Founding Fathers and leaders who were LGBT-friendly, in honour of LGBT History Month
LGBT History Month is – you guessed it – a month-long look at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, as well as the history of the gay rights movement.
Occurring annually, LGBT History Month takes place in the United States in October to coincide with National Coming Out Day on October 11.
As part of this movement, we’re heading way back to the late 18th century and early 19th century, where we’ll take a look at the LGBT and LGBT-friendly Founding Fathers, early Presidents and other leaders.
Let’s start with the obvious choice. Alexander Hamilton is currently most famous for being the subject of the incredible Broadway musical Hamilton, as well as for being the face of the $10 note.
And according to some historians, he could also be one of the most influential gay men in American history.
Hamilton shared a close relationship with statesman John Laurens while both were soldiers during the revolutionary war.
As fans of musical Hamilton know, Founding Father Alexander Hamilton never got to be President after a scandal about his tumultuous personal life. As well as his affair with a woman, he has also been rumoured to have relationships with men.
During the Revolutionary War, his letters to close friends John Laurens and Marquis de Lafayette grew more affectionate and flowery – while many accounts describe Hamilton as “feminine”.
In one letter about Laurens failing to reply, Hamilton described himself as a “jealous lover.”
He wrote: “Like a jealous lover, when I thought you slighted my caresses, my affection was alarmed and my vanity piqued.”
He wrote in another letter, after Laurens had left him: “I wish, my Dear Laurens, it might be in my power, by action rather than words to convince you that I love you.
“I shall only tell you that ’til you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you.”
He added: “You should not have taken advantage of my sensibility to steal into my affections without my consent.”
An American soldier and statesman from South Carolina who fought alongside Hamilton in the Revolutionary War, Laurens is known for his essays against slavery and success recruiting soldiers to fight the British.
Laurens also exchanged personal correspondence with Alexander Hamilton, which has lead historians to believe that the two men were likely lovers.
Hamilton biographer James Thomas Flexner wrote that the intensely expressive language in their letters “raises questions concerning homosexuality” that “cannot be categorically answered”.
One of America’s most iconic Presidents, Abe also spent a large portion of his life spooning with men.
In his early adulthood, the President shared a bed with Joshua Speed, who later became a Congressman.
Not forgetting his roots, Lincoln several times offered Speed a government appointment – only to be rejected every time.
Lincoln also shared a narrow bed with companion Billy Greene in his 20s.
Greene remarked of their cosy living situation: “When one turned over the other had to do likewise… his thighs were as perfect as a human being could be.”
George Washington was one of his country’s first LGBT allies, allegedly encouraging Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens to openly share a bunk while at camp during the Revolutionary War.
And writer and LGBT activist Larry Kramer has theorised that Washington was gay himself.
In his recent novel The American People, Kramer wrote: “In the case of Washington, he was a big queen, basically.
He decorated everything. He designed all the uniforms, the buttons. The correspondence exists with all the dealers he dealt with in England to make everything.”
The son of President John Adams, Charles Adams became a protégé of Prussian military officer Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who was rumoured to be gay, and is often credited with being one of the fathers of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
Adams was allegedly comfortable with his sexuality and lived with a man named John Mulligan.
This Founding Father showed empathy for LGBT people ahead of his time.
While serving as ambassador to France, it was Franklin who enlisted Baron Friedrich von Steuben (as mentioned above) as a military strategist in the Continental Army, knowing full well about his sexuality.
According to the Washington Blade, von Steuben could have faced prosecution for sodomy in Europe, so Franklin essentially provided sanctuary for him in America.
Buchanan was the 15th President of the United States, serving from 1857 to 1861. A lifelong bachelor, Buchanan faced speculation about his sexuality.
Many have raised questions about Buchanan’s close and intimate relationship with future Vice President William Rufus King, as the pair lived together for more than a decade.
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William Rufus Devane King
King, the 13th Vice President of the US, described his relationship with James Buchanan (above) as a “communion”, and they were rarely seen apart.
Many commentators at the time remarked on the pair’s closeness, with President Andrew Jackson referring to them as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy”.
All images credited Creative Commons.