For four years, Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed shared one bed.  At the time, it was common for two men of limited economic means to sleep together, but Lincoln and Speed’s arrangement continued long after the young future President could afford his own bed.  Lincoln, in letters to Speed,  said “I do not feel my own sorrows more keenly than I do yours,” and “You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting.”  Lincoln signed letters to Speed “yours forever”, a phrase not used even with his wife, Mary Todd.  Lincoln’s lifelong struggle with “melancholia”,  his professed affection for Speed, and his reported awkwardness around women lead some to believe Lincoln was gay.

Carl Sandburg, in his 6 volume biography of Lincoln, in the 1926 edition of  “The Prairie Years”, said that both Lincoln and Speed had “a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets.”  Speed wrote of Lincoln’s near emotional breakdown upon his (Speed’s) decision to return to Kentucky.

In 2005, C.W. Tripp published “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln”, where he proposes that the 16th President of the United States was gay.  There was an immediate uproar from many Lincoln historians, and from conservative Republicans.  As time progresses, however, and younger historians look at the actual historical evidence,  some are concluding that Abraham Lincoln may very well have been what we today might call a closeted gay man.

Bilerico’s Michael Hamar posts an interesting article on the matter, here.

Was Abraham Lincoln gay?  Unless some here-to-fore unknown documentation appears to absolutely confirm it, (and you can bet it’s authenticity would be hotly contested) we can never know for certain.  Is it important to know if he was gay?  Yes, it is.  For if Abraham Lincoln were gay, it would disprove much of what homophobes claim about homosexuals.  It would be difficult for the conservatives, especially Republican conservatives, to accept the idea that the leader of their party, the man they hold up as an icon of their values, was secretly gay.  They would be unable to maintain that homosexuals are nothing more than sick, perverted alcoholics, drug addicts, and child molesters.

From what we can see, 145 years after his death, Abraham Lincoln may well have been a very tormented man.  Living in an era that didn’t even have the label “homosexual” to apply to a same-sex attraction,  he would have only his own feelings to guide him.  If he did have feelings of attraction to other men,  they would have been deemed by many of the time, and perhaps even by Lincoln himself, as perverted and sinful.  While Lincoln was not a greatly religious man, he was a product of his time, and perhaps that pressure, along with the later stresses of politics, the Presidency, the Civil War, and the deaths of his sons, generated the “melancholia” noted throughout his life.   His only moments of happiness may have been his time with Joshua Speed, and later with his children.

Closets, even historical ones, are sad places to have to live.

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