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How Lincoln kept his foes close

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in Leaders & Managers

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln took the oath for his first term as president. A little more than a month later—on April 12—the Civil War erupted when Confederates attacked Fort Sumter, S.C.

Lincoln responded by resupplying and strengthening the fort: an approach that most of his Cabinet members staunchly opposed.

In the years that followed, Lincoln often found himself in conflict with Attorney General Edward Bates, Secretary of State William Seward, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

Lincoln couldn’t have been surprised, since all four men had competed with Lincoln for the Republican nomination. They were anything but “Yes” men, and several of them were not even particularly loyal to Lincoln … who, of course, had appointed them.

What Lincoln valued about them: the guts to speak their minds and the ability to follow through and win the grim business of war.

— Adapted from Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Simon & Schuster.

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