Broken Promises, Plagiarism, Misused Evidence and the New Gay Lincoln Book Published by the Free Press


Mr. Nobile teaches history at the Cobble Hill School of American Studies in New York. He is the author of Intellectual Skywriting: Literary Politics & the New York Review of Books and editor of Judgment at the Smithsonian. He is a contributing editor at HNN.

  • The Parallel Passages By Philip Nobile
  • The notion that Abraham Lincoln had homosexual experiences is hardly new. All the way back in 1924, Carl Sandburg's bestselling biography winked at Lincoln's "streak of lavender and spots soft as May violets." And more explicit versions of the idea have appeared in the years since--as signaled by "Log Cabin Republicans," the name chosen by gay members of the GOP for their advocacy group.

    But the attempt to use this "Gay Lincoln Theory," making the sixteenth president an icon for modern homosexuals, is now poised to make its biggest push--led by the late C.A. Tripp's The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, a book published this month by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster.

    The topic of Lincoln's sexuality keeps reappearing because the available evidence is so tantalizing: a jokey poem he wrote in his youth about a boy marrying a boy, a four-year sleeping arrangement with adored friend Joshua Speed, a marriage sometimes said to be reluctant and less than amorous, a lifelong preference for male company, a documented claim that he shared a bed in the summer White House with his soldier-bodyguard in 1862, and a number of other suggestive items.

    C.A. Tripp, who died in 2003, was a well-known sex researcher, a protégé of Alfred Kinsey and the author of a 1975 volume, The Homosexual Matrix. After a decade of pondering Lincoln's relations with men, he pronounces in his posthumously published new book on Lincoln's masturbation habits, seduction style, sex positions, and orgasms. Confidently naming five male lovers of the president, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln declares the conclusion absolute and obvious that this married father of four was "predominately homosexual."

    The argument is "irrefutable," Gore Vidal blurbs on the book's cover. And, in fact, Tripp's work is as good as the case gets for Lincoln's walk on the Wilde side.

    Unfortunately, that is merely a way of saying the Gay Lincoln Theory fails any historical test. "Useful history" is always a dubious kind of scholarship. But in its attempt to be useful for gays today, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln reaches far beyond the merely dubious. The book is a hoax and a fraud: a historical hoax, because the inaccurate parts are all shaded toward a predetermined conclusion, and a literary fraud, because significant portions of the accurate parts are plagiarized--from me, as it happens.

    Tripp and I intended to be coauthors of the book, laboring together on the project from 1995 to 2000--when our partnership, already fissured by dueling manuscripts, came to a bitter end. We quarreled constantly over evidence: I said the Gay Lincoln Theory was intriguing but impossible to prove; he said it was stone-cold fact.

    More advocate than historian, Tripp massaged favorable indicators (Lincoln's early puberty), buried negative ones (Lincoln's flirtations with women), and papered over holes in his story with inventions (Lincoln's law partner and biographer William Herndon never noticed the homosexuality because he was an extreme heterosexual and thus afflicted with "heterosexual bias").

    I quit the project first in 1999, when Tripp refused to include citations to Charles Shively, a former University of Massachusetts historian and Tripp's main guide to the gay Lincoln. "Darwin didn't do it," he said to me, referring to Darwin's initial failure to cite precursors in The Origin of Species. Although Tripp profusely copied ideas and references from Shively's flamboyantly rendered Lincoln chapter in Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers, he brushed off proper mention because he thought Shively's reputation for being "too gay-lib" would dissuade readers.

    After Tripp relented, I rejoined the book on one condition: We would write separate chapters, and a Lincoln expert would decide which one went in the book. In January 2000, when the time came to send out our competing versions of chapter one--about Lincoln's prized bodyguard--Tripp refused to let Dr. Tom Schwartz, secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Association and his choice for referee, do the expected peer review. Realizing that Tripp would never give up his homosexual bias or observe the customary standards of historiography, I resisted his offer to sign a new agreement. Sadly, we never spoke again.

    ONLY AFTER READING his two-column obituary in the New York Times on May 22, 2003, did I learn of a completed manuscript. A year later, I heard that Free Press had bought it and set a publication date for November 2004. Last July, I alerted Elisa Rivlin, Simon & Schuster's general counsel, to my suspicions of problems in Tripp's final text. According to Rivlin, it is company policy to ignore complaints about forthcoming books--but she was curious about what I knew, and we made a deal: In exchange for a copy of the galleys, I would vet the book for errors.

    Apart from jaw-dropping plagiarism in the first chapter, which kidnapped the text I wrote for the aborted peer review, I saw that Tripp was up to the same tricks that had forced me to withdraw from the project: consistently bending the evidence in the lavender direction. The con was so outrageous that I urged killing the book. "If you correct the errors, remove the copied material, restore what Tripp covered up, and make the proper attributions, there is not much left of Tripp's argument," I emailed Free Press counsel Jennifer Weidman.

    Emphasizing the risk of a Simon & Schuster-sponsored history fraud (it was also the house that published the plagiarized works of Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose), I turned over my correspondence with Tripp.

    The file included a four-page letter from Lincoln biographer and Simon & Schuster author David Donald, disparaging a 1996 draft of Tripp's argument. "Throughout you seem to be neglecting the fundamental rule, the historian has to rely on facts," observed Donald. "I don't mean to discourage you from doing further work--but I do think it ought to be more systematic and more empirical."

    Tripp was cavalier about the negative reaction from historians--ascribing their rejection of the theory to their unwillingness to admit homosexuality in their hero. He said that Donald told him that he would not believe Lincoln was gay even if Lincoln said so. Tripp was even convinced that another doubtful biographer was timid because he was a nervous closet case--until the man introduced him to his fiancée.

    MY INTERVENTION seems to have caused second thoughts at Free Press. The publication date was shifted from November into the new year, sacrificing the Christmas trade. Rivlin appeared to value my criticism. After the first round of memos, she asked for more.

    Yet despite repeated requests, she blocked my meeting with Tripp's Free Press editor, Bruce Nichols. Company spokesman Adam Rothberg told the New York Times last month that "slight changes" were made after my protest and that "we are satisfied that we are publishing a book that reflects Mr. Tripp's ideas and is supported by his research and belief."

    Belief, absolutely. Supported by Tripp's research, not quite. Free Press's corrections have managed to put the book's ideas in even a worse light than Tripp had left them. As he once wrote me after I toned down his purple prose on Lincoln's puberty, "with 'friendly' editing like this, we don't need any enemies."

    Look, for instance, at the discussion of Lincoln's adolescence. Tripp felt his date-of-puberty argument was the most-important "smoking gun" in the whole gay Lincoln arsenal. Not only did it lend a quasi-scientific luster to a largely speculative quest, it was his sole original contribution to the discussion of Lincoln's sexuality. According to Kinsey, extremely precocious puberty in males is associated with a higher lifelong sex drive, social extrovertism, and, in almost half the sample, at least some incidence of homosexuality.

    Consequently, Tripp sought to establish the earliest possible date for Lincoln's transition into adolescence and twisted the facts to do so. Initially, his source was William Herndon's 1888 biography, Herndon's Life of Lincoln. "In his eleventh year he began that marvelous and rapid growth in stature for which he was so widely noted in the Pigeon Creek settlement," wrote Herndon, relying on Lincoln's older grammar school classmate, David Turnham. Since Kinsey's average age for puberty was 13.7 years, Tripp said that Lincoln's eleventh year puberty increased the probability for some homosexual experience.

    So far, so good, if one grants that boys of Lincoln's day had the same average as Kinsey's twentieth-century sample, a wrinkle blithely ignored by Tripp. But in 1998, Tripp moved Lincoln's puberty date from eleven to nine after reading a full transcript of Herndon's scribbled Turnham interview, published in the 1998 Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln: "immediately on landing in Ind I became acquainted with Mr Lincoln. My father and his were acquainted in Ky--Abe was then about ten years of age--I being 16 ys of age--Abe was a long tall dangling award drowl looking boy--went hunting and fishing together."

    Tripp insisted that Turnham meant Lincoln was long, tall, and dangling the very day they met. If Lincoln spurted so tall at ten, he must have attained puberty at nine, which implies that he was on the fastest possible track to youthful homosexual tryouts and likely homosexuality as an adult.

    YET A CAREFUL READING of Herndon's notes show that nothing Turnham recollected justifies this huge leap backward. As I told Tripp, Turnham did not precisely link his first impression of Lincoln with height. Rather his remark seemed to reflect a general memory of Lincoln's above-average stature throughout his boyhood.

    Later in the same interview, Turnham described Lincoln's height with the same language wrapped in the same misty reminiscence: "He loved fishing & hunted Some--not a great deal--He was naturally Cheerful and good natured while in Indiana: Abe was a long tall raw boned boy." But Tripp would not let go. The temptation to portray Lincoln as a nine-year-old poster boy for the Friends of Dorothy was too great. Turnham's description, despite the obvious ambiguity, became Tripp's foundation for backdating Lincoln's puberty, now "precisely known."

    Apparently, Simon & Schuster was not totally convinced. After I sent Rivlin a copy of Turnham's interview, a table-turning revision was inserted into the puberty passage in the second chapter of the book:

    Thanks to an accident of history, Lincoln's age at puberty happens to be precisely known. In March 1819 the Turnham family, longtime friends of the Lincolns back in Kentucky, moved "next door" to them in Indiana, less than a mile away. David Turnham was sixteen years old at the time; Abe had turned ten just the previous month. David later remembered Abe as a "long, tall, dangling, awkward, droll-looking boy," marking Abe's growth spurt as obvious enough by then to have been well under way for several months, with his first ejaculatory capacity predating even that; thus, Lincoln may have arrived at puberty before David Turnham first met him in March. In short, Lincoln hit puberty at age nine.

    Notice the contradiction between the claim that "Lincoln's age at puberty can be precisely known" and the later admission that "Lincoln may have arrived at puberty before David Turnham first met him." There was no "may have" in Tripp's galleys in which he wrote assuredly that "Lincoln arrived at puberty several months, perhaps half a year, before David Turnham first met him in March."

    The qualifier popped in during the publisher's rewrite just as the hyperbolic "several months, perhaps half a year before" extension was cut. If Tripp's editor were serious about correcting the dating exaggeration, he would have altered other passages in the book where the extreme puberty claim resurfaced without any qualification.

    SIMILAR EDITING CHALLENGES arise in the third chapter, where Tripp discusses Billy Greene, Lincoln's first bed partner in Herndon's Life of Lincoln. They clerked together in a general store in New Salem, Illinois, in 1831. Greene was then eighteen, destined to marry and father nine children; Lincoln was twenty-two. Based on his Greene interview, Herndon wrote: "William G. Greene was hired to assist [Lincoln], and between the two a life-long friendship sprang up. They slept in the store, and so strong was the intimacy between them that 'when one turned over the other had to do likewise.'"

    Naturally, this line excited Tripp, and he began to touch-up the evidence to fit his preconception. Thus, when Herndon asked Greene what he remembered about his first sight of Lincoln, Greene replied that he was "well and firmly built: his thighs were as perfect as a human being's could be."

    Bingo. Greene's eye on Lincoln's thigh, opined Tripp, "strongly suggests a sexual practice later named 'femoral intercourse,' . . . one of the most frequently used homosexual techniques."

    Likewise, Tripp treasured a line from the wife of Mentor Graham, briefly Lincoln's schoolmaster in New Salem, which seemed to confirm a lusty affection between Billy and Abe. But the source was an unfootnoted 1944 biography entitled Mentor Graham, the dialogue of which, its own authors admitted, was fictionalized.

    Unfazed, Tripp camouflaged the problem by introducing Mrs. Graham's quotation with the unexplained qualifier allegedly: "Allegedly, Graham's wife, Sarah, specifically mentioned that Billy and Abe 'had an awful hankerin', one for t'other.'" This usage was designed more to deceive than enlighten the reader, who hardly expects to see a concocted quotation passing for real in a nonfiction book.

    Despite my complaints, Tripp's editor made no adjustments in the hilarious "perfect thighs" and invented "hankerin'" items. But a third Greene passage got a correction that boomeranged on page 52:

    In later life on a visit to the White House Lincoln introduced [Greene] to his secretary of state, William Seward, saying that this friend of his, William Greene, was the man who taught him grammar. This embarrassed Greene, who knew little about grammar, so he remained silent for fear Seward would notice his deficiency. Lincoln later reminded Greene that he had helped Lincoln by quizzing him from a grammar book. Certainly the White House tribute was proof enough of Greene's help, and a salute as well to the reality of the grammar problem. But why, in fact, was Greene so embarrassed? One cannot know for sure, but a reasonable guess might be that those long ago grammar sessions, many of them in bed, ended with sexual contact. To now have these private events suddenly recalled within the formal surroundings of the White House by what may have seemed at the moment an all too free-speaking long-ago bed partner could have been a real jolt.

    Mark the oddly divergent explanations for Greene's discomfort with Seward. First the unsourced assertion that Greene was "silent for fear Seward would notice his deficiency," then, three sentences later, out of nowhere, Tripp's "reasonable guess" that Greene was nervous about Lincoln's edging too close on those hot nights in New Salem. The answer is simple: Tripp did not write the "for fear" sentence.

    It was inserted in the book because I sent Free Press a passage from Thomas Reep's 1927 book, Lincoln at New Salem, in which Greene relayed the origin of his unease: "This statement embarrassed Greene, who himself knew little about grammar and in whose conversation grammatical rules were not always adhered to, so that he did not engage in conversation for fear that Seward would notice his deficiencies and wonder at Lincoln's statement."

    I had previously showed Reep's treatment to Tripp, but he preferred cooking up a sexual fantasy to sourcing Greene's own explanation. Apart from its cynicism, the insertion in the new Free Press version not only makes Tripp look a fool, but a copyist all over again--for the person who corrected this passage wound up plagiarizing Reep, as can be seen by comparing the two passages.

    WHAT The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln lacks in history, it makes up in thievery. "I am the principle author of Tripp's first chapter," I wrote in an email to Simon & Schuster's Rivlin. "I conceived, titled, structured, researched, and wrote most of the words in [Tripp's] 'What Stuff!'"

    The publisher was slow to admit the problem. Although I had turned over my original manuscript for comparison along with correspondence confirming sole and prior authorship, the initial response was dismissive. Free Press counsel Weidman, who reports to Rivlin, contended that my chapter and Tripp's chapter were "dissimilar in many respects" and therefore "it is difficult for us to determine what, if any, credit or attribution you might find appropriate with respect to the chapter."

    I replied that despite some differences, Tripp's version copied my "language, ideas, construction, citations, and narrative line." Hoping to dissociate myself from the book, I rejected credit. "As previously stated, I seek no attribution because I grant no permission to publish 'What Stuff!', which is substantially my work."

    Tripp's borrowings--ranging from sentences to paragraphs to whole pages--appeared on nineteen of his twenty-five chapter-one galley pages. The differences involved additions (mostly of Tripp's trying to go beyond the evidence) and subtractions (mostly of evidence casting doubt on Tripp's thesis). Otherwise, the galleys kept my blueprint and mimicked my language from first page to last.

    Here, for instance, are our opening paragraphs:

    Tripp: Margaret Leech won a Pulitzer Prize for her Reveille in Washington, 1860-1865, a boisterous chronicle of life in Washington, D.C., during Abraham Lincoln's presidency. Elegantly written and exhaustively researched, this 1941 book remains in print today. On page 303, in one of the least cited passages in Lincoln literature, Leech claimed that the President surreptitiously slept with an Army officer whom he invited into his bedroom at the summer White House, not just once, but repeatedly, in 1862.

    Nobile: Margaret Leech won a Pulitzer Prize for Reveille in Washington 1860-1865, a boisterous chronicle of life in Washington D.C. during Abraham Lincoln's presidency. Elegantly written and exhaustively researched, the 1941 book remains in paperback today. On page 303, in one of the least cited passages in Lincoln literature, Leech reported that the president surreptitiously slept with an army officer in 1862.

    And here are paragraphs from the conclusion:

    Tripp: Derickson said his final good-bye on April 28, 1865, when Lincoln's funeral train stopped in Cleveland. "From Meadville, Pennsylvania, had come two hundred [men] marshalled by Captain Derickson and some of his boys who had served with Lincoln's White House bodyguard," wrote Carl Sandburg in the final pages of The War Years. Although Sandburg borrowed a few passages from Tarbell's narrative on Company K, he did not delve into Lincoln's friendship with the captain.

    Nobile: Derickson said his final goodbye on April 28, 1865, when Lincoln's funeral train stopped in Cleveland. "From Meadville, Pennsylvania, had come two hundred marshalled by Captain Derickson and some of his boys who ha[d] served with Lincoln's White House bodyguard," wrote Carl Sandburg in the final pages of The War Years. (Although Sandburg cribbed parts of Tarbell's narrative of Company K, he did not delve into Lincoln's friendship with the Captain. . . . )

    Faced with reality, the publisher dropped the dissimilarities dodge. No longer able to deny Tripp's plagiarism, the defense shifted ground. "The issue is not whether you contributed to the work, or for that matter who wrote parts of it," Rivlin declared. The new issue went to ownership. She insisted Tripp's "Estate has the right to authorize the publication of the chapter. We see no issue of theft or other impropriety in our acting upon that authorization. Rather, any concerns that you have with respect to the authorization should be raised directly with the Estate."

    THE ESTATE ATTORNEY is Rosalind Lichter, a specialist in entertainment law. Tripp hired her in 2000 on the recommendation of author and AIDS activist Larry Kramer to stop me from publishing my version of "What Stuff!" She sent me threatening letters about stealing her client's material: "We will not hesitate to seek an injunction and money damages," she wrote.

    The years have not softened her attitude. Lichter was curt when I telephoned her office in Manhattan. I rehashed our unresolved legal dispute. "Tripp and I never signed a work-for-hire agreement and so the Estate doesn't own my material," I said. "I'm not going to have a discussion with you--have a lawyer call me," Lichter said before hanging up. A friend who called on my behalf, a law professor, turned out to be a mutual acquaintance. She stonewalled him, too.

    Meantime, somebody was busy revising the "What Stuff!" chapter, presumably to obscure my contribution. It was a delicate task. How do you rewrite a rewrite, copy a copy, without leaving traces of the original design and detail? Many of my words were cut, some paraphrased, and others repeated. My narrative was rearranged, but the new choreography did not erase the underlying DNA of my prose, lines of argument, and sources.

    In the finished book, my work remains abused. All told, the rewriter copied or paraphrased twenty-four passages of mine on sixteen of the revised chapter's twenty-one pages. Let a pair of simple examples suffice:

    Tripp: "Tish" was Letitia McKean, a player in Washington's fashionable society and the daughter of an admiral. It is unknown how she came by her information, but hearsay is likely.

    Nobile: "Tish" was Leticia McKean, a Washington socialite and friend of Mrs. Fox. How Miss McKean, the daughter of an admiral, came by her information is unknown, though hearsay may be presumed.


    Tripp: Whether the two ever saw each other again is not known. However, a letter of June 3, 1864, from Provost Marshall Derickson to his commander-in-chief, preserved in the Library of Congress, expressed Derickson's abiding warmth.

    Nobile: Whether Lincoln and Derickson ever saw each other again after May 1863 is not recorded. However, a June 3, 1864 letter from Provost Marshall Derickson to his Commander in Chief, preserved at the Library of Congress, expressed the former's abiding warmth.

    How did Simon & Schuster imagine that it could get away with a second round of plagiarism? In the first instance, the publisher was a recipient of purloined goods. But the post-mortem rewrite upgraded the firm to direct participant.

    Maybe Rivlin figured that some sort of acknowledgment of my role in creating chapter one would be enough to save face, no matter what. So now there is an asterisk beside "What Stuff!" on the chapter's title page. Two-hundred-and-ninety-seven pages later, the asterisk reappears in the chapter's endnotes beside the claim: "From 1996 to 2000, C.A. Tripp worked with Philip Nobile on the early drafting of this book, principally of this chapter, the original draft of which was written by Mr. Nobile. After disagreement on various points of interpretation, methodology, and wording, the relationship came to an end."

    I told Rivlin that her acknowledgment was unacceptable and designed to cover up the copying. It reminded me of the acknowledgment that Doris Kearns Goodwin slipped into a backdated preface of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys after British author Lynne McTaggart threatened to sue her and Simon & Schuster in 1987 over copying from McTaggart's Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times.

    "A more accurate endnote," I tweaked Rivlin, would be: "From 1995 to 2000, C.A. Tripp worked with co-author Philip Nobile who wrote the original draft of Chapter One that Tripp has substantially copied in this book without Mr. Nobile's approval. After Mr. Nobile failed to persuade his coauthor and old friend to stop faking evidence and stealing from other historians, the relationship came to an end."

    Simon & Schuster was in a terrible bind. Should it scrap Tripp's tainted first chapter and thereby cripple the book, or should it repeat its embarrassing Goodwin history by knowingly printing stolen words? In the end, the publisher did both: Tripp's version of "What Stuff!" was scrapped in favor of a rewrite and the book still contained borrowed words.

    "IF YOU DON'T STOP MAKING A STINK about Tripp's book, I'm going to expose you as an enormous homophobe," Larry Kramer telephoned me to say last October. "For the sake of humanity, please, gays need a role model." I replied that the book was so bad, it would backfire on the homosexual movement when reviewers and readers caught on to the fabrications, contradictions, and general nuttiness of The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.

    One of the biggest roadblocks to the Gay Lincoln Theory is the fact that neither friends nor enemies ever connected the man to homosexual thoughts, words, or deeds. Would not a secret of that magnitude have leaked out somehow, sometime? Tripp had Lincoln boinking four bosom buddies during his prairie years, but there was not a whiff of this supposed hanky-panky anywhere in the record, not even in Herndon's exhaustive history of Lincoln's frontier contemporaries.

    I asked Tripp about Herndon's silence. How could Lincoln's Springfield law partner, who occupied the same small bedroom as Speed and Lincoln for two years, have been clueless about the romance a few inches away? Tripp handed me several pages profiling Herndon as a super-heterosexual who was psychologically blocked from picking up Lincoln's lavender vibes. "Little wonder that with a marriage glowing like a diamond in his own life Herndon was blind as a bat to other possibilities," he wrote.

    What evidence backed up Herndon's handicap? Tripp wrote that Herndon "never complained" about caring for his wife and six children (strictly speculation), that he "rushed home [from the traveling court circuit] on weekends" (like most husbands), and that he said during his final days "that his whole married life" was "'an endless stream of happiness.'"

    SUCH MAKE-IT-UP-AS-YOU-GO-ALONG methodology similarly shows in Tripp's analysis of Lincoln's original encounters with Joshua Speed and Captain David Derickson. Scenes innocent on their face are always soft-focused into seductions. Thus, when Lincoln rode up to Speed's store in Springfield in 1837, Speed could not (in Tripp's telling) wait to get his hands on the lonesome, lanky stranger when he offered to have him crash in his bed, a common occurrence on the rude frontier.

    And the evidence for Speed's lightning erotic response: He did not mention to Lincoln that he had previously heard him give a speech. Why not? Well, Tripp writes, "Had he said anything about recognizing Lincoln, or expressed admiration for the speech, this would have immediately moved their contact toward a conventional, friendly familiarity--exactly appropriate for, say, the start of either an ordinary friendship or conventional courtship, be it heterosexual or homosexual--but enemy territory for any brand of rapid sexual conquest."

    Of course, Speed could well have mentioned the speech to Lincoln at the time and merely forgot to tell Herndon three decades later. Or perhaps Herndon failed to mention it for any of a dozen other reasons. And since when is "friendly familiarity" an anaphrodisiac for male cruising? Is that something Tripp improvised, like Herndon's ultra-heterosexuality, or did it hold for other seductions?

    TRIPP'S SOUPED-UP STUDY of Lincoln's first encounter with Captain David Derickson in 1862 gives the game away. Here the fifty-one-year-old Lincoln was the presumed aggressor moving in on the forty-four-year-old captain:

    It's clear that almost as soon as [Captain Derickson] entered Lincoln's carriage for their first ride to the city, their connection was immediate. There was a charged atmosphere of mutual esteem, one well-primed for moving toward some kind of culmination. As Derickson described it, their conversation proceeded through many small but rapid steps, with Lincoln's questions about his background. These are precisely the kinds of redundant questions in pursuit of small increments of intimacy that quickly become tiresome in ordinary conversation--but not here, perhaps because interest was not on facts but rather on the chance they offered the partners to increase the quality and extent of their closeness within an almost classical seduction scene.

    When Speed laid a trap for Lincoln, small talk was uncool. But when Lincoln dogged his bodyguard, chitchat was exactly right.

    Meanwhile, there's the boy-marries-boy comic poem Lincoln penned when he was twenty:

    The girls he had tried on every side.
    But none could he get to agree;
    All was in vain, he went home again
    And since that, he is married to Natty.
    So Billy and Natty agreed very well;
    And mamma'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.

    In his mid-1990s draft, Tripp regarded the verse as another smoking gun: "viewed through the prism of sex research, the poem is an open and shut case, a virtual certification of Lincoln's own engagement in homosexuality," he wrote at the time.

    David Donald criticized Tripp's forced interpretation in his 1996 letter: "The person who tells a joke about 'fags' or 'gays' or 'butch' women may reveal a lack of taste but that does not necessarily indicate homosexual leanings." Under pressure from Donald and me, the simple equation of the poem and homosexuality was dropped.

    But this concession did not leave Tripp emptyhanded. Hoping to say something in the book that Shively had not already said about Lincoln's provocative lines, he latched on to the soft-eggshell image.

    The couplet "suggests Abe was well aware of the term 'jelly-baby,'" he wrote. "Originally from Negro vernacular, the phrase soon came to be used by whites as well: slang denoting what uneducated folk imagined (and sometimes still imagine) as a 'pregnancy' from homosexual intercourse." But "jelly baby" was a twentieth-century term cited in Kinsey's 1952 female volume, making it unlikely that Lincoln was aware of it.

    TRIPP'S LAX STANDARD of evidence became looser the more distant from sex. For example, he grew enamored of Ida Tarbell's report in her The Life of Abraham Lincoln that every living member of Lincoln's former bodyguard troop could "quote verbatim the note which the President wrote" to the War Department keeping Captain Derickson and the boys of Company K at the White House. And so Tripp deduced "that very quickly, probably on the very day Lincoln wrote the order acknowledging his high favor for Company K, he also scribbled out at least a few copies for the soldiers themselves," all the better to memorize from.

    The opposite was actually the case. The soldiers of Company K were angry with Lincoln. They wanted combat, not guard duty. "Many of the regiment were so weary of the prolonged inaction and the wasting of its strength at the capital by disease, that they chafed very much at the countermanding of these orders," wrote Colonel Thomas Chamberlin, Derickson's commanding officer, in his History of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers.

    IN TEN YEARS OF ASSIDUOUS RESEARCH Tripp found no final proof of consummation with any of the five men identified as Lincoln's lovers.

    His raw sex file is astonishingly thin, just three fragments in Herndon about Lincoln's sleeping with Greene, Speed, and A.Y. Ellis, a merchant and political admirer. Another claimed lover, Henry C. Whitney, a lawyer friend, had only a sentence from his memoir Life on the Circuit With Lincoln tipping him into the boyfriend category: "It was as if he wooed me to close intimacy and familiarity."

    A single sentence, too, branded the bodyguard in Chamberlin's military history: "Captain Derickson, in particular, advanced so far in the President's confidence and esteem that in Mrs. Lincoln's absence he frequently spent the night at his cottage, sleeping in the same bed with him, and--it is said--making use of his Excellency's nightshirt!" Provocative, puzzling, possibly homosexual, but who is to say what truly happened? Was the short, stocky, middle-aged captain even Lincoln's type? Elsewhere Tripp devoted a chapter to the glam Elmer Ellsworth, a young protégé of Lincoln's, who purportedly fit his "tastes for young men."

    And why would any reader put faith in Tripp's opinion when he has squandered his credibility throughout his book? Would you trust a revisionist who told you that "Speed was, in fact, the one and only person in Lincoln's life on whom he repeatedly lavished his most personal and most endearing 'Yours forever,' in itself a major smoking gun and a salutation he never bestowed on any woman, including his wife"--if you knew that his database held Lincoln letters addressed to six other men with the same closing, a fact not included in the text?

    THE INTIMATE WORLD OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, already an object of derision among specialists, contains a poison pill in an afterword by Michael Burlingame entitled "A Respectful Dissent." Recently retired from Connecticut College, Burlingame has a monumental three-volume Lincoln biography in progress with Johns Hopkins University Press. He and Tripp got along well and shared information, if not a thesis.

    "I liked Tripp, but he was careless and sloppy," Burlingame told me. "I'm surprised that Free Press accepted my afterword since it says the book is full of baloney." In particular, Burlingame devastates Tripp's intellectual honesty by noting that he had suppressed many stories of Lincoln's heterosexual interest.

    "Since it is virtually impossible to prove a negative, Dr. Tripp's thesis cannot be rejected outright," wrote Burlingame. "But given the paucity of hard evidence adduced by him, and given the abundance of contrary evidence indicating that Lincoln was drawn romantically and sexually to some women, a reasonable conclusion, it seems to me, would be that it is possible but highly unlikely that Abraham Lincoln was 'predominately homosexual.'"

    The Gay Lincoln Theory, for all its jagged edges, may be a more satisfying explanation for the president's weird inner life than the Utterly Straight Lincoln Theory. "I have heard [Lincoln] say over and over again about sexual contact: 'It is a harp of a thousand strings,'" Henry Whitney told William Herndon in 1865. Leaving aside Tripp's bad faith, it is not utterly beyond imagining that Lincoln may have played a few extra strings on that harp.

    But the fraud and the hoax of C.A. Tripp's The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln are no way to explore the hallowed ground of history.

    Related Links

  • Broken Promises, Plagiarism, Misused Evidence and the New Gay Lincoln Book Published by the Free PressPhilip Nobile
  • Was Lincoln Gay? New Controversy (New York Times) Dinitia Smith
  • Re: C.A. Tripp's New Book Claiming Lincoln Was Gay (Discovery News) Jennifer Viegas
  • Re: C.A. Tripp's New Book Claiming Lincoln Was Gay (Washington Blade) Joe Crea
  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Publish: Homophobia in Lincoln Studies? Philip Nobile
  • Was Lincoln Gay? W. Scott Thompson
  • Larry Kramer Claims to Have Discovered a Diary Proving Lincoln Was Gay (1999) Carol Lloyd
  • ___________________

    This article was originally published by the Weekly Standard and is reprinted with permission.

    © Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

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    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    Good enough for me. Irrefutable proof that he couldn't have been gay.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    The interesting thing is how unhinged the conservative attacks have been about the very idea that perhaps our greatest president may have been gay. We'll never know for certain, but from my reading, one can no more assert that Lincoln was straight than that he was gay. We will probably never know. i am comfortable with that.

    Can't get that one huh? Why conservatives would find it denegrating to claim without clear and convincing evidence that a loved historical figure engaged in homosexual intercourse? Grow up! Using your illogic I suppose we can assert that anyone is homosexual, even you, cause we just don't know for sure. Under THAT rubric there is FAR more proof that Hillery is a dyke than Lincoln homosexual.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    I wouldn't know Val yet based on some of your earlier posts maybe you could lend your expertise.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    Thanks for the research assignment Mr. Catsam, but with all my other commitments I won't be able to handle it currently. Just for argumentative purposes let me concede that I have no support other than my bias. Can you provide for me, five legitimate sources written since 1995 that claim that homosexuality is normal behavior? Much appreciated.
    Your brother's success, as you may want to quantify it, probably has nothing at all to do with his illness rendering him helpless to resist his prurient compulsions for the male gender.
    Concerning the "ugly turn" thing. I rather doubt that either of us would be so frank in a casual face to face conversation. Nonetheless, I would not be "afraid" for me, I sincerely suspect that any attempt to physically harm me for my expression of my views would find you in a state of unconsciousness. I think we both know that that is so. Finally, I don't hate nor am I intolerant of homosexuals. I love the homosexual as much as the heterosexual. I feel pity for them it is only the behavior that is abhorrent not the people.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    Sorry, misposted my response--see above.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    You are incapable to complete an exchange without name-calling. You appear weak when you skirt substantive argument in favor of silly ploys such as pretending that I should not be regarded as human or that you are too intelligent and superior to attempt to disprove the claim. Either you are bigoted, incompetent to disprove me, or I am correct. Let’s narrow the options, why don’t you do us both a favor and put your alleged superior intelligence to work and impeach my argument once and for all.
    I've noticed that in a few of your earlier whinings you assert a lack of logic on my part. Derek, it is you who’s attempts at logic have rendered you impotent. For instance, it doesn't matter that the homosexuals among themselves think Lincoln would be elevated in their eyes for being homosexual. To the overwhelming majority of Americans the label is defamatory. The homosexuals are trying to publish the false claims to those outside of the homosexual group, not keep it within where it is laudable. Believe me, a false accusation of homosexuality is a course of action in defamation every day of our lives. And would be if Lincoln were alive.
    As for the "there are very few "pro homosexual intercourse subgroups" thing, you are deluding yourself here too. ALL the "gay" groups promote sexual intercourse between two of the same gender. That is what the whole thing is about, legitimizing the sexual act. No one in straight society has dissuaded people of the same gender from loving one another and expressing that love, in fact it is encouraged. There is just no plausible reasoning to condone the penile invasion of one's anus as somehow constituting an act of love. It IS NOT love. It is lust. Further, it is twisted and unnatural lust.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    hahahaha Simon, your simple retort that I must have latent homosexual tendencies merely because I question the latest rationalization for homosexual intercourse is trite. How about something original? Even if it were so, what difference would that make that the submission to unnatural sexual urges is a symptom of a mental illness? As Mr. Catsam and you have supremely demonstrated you lack the intellectual ability to disprove the truth of my position.
    This is a forum for serious thought and discussion. I readily concede that you and Mr. Catsam are far more intelligent than I could ever hope to be, could you please try to discipline yourselves to argue your position in lieu of limiting your discussion to personal attacks against me, otherwise I will no longer allow you the pleasure of my participation.

    Still yet Simon, I don’t want to leave you without some substantive scholarship. As long as we are quoting fictional characters as providing incite and expertise allow me to quote the highly regarded and internationally known Popeye who said, "“I yam whad I yam"

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    As usual Simon you fail to grasp the main point. It wasn’t merely that your responsive charge of my latent homosexual tendencies was simple, but old, tired, uninspired and boring. That notwithstanding, (as is almost everything you’ve said) can you expand on how I am wrong in my statements, “both ethically and intellectually” as you have charged?

    I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as you to assume that you are a homosexual (as you have diagnosed in me) but do you engage in homosexual sexual acts? By your own assessment there is no stigma attached, of course, and you can feel free to be honest. I ask only to know who I am speaking with, and your unfounded antipathy toward me indicates you have much more invested that intellectual discussion.

    Credentialing? What a ninny. Since you recklessly brought up the DSM, let me enlighten you. The APA removed homosexuality from DSM in 1973; the impetus behind the reclassification was a political force that I am only informed enough to identify as the pro homosexual sex crowd. Around this time the pro homosexual sex crowd adopted the idea to change its image to be more in line with the “free love”, “political action” concepts of the 60’s and attempting to imitate the succeeding redefinition of the image of women by the women’s movement. The combination of political pressure and the existence of a high percentage of indoctrinated homosexuals within the psychiatric community allowed those that engage in unnatural sex acts to impose the change in the DSM, the medical profession, and ultimately society.

    However, ego-dystonic homosexuality was left in the DSM until in 1987 when the pro homosexual sex crowd successfully has that term excluded as well. Still today the DSM categorizes "gender identity disorder" (GID) as a psychiatric illness in children, which classifies homosexual boys as mentally disordered. In fact logic dictates homosexuality is not only an illness in boys but in adults as well. I recognize that it is only a matter of time that the pro homosexual crowd will succeed at coercing the APA into eliminating all vestiges, but their actions are wrong and irresponsible, and do a disservice to all the suffering homosexuals. So, as you might be able to discern it is not me who has ‘redefined” homosexuality as mental illness but the pro homosexual sex crowd themselves.

    Given that your perceptual success apparently requires the use of analogies allow me to submit: If one discovers that they are predisposed to murder others. That they find the impulses so strong that they can’t resist, and have in fact acted out on their compulsions. Would it be a responsible societal response to tell that person that the behavior is acceptable and that their alternative lifestyle is natural? So it is with the homosexual.

    Finally, Popeye is a man’s man he is heterosexual as evidenced by Olive Oil. And if he were to sign on to this site I’m confident he would agree with my sober and cogent exposition of the mental status of those who are so incapable to discipline themselves to resist the compulsion to act out any homosexual sex act that enters their mind.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    I fail to see how Popeye's quote has anything at all to do with diversity, but that's just me. I thought diversity is more concerned with the indiscriminant preference of Blacks over whites into whatever group is in question. Am I wrong?

    Does "man's man" connote homosexuality among homosexuals? I am not aware of the inside slang.

    Yes, I question Hillery's sexual orientation.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    Transvestite? How dare you. Never even occurred to me. I suppose one's perception is colored by their frame of reference, nonetheless you make a good point. You have supplied approximately the same level of evidence of Olive Oyl’s sexual orientation that Tripp has in his book.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    Did Dr. Mahan strike a nerve or are you always this undisciplined? 90% of your angry rant is just a personal attack. How do you expect to further thoughtful dialogue with such hate and incoherence? I will however respond to the few substantive ideas that by chance dropped out of the post.

    If you knew that it was the DSM that “redefined” the mental illness status of homosexuality why would you claim I did?

    If you knew GID was recognized by the APA/DSM why would you argue that the DSM did not recognize homosexuality as a mental illness?

    Homosexuals pose a threat to themselves and others through AIDS, dangerous promiscuous rendezvous, the attempt to draw young men and women into their lifestyles and a general deleterious effect on society and the nuclear family. But still the focus of my argument is not so much that they endanger others but that they should be helped not ignored in their illness.

    Homosexuals are much better off to accept the feelings that they have but resist acting out homosexual intercourse. It is just unnecessary. In fact the sex act in hetero or homo couples is actually a minuscule part of a loving relationship.

    The U.S. Constitution doesn’t “agree” with homosexuality. The court only ruled that a state couldn’t make laws interfering with the “privacy” within one’s home, a far cry from a ringing endorsement. Seems like all your ammunition is wet.

    Yes surgically altering the sex of anyone (barring that the plumbing is not working right) is a serious mistake. There are many cases of this ending in horrible surgical failure as well as a failure for the subject to adapt and also to identify with themselves, post surgery. On several occasions the subject later committed suicide. Homosexuals should be loved and supported and aided in their mental and emotional challenges not sent off to experiment in some sexual relationship with a predator to discover who they are. We know who they are-PEOPLE.

    You like to characterize homosexuals as just people that want to have a stable relationship with another in private. Those people exist but the overwhelming majority of homosexuals are promiscuous whores hardly looking for more than the next partner. This abhorrent and destructive behavior does the homosexual no good to encourage. I hope this adds constructively to our discussion.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    The psychiatric and medical communities have determined that the healthiest way for a homosexual to live his/her life is, if he or she so chooses, in consensual rewarding relationships that conform to that reality.

    Simon, I think we both know that you've overstated they're positions. The above is just not true. Is it? The statement is far too broad to have any value whatsoever.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    Yes Derek homosexuality IS bad just as any mental illness is bad. We don't help those who think they are born to have sexual relations with those of the same gender by telling them that their urges are okay.
    Thanks for contributing the "bigot" bomb, so predictable.
    As to Hill's sexual preference there is at least as much circumstantial stuff to plug her as a dyke. Anyway given YOU don't think the "gay" or "homosexual" label is bad why would it make a difference that I proposed Hillary is one?
    Now about gay/straight binary. It is the homosexuals that claim to have been BORN with the predisposition when in fact they are simply very confused. The fact that they see the adoption of homosexual sex as "realizing" that they are homosexual is a testament to their confusion. There is no binary, just confused souls.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    You too are confused Mr. Catsam. I suppose your foray it marginalizing my veiw by labeling me unreliable (bigot) is your special way of saying that you can not argue on the merits. It worked for Hitler (for a time) I suppose it can work for you and other liberals. I mean how is it not bigoted to claim I an a bigot? What is your proof? Yours is just the same old tired liberal rhetoric that no longer has meaning in America.

    Bty wizbang aint no proof Lincoln slept for 4 years with a man even IF you could prove that where is the proof of sexual intercourse? This book is a rumor of a rumor of a rumor. Grow up, stop fantasizing and try to deal in FACT. You're supposed to be a historian.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    Sorry Derek my lack of intellect is exposing itself. What IS the politically correct term for the more masculine role of two female homosexuals?

    Your brother IS confused very much so, we both know it. It does him no good for you to encourage him down a road that can only further hurt him.

    HAHA This is the one that is always predicatble. "most scientists seem to agree with me" Seem? who cares how it seems to you? You are wrong. Of course you can prove it if you'd like just as you are free to prove that homosexuality is not a mental illness.

    andy mahan - 9/18/2006

    Come on. This book has 0 historical merit. It is a propaganda piece (check Tripp) by the pro homosexual intercourse subgroup. This trash is an attempt to mollify and legitimize the emotional incompetence of a few hostiles by besmirching the name of one of our nations greatest figures. I reject the earlier proffered idea that it is in retaliation of the exposure of the Jefferson/Hemmings relationship in favor of the obvious truth of its desperate attempt. This kind of stuff does its progenitors more harm than good, just as the backlash against the premature political drive for homosexual marriage. Can't say I’m disappointed.

    E. Simon - 1/20/2005

    Don't forget boring, and as evidenced by his obsession with controlling others and his crusade to "save the anuses," stuck in the second Freudian stage of development.

    Jonathan Dresner - 1/20/2005

    Mr. Mahan,

    You are wrong, uninformed, and inconsistent.

    E. Simon - 1/18/2005

    It is not the job of a constitution to endorse or villify, simply to define what activities broadly fall under the purview of government. Your personal aversion to sexual activity, heterosexual or homosexual, might be cause for receiving a "World's Most Boring Lover" t-shirt, but it has nothing to do with forming a basis for whether or not others can live a happy and fulfilling life that is in no way violative of anyone's rights.

    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/18/2005

    The most common thought that comes to mind is "Who gives a damn?" The sexual orientation of a married President with several children seems rather established. I suppose there is an audience out there for this kind of speculation but other than being something of minor interest to folks with an agenda, this whole matter seems especially silly for historians to be discussing.

    Val Jobson - 1/18/2005

    "Those people exist but the overwhelming majority of homosexuals are promiscuous whores hardly looking for more than the next partner." Funny thing, now that most of Canada allows gay marriage, all sorts of gay couples who have had longstanding loving relationships are ready to make a commitment to each other. And you bigots can't do a thing about it.

    Strange that you would call someone else undisciplined, when you are busy spewing such poisonous nonsense. What is your problem anyway? Do you have any family members who are gay? Have you ever actually spoken to a person who was gay? Clearly you've picked up a lot of false information somewhere.

    E. Simon - 1/17/2005

    Since tone seems to matter quite dearly to you in your effort to intellectualize and personalize this exchange, I'll state the main point a bit more succinctly.

    The psychiatric and medical communities have determined that the healthiest way for a homosexual to live his/her life is, if he or she so chooses, in consensual rewarding relationships that conform to that reality.

    Your efforts to go to war against that reality, I find absurd, and your rationalization for it, artifice.

    If you want to maintain civility, I think you could do a better job abstaining from waxing prurient, depending on shock value, devaluing your offensiveness to others and persisting in a line that comes across as bigotted to so many people.

    Just suggestions, of course. Apparently I value autonomy more than you do, so I'll understand if you do and say things regardless of whether or not they are productive.

    E. Simon - 1/17/2005

    So you are willing to put yourself above the editors of the DSM. Thanks for clearing that up. I'm aware of the history of the reclassification, too. But what I'm not aware of is how homosexuals pose a danger to themselves or others. I'm wondering, also, how it is psychologically healthier or how someone can function better while pretending to have attractions that they don't, living a life pretending they're something they're not, or while repressing attractions between other consenting adults that they actually, as far as anyone can determine, possess. Unless society has a problem with it. Which it did until the mass of thinking humans decided that generally consensual activities or consensual relationships between adults don't pose a problem for society. The U.S. Constitution agrees with them too, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. But as with the APA, perhaps you know better here too. For all I know, a black robe fits just as comfortably in your armchair as does a white coat.

    If that's the case, are you also willing to take on the AMA in authorizing sex-reassignment surgery for GID? Your alternative, Dr. Mahan, is something I'd be especially interested in hearing. How would you treat it? And under what cartoon version of medical ethics would there be any kind of viable "treatment" for homosexuality superior to what is currently done: that people live their lives peacefully in psychologically fulfilling relationships that bother nobody except proselytes from the religious cult of the extremely detail-oriented sexually obsessed?

    Your comparative invocation of murderers so ridiculous as to border on an utter abdication of one's senses. Someone with no capacity to understand the concept of violating the rights of others has no business talking about what does and does not constitute a psychological disorder. Unless, of course, that person would be a sociopath. In which case, this conversation would make more sense. In which case it might also take place more comfortably with said person in a re-inforced concrete cell behind a bulletproof glass window.

    Sorry to disappoint in your pathetic attempt at letting your ad hominems do the thinking for you, Andy, but I'm not a homosexual. But I'll take their side against you in this argument any day of the week. In the meantime, I suggest you look up the word "consent." And I suggest you find a way to incorporate the idea of a functional existence, as perceived by the person actually living it, in your attempts to re-define mental illness.

    Val Jobson - 1/17/2005

    Actually, Olive Oyl looks like a transvestite to me.

    Jonathan Dresner - 1/17/2005

    "I yam what I yam" seems like a ringing endorsement of diversity, to me.

    "man's man" is, in some circles, a code word for homosexuality. And aren't you the one who questioned Hilary Clinton's sexuality?

    E. Simon - 1/17/2005

    6. Top hats and log cabins, to my knowledge, have never existed in nature. They were therefore, at least as "unnatural" in the 19th century as is your use of a keyboard and monitor in 2005. By your own messed up pseudo-logic, Lincoln - whatever his sexual orientation or disposition - was far less "twisted" than you. (Although I would agree with this statement for entirely different reasons).

    E. Simon - 1/17/2005

    1. Observations and analogies (even literary analogies) are not attacks.

    2. My analysis of your impulsive prediliction with prurient red herrings was not nearly as simplistic as your interpretation of it. I did not speculate on the cause of your insecurity. Whatever "tendencies" you may or may not have are the least of my concerns, and they would have no bearing on how wrong you are in your statements, both ethically and intellectually.

    3. If you only had any credentialing in professional medicine, it would be obvious how foolish you're making yourself look with such a shoddy attempt at defining - sorry, re-defining - "mental illness." Do you now wish to take on the editors of the DSM?

    4. I daresay your "participation" is providing neither myself or anyone else here with any "pleasure."

    5. Popeye's "virtues" were not used to condone and popularize bigotry.

    6. Top hats and log cabins, to my knowledge, have never existed in nature. They were therefore, at least as "unnatural" in the 19th century as is your use of a keyboard and monitor in 2005. By your own messed up pseudo-logic, Lincoln was far less "twisted" than you. (Although I would agree with this statement for entirely different reasons).

    E. Simon - 1/16/2005

    Andy, I was having trouble trying to see where you were going with all this, but now it seems a bit more clear. Your weird, self-appointed position as guardian over other mens' "anus(es)," might be initially mistaken for paternalism, but it calls to mind a cinematic allusion to a prospective shepard of a different, but all too familiar, sort. Namely, when Robin Williams asks Matt Damon's character in "Good Will Hunting" what he *seriously* wants to do with his life, he responds with some garbage about his dream to get a "spread" in Nashua, where he can watch over and tend to sheep. As you might be aware, Williams' character throws him out of his office, and tells him that if he's going to jerk off, he might as well do it "on (his) own time;" so transparent was this diversionary tactic from taking the opportunity to be honest about tackling his own problems.

    I think you've got some issues, too, dude. Perhaps being a novel sort of anatomically-oriented shepard is an interesting way to pretend you're really dealing with it. But until you have that moment of clarity, you really need to to a better job of realizing how ridiculous your pretentious arguments are. The assertion that sexual and romantic attractions are largely the result (or could largely be the result) of training and practice is the most farcical nonsense I've ever heard.

    No gay couples are hurting anyone or anything other than, at the most, someone else's innappropriate, misguided and misplaced expectations of them. I don't think indignation is generally a useful emotion, although your flailing and quixotic search to (mis-)appropriate it into your lack of understanding into this matter might reveal an insecurity for which it would definitely be worth feeling ashamed.

    Paul Noonan - 1/15/2005

    The argument that Lincoln was a homosexual seems almost pathetically weak to me. I don't have time to go through all the supposed "evidence", but I'd like to make a couple of points.

    1) Lincoln's supposed "indifference" to women - In Lincoln's day there were essentially two ways for a young man to have heterosexual sex. One was to have sex with a prostitute, or at least a "loose" woman. This brought with it, in addition to the possibility of humiliation should it become publicly known, a very real chance - a probability, really, - of contracting an incurable case of syphillis. The other option was marriage, or at least premarital sex with a "respectable" woman -with the understanding you would marry her if she became pregnant. And, in a world without effective birth control, having sex with someone on a regular basis practically inevitably leads to pregnancy within a few months to a year.

    Lincoln came from an impovrished background. He wanted to make something more of himself than being a simple laborer or subsistence farmer. To become a professional man for someone from his background was difficult enough to accomplish even for a single man, it would have been literally impossible with a wife and family to support. Instead of seeing the young Lincoln as "indifferent" to women, perhaps it is more realistic to see that Lincoln in his teens and early 20s simply realized he couldn't afford to get married and thus avoided putting himself in a situation where he would be expected to propose to someone.

    Leaving aside the Ann Rutledge question, we see that L became involved with Mary Owens in 1836 (L was 27), proposed to her in 1837 and was stung by her rejection. This was essentially the earliest he could have comtemplated marriage without giving up his dream of becoming a "somebody". In 1839 he began courting Mary Todd, which courtship continued -with interruptions- until their marriage in 1842. I suspect in later years he wished he had shopped around a bit more, but in his time and place marriage was for life.

    2) The Sandburg quote - "streak of lavender and spots soft as May violets". In 2005 to say a man has a "streak of lavender" means to say he at least has homoerotic desires, if not that he is a practicing homosexual. I don't think it necessarily meant that in 1926 (not 1924 as Nobile says) when Sandburg's first two volumes were published. First, by "lavender" I think Sandburg was refering to the aromatic flower, not the color which has in modern times become associated with homosexuality, especially male homosexuality. I think Sandburg was saying simply that the rough-hewn Lincoln had a sensitive side, perhaps even - to use modern jargon- he was "in touch with his feminine side", but not that he necessarily had homoerotic desires, much less that he acted on them.

    Val Jobson - 1/15/2005

    Is it logical to claim that since Lincoln was married with children this was "Irrefutable proof that he couldn't have been gay." and then to turn around and accuse Clinton, a married mother, of being a lesbian? Do you know any gay people at all?

    Your question "What IS the politically correct term for the more masculine role of two female homosexuals?" suggests a prurient interest in the details of lesbian sexual activities. Try not to think about such things.

    Your attack on a man you have never met, your claim that he has a mental illness and is mentally confused based solely on the fact that he is gay demonstrates your own bigotry and ignorance, and is evidence of your hatred. You cannot cover it up and pretend it is love or pity or anything but hatred.

    Derek Charles Catsam - 1/15/2005

    Andy --
    It is not a matter of how it seems to me. When I used the word "seem" it was as a rejoinder to your baseless assertions that homsexuality is a mental illness. But if you'd like, let's compile a bibliography of recent scientific literature. You show me five legtiimate sources written since 1995 that still claim that homosexuality is a mental illness and I'll at least acknowledge that there is a question.
    Calling my very successful, very stable brother mentally ill is the last straw. Were we in person this conversation would have just taken a very, very ugly turn for you, I'm afraid. The nice thing here is that I can take my leave of slackjawed troglodytes whose hatred and intolerance is obvious for all to see.

    Derek Charles Catsam - 1/15/2005

    Andy --
    I disagree with most all of what you say. And I am not defending the book. But I am defending the possibility that Lincoln was gay as we know know it and that even if true it should not matter how we assess his greatness as a president. It is not besmirching someone's name to call them gay if they are in fact gay. Amnd your argument fails in its internal logic -- if it is a"pro homosexual intercourse subgroup" then by definition, they are not besmirching Lincoln by saying he was gay, because by your own admission, they are pro gay. But there are very few "pro homosexual intercourse subgroups." there are people who believe, and groups that suppost those beliefs, that gays are not deserving of condemnation and that they deserve every bit of the humanity that straight folks do. It's nice that these sorts of discussions smoke the bigots from their subterranean lairs even as, despite the pronouncement in the last comment, those views are growing less and less acceptable in an America that might just start reaching its promise when it comes to promoting tolerance and fighting bigotry.

    Val Jobson - 1/15/2005

    It must be uncomfortable to be so full of hatred and fear. Get some professional help Mr. Mahan.

    Derek Charles Catsam - 1/14/2005

    People keep tossing out this term "serious historians" as if they are gatekeepers. For all of the verbiage, and the acknowledgment that most in the 19th century would not recognize the term gay or its usage, it is simply ahistorical to say that what we now call "gay" or "homosexual' did not exist as a recognizeable social phenomenon in Lincoln's era. The literature on this is not exactly vague. To say that "serious historians" would not engage in such questions is to be ignorant of the dozens of books on homosexuality before the 20th century by very serious historians. make an argument and disagree, that's fine. Don't pretend, Mr. Bergen, that you are the arbiter of what is and is not serious history or who is or is not a serious historian.
    I agree that this may not be that important, but dismissing something as unimportant to you on the one hand, and then engaging in the argument on the other, well, that says something, now doesn't it? What it says is that for all of the rhetorical posturing, you have beliefs on an issue that you claim to not have any historical merit. Peculiar.

    Derek Charles Catsam - 1/14/2005

    It is not using "the bigot bomb" to call someone who is legitimately a bigopt a bigot. You are one. Homosexuality is not a mental illness. You clearly cannot read -- I at no point said that Hillary's being gay would be a bad thing; what I did say is that there is no evidence for it, and the use of the term "dyke' is certainly used as a pejorative. there is not "as much evidence' unless you know of Hillary spending more than four years worth of nights sleeping on a small cot with a woman whom she wrote rather affectionate letters to.
    Homosexuals are not confused. My brother is not confused. he is gay. That is how he was born, and most scientists seem to agree with this. Yes, you are a bigot. A bigot with really ghastly intellectual skills.

    Barry Bergen - 1/14/2005

    In most regards, for serious historians, it should make no sense even to ask the question, "was Lincoln gay?"

    Part of the problem here is, indeed, "the binary," as the division of the world into gay and straight or homosexual and heterosexual is a recent phenomenon which cannot be applied wholesale to the way people conceived of sexuality in the past, even in our own culture. But another related part of the problem is that we lack an appropriate language to talk about sexuality in the past that is not ahistorical or anachronistic. And I don't just mean "gay." The word homosexual itself did not emerge until the late 19th century. How and when the idea of same-sex sexuality as a separate category of social existence (rather than simply a category of prohibited behaviors) emerged in Western societies is a question that has begun to be explored only in the last twenty years or so. But that still leaves us with no easy way to talk about same-sex sexuality in earlier times. It is clear that sex between men (and between women) occurred in the past, and it is likely that there were people for whom this was their preferred sexual behavior. Does that make them "homosexual" or "gay?" Not exactly, since the terms were not available to them, even supposing that a parallel concept was, and even if we understand what it means to us today to suggest it. We could ask, then, did such people have the primary emotional and affective interest in the same sex that is an important part of what it means to be gay today? The problem that arises with this important question is that sexual activity might or might not have been associated with such a tendency. And that same-sex behavior could easily have occurred completely divorced from it. It is likely however, that some people in the past engaged in same-sex behavior (often in addition to sex with members of the opposite sex) without acknowledging it, and without drawing the kinds of conclusions about such behavior that we would today. Such acts, while no doubt understood as "sinful" or "wrong," would not have elicited questions of identity: people were not asked to decide if they were "gay" or "straight," and could engage in same-sex activity without confronting the question, which really only makes sense in a later time. While Randolph Trumbach has shown the emergence of a self-aware homosexual (for lack of a better word) subculture in London by the early 19th century, I think it would be a stretch to place such a world-view in Lincoln's mental universe in middle years of the 19th century.

    Did Lincoln engage in same-sex activity? It is likely we will never know. The question, however, seems to me one which it is unimportant to ask, pace Larry Kramer. The controversy is analogous to the old debate about women's "companionate marriages" in the 19th century which Carroll Smith-Rosenberg and others have argued about ad nauseum. Did they have sex or didn't they? In almost every case, we will never know for sure. In my own view, it is likely that some did, and some did not. Did Lincoln engage in same-sex activity? It is likely we will never know for sure. And frankly, I couldn't care less. While it would be interesting to note if there were indeed some real evidence, and while some people feel the need to point to gay role models in the past, the more interesting questions in the history of sexuality, I believe, are being explored by historians like Trumbach, George Chauncey, and others, about the emergence and development of homosexuality as a social category and about the development of urban homosexual culture in the relatively recent past. Such work is far more useful in helping us understand how the world in which we live evolved.

    Ralph E. Luker - 1/13/2005

    What sort of historical logic enables Michael Lewis Goldberg to argue that "gay" is an inappropriate category for a 19th century context and then return to suggest that Lincoln's having fathered four children is no evidence that he was not gay?!!! You can't argue the first and then return to use the term in the negative. As I argued earlier, it's the binary that's the problem and we keep getting hung up on it.

    Derek Charles Catsam - 1/12/2005

    Michael --
    Which is consistent with what Sullivan says, though let's be careful about our proclamations about sexuality in the 19th century -- there may have been no concept such as "gay" but ther5e certainly was homosexuality, there certainly was a taboo associated with it in most circles, and those who were what we would now call "gay" went to great lengths to hide it.

    Derek Charles Catsam - 1/12/2005

    Andy --
    Your rage typifies exactly my point -- and what growing up has to do with anything, i guess only the incoherent can guess. Only if you think homosexuality is prima facie a bad thing do you think speculating as to whether a beloved figure was gay is somehow denigrating. My brother is gay. There is nothing denigrating about saying so. That you might think so is testimony to your bigotry, not to any flaw on the part of those who speculate. The fact that you use the term "dyke" to refer to a woman whom you speculate (on zero evidence) might be a lesbian, and about whom we have far more evidence than we do for a 19th century figure just shows your lack of logic. Again, read the Andrew Sullivan piece and say that there is no evidence for Lincoln's homosexuality. And again tell me why your response is so visceral.
    As to the married with children thing, please. There are lots and lots of gay men and women who enter into straight relationships and who have children and either stick with it and are miserable or who break away from it. This is obviously an issue to consider, and as I thought I made clear, we simply cannot know, but it still seems possible that lincoln may have been gay. Thius has nothing to do with immaturity, and if there is a lack of logic it is your series of tortured and at times inane analogies.

    Michael Lewis Goldberg - 1/12/2005

    Did Lincoln have homoerotic longings? Almost certainly, according to the evidence. Did these longings ever include genital contact with other men? Possibly, and if so, not surprisingly. Welcome to the nineteenth century. Does this make Lincoln "gay"? No, because it's an ahistorical concept that only gains legitimacy because of its usefulness to activists on both sides of the gay rights and identity debates. Historians, though, should be more careful in throwing around these labels. As for fathering children being "proof" of not being "gay," well, that certainly doesn't hold up by contemporary standards, since many gay men have fathered children, often under the guise of heterosexual identity. During the nineteenth century, it would not have been uncommon to maintain the necessary badges of "normal" sexuality and still have some degree of erotic attraction to men, or more accurately, to particular men.

    Oscar Chamberlain - 1/12/2005

    Precisely right, Ralph.

    Ken Melvin - 1/11/2005

    The Chinese invented baseball. No the Russians did. So and so was black. No, he/she was jewish.

    Ralph E. Luker - 1/11/2005

    We know that Abraham Lincoln married and became the father of four children. If he had any significant sexual contact with other men prior to or during his marriage, it only suggests the inadequacy of the gay/straight binary.

    Derek Charles Catsam - 1/11/2005

    I cannot speak to the plagiarism issue, but as to the content, it does seem that speculation is part of what historians do when there is not perfect evidence to support claims. Were educated speculation not part of the game, we'd have few colleagues teaching much prior to about 1600 or so. Andrew Sullivan has a pretty compelling case as for why Lincoln probably was gay:


    The interesting thing is how unhinged the conservative attacks have been about the very idea that perhaps our greatest president may have been gay. We'll never know for certain, but from my reading, one can no more assert that Lincoln was straight than that he was gay. We will probably never know. i am comfortable with that.