pretty deep to counter that.

    I had to read a whole series of journal articles on the south, slavery and economics, demographics, etc., but I'll have to think about where all that might be.

    As I recall, it was the ability to sell slaves that had the greatest income potential for slave owners by the 1850s. It would make sense for them to oppose the slave trade, because that would negatively impact their so-called "investments," but I think they wanted new markets to be able to sell their slaves into.

    Maybe Robert knows more about this question. And I'll try to remember where those papers might be. I'm sure I kept them somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  151. Think about avrds, if you keep the supply below demand you can keep the cost up. The OPEC countries figured this out with oil long ago.

    The slave states were mostly concerned about representation in Congress, not extension of slavery per se. As long as they had slave states to balance out free states they were satisfied, but the potential induction of Kansas and Nebraska as free states would have upset their representation in the Senate. As it was, they felt they had already lost that balance in the House due to ever-increasing population in the North at 1 to 3/5's.

    ReplyDelete
  152. Ultimately, the Civil War was a battle over economic systems. The industrial-free labor system was expanding at a far greater rate than the agrarian-slave system.

    ReplyDelete
  153. Or, you could look at it as searching out new markets. It all gets very weird when you start talking in these terms. I'm not 100% confident of my memory, so I'll look around over the weekend and see if I can post a counter to your idea.

    One of the more intersting things I learned reading European history, particularly Hobsbawm with his big sweeping views of history, is that the Civil War was one of many of these kinds of battles fought over labor and economic systems. Our country likes to think of itself as unique, or exceptional, but there are patterns worldwide that we seem to fit into long before globalization.

    ReplyDelete
  154. [The slave states were mostly concerned about representation in Congress, not extension of slavery per se. As long as they had slave states to balance out free states they were satisfied, but the potential induction of Kansas and Nebraska as free states would have upset their representation in the Senate. As it was, they felt they had already lost that balance in the House due to ever-increasing population in the North at 1 to 3/5's].

    Wasn't that Potter's thesis (THE IMPENDING CRISIS)?

    Avrds: Wasn't Hobsaw a Marxist?

    The questions brought up in the last few posts will drive me to the books tonight and tomorrow. They are fundamental and go to the heart of the "why" of things. As I mentioned above recently there's a new book on the subject: CLASH OF EXTREMES: THE ECONOMIC ORIGINS OF THE CIVIL WAR by Marc Egnal.

    Avrds: Buy a Kindle and store some books in it and you'll be ready to go at the drop of a hat. I found it weird the last few days. I'm used to having a book with me when I go out alone. Now I just carry a Kindle (all of a few ounces) with 5 books in it already--including TOR--and access to Google and Amazon and a search mechanism to search each book. It's like having a book and a mini computer in your back pocket.I a Ludite of sorts. I'm not used to or readily accepting of new gadgets, but this one is really cool.

    ReplyDelete
  155. Robert, you're probably right. I carry my computer with me everywhere, and often read books on it -- so I can see myself doing the same with a Kindle. But I'm just not there yet. I'm like you -- technology averse. Plus, I so love a book it's hard to make that step. But I also used to love the physical newspaper and now that I can read the Times on line, I no longer subscribe to my local paper.

    Speaking of books on the computer, Gintaras, I did find citations for your position on the expansion of slavery, but this book says sort of what I was getting at. The link is ten pages long, so use google books for Carry me Back by Steven Deyle and see, for example, page 69. Reading through some of this, it looks like an interesting book.

    I remember now where I read so much of the data on slave owners etc -- it was for that conference I attended on the Atlantic World a few years back. There were several papers presented there, which I have somewhere. I just have to find them.

    ReplyDelete
  156. The economic origins of the war is one of the questions I've been interested in -- thanks for the heads up on the book, Robert.

    That's certainly the world view that Hobsbawm has -- and yes, he is a Marxist.

    I think he's still very much alive by the way. Incredible writer and historian. You can't help but wonder reading his books how any one man could know so much about history.

    This is way off topic, but one of the many interesting things I learned from him is that Christianity generally was promoted by missionaries around the world, but that Islam spread on its own volition, often as a counter to western oppression and colonialism. Since this was from a book written long before our own current affairs, his insight (for this reader) was amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  157. "Islam spread on its own volition"--not sure how that would work. I got the impression it was originally spread by militant adherents.

    The old edition of "Bandits" was my first Hobsbawm and now there's a new one: http://www.amazon.com/Bandits-Revised-Eric-J-Hobsbawm/dp/1565846192/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245555692&sr=1-8

    I forget which prof. suggested it, but it was a fun intro.

    I thought I'd had a pretty good grip on the economic issues in the era of industrialization and expansion in the pre-war period, but I'll confess I'm having a little trouble understanding the idea of slaves having commodity value separate from labor value. Would commodity value be as "breeding stock" -- have trouble imagining that's what was meant -- or if so, wouldn't the new slaves be bred as labor and wouldn't such labor be of great value in the new territories?

    ReplyDelete
  158. Robert, Goodwin also notes the concern the southern states had over the growing imbalance in Congress, particularly the House of Representatives. I can no longer remember the sources in regard to the tightly controlled slave system, but I do recall that it was mostly the "fire-eaters" who were pushing slavery in the territories, because they wanted to break the stranglehold the southern aristocracy had over the domestic slave trade. They hoped to expand slavery on all fronts with the hope of allowing more persons to own slaves and make it an even more integral part of American lifestyle. In order to this they had to bring down the costs of owning slaves. The average slave cost around $1000 prior to the Civil War. Not many persons could come up with that kind of cash. But, the plantation owners had no interest in seeing the market value of slaves depreciated. I'm not sure how much cotton one could grow in Kansas or Nebraska anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  159. From an economic point of view, Kansas and Nebraska were meant to be free states. About the only thing you could raise in these states were grains and cattle, which had become the backbone of the Chicago's phenomenal growth, outstripping St. Louis as the economic hub of the West.

    It was interesting that the choice of the site for the 1860 Republican Convention came down to Chicago and St. Louis. A pity for Bates that it turned out to be Chicago (St. Louis lost by one vote), otherwise it might have been a whole other story.

    ReplyDelete
  160. Ultimately, the blame for the Civil War has to fall on the "fire-eaters," led by Edmund Ruffin, Robert Rhett, Louis Wigfall, William Yancey, among others. These guys had been actively fomenting secession since 1850. These guys did the most to agitate the flames of disunion in 1860, spreading incidiary editorials on Lincoln and the threat a Republican victory posed to the South.

    Goodwin posts some of the more inflammatory editorials which were a pile of rubbish, but Lincoln figured his chances in the South were nil, so didn't make much if any effort to counter them. He focused on battleground states in the North.

    I can't remember if it was Catton or someone else who wrote that the "fire-eaters" had been a fringe element in the South until the burning issues of the 1850's, particularly "Bleeding Kansas," created quite a stir throughout the South. But, their motives went beyond secession, They wanted to establish a new order in the South, as they were as much against the plantation aristocracy in the South as they were the "free-labor" policies in the North, and hoped that in the chaos brought about by disunion they would rise to the top.

    Much of the old planter class had no interest in secession, but they hadn't done enough to stifle the "fire-eaters." They thought the election of Buchanan placated things, but it didn't.

    ReplyDelete
  161. New York, "breeding stock, as horrendous as that idea sounds, is precisely how they saw their slaves -- as commodities they could sell to others, not just as enslaved laborers who could work in their fields.

    In Virginia, for example, soil was depleted and a lot of their so-called capital was tied up in human beings.

    According to the book I referrenced above, the value of slaves fell by half during the Panic of 1837.

    "They believed that annexing Texas and opening up other new lands in the West would not only increase their political power in the federal government (by adding more slave states), but they also reasoned that all of the new settlers in this region would stimulate the demand for slaves from the current slave states. Hence, this increased demand would drive the value of slave property back up to its predepression levels."

    This is from page 64 of Carry Me Back:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195160401

    ReplyDelete
  162. Yea, avrds, but 1860 was 23 years later than the Panic of 1837 and cotton was doing well in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Slavery was built on cotton which required hard manual labor. Grain and cattle didn't require the same type of labor, so Kansas and Nebraska wouldn't have helped the South in this regard. As I recall, New Mexico stood between the Confederacy and a sympathetic California, but the war was pretty much lost by this point.

    Lincoln's and the Republicans' fear was that the South would expand southward not northward, annexing Cuba and Mexico.

    ReplyDelete
  163. Great discussion.

    I've been reading up on just the subjects your discussing and finding agreement with much of what Gintaras is posting. As I remember it, Bruce Catton is the one who emphasized the Fire Eaters as the pot stirrers of the Civil War. I think what you have to do to determine causality with regard to the War itself is to be satisfied that the elements leading to it, such as slavery, economic factors, cultural differences and poltical representation, overlapped each other. In my mind, though, Slavery was the key.

    (By the way, as I remember it the price of a young healthy male was about $400 at the outbreak of the war---but, I'll have to look that up also, as there were different prices in different locations. The panic of 1857 also affected prices and the recession still lingered, at least through 1859)

    Now, there's another one---there's a new book out: "1858." I think I read it, but I'm not sure--I read too much and the forget the titles after a while.

    Avrds: I all but accessed this blog on my Kindle...I got to it, but was thrown off before I could access the more recent posts...I could only get the posts up to June 1. I'll try again later in the week.

    ReplyDelete
  164. God!!! I couldn't be more wrong: I just googled for the price of a slave in 1860 and came across what looks like a good site for Slavery:http://www.civilwarhome.com/slavery.htm

    It says the average price for a good field hand was $1,650....That price is confirmed if you go into other sites

    Sorry for the error.

    ReplyDelete
  165. I just ran across an article from the NYT Dated December 20, 1860 which states the price of slaves has declined to $800 from $1560 over the year from 1859 to 1860. The article is on PDF and you need one of those NYT accounts allowing you to see it--but I don't know how to transfer it.

    ReplyDelete
  166. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9D05E4DF133FEE34BC4851DFB467838B679FDE

    ReplyDelete
  167. "I think what you have to do to determine causality with regard to the War itself is to be satisfied that the elements leading to it, such as slavery, economic factors, cultural differences and poltical representation, overlapped each other. In my mind, though, Slavery was the key."

    I agree with this multiple causation view, and would add the eternal states rights vs. federal authority tension.

    I probably should stop reading about the course of the war itself since it makes me grind my teeth, but eventually I suppose I will come back to another ancient question: Who is the better commander, one who takes time to prepare, training forces, ensuring all supplies, entrenchments, etc. at the risk of delaying action until the enemy is likewise prepared, or one who hurries into battle in hopes of catching and overwhelming the enemy before they're prepared? (I mean generally--get it?--and do not want to downplay the role of sheer blind luck.)

    ReplyDelete
  168. Gosh, you all are going to make me do my homework. I'll see what I can find since I _think_ I remember it right, but haven't a clue where I read it. Although I agree generally that there are usually more than one reason.

    Gintaras, I, too, noted that date but in this case was merely reporting what the book said. And in context it seemed to make sense -- but then it confirms what I think I remember so I'm a little more inclined to go with it because of that.

    ReplyDelete
  169. Hmmm, it occurs to me wonder if the "breeding stock" theory of the value of slaves would mean that female slaves cost more than males? If not, would that be an argument for the labor value being primary or would it merely reflect the greater value of males in general? A conundrum.

    ReplyDelete
  170. What you seem to be ignoring avrds, is that there was a battle within the Southern states themselves over the direction. I think it was Catton, but it could have been another author I read, who spent a great deal of time on the cost of slaves and how very few persons actually owned slaves. The "Fire-Eaters" wanted to bring the cost down so that more persons could own slaves. Your theory, that territorial expansion would have increased the value of slaves doesn't fit at all with this. Territorial expansion, from the slave-owners point of view, was political not economical. They had a very lucrative business going in cotton and tobacco with European markets, the cost of slaves essentially made it a controlled market, which is exactly what they wanted. Any thoughts of economic expansion would have been southward, not westward and especially not northward into Kansas and Nebraska.

    There were also a fair number of Whigs in states like North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky that wanted the South to become more industrial, but the Southern plantation owners had no interest in this. The Fire-eaters wanted a more broad based agro-economy built on cheaper slave labor. The Fire-eaters were very adamant about re-opening the overseas slave trade, which the plantation owners were against.

    ReplyDelete
  171. When I was doing research on Fort Sumter for the NPS, there was a very interesting story about a captured slave ship, the Echo,

    http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/main/index.php?q=node/21627

    which had been captured near Cuba. The Africans were detained at Fort Sumter in 1858 until extradition could be arranged. This created quite a picture, with boat tours out to the island fort each day to view the wild Africans which were ceremoniously paraded on the promenade side of the fort. The Fire-Eaters lept on the issue, using it as a bully pulpit to re-open the slave trade, and there were several efforts to kidnap the detained Africans.

    ReplyDelete
  172. Gintaras, I am aware of the political ramifications, and that only a small number of people actually owned large numbers of slaves. As I said, I had to stacks of current scholarship (plus all those readings on the Atlantic World which puts this into a bigger picture), on issues like race, demographics (white, black and Native American), economics etc. All of this is admittedly way outside my expertise but part of the process you have to go through.

    So when we say the South, I certainly don't mean just southern plantation owners with large numbers of slaves. As you note, the South was much more complex than that and regions and states within the South were unique as well.

    But I'm willing to concede this point in the name of keeping the conversation moving forward and back on the book (and me having to dig into the mess that is allegedly my office). Plus I'm sure I'll have other questions from left field to keep this back and forth going!

    I was reading Blight last night on Lincoln and memory and while I obviously am not a states rights racist (as I'm sure you know after all these years) I realize that the questions I'm raising get awfully close to being answered by the arguments they make. I'm sure that's why my comments raised a red flag for Rick.

    Blight makes the point that the nation has used Lincoln to justify all sorts of things -- including a quote of Lincoln by Reagan allegedly showing how Reagan is in this long line of Lincoln republicans, when in fact Lincoln never said anything like what Reagan said he did (e.g., you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong, you cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer... etc.; it comes from Toastmasters!)

    I think this is the most important point Blight makes: As long as we have a politics of race in America, we shall have a politics of memory over Lincoln, the Civil War, and how and why black freedom came. I'm totally with him on that.

    So I'm willing to concede any and all points to keep this going and keep from being branded some neo-Confederate anti-statist as Blight calls some of those who question Lincoln. Besides, the reason I participate in these discussions is to keep adding to my general knowledge having not read some of the standards like Catton.

    ReplyDelete
  173. NY, your comment about women gave me pause...

    Not to belabor this since I'm trying to move on -- and who would ever imagine that we would talk about human beings in this way -- but the argument I was trying to make was that slaves had value as property to work in their owners fields (i.e., as enslaved labor). They also had value as property that could be sold to others.

    As slaves grew in numbers in say Virginia, their labor could be rented out to someone else in the neighborhood or they could be sold off as human property to someone in say Texas to start their own plantation. That was the commodification of the person I was talking about.

    I don't think Gintaras agrees with me, but as I recall in some regions of the South the numbers of slaves grew to the point that they became "excess property" to be sold to other places.

    ReplyDelete
  174. I'm not brandishing you as anything, avrds. I'm just trying to figure out the logic in the "expansion" theory in terms of adding greater value to slaves. As robert noted, slaves were already very expensive in the 1850s, well out of reach of the vast majority of Americans.

    As Goodwin noted, the Lecompton Constitution was rigged by a handful of slave-owners in Kansas, when the vast majority of those living in Kansas would have never supported such a constitution, eventually resulting in violent clashes. It was simply a means of potentially gaining two more seats in the Senate, which I guess Buchanan saw as a way of preserving the Union.

    Lincoln effectively argued how the expansion of slavery into the territories would continue to diminish the voting strength of the free man, thanks to the 3/5's rule. Goodwin doesn't get much into this, but Miller noted several speeches where Lincoln drove this point home to the rousing cheers of his audience.

    Crittendon offered a compromise in late 1860 that would extend the Missouri Compromise line all the way to the West Coast in an attempt to appease the Southern states. Seward was also willing to make a number of compromises to save the Union that resulted in a break with Northern abolitionists.

    Goodwin suggests that Lincoln gave Seward tacit approval to offer these compromises in Congress while at the same time distancing himself form these compromises in public statements as he waited to assume office. I was also fascinated by the role Stanton played in trying to save DC from the possibility of both Virginia and Maryland seceding from the Union. Hard to even imagine the enormity of the crisis and the panic it generated at the time, but Lincoln appeared to keep an even keel through it all.

    ReplyDelete
  175. On a side note, it was interesting to read that Lincoln didn't start growing his beard until after he won the election, apparently at the suggestion of an 11-year old Grace Bedell.

    ReplyDelete
  176. http://www.census.gov/history/www/pdf/1860_slave_distribution.pdf

    The link above opens a map showing the slave population in the Southern states per the 1860 census. You will note that the map has a publication date of 1861, and that it was "Sold for the benefit of the Sick and Wounded Soldiers of the U. S. Army." At the very bottom of the map you will find total population figures for the Southern states.

    ReplyDelete
  177. Please don't think I don't understand completely how heartless it is to speak of slaves as "breeding stock," avrds. I appreciate your patience with my speculations about the relative value of male/female slaves (didn't try to find any statistics on the subject yet).

    Slightly off topie: Your reaction reminds me of a teacher's workshop I attended when we were given roles to play in regards to Native Amer. issues, what role/position did I draw but the "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" one. My role playing skills were entirely inadequate, and I refused to do that particular exercise with my history classes for fear of how enthusiastically that role might have been played.

    On another occasion, one of my students (in an area near a military base) wore a t-shirt to class saying "Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out"--he had to go change before I'd let him back into class, and I might even have scrutinized his subsequent work slightly differently.

    Have just reached the part of ToR where Mary Lincoln visits the wounded but won't let that be known/used for what we would call "publicity," which I never knew about her and which ameliorates tendencies to be judgmental of her extravagances.

    ReplyDelete
  178. NY, I know ... it's really hard, which is why I think to question the Lincoln presidency generally is so difficult. There is so much really nasty stuff tied up in the nation's past, and this era in particular has more than its share. (For the record I also question Washington -- another one of those iconic figures -- so I'm an equal opportunity critic of the icons of the past.)

    I thought Goodwin's treatment of Mary Lincoln was particularly good, since most of what I've read about her paints her in a very negative light. While I hate to see women always stuck in the corner of domestic history, they do seem to be more sensitive generally to those issues. The edited volume on Lincoln I'm looking at now has only one female contributor and hers is on Lincoln's family. I think we miss something not having more Goodwins out there writing on bigger subjects.

    ReplyDelete
  179. Thanks for the map link, Rick. I'm never sure how to read a lot of these original documents -- but believe this is where "the real story" is to be found.

    ReplyDelete
  180. The map is very interesting. I assume the reason for such large concentrations is that these were the prime cotton and tobacco producing regions of the South. It was funny seeing that little white spot in Lousiana, but it turned out that even in Winn County nearly 20% of the population were slaves.

    Also interesting, the relatively light concentration of slaves in the border states, particularly what eventually became West Virginia. It seems that the South had a rather tenuous grip on these states, which was why Lincoln and Seward aimed the 1860 inauguration address at them, hoping to hold them in the Union. As it was the Union was able to retain Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware West Virginia, and surprisingly Missouri (judging from the map).

    ReplyDelete
  181. The high slave percentages on both sides of the Mississippi suggest that there must have been some huge plantations along the river.

    ReplyDelete
  182. It is estimated by this transcriber that in 1860, slaveholders of 200 or more slaves, while constituting less than 1 % of the total number of U.S. slaveholders, or 1 out of 7,000 free persons, held 20-30% of the total number of slaves in the U.S.

    http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ajac/biggest16.htm

    Talk about a closed market!

    ReplyDelete
  183. Okay, so I gave up trying to argue this on my own and went to my source -- Billy Smith (no relation) is a historian I took classes with. He deals with this period generally, particularly with issues of race and class.

    Interesting that he brings up wheat in his response since isn't that what Washington switched to?

    I ASKED:

    I'm trying to figure out where I got the idea that slave owners wanted to expand slavery into the West not only to expand their representation in Congress but so that they could sell slaves -- that is as sort of a commodification of their so-called human property. For some reason I'm focused on the idea that land in Virginia was being depleted but that slave numbers were growing, so they needed new markets for their property, but I can't quite put my finger on the exact details. Have I remembered this correctly, or have I missed something?

    HE RESPONDED:

    "Yes, I think you're right. There's general agreement among historians that the soil of the upper South, like Virginia, was being worn out by tobacco growth. Consequently, planters needed fewer slaves as they switched crops to less labor-intensive wheat. Slaves were indeed considered by some whites to be less valuable, which was one reason why the upper south sold approximately 1 million slaves to new slaveowners invading the south from Mississippi to Louisiana.

    Most historians also agree that the agricultural economy of the South, whether it be tobacco, rice, or cotton, did not entail much economic "growth" by itself. It required physical expansion in order for individuals (rich whites) and the society to expand their wealth -- and also in power, since it would get more congressional representation. That's why the South needed so much to expand into the West (or so the argument goes) in the 1850s. And it's also why at least some southerners took the idea seriously of invading Mexico or Cuba or central America and bringing those area in as slave states."

    He assumes the source I'm remembering is Peter Kolchin's book on slavery, which I would have read in one of his classes.

    He also pointed me to Barrington Moore, "The American Civil War: The Last Capitalist
    Revolution" in Civil War. Princeton, Princeton, NJ; 1976. Pp. 111-155, which I don't recall reading, but will read now that I have it. (He sent me a pdf if anyone wants a copy.)

    ReplyDelete
  184. You are tenacious, avrd, but where's the part that this would increase the value of slaves? In 1860, cotton amounted to 60% of US exports. The South had essentially gone monocrop. There were still extensive tobacco plantations in Virginia and North Carolina. But, rice, wheat and other crops were not extensively grown in the South. Given how lucrative cotton and tobacco were, the only place to expand was in Latin America. Yes, there were was strong Southern interest in Cuba and Mexico, which Goodwin notes in her narrative.

    The basic problem was that the cost of slaves was already too high and it was cheaper to use tenant farmers, which they finally figured out after the war. Anyway, the Homestead Act pretty much scotched any ambitions the Southern gentry might have had in expanding westward.

    ReplyDelete
  185. I know -- you wave that red flag and I can't help myself! Sorry. I'll cease and desist.

    ReplyDelete
  186. No, PLEASE DON'T DO ANY SUCH THING, avrds--bringing in other sources/resources and points of view is one of the great things about these discussions. And Lord knows, no one could be more civil about it than you are.

    ReplyDelete
  187. As I understand it, avrds, you are looking for an economic as well as political reason for the Southern slave states to be so interested in Kansas. Does there have to be? Cotton had led to their expansion into the Louisiana territory and eventually into Texas. I think eventually the Southern states would have expanded southward economically, as cotton required ever new fields, but I don't think they had tapped out Texas yet.

    Texas had big their big prize. They positioned themselves well for it. Lincoln and other Whigs felt that the Mexican War had been fought principally for the expansion of the South. But, it seemed that by 1860 the South had begun to stagnate with the high cost of slavery, huge debts, and aristocratic society that was in danger of collapsing in on itself. In many ways, the South looked a bit like Tsarist Russia.

    Meanwhile, the North was expanding in leaps and bounds, built on free labor and the promise of ever more homesteads for new immigrants. The population in the North had soared and was still soaring.

    Industry was winning out over slave-based cotton agriculture, and I think the South had begun to panic.

    ReplyDelete
  188. The secessionists also used very strong emotional (racial) appeals regarding the perpetuation and expansion of slavery. They sought to emphasize the solidarity -- mainly racial but also economic -- that poor whites shared with the white Southern planter "aristocracy."

    While there were astute political reasons for doing this, as others here have noted, the presumed inferiority of blacks was a ferocious article of faith (no pun intended). If it is true that the average Northerner would never have gone to war over abolition, I think it is equally true that the average Southerner would never have gone to war but for these constant appeals to racial solidarity and superiority.

    Although the average dirt farmer was never likely to join the planter aristocracy, he could be prodded into believing that future membership in that all-white club was possible. He could also be prodded -- manipulated is more like it -- into believing that poor whites and rich whites were already members of the same club.

    The Republican Party still does this today with a message that combines financial independence and racial solidarity. It isn't pretty, but it's on display for all to see, especially in an election year.

    ReplyDelete
  189. It's interesting to see the same arguments being used by Republicans even today, Rick. And scary.

    And yes, Gintaras, I'm looking for all sorts of things as I sort through all of the mess that became the Civil War. I just see it as an enormous tragedy and still can't quite understand how it snowballed into the horrendous slaughter that it did.

    Appreciate everyone's patience with me as I raise questions. And they are, by the way, genuine questions. I'm not trying to score any points here -- only learn more about a critical period I know very little about.

    ReplyDelete
  190. Scary and sad. The Tennessee GOP email flap is just one recent example of how far we haven't come down here in the South.

    Leonard Pitts' column that ran in Sunday's Miami Herald hits the nail on the head a few times: http://www.miamiherald.com/living/columnists/leonard-pitts/story/1107267.html

    ReplyDelete
  191. Excellent column. I saw the photo of the presidents -- I could not believe my eyes -- but did not hear the "wrong list" response. Wrong list indeed.

    When that email is put in the context of all the other stuff that has circulated -- like growing watermelons on the White House lawn -- you realize how far we still have to go on race in this country (which is Blight's point about why Lincoln still fascinates).

    ReplyDelete
  192. [I think it is equally true that the average Southerner would never have gone to war but for these constant appeals to racial solidarity and superiority].

    I disagreee with this to a point---while it may have been a part of he whole package, I don't think racism was a prime motivating factor in the South. I think states rights and an abiding institutional inferiority complex ruled the South for years.They lived in fear that the North would overwhelm them, politically, socially and economically and destroy their way of life. They were conservative to the nth degree--resisting change of any sort or shape and they fought moreto preserve their way of life in general than anything else--they were fighting for their independence and the principles in the Declaration of Independence (even the one about all[read "white"] men being created equal).

    ReplyDelete
  193. With regard to "Breeding Stock" I was reading a sample from "SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME" "In the early years they imported them [slaves] to Alabama and later bred more themselves-including Henry-from the African stock they bought at auction..."

    And

    "They were creatures bought or bred for the production of wealth.Even as he deeded to his daughter Rebecca the slave Francis,Elisha was careful to enumerate in the document the recognition that he was giving up not just one slave girl, but a whole line of futurestock who might have brought him cash or labor. Along with Francis, Elisha was careful to specify, his newlywed daughter received all"future increase of the girl."

    Since I'm reading from a Kindle, there are no page numbers to give you, but the quotes are found in Chapter 1

    ReplyDelete
  194. "They were conservative to the nth degree--resisting change of any sort or shape and they fought more to preserve their way of life in general than anything else--they were fighting for their independence and the principles in the Declaration of Independence (even the one about all[read "white"] men being created equal)."

    We will just have to diagree. In my view the history of race relations in this country after the Civil War, particularly in the South, speak volumes about what most concerned secessionists.

    ReplyDelete
  195. Seward reminds me a bit of Haig in Lincoln's administration. Determined to call the shots while it seemed Lincoln had a better handle of the situation at Fort Sumter, at least better information.

    I think Seward, like many Republicans, operated under the delusion that South Carolina and the other Deep South states would return to the Union, when the break was a long time coming.

    Giving up Fort Sumter without a fight would have been a political disaster. Fortunately for Lincoln, the Gamecocks fired the first shot.

    ReplyDelete
  196. Goodwin paints very unflattering portraits of McClellan and Fremont, the two pretty boys, who seemed to be vying for who would be the next Napoleon. Lincoln must have had remarkable patience to deal with the open insubordination of McClellan. He was more gruff with Fremont who blatantly overstepped his bounds in Missouri by giving an order to confiscate slaves. While Lincoln's strong reprimand didn't endear him to abolitionists, Goodwin noted how Lincoln wisely released all the harsh reports on Fremont's command of the Western army to the press before Fremont received his order to resign.

    One has to marvel at the way Lincoln handled these very difficult balancing acts while his cabinet fumed over his apparent "inaction." Seems Lincoln knew how important it was to get the "right" message to the public before taking action.

    Nevertheless, one has to wonder how Fremont and McClellan ever rose to such positions of authority given their rather limited battle experiences.

    ReplyDelete
  197. I understand that Lincoln was desperately trying to hold the border states but there was a lot of truth in Frederick Douglass' remarks that the White House seemed to be more concerned with Kentucky (Crittendon) than the Northern states which formed the backbone of the army.

    In retrospect one wonders what might have been the case had Lincoln more openly declared the war being that against slavery rather than dodging the issue the way he did for two years. All through this time he had to keep England at bay who was most anxious to resume trade with the Southern states given how much cotton was part of its economy. The situation with Slidell and Mason being a particularly thorny one. It was with the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln finally made the Civil War a Moral War and was able to keep the European countries out of the war.

    It appeared that in the early going, Lincoln was still looking for ways to bring the Southern states back into the Union without having to continue the war, given the ignominy of Bull Run. I think it was only with the realization that there was no turning back that Lincoln finally made the war about slavery.

    ReplyDelete
  198. Finally made the war about slavery? It was always about slavery, but I know I've begun to sound like a skipping record.

    ReplyDelete
  199. [one wonders what might have been the case had Lincoln more openly declared the war being that against slavery rather than dodging the issue the way he did for two years}

    I don't think he dodged the issue. I think he genuinely opposed and abhored slavery and wished to see it end, but realized, as he often stated, that he had no power as President to do so. The Constitution forbade him. If he fought the war against slavery, he fought against the Constitution. The devise of the Emancipation Proclamation was a war measure. Lincoln recognized the need of an amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery totally. On entering office he suppoorted an Amendment guaranteeing slavery as it existed FOREVER. Public opinion wouldn't brook an Amendment abolishing slavery in 1861. Lincoln gave assurance after assurance he wasn't about to abolish slavery. He was a conservative, not an abolitionist. As the was progressed and conditions changed, so did he and he finally came around in Mid 1862 actually, a little more than a year after the war began.

    As to the war always being about slavery--actually I agree, but I recognize that's a post hoc view. From a contemporary (1860) view, the fireaters had distorted Lincoln's views and the Secessionists hung their hats on slavery as being the reason for secession. Lincoln went to war to uphold the Constitution, to preserve the Union--he was required to do so under the Constitution---the same Constitution which disallowed him from abolishing slavery.

    ReplyDelete
  200. Truly, it may well have started as one thing and become another as matters developed.

    Which prompts another "what if": What if McClellan had been a better general with more victories early on, would the Union have been preserved with no need to "disturb" the slavery system? Do we really have McClellan to thank for his inaction that prolonged the conflict to the point where a Union victory was needed as far as the timing of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued to try to solidify political support among those wanting to abolish slavery (though it also alienated many who didn't want to "fight for negroes" as Robert noted).

    We can also ask, before the draft, how many of the Union Army fought for a principle and how many for a paycheck? (Kind of a timely question?)

    ReplyDelete