Frequently Asked Abraham Lincoln Questions



People ask many questions about Lincoln. Some of them are the same questions we’ve heard for years. Those questions seem to have a life of their own and don’t go way. Anwers don’t always come easy-I mean some questions could only truly be answered by Lincoln himself. What we’re left with sometimes is a “best guess” based on evidence, speculation, opinion… At any rate, here are a few of the oft repeated questions listed for your consideration:

Was Lincoln a racist?

Yes and no. How do you like my clarity? The main reason Lincoln is accused of being a racist is that people judge him strictly through 21st century eyes. That is a mistake. That being said, Lincoln did hold many views common to a white male living in his era. It even gets slippery there, however. Often, Lincoln words are taken out of context and used to “show” he was racist. For instance, his views on equality and colonization are cited to “prove” his racism. Actually, Lincoln was way ahead of his time on his racial views in compared to his age-related peers. One only need study the views of his political rival Stephen Douglas to see this clearly. In short, while Lincoln probably held some racist views of the day common to his gender and ethnicity-he was a major force in ending slavery and in the movement of civil rights for blacks. There is a book (that I haven’t read in a few years) in my library entitled: ‘Big Enough To Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race.’ The author is Stanford professor emeritus George Fredrickson who concludes that Lincoln was sometimes unsure or confused about what to do with slavery and race, yet he was “big enough to be inconsistent.” He does state also that Lincoln’s views changed significantly over time. In the end, Fredrickson positions Lincoln in a sort of middle ground between those who idolize him to those who hate him for his views.

  Was Lincoln gay?

No. That being said-it must be fair to state that no one could really know for sure. Scholar C. A. Tripp made the assertion that Lincoln was gay. Most scholar’s disagree with Tripp. I often am asked additional questions on this like: “Why did Lincoln sleep with Joshua Speed?” or “Isn’t it true that Lincoln was uncomfortable with women?” It seems once a question like this gets into the popular culture- people run with it. Lincoln never claimed to be gay, of course. He was known to frequent brothels prior to his marriage. He did get married and had four children. None of these things “prove” he wasn’t gay. However, the “evidence” cited to prove he was gay has been refuted by many. In the end, it doesn’t matter to me personally. However, we do all need to strive for intellectual honesty.

How did Lincoln love Mary Todd?

Well, he did- unless you believe Lincoln’s law partner Herndon who claimed, basically, that Lincoln endured her and was in marital hell. Lincoln did love Mary-and she him. Although so opposite on many things they had a deep and enduring love. When people ask this question about him loving her they are really referring to her “moods.” She was called the “hellcat” by some. Yes, she was what we would call “abusive.”  She was known to throw things at Mr. Lincoln. He would pretty much take it in his stride.  Lincoln gave her a wedding ring inscribed with “Love is eternal.” I believe he meant it and had the love for her. He called her “mother” and “Molly.” He provided for her and confided in her. He chose her for his wife and fathered four children with her. During one particular period of separation he wrote her about missing her.

As always-as it is with Lincoln, questions are not easily answered. Each must decide what they believe and think about him. There is yet one other frequent question I’m often asked:

Did you meet Abraham Lincoln?

This question is always asked by little children. No, I did not meet him! I don’t share with them that sometimes I feel like I am him-better left unsaid.

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