By general agreement Lincoln was our best president. James Buchanan, who preceded Lincoln in the office, was arguably our worst. Curiously, both are united in that they are subject to raiding parties by homosexual activists, who wish to recruit them as “role models.”
C. A. Tripp’s effort in his book “The Intimate Abraham Lincoln” has failed to gain the assent of the community of Lincoln scholars. To some extent, this lack of positive resonse may be ascribed to dislike of homosexuality and a desire to “protect” Lincoln. But not in every case. Ultimately scholarship relies on consensus, which may take a while to consolidate. But that process does not seem to happening with the Tripp book.
Some gay activists think that this doesn’t matter. They are convinced that Lincoln was gay, so he must have been! Yet this conviction will not help them when it comes to discussing the matter with straights--or for that matter skeptics like Dale Carpenter and myself, who happen to be homosexual. Knowledge is universal, and a failed case can never be the basis for forging a new synthesis.
Buchanan (1791-1868) is the only American president who never married. In later life his closest friendship was with Senator William Rufus King (1786-1853), who later became Vice President. Andrew Jackson, a political opponent, slurred King as “Miss Nancy.”
On closer examination these arguments prove to be flimsy. Bachelorhood is scarcely and indication of homosexual. Moreover, many gay people, including notorious ones like Oscar Wilde, have been married. For centuries a common way of slurring an opponent has been to call him womanish, as Jackson said of King. Finally, Buchanan did not meet King until the latter was fifty-seven. Given the ravages of the aging process, more acute in the 19th century than now, it is very unlikely that James Buchanan would have initiated a sexual liaison with him at that point. Men who practiced same-sex relations in the 19th century preferred younger partners. Walt Whitman, whose favorites were in their late teens and early twenties, is a good example. At all events, there is no evidence that either Buchanan or King engaged in genital homosexual relations--with each other or with someone else.
When, almost two decades ago, I served as editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality
, I sought to present facts and interpretations that could command the assent of heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. There are not two truths, one gay and one straight.
Yet in gay circles the legend that Buchanan and King were gay lovers persists, It has no rational foundation. For those eager to believe, though, a few dubious scraps suffice.
A few years back, a friend observed a curious convergence between the list of “perverts” formerly kept by Police Vice Squads and the honor rolls assembled by gay activists now. The approaches of homophobes and gay enthusiasts converge. All too often, mere suspicion of being queer is tantamount to conviction. Fortunately there are limits, as in the homophobe Ann Coulter’s suggestion that Senator John Edwards is a “faggot.” Will this slur be the basis for the claim by some future historian that Edwards had a sexual relationship with his running mate, Al Gore?
It is generally agreed that 5-10% of the US population is homosexual. Assuming that these estimates are valid over time, one would expect that two American presidents--maybe three or four--would turn out to be gay. However, this argument is fallacious. Homosexuals seem to be represented in every professional calling. But not in the same proportions. Gays are disproportionately represented in a good many fields, such as ballet, interior decorating, and fashion. By the same token, they seem to be less common in other fields, such as coal mining and engineering. In politics it may be that a glass ceiling operates. Thus we find gay mayors of cities, especially smaller ones, but few governors. A fair number of members of the House of Representatives have been so identified, but few senators. At the presidential level the filtration process may be well-nigh complete.
Or it may be that the gay presidents are individuals that no one has suspected thus far. But we can be assured that, despite valiant efforts, our fifteenth and sixteenth presidents have not been demonstrated to be gay.