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If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone ‘America died from a delusion that she had moral leadership’… Will Rogers

History is full of men who believe themselves exempted from the mores of their times. If they practice a selective exemption – that is to say if they are abstemious of the common vices of their day – they may be seen as moralists and exemplars of their time. Unfortunately, more often than not, politicians seem to believe themselves exempt from moral precepts that guide not only their time but bind all civilized men throughout history because they have their foundation in the nature of man himself. Whether it is David taken in adultery or Jefferson in miscegenation they all tend to finally suffer the fate of the blaspheming Moses and not see the Promised Land.

Lincoln is credited – dubious honor that it is – with being the first modern president and it is amusing that the first Republican who came out of a log cabin would apparently fit right in with today’s Log Cabin Republicans. The irony of this set aside, what does become apparent is how these inverts, to use Tripp’s term, see themselves as outside of the law – generally above the law – and the unbearable tension that creates in a polity designed to be a government of laws and not of men. John Adams put it best when he said, Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

The intimate world of Abraham Lincoln  C.A. Tripp ; edited by Lewis Gannett    Softcover. xxxvi, 343 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. [323]-331) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The late C. A. Tripp, a sex researcher colleague of Alfred Kinsey, and author of the The Homosexual Matrix, devoted the last ten years of his life to an exhaustive study of Abraham Lincoln’s writings and of scholarship about Lincoln, in search of hidden keys to his character. In The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, completed just weeks before he died, Tripp offers a full examination of Lincoln’s inner life and relationships that, as Dr. Jean Baker argues in the Introduction, “will define the issue for years to come.”

Throughout this riveting work, new details are revealed about Lincoln’s relations with a number of men. Long-standing myths are debunked convincingly – in particular, the myth that Lincoln’s one true love was Ann Rutledge, who died tragically young. Ultimately, Tripp argues that Lincoln’s unorthodox loves and friendships were tied to his maverick beliefs about religion, slavery, and even ethics and morals. As Tripp argues, Lincoln was an “invert”: a man who consistently turned convention on its head, who drew his values not from the dominant conventions of society, but from within.

For years, a whisper campaign has mounted about Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his intimate relationships. He was famously awkward around single women. He was engaged once before Mary Todd, but his fiancee called off the marriage on the grounds that he was “lacking in smaller attentions.” His marriage to Mary was troubled. Meanwhile, throughout his adult life, he enjoyed close relationships with a number of men. He shared a bed with Joshua Speed for four years as a young man, and – as Tripp details here – he shared a bed with an army captain while serving in the White House, when Mrs. Lincoln was away. As one Washington socialite commented in her diary, “What stuff!”

This study reaches far beyond a brief about Lincoln’s sexuality: it is an attempt to make sense of the whole man, as never before. It includes an Introduction by Jean Baker, biographer of Mary Todd Lincoln, and an Afterword containing reactions by two Lincoln scholars and one clinical psychologist and longtime acquaintance of C.A. Tripp. As Michael Chesson explains in one of the Afterword essays, “Lincoln was different from other men, and he knew it. More telling, virtually every man who knew him at all well, long before he rose to prominence, recognized it. In fact, the men who claimed to know him best, if honest, usually admitted that they did not understand him.” Perhaps only now, when conventions of intimacy are so different, so open, and so much less rigid than in Lincoln’s day, can Lincoln be fully understood.


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