Abraham Lincoln was known as “Honest Abe” for his forthright nature, but a new book explores the possibility that the 16th president of the United States may have kept a very big secret: his sexuality.
The sexual preference of the famously reticent president has been the subject of plenty of scholarly research, and a new historical fiction book explores whether Lincoln may have been in a romantic relationship with his best friend and longtime roommate, Joshua Speed. The book, Courting Mr. Lincoln, ties together some of the research into his possible homosexuality with a fictional narrative about Lincoln and his future wife, Mary Todd.
As author Louis Bayard told the New York Post, friends Lincoln and Speed actually shared a bed for quite a long time, three years, in fact. While it was not uncommon for bachelors to share a bed in that time, the length of time they spent together was unusual, even for that day, Bayard said.
Bayard said he did as much research as he could into the relationship between Lincoln and Speed, noting that previous researcher C.A. Tripp theorized that Lincoln was a homosexual. Other biographers hinted at the idea as well, Bayard noted.
While there is more widespread rumors that president James Buchanan was gay, Bayard noted that many believe Lincoln may have been as well.
“There were whispers about James Buchanan [from political opponents],” he said. “One of the things that did come up with Lincoln’s early biographers is that he wasn’t a player with the gals. Even his own stepmother, who adored him, said he was never much for girls.”
While there is no consensus on Abraham Lincoln’s sexuality, much has been written and theorized about his intensely private life. Many modern researchers believe that he suffered from mental health issues, which was described at the time as “melancholy,” but many now believe to be clinical depression.
The rumored homosexuality of past presidents has come back into focus in recent weeks with the entrance of South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg in the Democratic primary. Buttigieg is openly gay and if he were to win the nomination, would become the first openly gay candidate to represent a major party in a presidential election. Buttigieg has not made his sexuality a key issue for the campaign and instead remained focused on the issues, but his candidacy has still earned the support of a number of LGBTQ groups and leaders.