No Crisis Except an Artificial One

President-elect Abraham Lincoln and his entourage continued their trip through the northern states en route to Washington. The travelers boarded the inaugural special and left Cincinnati at 9 a.m. on the 13th. Lincoln was greeted by cannon, bands, and cheering crowds at the various stops, which included Milford, Loveland, Miami-ville, Morrow, Corwin, Xenia, and London. The train reached the Ohio capital of Columbus around 2 p.m., with a 34-gun salute roaring as Governor William Dennison welcomed the president-elect.

The men had dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, and then Dennison took Lincoln to the new State Capitol building, where Lincoln delivered a speech to the Ohio legislature. Lincoln seemed to ignore reality by saying: “I have not maintained silence from any want of real anxiety. It is a good thing that there is no more than anxiety, for there is nothing going wrong. It is a consoling circumstance that when we look out there is nothing that really hurts anybody. We entertain different views upon political questions, but nobody is suffering anything.”

This seemed to contradict what Lincoln had said at Indianapolis on the 11th. There he said that he did not consider seizing Federal property in seceded states to be coercion in light of the national crisis, but here he said that he did not consider there to be a crisis at all. Henry Villard, reporting for the New York Herald, wrote that Lincoln had “the obstinancy of an intractable partisan” at Indianapolis while having “a most lamentable degree of ignorance” at Columbus. The paper’s conclusion “is that Mr. Lincoln, under some embarrassment… did not know what he was saying, or failed to catch the ideas flitting through his mind. In plainer terms, in finding himself the lion of the day, with all eyes and hopes turned upon him, he is bothered and makes a mess of it. ‘Nothing going wrong’? Why, sir, we may more truly say there is nothing going right.”

While at Columbus, Lincoln received a telegram informing him that Congress had confirmed his victory in the presidential election by officially approving the Electoral College vote count. There had been talk that secessionists might prevent Congress from making it official, but now that the seceded states had formed a nation of their own, they had little interest in the vote count. Lieutenant General Winfield Scott had mobilized troops in Washington just in case, but there was no real threat of interference. Lincoln had deliberately chosen to start his journey to the capital before the votes were counted as a show of confidence that the count would take place as scheduled.

The next morning, the Lincoln party, which was growing with politicians, reporters, and others, left Columbus “amidst the cheers of a few hundred Buckeyes,” and headed into the hamlets of eastern Ohio. Large crowds braved harsh weather to greet the president-elect at each stop, despite “the shower above and the mud beneath.” A derailed train delayed the inaugural special from arriving at Allegheny City, outside Pittsburgh, until around 7 p.m. A large crowd greeted Lincoln in a “pelting rain,” and he spent the night at the Monongahela House.

On the rainy morning of the 15th, an estimated 5,000 people stood under an “ocean of umbrellas” to hear Lincoln address them from the hotel balcony. The president-elect reiterated what he had said at Columbus: “Notwithstanding the troubles across the river, there is really no crisis springing from anything in the government itself. In plain words, there is really no crisis except an artificial one… If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the troubles will come to an end, and the question which now distracts the country will be settled.”

Villard of the Herald called Lincoln’s speech “crude, ignorant twaddle, without point or meaning… (it) strengthened my doubts as to his capacity for the high office he was to fill.” Leaving Pittsburgh, the train backtracked west, stopping at places like Staineville, Alliance, and Ravenna. The stops were too brief for Lincoln to address the crowds, so he merely bowed from the train.

A snowstorm broke out as the train reached Cleveland around 4:30 p.m., but that did not stop the multitude of “soldiers, firemen, and citizens… on horseback, in carriages, and on foot” from welcoming the president-elect. A parade of well-wishers escorted Lincoln through the snow to the Wendell House, where he delivered a speech from the balcony that was very similar to his Pittsburgh speech that morning: “I think that there is no occasion for any excitement. The crisis, as it is called, is altogether an artificial crisis… It has no foundation in facts. It was not argued up, as the saying is, and cannot, therefore, be argued down. Let it alone and it will go down of itself.”

At Cleveland, Lincoln wrote to Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne and asked him to arrange for the Lincolns to “stop at a public, rather than a private house when I reach Washington.” The National Hotel was the first choice, but Mrs. Lincoln refused to stay there because an illness had broken out when James Buchanan was staying at that hotel before his inauguration four years prior. Washburne eventually booked rooms for the Lincolns at Willard’s Hotel instead. The Lincolns spent the night at the Wendell House before continuing their journey the next morning.


  • Catton, Bruce and Long, E.B. (ed.), The Coming Fury. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. (Kindle Edition), 1961.
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005.
  • Holzer, Harold, Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter of 1860-1861. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, Reprint Edition, 2008.
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971.
  • Sears, Stephen W., Lincoln’s Lieutenants: The High Command of the Army of the Potomac. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books, (Kindle Edition), 2017.

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