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Did Our Founding Fathers Condone Homosexuality?

June 3, 2018 - by Brother Lawrence Damien Cos

It is Pride Month here in much of the USA.  The following is an article I wrote to celebrate that fact.

I was on Facebook when I came across an article on Baron Von Steuben who was a famous American general back in the American Revolution and a known homosexual. He was originally a Prussian soldier who was recruited by Benjamin Franklin to help assist American Colonial troops in their fight for independence; He became drill master for the Continental Army and helps make them into a fighting force that could beat the British. The article also claimed he was gay and that it was known by Franklin, Washington and others and they chose to ignore it because of his services to the American cause. This got my curiosity spiked so I decided to check it out further. The following is the results.

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was born in 1730 to a family of moderate means. He made up a story of his family being royalty and adopted the title of Baron for himself. He served in the Prussian Army ultimately rising to the rank of Captain. In 1777 he was forced to flee from the court of Hohenzollern Hechinger under clouds of accusation of homosexual activity. He then goes to Paris France where he tries to find employment, However the French king is informed of the rumors of homosexuality against von Steuben and moves to have him arrested, tried for sodomy and when convicted imprisoned. At this time von Steuben makes the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane American diplomats to France. One of their jobs was to find and recruit men with military experience to help the American cause. They immediately recognize the value of having a man with von Steuben's experience. They decide to ignore the rumors of von Steuben's homosexuality and they give him free passage to America with a letter of recommendation to George Washington, He arrived in Portsmouth New Hampshire with his rumored lover Peter Stephen Du Ponceau who was his 17 year old secretary, Later at Valley Forge he would begin close relationships with two men who were officers in their 20's Benjamin Walker and William North. Because homosexuality was criminalized at the time von Steuben formally adopted Walker and North as his sons and made them his heirs.

Washington made von Steuben his Inspector General where he whipped a rag tag colonial army into a professional fighting force who was able to take on the most powerful super power of the time England. Some of his other accomplishments include instituting a "model company" for training, establishing sanitary standards and organization for the camp, and training soldiers in drills and tactics such as bayonet fighting and musket loading. He also had the first underwear party in the US military insisting that no one was to be admitted to his party wearing trousers, Only after they removed their trousers were they admitted to the party. Von Steuben said he wanted everyone to be equal whether a buck private or an officer

After the war a third "son" John W. Mulligan was added to the family. In 1790 Von Steuben had a one year affair with Charles Adams the youngest son of the second President of the United States and his wife Abigail Smith Adams who was the incumbent president at the time of the affair. Although nothing was said publically in private Charles parents expressed concern over the relationship, Ultimately Charles would marry have two daughters and died of cirrhosis of the liver due to acute alcoholism in November 1800 at the age of 30. In the end von Steuben settled in on his estate in Oneida County near what is now the town of Steuben New York which was named for him. There he died on November 28, 1794 still living with his three "sons".

In summation then I think the evidence of von Steuben's gayness is pretty overwhelming, It was what led to be kicked out of two countries in Europe. I think the evidence that his homosexuality or rumors there of were well known by many of our founding fathers who chose to ignore it as no big deal. Also von Steuben never denied the rumors he was homosexual and never married. Finally there were sodomy laws in effect at the time under which von Steuben could have charged and if convicted imprisoned. That never happened. Instead he was left alone to live his life in peace and die with his family unmolested.

The founding fathers knew of the rumors concerning von Steuben and it didn't bother them in the least or keep him from honorably serving his adopted country in its military. He was also an elder in the local German Reformed Church where he was a highly respected member of the church. Finally none of his neighbors had any problem with him and his "sons". To me it seems perhaps homosexuality was not that big an issue at the time of the founding of our nation in 1776 or in the immediate years following. If that is the case then perhaps those who wish to imitate our forefathers and what they stood for should change their beliefs to support or at least neutrality towards gays and homosexuals as was the case when the Constitution was written and our country founded. Hope you all enjoyed this. Comments always welcomed.

Have a great Pride Month!