NY Post's Review of C.A. Tripp's Gay Lincoln Biography

Roundup: Talking About History

Eric Fettmann, in the NY Post (12-27-05):

IN the pantheon of presidents, was Abraham Lincoln a queer eye among a bevy of straight guys?

Yes, claims a new book, "The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln," which has received the imprimatur of a major publisher (Free Press) and a distinctly supportive article in The New York Times.

The book's author, the late C.A. Tripp, was a longtime gay writer and former sex-researcher for Alfred C. Kinsey. And he insists that the case is beyond dispute: Lincoln was gay, he writes, naming several alleged lovers.

But the evidence is not just slim, it's nonexistent. Indeed, the case for a gay Lincoln rests on giving every possibly ambiguous statement or incident a sexual meaning - an extreme case of one of the worst sins of historical research: projecting 21st-century mores on earlier eras.

Which is why serious Lincoln historians - like two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Herbert Donald, who's spent a lifetime studying the 16th president - reject these claims.

Yes, Lincoln shared a bed for several years with Joshua Speed, his first law partner. But there was nothing uncommon about that back then, notes Harold Holzer, author of 23 books on Lincoln and/or the Civil War and co-chairman of the national Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

In fact, Lincoln's two White House secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay, also shared a single bed for years - and no one has suggested they were gay.

From the perspective of our sex-saturated time, when gossip columns are filled with items about "canoodling" and "tonsil hockey," it may look like proof positive. But 19th century America didn't share today's mores - or sexual obsessions.

In fact, says Holzer - who was asked to write the introduction to Tripp's book but refused - the whole discussion "is an embarrassment to serious historical discussion."

Actually, there's much more to this than debatable historical research. As Larry Kramer, the provocative gay activist, told the Times: "It's a revolutionary book, because the most important president in the history of the United States was gay. Now maybe they'll leave us alone, all those people in the party he founded." In short, this is an attempt to co-opt Lincoln for contemporary political purposes - something Kramer has been trying to do for years.

Back in 1999, he attracted considerable media attention when he claimed he'd uncovered a previously unknown Joshua Speed diary that explicitly confirmed the "love affair." Kramer even gave a public reading of some lurid quotes from the diary that sounded like they could have been written by Danielle Steele.

Since then, the diary has never surfaced. Says Holzer, Kramer "said he invented the story as a means of reminding Americans that gays can become great." Indeed, Kramer has been quoted as saying that he was trying to provide "the first gay president" - even if that means having "to invent our own" history....

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joseph everett graham - 1/22/2005

It is intresting that there is a need in the gay community to try and fit history to fit them. Every great leader was not gay and then there were leaders that were gay. Alexander the Great was bi but most greeks were. Is it that they feel so left out of the norm that they must fight and scream and try and turn all great leaders into gay men? Just food for thought