Re: C.A. Tripp's New Book Claiming Lincoln Was Gay (Discovery News)
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News (12-8-04):
A forthcoming book claims that the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was a homosexual, based on evidence ranging from a post-assassination interview with Lincoln's stepmother to a poem about gay marriage written by the Civil War leader.
The book, entitled "The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln," will be published on Jan. 11 by The Free Press, a Simon & Schuster company. It was authored by C.A. Tripp, associate professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York, and a researcher who worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on studies concerning human sexuality.
I think that his homosexuality was not noticed by either his wife, or many of his friends, which is one reason why we are only finding out about it today."
Tripp died at the age of 83, just two weeks after finishing the book, which he worked on over the last 14 years of his life.
A spokesperson at The Free Press told Discovery News that Tripp's book would not be available to the media until closer to January, but the L.A. Weekly published sections of the book, on which this article is based.
To argue his case that Lincoln (1809-1865) was gay, Tripp gathered biographical texts contemporary to Lincoln's time, private correspondence, and other books and documents culled from his database of more than 600 Lincoln-related texts, which now are housed at the Lincoln Institute in Springfield, Ill.
The L.A. Weekly also published Lincoln's poem about gay marriage. The poem, which he wrote when he was a teenager, may have been the most explicit of its kind for America in the 1800s. It reads:
"I will tell you a Joke about Jewel and Mary
It is neither a Joke nor a Story
For Rubin and Charles has married two girls
But Billy has married a boy
The girlies he had tried on every Side
But none could he get to agree
All was in vain he went home again
And since that is married to Natty
So Billy and Natty agreed very well
And mama's well pleased at the match
The egg it is laid but Natty's afraid
The Shell is So Soft that it never will hatch
But Betsy she said you Cursed bald head
My Suitor you never Can be
Beside your low crotch proclaims you a botch
And that never Can serve for me"
The book also includes affectionate correspondence between the former president and merchant Joshua Speed, with whom Lincoln shared a bed for four years from his late 20s to early 30s, and an account written by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Chamberlain, a 19th century historian.
Chamberlain wrote that in Mrs. Lincoln's absence, the president would sleep, share nightshirts, and conduct an "intimacy" with David Derickson, who was captain of Lincoln's bodyguard Company K.
Additionally, the book contains descriptions of Lincoln from his stepmother, who said he "never took much interest in the girls," and poet Carl Sandburg, who wrote that both Speed and Lincoln possessed "a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets."
Jean Baker, professor of history at Goucher College and the author of "Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography," told Discovery News, "I believe that Lincoln engaged in homosexual acts with several men, but this was an era before any understanding of the concept of self-identifying as an homosexual. The word was not even used during Lincoln's life."
As for Lincoln's wife, Baker believes she knew nothing of her husband's purported relationships with men.
"I think that his homosexuality was not noticed by either his wife, or many of his friends, which is one reason why we are only finding out about it today," Baker said.
Tripp was not the first to theorize about Lincoln's sexuality. Charles Shively, University of Massachusetts at Boston professor emeritus of American history, described what he viewed was a homosexual relationship between Lincoln and Speed in his book concerning the private life of poet and naturalist Walt Whitman, whom many researchers also believe was gay.
Conservative groups have denounced the suggestions, and several historians remain skeptical about the Lincoln claims.
Douglas L. Wilson, co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College, told the Southern Voice newspaper, "(Lincoln) and Speed were soul mates and all the indications I have seen show they had this close relationship. They were both the same age and in the same situation. They were concerned about this transition from bachelorhood to marriage and all that."
Wilson added, "I can see how that is suggestive and points in other directions
but it really indicates that they saw things in very similar ways and had the
same emotional take on the world."
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