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How Lincoln Was Dissed
08-30-2013, 11:38 AM (This post was last modified: 08-30-2013 11:46 AM by Liz Rosenthal.)
Post: #10
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed
Gene: You suggest that Lincoln took the Bible literally. I beg to differ. He was not a man consumed with fear of "sin." He was, in fact, among the most tolerant of human beings when it came to differences amongst people and their behaviors. He didn't judge alcoholics, he told off-color jokes (which prompted Lamon's collaborator Chauncey Black to ask Herndon if Lincoln had a "diseased" mind), he never claimed to know what God wanted or that one religion was superior to another. Yes, he took great comfort in the Bible, but there is no credible evidence that he used it to bring the hammer down on "sinners," either in words or deeds. For this reason, among others, he's one 19th century figure I think I could have a modern conversation with.

Incidentally, did you know that Lincoln came up with a little rhyming ditty - possibly before he was married - about prostitution, which demonstrated that he did not judge the conduct of prostitutes? A typical 19th-century, God-fearing, Bible-thumping man would not have written such a ditty.

I don't think Lincoln was gay, chiefly because there is nothing in the record, other than modern-day supposition, that he was gay, although he did things that all or most men did in those days- i.e., share beds with men. Heterosexual men tend not to do that today. I think the whole "Lincoln was Gay" meme is very silly. But I don't view Tripp's book, from what I know of it as I don't intend to read it, or other discussions about Lincoln possibly being gay, as a "diss." It's really much ado about nothing; most people disregard the notion.

Sure - if Lincoln were accused of infidelity to Mary, that would be an insult, as well as false. But - and this next bit is going to offend people here who view gays as sinners - gay men have suffered greatly from being forced to "live a lie." Over the decades many a gay man has been married solely because it was expected of him - to the detriment of his happiness as well as the happiness of his wife and family. So I wouldn't view a gay man who, despite being married to a woman, sleeps with another man, as presenting a textbook case of infidelity. In this case, it's about a human being who really needs to get out of the conventional situation that he's in. And if Lincoln did that - and I don't think he did! - one could not fairly paint him as a dishonest or deceitful man.

But let's talk about Lincoln's sex life for a minute. According to Daniel Mark Epstein, in his book The Lincolns, which I just finished reading, he and Mary had a very active sex life. I'm not sure how he figured this out, but apparently this is the impression he got from the research he did. Also, according to Jean Baker's biography of MTL, it's likely that the only reason they did not have more children is because MTL breast-fed her children well beyond their first year, and sometimes breast-fed other babies in the neighborhood if their mothers were ill. Apparently, breast-feeding acts as a natural form of birth control. Epstein thought that the Lincolns likely stopped having sex after Mary gave birth to Tad and was seriously injured in her womanly parts, while Baker doesn't think that that the injury necessarily means the end of the Lincolns' sex life, even though they had no children after Tad, and even though renovations to their Springfield home in the late 1850s included separate bedrooms for the couple.

There is some evidence that, whatever the status of the Lincolns' sex life, Lincoln was tempted by women but never acted on it. David Davis recalled that Lincoln had great "passions"; although Lincoln was very, very attracted to other women he came across on the circuit, and could barely keep his hands off them, he nevertheless exercised remarkable self-control and always remained faithful to Mary. It might have been David Davis who also said that some women even flirted with Lincoln, but again, Lincoln did not pursue relationships with them. It was either Dennis or John Hanks (can't remember) who bemusedly recalled that, in the weeks leading up to Lincoln leaving for Washington in 1861, the president-elect was noticeably impressed with the attractiveness of a particular woman.

The reason we don't know more about Lincoln's sex life is due to 19th century prudish sensitivities, prevalent among men as well as women. For example, Henry Clay Whitney wrote in a letter to Herndon (and then crossed out, although the words he crossed out were still legible) that Lincoln once compared "sexual contact" to a "harp of a thousand strings." It's interesting that Whitney crossed out this very mild sentence. It's also interesting that Whitney used the words "sexual contact" instead of "orgasm," which is what I think Lincoln meant by his rather picturesqe description. Whitney was evidently ambivalent about disclosing this and also somewhat embarrassed to even write about it.

Anyway, there is more that we can probably learn about Lincoln's sex life and sexuality, but his sexual preference seems to have been thoroughly heterosexual and no prominent Lincoln scholars take seriously the idea that he might have been gay. "Not that there's anything wrong with that," as Jerry Seinfeld cautioned 20 years ago.

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Messages In This Thread
How Lincoln Was Dissed - Kieran McAuliffe - 06-08-2013, 09:20 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - ELCore - 06-09-2013, 10:40 AM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Troy Cowan - 06-10-2013, 03:53 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - J. Beckert - 06-10-2013, 05:50 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - brtmchl - 06-11-2013, 12:16 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - LincolnMan - 06-14-2013, 09:55 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - brtmchl - 08-30-2013, 10:18 AM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Gene C - 08-30-2013, 10:50 AM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - brtmchl - 08-30-2013, 10:56 AM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Liz Rosenthal - 08-30-2013 11:38 AM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Gene C - 08-30-2013, 01:54 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - L Verge - 08-30-2013, 11:44 AM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Gene C - 08-30-2013, 11:53 AM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Liz Rosenthal - 08-30-2013, 11:58 AM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - brtmchl - 08-30-2013, 12:18 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Liz Rosenthal - 08-30-2013, 01:19 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - L Verge - 08-30-2013, 02:10 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Liz Rosenthal - 08-30-2013, 02:17 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Gene C - 08-30-2013, 02:17 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - brtmchl - 08-30-2013, 02:21 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - Liz Rosenthal - 08-30-2013, 02:25 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - L Verge - 08-30-2013, 02:32 PM
RE: How Lincoln Was Dissed - brtmchl - 08-30-2013, 02:39 PM

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