Was Abe Lincoln an Unabashed Homophobe?

Over in Great Debates someone mentioned Honest Abe was an ‘unabashed racist.’ (I will take ‘Duh’ for $1000 Alex)

It just got me sort of wondering. How would Abe or someone from his time look upon homosexual men and women? While I am sure there are examples of Gay people being allowed to do as they wanted, and other examples of burning at the stake, was there a general public opinion toward Gays in say, 1860 America?

How would an educated person in 1860 America handle meeting a person he knew to be a homosexual?

Hard to say, since there are controversial allegations that Lincoln himself might have been gay, the origin of the name of the Log Cabin Republicans, an association of gay and lesbian Republicans.

Here’s the thread in question.

It should be noted that there’s kind of an established tradition of speculation that Lincoln was gay (not that I buy into it) based on his relationship with Joshua Speed. But I’m not sure there was a recognized orientation at that time.

EDIT: What he said.

Probably, it would depend on which person you asked – just like today.

For example, Brazil, Portugal & the Ottoman Empire had just decriminalized homosexuality (actually, ‘buggery’; the word “homosexual” wasn’t created until about 20 years later), while England had recently reduced the penalties for it. On the other hand, Germany, Russia, & Poland were making homosexuality illegal about that time.

So you could probably find attitudes all over the map. (Much like today.)

Well that settles it. Let’s go to Springfield and dig him up! Who’s with me?


I can’t remember when the time of Boston marriages and the women’s colleges that were filled with lesbians were. was it during the time of Lincoln or a little after?
Back in the day the all women’s colleges like Smith, and Mt Holyoke were FILLED with lesbians…it’s not a new thing…lol

Must we have another thread that ends with us digging up a corpse?

You do realize that Abe was so ugly he had to marry a crazy woman in order to get laid. So he probably wouldn’t be too fussy :smiley:

Well, when I was a kid in the 1960s, it was so self-evident and obvious that homosexuality was wrong that you didn’t need to question it. The ‘60s’ take on being gay was like 2010’s view of:

Off the top of my head, I’d say it’s unlikely the 1860s were more liberal, but I’m not old enough to say for sure.

The question presupposes that a person in 1860 America has similar concepts of homosexuality as we do (or had a concept of homosexuality at all). Ultimately the question is meaningless within the context of its time, and the answer would be even more meaningless.

People back then did not talk about their sex lives. They did not pry into other people’s personal matters. They rarely thought about them. So Lincoln would not have any occasion to know if another man were homosexual. He probably would have considered the practices as “unnatural” if he opened a bedroom door and found to men having sex, but unless something blatant like that happened (and it wouldn’t, any more than a heterosexual couple would have sex in public), he wouldn’t have thought about it. If he met a gay man, he most likely wouldn’t have noticed (it’s a 21 century obsession to speculate if a person is gay).

If historical revisionists wanted to point out that we’ve had a gay president, then they need look no further than Lincoln’s predecessor, the never-married James Buchanan with far more justification.

But no, it’s Honest Abe, one of the three greatest presidents, who needs to be claimed for the banner, in much the same way Cleopatra is declared to have been Black in some corners of the revisionist discourse.

“Back in the day”? Haven’t been to one lately, have you?

Zsofia, Agnes Scott College '01

Why not? You say “must” as if we were compelled to do something unpleasant!

Didn’t a little girl send a letter recommending a beard to improve his political career?

Sigh I’ll go get my kit.

Don’t bother - I keep some spare entrenching tools in the car. In case of snow. Yeah - that’s right - snow. My living by five major cemeteries has nothing to do with it.

(Which brings up the question “Any US Presidents closet necrophiliacs?”)

I don’t think that the fact that people didn’t talk publicly about their sex lives supports the conclusion that they didn’t think about them. And while they may not have spoken explicitly, newspapers and other publications discussed sexual activity using code words that most people understood.

As an example, take the publication of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman in 1845. It was widely condemned for its sexual themes, including this remark by one critic:

The Straight Dope: Was Abraham Lincoln gay?

My understanding is that the idea of homosexuality as a matter of identity, as opposed to behavior, was far less common back then than it is today. I.e. to someone like Abe Lincoln, a homosexual would have been someone who indulged in “unnatural practices,” not someone to whom such practices were natural.

I hate to spoil your fun, but it’s been tried.

Somebody else tried it? Well, shit. Well, next on my list: that poufter Charlie Chaplin! Let’s go dig him up! Who’s with me?