Book Asserts Abraham Lincoln was Gay

Controversy and Rumors Raged For Years

Portrait of a young Abraham Lincoln chopping logs
Young Abraham Lincoln, the Old Log Splitter. Getty Images Archive

Was Abraham Lincoln gay? In his book The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, historian C.A. Tripps makes the case that Abraham Lincoln was indeed gay and had several homosexual relationships throughout his life.

However, the controversy surrounding the book overshadowed an important fact that Tripp revealed -- a fact even his harshest critics accept as true -- Ann Rutledge was not the love of Lincoln's life.

Tripp's extensive new research proves it simply could not have been the case.

And many experts, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln historian David Herbert Donald now concede it is so.

A Firestorm of Debate

As you might expect, Tripps' book created a firestorm of debate -- most of it predictable along political lines. The left proclaimed a curious victory saying incorrectly that the book shows beyond all doubt that Lincoln was gay. The right responded angrily that Lincoln could not have been gay since he fathered four sons and they dismissed his so-called encounters as false and malicious.

Tripp could not respond. He died two weeks after completing his book and one of the key elements of his work, proving that Lincoln and Rutledge were not star-crossed lovers, is in serious danger of being ignored.

Tripp told a friend shortly before he died that he knew the work would be controversial and that, while he believed he had made his case, he wanted each reader to draw his or her own conclusion.

As the book's editor, Lewis Gannett puts it: "You get to a point where you just shake your head and say, How the hell did [Lincoln] do it? How did he save the union, survive the challenges of his troubled wife Mary, endure the deaths of two sons, preside over the bloodiest era of American history, all the while fending off widespread contempt, and in the end emerge a hero? A secretive, enigmatic, genius hero? With a manic and dirty sense of humor? Who had close and controversial relationships with other men his entire life? Lincoln is far from solved and probably never will be satisfactorily explained but Tripp has made the picture less murky. His accomplishment is stunning."

Lincoln Loved Only One Woman -- And She Was Not Mary Todd 

For years, historians have assumed that Lincoln loved only one woman, Anne Rutledge and courted Mary Owens before marrying Mary Todd, whom he avoided whenever possible. Tripp, however asserts that Lincoln actually loved none of these women and has sex – though reluctantly -- only with his wife and mother of his children, Mary Todd.

While it has never been proven, several historians contend that Mary Todd suffered from mental illness. “And it is true that Mary Lincoln's actions, as reported by newspapers, often invited criticism from the public,” writes About 18th Century History Expert Robert McNamara. “She was known to spend money extravagantly, and she was often ridiculed for perceived haughtiness.”

Intimate Relationships With Men

Tripp contends his research into Lincoln’s private life suggests that his relationships with several men were more intimate and possibly more sexual than those he had with any of the women he supposedly “loved.”

For example, Tripp asserts that Lincoln shared a "narrow" bed with Joshua Speed for at least four years and that as president, he often shared the presidential bedroom with another man during the many times Mary Todd was “away.”

Early Lincoln biographers, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, called Speed “The only -- as he was certainly the last -- intimate friend that Lincoln ever had.'' In their analysis letters from Lincoln to Speed before and after Speed’s eventual marriage in 1842, Nicolay and Hay described Lincoln’s tone as “fretful,” like that of a military commander before a risky battle. Several of Lincoln’s letters were signed “Yours forever.” 

Through a plethora of letters and other personal data, Tripp’s book at least leaves the interpretation that Lincoln might have been gay.

The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln by C.A. Tripp was published by the Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster.