Michael Chesson's Speech Given At The Opening of Lincoln Library
Professor Baker, distinguished guests, and friends of Abraham Lincoln. I want to thank Tom Schwartz for asking me to speak, and Deanna Painter for making such luxurious arrangements. I am not a Lincoln scholar. That comes as no surprise to most of you. Until I read Tripp I would have said this humbly, deferring to those who have studied our greatest president for years. Now when I say that I’m not a Lincoln scholar it’s out of fear that someone might think me part of the official coverup. Why am I here? Because I wrote an eight page afterword for Tripp’s The Intimate World</em> (1). I’d be willing to make a small wager, a month’s salary, that no one has spoken in this forum who has written less about Lincoln. A few words at the end of someone else’s book have won me more publicity–ornotoriety–than the two prize-winning volumes that I’ve produced, a third book, a co-authored title, many articles, and scores of book reviews combined. Why is that? Because Lincoln is not only an American colossus, he is the iconic figure in our entire history. Shelby Foote has said that the Civil War was “the crossroads of our being” as a nation (2). Lincoln stands astride that bloody intersection. There is no way around him. You would have to go through him, and better men than I have tried and failed. My chief value to Bruce Nichols, the book’s editor at The Free Press, was that I’m what my gay friends call a breeder. As a straight white male, an Eagle scout, a Navy veteran, a former vestry member and current usher, I am a complete square. You can take me seriously because I have no agenda, unlike Tripp, Gore Vidal (3), and all other gays and lesbians. Even so, Bruce would not have asked me if he could have found a star, including some here this weekend, who was willing to write a modest endorsement. No one was; all said that the subject was disgusting or absurd or insulting. Straight males are responsible for most of what’s wrong with our world, but we can’t help it. We were born this way. It’s our natural condition. We can be treated with shock therapy, drugs, lobotomies, and castration. Not that I’m volunteering for any of the above. Yet until recently, gays were treated with these methods, as felons in the eyes of the law. Lincoln said, “As a good thing, slavery is strikingly peculiar . . . it is the only good thing which no man ever seeks the good of, for himself.” (4)At his inauguration, Jefferson assured those who hadn’t voted for him, declaring “we are all republicans – we are all federalists.” (5) For what did it matter? What does it matter if one is a Blue State pro-choice tree hugger, or a Red State pro-life denier of global warming? Surely it doesn’t matter if you are a Presbyterian or Muslim, Southern Baptist or Congregationalist. What difference does it make? | When I was a job candidate one member of the department, William A. Percy, of a distinguished Southern family, called his old Mississippi friend, and my mentor, David Herbert Donald, and told him, “Our department has too many Irish Catholics with Harvard Ph.D.s in American History. I don’t want any more of them. What is Chesson?” David replied, according to Bill, “Well, I don’t know about Michael, but I think he has some Jewish blood.” That is Bill’s version. David’s recollection may be different, but he had us write autobiographies in our first month at Hopkins. I said that I was the product of a mixed marriage, an Episcopalian mother and a Catholic father; a former altar boy with more than a wee drop of Irish ancestry. What this story shows is that David would do almost anything to get his students jobs, and that religious affiliation still mattered, in the 1970s. Now on my crumbling commuter campus we celebrate “cultural diversity.” What difference does it make if someone is Italian or African-American, Irish or Polish, Lithuanian or Virginian? It doesn’t. I’d be exactly the same guy if I’d been born in Richmond, Indiana, instead of the capital of the Old Dominion. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female. Just ask Larry Summers; the genders are the same. We are all women, we are all men; we are all gentiles, we are all Jews. We are all straight, we are all gay. What difference does it make? Some of the stars of our so-called profession have said that Lincoln’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter, a backhanded way of admitting that Tripp might be right. What, then, does matter? Hair and eye color? Physique? Hobbies? Membership in the Elks, Rotary Club, or DAR? I’d like to know. I heard claims that Lincoln was gay for twenty years, but did not take them seriously. Every racial and ethnic group has claimed prominent people for their own tribe. Early feminists did the same thing with notable American women that their colleagues had long done for dead white males. Ancestor worship is a human trait. Filiopietism or hagiography is as characteristic of the first writings about 20th century immigrants as it was for WASPs in the era of Parson Weems. Gays are no exception. They point to Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, Richard the Lion Hearted and William III, Prince of Orange, but are reluctant to claim Hitler, or John Wilkes Booth. Until Tripp, most discussion of Lincoln’s possible same sex orientation centered on his four-year sleeping arrangement with Joshua Speed, which I found unconvincing. On his Southern tour Connecticut Yankee Frederick Law Olmsted complained of having to share a bed with drunks, profaners, and even professional gamblers. Men often slept together in the nineteenth century and earlier, usually as transients in boarding houses and inns. Seldom did they have the same partner for years. But I wouldn’t change my view of Lincoln based on one close friendship. According to Donald, “From time to time, they shared the big room above the store with Billy Herndon . . . and with Charles Hurst”. (6) Lincoln and Speed could not possibly have had sex because there was no privacy. I’d run that by any couple with children, straight or gay, and ask them if they have found away to make love quietly. The early Puritans lived all together, six or more of them, in tiny one room houses. A blanket or crude partition shielded the space occupied by the adult couple, with children sleeping at the other end near the fireplace. They had less living space per capita than most Americans. (7) Yet somehow the Puritans managed to reproduce in astounding numbers. Ask any Southerner. Some might prefer noisy, boisterous sex (it seems like a long time ago), but you take what you can get, and are thankful for it. Lincoln learned that truth at an early age. No one has asked just how big the room above the store was that Abe and Joshua, and at times also Billy and Charlie, shared. Nor has Donald’s qualifier been quoted often: “much of the time, they were alone. The arrangement put Lincoln in closer contact with another person than any he had ever experienced.” (8) Once he got his Springfield bearings, Abe could have found other lodging, but chose not to. Why? Some claim that as a young attorney, he could not afford his own bed. But no one has thought to compare the cost (calculated by Speed at $17 when they first met) with Lincoln’s early income as a lawyer, $750 to $1,000 a year. (Tripp brings together various accounts of Lincoln’s sexuality between two covers for the first time in a critical work, written with enormous insight and sophistication. Some reviewers have objected not only to his conclusions, but his prose style. His argument is hard to follow. He jumps around. It’s not a straight biography. I’m reminded of student complaints about the novels I assign in survey courses, Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance, Frederick Busch’s The Night Inspector, Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49</em>. (10) He jumps around. I can’t remember all the characters. I tell them they’re lucky. I could assign scholarly monographs, most of which are a sure cure for insomnia. Americans read less and less, and we understand less of what we do read. For those who find Tripp too hard, I recommend something lighter: McNeil-Lehrer, or Desperate Housewives, or the Boston Globe’s editorial page. Tripp has not only pulled Lincoln out of the closet: he’s ripped the door off, and blown the closet up. Almost as important, he’s run off with the academic robes of the emperors of the Lincoln establishment. Gays have told me that they really don’t find our prejudice all that bad because it’s subtle. I suppose it’s better than tying a young man to a fence and killing him, or burning down a synagogue, or dragging a black man behind a pickup truck. Polite bigotry is O.K. I’ve concluded, to paraphrase Chief Justice Taney, that “gays have no rights which straight male historians are bound to respect.” (11)Carl Sandburg’s the sole exception. He was cautious in what he wrote, not because he didn’t know about or understand homosexuality, but because of his environment. America after the Palmer Raithe era of Harding and Coolidge, was notable neither for its tolerance nor its sophistication. I have not found a single biography by any other man that mentions the captain of the Union ship of state sleeping with the captain of his bodyguard. When asked by Bruce Nichols why he had left David Derickson out of The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln(12), Michael Burlingame said “because I didn’t know what to make of it.” What a response. He’s completing a biography for the Johns Hopkins Press, and has told Nichols that he’s struggling with Lincoln and Derickson, what their sleeping together means. Let’s hope Mike gets over his homo hump; if he doesn’t, his volumes will be obsolete, DOA, as soon as they appear, rather like Dumas Malone’s on Jefferson. Ask Joe Sixpack or a soccer mom what it means. I’ve found a strong positive correlation in my unscientific sample between the age of the person and their willingness at least to consider the possibility that Tripp may be right. I don’t expect it of those born before the Second World War, though there are exceptions, like my father, class of ‘22. Tripp’s evidence is circumstantial. He could not positively link Long Abe with another man. There is no photograph, eyewitness, or confession. Yet how many biographers ever have explicit evidence? It’s usually implicit. Our conclusions about the sexual relations of our subjects are based on compelling yet usually “circumstantial” evidence, which often includes one or more children presumed to be the products of a couple’s union. Most of us know who our mother was. But how do we really know our father? We don’t. His identification until recently depended on the veracity of the mother; and even she didn’t always know for sure. It is one of the sources of the enormous power that women have. The claim that Jefferson had relations with a slave woman was based until 1998 on circumstantial evidence of various kinds. Specialists now have DNA proof–Joe Ellis to the contrary–that one or more of Sally Hemings’s children had Jefferson ancestry, which still does not prove conclusively that he fathered all of her children. Fawn Brodie’s Jefferson(13) was the first serious book to argue that the rumors were true. It got the same reaction from distinguished Jeffersonians that Tripp’s book is getting from the high priests in Lincoln land. Yet Brodie opened the door for historians, biographers, and students of race relations. It was a work by a legal scholar, Annette Gordon-Reed’s Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings(14), that finally convinced me, a longtime scoffer. In the end, on her basic premise, Brodie was right. Tripp may have erred in quoting or citing sources. Some of his interpretations may prove incorrect, such as his argument for Lincoln’s very early puberty and its possible impact. Both kinds of problems, the factual errors and the interpretative flaws, should be brought to light, to correct Tripp and to advance Lincoln scholarship. But nit-picking is not an excuse to dismiss Tripp’s thesis. It stands on heavy legs. Two great questions immediately arise: 1). How has this been missed for so long? And 2). What does it matter? Two quick answers, and then more detailed explanations: it has not been missed; and why does it not matter? Eminent scholars like James G. Randall, and my own teacher, Randall’s greatest student, have seen the Speed-Lincoln affair as only the most intimate kind of nineteenth century friendship, Victorian male bonding. Donald recently upgraded their relationship to a homoerotic one, but quoted approvingly the Freudian psychohistorian Charles B. Strozier, a Lombrosian type, who said that if the friendship between Lincoln and Speed had been sexual, Abe would “have been ‘a bisexual at best, torn between two worlds, full of shame, confused, and hardly likely to end up in politics." (15)How absurd. Gay or bisexual men can be no less political than anyone else. Consider Buchanan, Garfield (see the evidence found by Donald students Rick Cottom and Hendrik Boorem) (16), not to mention the late Harvey Milk in San Francisco, David Boren in Oklahoma, Jim Thompson of Illinois, and my own Gerry Studds and Barney Frank in Massachusetts. Sandburg wrote that Speed and Lincoln had “streaks of lavender.”(17) Limited by the stereotypes of his own day he ascribed effeminacy to one of the most robustly masculine men in history. It’s to his eternal credit that he recognized Lincoln’s sexuality. Had Sandburg dared call Lincoln a homo he would have been ruined, his early volumes remaindered. No publisher would have touched “the guitar strummin’ son-of-a-bitch” as William Hesseltine called him. Tarbell and Leech found the President’s friend Derickson. Tarbell used him in a carefully researched biography serialized in McClure’s Magazine, and published in 1900. (18)(But did she have an agenda? Tarbell never married. That does not mean that she was a lesbian; nor is it proof that she was not one.) (19)Margaret Leech, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, happily married with children, mentioned Lincoln’s sharing a bed without naming Derickson in Reveille In Washington(20). Does anyone here think it was an accident, a coincidence, that Tarbell and Leech, like Jean Baker, were women? Homosexual panic is the last refuge of straight males; and of closeted gay authors. Tripp found these women. Their books are in almost any public library. Tripp also found new primary sources on Derickson, including a regimental history by his commanding officer, and a newspaper story by the captain himself (21). What is curious, and unbelievable, is that several generations of Lincoln scholars and professional historians, trained in the best graduate schools to perform difficult research in manuscripts, failed to find the relevant passages in three well known secondary sources.And of course, first rate historians did not miss Abraham and David. They chose to ignore or deny them, and by omissions from their own works, are guilty of a scholarly crime, suppression of evidence, as bad as the now flagrant plagiarism, found even among prominent historians and professors in our best law schools. Second and third-rate scholars, who are free to identify themselves as such, may not have read Tarbell, Sandburg, and Leech, and can plead innocence on the grounds of incompetence. Ida Minerva Tarbell could not have been missed. It’s understandable that most no longer read her Lincoln. Sandburg overwhelmed all previous biographies, until new ones began to appear after the opening of the Lincoln papers in 1947. That same year Benjamin P. Thomas, whose own Lincoln won glowing reviews in 1952, published Portrait for Posterity: Lincoln and His Biographers.
One of the pioneers he portrayed most favorably was Tarbell, “An Idealistic Realist.” He called her Sandburg’s “prime mover.” (22)
It’s inconceivable that Thomas did not read or could somehow have skipped her chapter on “Lincoln and the Soldiers.” She described in considerable detail Abe’s friendship with the Bucktails of Co. K, 150th Pennsylvania Volunteers, both at the White House and at the Soldier’s Home outside the city, and his sleeping with Derickson, always on occasions when Mary was away (23). Thomas omitted this affair from his own biography. If “he did not know what to make of it,” he could have followed Carl Becker, who said “every man his own historian.” (24) And every woman I might add. Why not let readers make up their own minds? At least Stephen B. Oates cannot be accused of plagiarizing this from Thomas, since it’s not there (25). In Thomas’s defense–and I want to be fair to him, since like Tripp he’s not here to defend himself–he wrote during a Red Scare far more dangerous than what Sandburg experienced. Joe McCarthy and his closeted goon Roy Cohn would have ruined the career of any professor who called Lincoln a queer. So what’s the excuse of the current generation of scholars? Are they afraid of Tom DeLay? Rush Limbaugh?
Michael Burlingame is prolific. His many works include an unpublished edition of Tarbell’s interviews (26). One of them was with Charles Derickson, the son of Lincoln’s bedmate, who lived in her hometown. Like Thomas, he has known about Derickson for years, and probably decades. How sad. Scholars spend their entire careers studying Lincoln, yet miss his sexual orientation, and are still unwilling to admit that he might have been bisexual. Burlingame now accepts that possibility, but no matter what stance he takes in his new biography, he will be attacked. If he argues that evidence suggests Lincoln was bisexual, the reviews by his fellow Lincolnistas will be scathing, especially those he’s accused of plagiarism. If he says that Lincoln was a straight man from Illinois he risks premature obsolescence, branded a Mr. Magoo for his blindness.
No one except the gay activists Jim Kepner and Charley Shively until Tripp followed in Tarbell’s footsteps, and then went beyond her. Why? Ultimately, consciously or unconsciously, serious biographers almost all try to make their subjects look good. I’m no fan of what Joyce Carol Oates calls pathography (27). The most valuable lives are those by authors with some sympathy for their subjects, and critical but not entirely damning insights about them. If you’re out to nail someone, unless it’s a dog there is dirt to be found. More common is the sin of falling in love with your subject. Tarbell omitted a scandalous sexual episode in the early life of her heroine Madame Roland (28). Douglas Southall Freeman concealed a story that he thought, wrongly as it turned out, showed Robert E. Lee in an unfavorable light as a young officer (29). Dr. Freeman’s biographer concealed his affair with a Catholic woman, the talk of Richmond (30). Lincoln told Herndon that “Biographies as generally written are not only misleading, but false . . . They commemorate a lie, and cheat posterity out of the truth.” (31)
“When we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen–Benjamin, Stephen, Douglas and Charles, for instance–and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house . . . all the . . . mortices exactly fitting . . . – in such a case, we find it impossible to not believe that Benjamin, and Stephen, and Douglas and Charles all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.” (32) I could build a Lincoln log cabin of homophobic denial. The little red chimney I call a Strozier, because it blows smoke. From Thomas on, Lincoln biographers have been co-conspirators in the effort to disguise, ignore, or conceal evidence that might mar their cherished image of the rail splitter. It’s been a coverup, a conspiracy of silence by experts to hide what they regard as dirty linen in Abe’s faded carpetbag.
Which leads to the second question, does it matter? If not, why all the hysteria? If it didn’t, the question wouldn’t be asked, and the evidence would not have been concealed. Most of the media pundits jump from one kind of dismissal to another. They react with disgust, outrage, or disbelief when asked the question. As the Lincoln cover story headline of U.S. News put it: “Gay? Nah, forget about it.” (33) But when confronted with evidence they retort, what difference does it make? Tripp’s critics will continue to assert that Lincoln was straight, despite what’s now out in the open. Until someone is willing to test Tripp’s thesis in a sympathetic yet critical way, we won’t know how Lincoln’s possible orientation may have affected his political decisions, or
other aspects of his life.
None of you would be here, and I would not be in Springfield, if Tripp had found at least five cases of Lincoln sleeping with younger women. All of us would assume it was for sex, and that would in fact be the most plausible explanation. “It’s still the same old story, the fight, for love and glory . . .” (34) Only if the bedmate is of the same gender do we assume that it’s not for sex. It’s a classic case of the assumption of heterosexuality.
Lincoln’s stepmother recalled that he "was not very fond of girls." (35) Most people who knew him agreed, as have most biographers. Now the Lincolnistas are scrambling to find enough girlfriends to “prove” that Abe was straight, even claiming that he sought out prostitutes, as if that was more respectable or less offensive than being gay.
Most of these women are so obscure they’re not even mentioned in the standard biographies (36). Ann Rutledge is the most famous, engaged to a man Abe was friendly with (37). Supposedly heartbroken and suicidal, he “courted” Susan Reid in New Salem the year after Ann’s death. She recalled that Lincoln was “very bashful,” “very awkward,” “very homely,” and “a very queer fellow.” (38) Other young women had similar impressions (39). None of these incredibly awkward “courtships” led to the altar, which inspires me to song:
Lincoln went a-courtin’, he did ride, UH UH, UH UH
Lincoln went a-courtin’, he did ride,
Wasn’t lookin’ for no long-haired bride, UH UH, UH UH. (40)
As the Rolling Stones sang to my generation, “You can’t always get what you want . . .
But if you try . . . you might get what you need.” (41) Abe didn’t want a wife, he wanted Joshua, but he needed a wife in order to have a political career. Pop quiz: name ten national politicians of the time, not counting Buchanan and William Rufus King, who never married (42).
Few would deny the importance of marriage in Lincoln’s life. Experts have argued about its nature (43). Yet how many have examined the possibility that Lincoln’s orientation may have contributed to his marital difficulties, and his wife’s unhappiness, not to mention his own? It may even have been the key, the crucial element in their marriage; or the essential ingredient that was missing.
Today almost all Jeffersonians admit that he and Sally Hemings were lovers (44). How many historians, particularly straight white males, the most timid creatures in an academic zoo gone mad with political correctness, would now have the temerity to dismiss the legend of dashing Sally and the apostle of liberty by saying “it doesn’t matter”? Ask the parents of a child who has just discovered a same sex orientation whether it matters. Or the longtime spouse of someone who has discovered their true identity. If Lincoln was bisexual, or primarily homosexual, unlike most men of his time, it must change our view of him in fundamental ways. Of course it matters.
Tripp predicted, and Gore Vidal believes, that it will take a generation, or a century, before an alternative view emerges of Lincoln (45). Perhaps they’re wrong. Imagine a young woman in graduate school, or just starting her career. She may even have a book or two behind her, and is now safely tenured and promoted. She’s looking for a subject, a big one, that will make her famous. Not infected by homophobia, she will write a nuanced, shrewd, insightful study that explores and tests Tripp’s thesis against the evidence. As for the performance of Lincoln’s male biographers, I’ll give him the last word: “Your low Crotch proclaimes you a botch, and that never Can answer
for me.” (46)</font>
1. C. A. Tripp, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln (New York: The Free Press, 2005).
2. “Men At War: An Interview With Shelby Foote,” in The Civil War: An Illustrated History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), 264.
3. In one of the many exchanges between “the Torquemada of plagiarism,” Michael Burlingame, and Stephen B. Oates, Burlingame enlisted in his behalf William Styron and Gore Vidal, whom he described as “two of America’s foremost men of letters.” Both supported him, concluding that Oates was guilty of plagiarism. When Vidal is invited to give the Massey Lectures at Harvard by Donald; or when he supports Burlingame’s outing of plagiarists, he is a leading man of letters. When he opines that Abe might have been gay, he “has an agenda.” See History News Network, 15 April 2002, Michael Burlingame’s response to Stephen Oates with <a href="http://hnn.us/articles/648.html">links</a>. (http://hnn.us/articles/648.html)
4. Fragment on slavery, 1 October 1858.
5. First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801.
6. David Herbert Donald, “We Are Lincoln Men:” Abraham Lincoln and His Friends (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003), 32.
7. John Demos, A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), 30-31.
8. Donald, “We Are Lincoln Men,” 32. Donald fudged the other way in his earlier biography, writing that for “Much of the time” when Abe and Joshua were sharing a bed, Billy and Charlie were present. David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995), 70.
9. Donald, Lincoln, 66, 94. “During the 1840's Lincoln had many cases for $5 and $10 . . . His fee book in the Stuart period shows a range of from $2.50 to $50 on a group of cases. During the 1840's his income must have regularly been considerably under $2,000 a year, . . . .” John P. Frank, Lincoln As a Lawyer (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1961), 39, citing Harry E. Pratt, The Personal Finances of Abraham Lincoln (Springfield: Abraham Lincoln Association, 1941). A more recent scholar, Allen D. Spiegel, in A. Lincoln, Esquire: A Shrewd, Sophisticated Lawyer in His Time (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2002), 23, 26-27, 34, found that Stuart and Lincoln had at
least 700 cases in their four years as partners, almost two-thirds for debt collection. “He probably earned around $750 to $1,000 a year with Stuart and $1,000 to $1,5000 per year with Logan.” In the first years of Abe’s marriage to Mary Todd in the early 1840s they rented a room in the Globe Tavern; room and board cost $4 a week.
10. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance (1852); Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1966); Frederick Busch, The Night Inspector (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999).</p>
11. Chief Justice
Roger B. Taney wrote in his majority opinion for Dred Scott
v. Sandford (1857), that blacks “had no rights which the white
man was bound to respect.” See Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Dred
Scott Case (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 347.
12. Michael Burlingame, The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).
13. Fawn Brodie, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1974).
14. Annette Gordon-Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997).
15. Quoted by Donald in“We Are Lincoln Men,” 38; see also Charles B. Strozier, Lincoln’s Quest for Union: Public and Private Meanings (New York: Basic Books, 1982), 40-49.
16. I differ with Jean Baker, who argues in James Buchanan (New York: Henry Holt, Times Books, 2004), 18-26, that he was asexual, never shaved, and probably never had sex with anyone. As her chief source on his longtime roommate, and possible lover, she cites Daniel Fate Brooks, “The Faces of William Rufus King,” Alabama Heritage (summer 2003): 14-23, 47, an article that is at least as supportive of a homosexual link between the two men as the contrary. See also John M. Martin, “William R. King and the Compromise of 1850,” North Carolina Historical Review ? (Autumn 1962): 500-518; “William R. King and the Vice Presidency,” Alabama Review 16 (Jan. 1963): 35-54; and “William R. King: Jacksonian Senator,” Alabama Review 18 (Oct. 1965): 243-267. The standard scholarly biography is still Philip Shriver Klein, President James Buchanan (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962), 27-37. On Garfield see Robert I. Cottom, “To Be Among the First: The Early Career of James A. Garfield, 1831-1861,” Ph.D. diss. in history, The Johns Hopkins University, 1975; and Hendrik Booraem V, The Road to Respectability: James A. Garfield and His World, 1844-1852 (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1988).
17. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1926), 1: 264.
18. Ida M[inerva] Tarbell, The Life of Abraham Lincoln (1895-99; New York: Doubleday & McClure, 1900), vol. 3, 153-57.
19. Kathleen Brady, Ida Tarbell: Portrait of a Muckraker (New York: Seaview/Putnam, 1984) is the best life, with a subtle discussion of her sexuality that leaves readers to draw their own conclusions.
20. Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington, 1860-1865 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941; reprint paper ed., New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1941), 303.
21. Thomas Chamberlin, History of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Second Regiment, Bucktail Brigade (Philadelphia: F. McManus, Jr., 1905; repr. ed., Baltimore: Butternut and Blue, 1986); Derickson, “The President’s Guard,” 1888 Tribune.
In a recent review, “Gay Abe?”, Strozier finds that Tripp erred in his text, giving the publication date of the regimental history as 1895, though the correct date, 1905, was listed in his bibliography. See <a href="http://illinoistimes.com/gbase/Gyrosite/Content?oid=3966">Illinois Times. </a>(http://illinoistimes.com/gbase/Gyrosite/Content?oid=3966) The first date marks the start of Tarbell’s serialized Lincoln. Strozier argues that her biography, with its quotation from Derickson’s 1888 article, “brought the whole matter of Derickson’s friendship with Lincoln” back to his mind. Chamberlin “may also have consulted Fox’s diary in the Library of Congress”; a scenario that I find very unlikely. It is more likely that he “himself remembered the rumor of the common male bedding from more than 40 years previously”. Somewhat contradictorily, and confusingly, Strozier concludes “or he made it all up.”
22. Benjamin P. Thomas, Portrait for Posterity: Lincoln and His Biographers (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1947), ch. 7, 178-202; quote on 187. In a bibliographical essay on “Lincoln Literature” at the end of his Abraham Lincoln (New York: Knopf, 1952; paper repr. ed., 1973), 527, Thomas said Tarbell “discovered a great deal of new material bearing on Lincoln’s life. This has been incorporated in more recent books, but her . . . [Life] is still worth reading because she understood Lincoln the man. While she liked to think the best of him, she had an open mind, a quality, singularly lacking in earlier biographers [and later ones?], that foretold and helped to make possible the work of modern writers.” Thomas calls Leech’s work “a delightful study” (542).
23. Tarbell, Lincoln, 153-57.
24. Carl L. Becker, “Everyman His Own Historian,” Presidential Address, annual convention, American Historical Association, Minneapolis, 29 Dec. 1931; repr. in Everyman His Own Historian: Essays on History and Politics (New York: F. S. Crofts, 1935; Chicago: Quadrangle Paperback, 1966), 232-55.
25. See “Michael Burlingame’s Response to Stephen Oates,” History News Network, for an exchange between Oates and Burlingame, with the latter’s treatment in parallel columns of passages by Oates and from Thomas, William Styron, Martin Luther King, and Joseph Blotner; <a href="http://hnn.us/articles/648.html">link</a>. (http://hnn.us/articles/648.html)
26. Michael Burlingame, ed., Ida Tarbell: Notes and Letters (unpub.; Nyack, NY: Lincoln/Tripp Database, 2001).
27. Ken Wilber Online, Endnotes to Boomeritis, ch. 8, The_NewParadigm@WonderUs.org, “That most insidious form of biography known
as pathography”; <a href="http://wilber.shamhala.com/html/books/boomeritis/endnotes/ch8.cfm/">link</a> (http://wilber.shamhala.com/html/books/boomeritis/endnotes/ch8.cfm/); see also Greg Johnson, Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates (New York: Dutton, 1998).
28. See Brady, Tarbell, 76-79, for an account of Roland’s rape by her father’s apprentice, and Tarbell’s omission of the incident in her biography.
29. Michael Fellman, The Making of Robert E. Lee (New York: Random
House, 2000), 20-21, 317 n. 1.
30. David E. Johnson, Douglas Southall Freeman (Gretna, LA: Pelican
Publishing Co., 2002).
31. William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Herndon’s Life of Lincoln (1889; Cleveland: World Publishing Co., Da Capo paper repr. ed., 1983), 353.
32. “A House Divided”: Speech at Springfield, Illinois, 16 June 1858, in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2: 465-66. My paraphrase, with omissions marked by ellipsis, changes only the names of the guilty, from the presidents, chief justice, and senate majority leader indicted by Lincoln, to four of his most recent biographers.
33. Justin Ewers, “Special Report: The Real Lincoln,” U.S. News & World
Report (21 Feb. 2005), 66-73.
34. Herman Hupfeld, “As Time Goes By . . . ,” Warner Brothers Music Corp., 1931.
35. Abe’s stepmother, Sara Bush Johnston Lincoln, interviewed by Herndon 8 Sept. 1865; quoted in Burlingame, Inner World, 123 and 139 n. 2 in chap. 6, “Lincoln’s Attitude Toward Women: The Most Striking Contradiction of a Complex Character,” 123-46.
36. Burlingame begins his chap. 6 with an unequivocal statement: “Abraham Lincoln did not like women.” He then lists a bevy of young women as love interests, Susan Reid, Martinette Hardin, Mary Owens, Rosanna Schmink, and Sarah Rickard, among others. If Lincoln was bisexual, or primarily homosexual, his behavior is less contradictory, without necessarily reducing the complexity of his character. A far more striking contradiction is Burlingame’s treatment of the subject, from the first sentence of his chapter, to the long list of damsels Abe supposedly courted.
Douglas L. Wilson, Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), has a similar interpretation. See ch. 4, “Women,” 109-41; he states that “The consensus of Lincoln’s relatives and neighbors in Indiana, where he lived from ages seven to twenty-one, was that he was not much attracted to girls” (109).
37. John McNamar apparently loaned Lincoln books from his large library, and knew him well enough to appreciate his passion for the poetry of Robert Burns. Wilson, Honor’s Voice, 61, 73.
38. Burlingame, Inner World, 124, 140 n. 16. Susan Reid Boyce was interviewed about Lincoln in 1897. She may have been using “queer” in the modern sense. Though “queer” certainly did not mean in the 1830s what it came to mean in the 20th century, with one dictionary giving a 1922 usage as the earliest with a homosexual meaning, it was being used as shorthand for counterfeit money by the 1870s, thus something (or later someone) that was not what it appeared to be. Stuart Berg Flexner, Listening to America
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), 284.
Since writing my afterword to Tripp’s book, where I stated that “gay” as applied to homosexual men dated only from the 1930s (320 n. 1), I have found that “The homosexual meaning actually goes back to the late 19th century. English journalist Philip Howard, in New Words For Old, mentions London’s Cleveland St. scandal of 1889 during which a male prostitute, testifying in court, described himself as gay”: <a href="http://plateaupress.com/au/wfw/gay-gone.htm">link</a>. (http://plateaupress.com/au/wfw/gay-gone.htm)
39. Martinette Hardin of Springfield, a cousin of Mary Todd’s, said Lincoln was “‘awkward’” and “‘never at ease with women’”. Mary Owens famously reported that he “‘was deficient in those little links’” that make women happy. Rosanna Schmink refused a second date with him when he failed to provide her with a horse to ride on their first outing; she had to sit on the saddle behind him. He proposed to Sarah Rickard with the Old Testament story of Sarah and Abraham, but she had known him for years like an older brother, and remembered “‘his peculiar manner.’” Burlingame, Inner World, 124, 134-35.
40. Some facts on Froggy went a courting
41. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Rolling Stones, recorded 16-17 Nov. 1968; released on Let It Bleed, 1969.
42. Klein, Buchanan, 28-34, 111; Warren Johansson and William A. Percy, Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence (New York: Haworth Press, 1994), 233-34; Carl Sferrazza Anthony, “Was James ‘Aunt Fancy’ Buchanan Our Gay President?”, The Advocate 571 (26 Feb. 1991): 50-53. Noted Southern historian J. Mills Thornton III writes, “King formed a close and affectionate relationship with James Buchanan . . . The two lifelong bachelors shared the same views on most public questions and in private life held each other in the highest regard. It is not clear whether the friendship had a sexual component, although contemporaries sometimes implied that it did. The relationship was never overtly a political issue.” American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) 12: 720-21. Daniel Fate Brooks found that King was challenged to a duel, apparently about his sexuality.
43. For the ongoing debate see Jean H. Baker, “The Lincoln Marriage: Beyond the Battle of Quotations,” Thirty-eighth Annual Robert Fortenbaugh Memorial Lecture, Gettysburg College, 1999; repr. as “Mary and Abraham: A Marriage,” in Gabor Boritt, ed., The Lincoln Enigma (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 36-55.
44. Dr. Daniel P. Jordan, President, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., “Statement on the TJF Research Committee Report on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings,” <a href="http://www.monticello.org/">link</a> (http://www.monticello.org/); and Brent Staples, “Lust Across the Color Line and the Rise of the Black Elite,” New York Times, 10 April 2005, Sect. 4, Week in Review, p. 11.
45. In his dedication “To Future Lincoln Scholars” Tripp quotes Max Planck on how a new scientific truth becomes accepted; Gore Vidal’s prediction of “at least a century” comes from his dust jacket blurb.
46. Tripp, Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, Appendix 1, “First Chronicles
of Ruben,” 251.