"The most contentious of recent outings involves Abraham Lincoln, who had a relationship with a 24-year-old merchant named Joshua Speed when the 28-year-old Lincoln was living as a bachelor in Springfield, Illinois. The rumor mill on the Lincoln-Speed case has been smoldering for years, beginning with Carl Sandburg's 1926 observation that their relationship held a "streak of lavender and spots soft as May violets." Scholars have long noted the intense bond between the two men, who lived together for four years and—once again, the controversy thrives on sleeping habits in cold climates—may have shared the same bed.
The intensity of Lincoln's feelings for Speed is evident in Lincoln's depression after the younger man sold his store to return to his native Kentucky, an event that may have persuaded Lincoln to break off his engagement with Mary Todd. ("I am now the most miserable man living," Lincoln wrote. "To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better.")
There are two books in the works about the Lincoln-Speed case, one co-authored by former Kinsey researcher C.A. Tripp, another by Larry Kramer, whose forthcoming The American People will draw on hitherto unseen writings by Speed, some of which reportedly were found in the floorboards of the building he shared with Lincoln. Kramer has been wary about revealing the contents, but he did read passages from it at a 1999 gay studies conference at the University of Wisconsin. A local paper reprinted some of Kramer's more titillating quotes: "He often kisses me when I tease him, often to shut me up. . . . He would grab me up by his long arms and hug and hug." Describing his friend as "Linc," Speed described the future 16th president as a man who could not get enough huggin' and kissin'.