Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Holding Lincoln's Hat


"He'll be holding my hat some day," said a United States westerner recently, speaking of a bitter political antagonist. This expression, intended to convoy the assurance that some day the b.p.a. will see the error of his ways, own up, and strive to make amends, was heard oftener a generation ago than it is today.

It had its origin in one of the most interesting incidents in American history. Stephen A. Douglas had been unsparing in his attacks upon Abraham Lincoln in the campaign of 1860, but Lincoln won, and, on the 4th of March, 1861, as he stepped forward to deliver his inaugural address in front of the capitol, he fumbled awkwardly with his historic "tall" hat, not knowing, apparently, whether to lay it down or to hold it in his hand.

Seeing the embarrassment of his successful rival, Douglas, who sat near, and who had gracefully "accepted the situation," arose, took the "stovepipe" from Lincoln's hand, and held it until the conclusion of the address. By this act Douglas perhaps came nearer rising to the full dimensions of the title "Little Giant," which his partisans bestowed upon him, than on any other occasion in his career.

—Christian Science Monitor, 1918, reprinted in Waterloo Evening Courier, Waterloo, IA, Jan. 22, 1918, p. 5.

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