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Lincoln Legends


Excerpt From




All the President's Men


He often kisses me when I tease him, often to shut me up. He would me up by his long arms and hug and hug.

- From an alleged diary of Joshua Speed

There's some evidence that shows that Speed presented Booth to Lincoln as a "present" and the young Booth, who was a gorgeous man, was virulently homophobic, ... if the murder turns out to have had a homophobic underpinning, that's going to freak everybody out.

- Larry Kramer, Salon, May 3, 1999


Abraham Lincoln has been appropriated as the poster boy for so many different causes, ranging from melancholia (depression) to the National Guard (for his Black Hawk war service), that it is difficult at times to keep them all straight. Americans of every persuasion have wanted to pin their tail on Lincoln's donkey in an effort to gain status for their personal cause since shortly after his death. I suppose it is not surprising then to find Lincoln coming out of the closet to join the ranks of homosexuals in modern America. As with many of the other tail pinners, those who tried to promote Lincoln as a homosexual have missed the donkey - this time by a wide margin. But having tried, it is probably certain that another myth has been created that may linger for years to come. Of all the myths and hoaxes associated with Lincoln, what caused this one to gain public attention, and where did the homosexual story come from?

Larry Kramer, founding member of the Gay Men's Health Crisis and a writer of screen and stage plays, spent considerable energy shaking the history tree, hoping to knock a few gay heroes loose to hold up to the public in defense of homosexuality. In 1999, he stunned an audience in Madison, Wisconsin, when he claimed to have shaken loose the greatest hero of all, Abraham Lincoln. Kramer backed up his stunning revelation by reading excerpts from the diary he said belonged to Joshua Speed, Lincoln's closest friend and bunkmate in Springfield, Illinois. "He often kisses me when I tease him, often to shut me up. He would grab me in his long arms and hug and hug ... our Abe is like a school girl."

According to Kramer, the diary was discovered hidden beneath the floorboards of the general store Speed once owned in Springfield. It was in Speed's store in 1837 where the young Lincoln first met the handsome Speed, who invited Lincoln to lodge with him. Having left New Salem in April with little more than a pair of saddle bags and no money. Lincoln accepted Speed's generous offer and the two soon became fast friends, spending the next four years sharing a bed in a room above the store. Kramer didn't stop with the claim that Lincoln and Speed were lovers. He went on to suggest that John Wilkes Booth murdered Lincoln because Lincoln made homosexual advances toward the handsome actor, who was virulently homophobic.

In the years following his brash claims, Kramer failed to produce the diary or any evidence that the diary ever existed. He also refused to say how he came in possession of the excerpts from the diary and who the owner was. Kramer made his claim apparently unaware that the building that housed Speed's store, along with several other buildings in the same block, burned to the ground in 1855, fourteen years after Speed had left Springfield for Kentucky. The block was rebuilt in 1858, and Lincoln and his law partner, William Herndon, had their law office above a hardware store in one of the new buildings.