SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - It must have been the first conference in the history of Abraham Lincoln scholarship to call the Great Emancipator "a terrifically sexual guy."
Addressing the nation's top Lincoln scholars on Sunday, two historians defended a new book that claims Lincoln was gay and called for more research into his sexuality.
"I could build a Lincoln Log cabin of homophobic denial," said Civil War historian Michael Chesson. "There's been a cover-up, a conspiracy of silence for experts to hide what they regard as dirty linen in Abe's faded carpetbag."
The reason for the discussion - part of a conference held in conjunction with the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum - is a new book called "The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln."
Author and sociologist C.A. Tripp, who died before the book was published, examined Lincoln's poetry, the recollections of those who knew him and his relationships with other men and concluded Lincoln was "predominantly homosexual."
Tripp goes into more detail, but he was not the first person to speculate on the subject.
Scholars have long wondered about the relationship between Lincoln and Joshua Speed. The two men slept in the same bed for four years in Springfield and developed a deep friendship.
Seeking to save money and stay warm in crude buildings, men of the day often shared beds. But Lincoln and Speed lived together long after they could afford separate quarters. Though both men married and Lincoln had four children, Tripp concluded they were lovers.
He reached the same conclusion about Lincoln and David Derickson, a soldier assigned to guard the president during the Civil War. Lincoln and Derickson sometimes shared a bed when Mary Todd Lincoln was out of town.
Jean Baker, author of a major biography of Mrs. Lincoln, has concluded that Lincoln was bisexual.
"(Lincoln) loved men, and they loved him, at whatever level," Baker said.
She also rejected the contention that Lincoln married only to further his political career, saying Abraham and Mary "loved each other and could not be happy apart."
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