Senator Douglas’ act is verified, at last, by first-hand testimony
Did Lincoln, just before he rose to speak, look about in embarrassment for a place to put his new stovepipe hat? Did Senator Douglas, springing forward, bow, say “Permit me,” and then take the hat to hold on his knee during the address? If he did, the act could be symbolic. The leader of northern Democrats, who had polled 1,375,000 votes for President as against Lincoln’s 1,866,000, would thus indicate his readiness to support the new President against southern secessionists.