Analysis of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address
In Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln faces a deeply divided nation in midst of a civil war. Lincoln hopes to mend fences by making a moving speech using inclusive and optimistic diction ,parallelism, appeal to Common Christian, and substantial amount of balanced syntax. Lincoln’s optimistic diction invokes a sense of unity and establishes common ground for both, North and South, to find a compromise. Instead of using “the South” and “the North”, Lincoln always uses “all” to connect his people together.
He emphasized the common wishes of both sides of the war using lots of “neither”, “both”, and “each” in these sentences to express his balanced view on his people and justice attitude toward the war. Lincoln’s optimistic tone encourages all American to finish the Civil War and progress as a nation, calling the American people to action with sentences like, “Let us strive on to finish the work we are in” and “to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.
Lincoln’s tone is cautiously optimistic: he wishes to finish the war and move past the issue of slavery, among others, which has divided the country, and ensure the country’s reunification. His tone also occurs in his use of the hortative sentence asking citizens to “let us strive. ” He calls upon the nation as a whole to a higher level in hopes that the American people rise to the occasion, see past their differences, and come together as a single, unified country.
After explaining the causes of the war, Lincoln uses lots of pathos and ethos in the form of parallel sentences. Lincoln opens the address to claim that “All dreaded it, all sought to avert it” to express the common wishes of both sides. Lincoln’s sentences with parallel structure call on both sides to reunite as brothers. Lincoln calls upon American citizens with phrases like, “Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him …, to do all which may achieve … peace.
The parallel structure of this suggestion,and others like “Let us judge not, that we be not judged”, reflect Lincoln’s desire that the warring regions share responsibility equally to rebuild the country. God plays an important role to connect both sides together, which enhances Lincoln’s credibility in his speech besides his position as a president and occasion of this speech. Lincoln uses religious allusion to bring his people to the same direction.
Lincoln alluded to the common ground the regions share, especially religiously. Although he describes a “peculiar and powerful institution,” alluding to the common nickname for slavery, Lincoln states that “both read the same Bible and pray to the same God. ” Lincoln also appeals to common Christian values in order to demonstrate the values which both sides have in common. Lincoln’s claim that “both read the same Bible and pray to the same God” demonstrates the shared ground of the two opposing sides.
Lincoln also uses faith to justify the Union’s victory, as when he says that he now “wills to remove slavery,” thus wiping away the need for bitterness and retribution, as God’s will has been done. His balanced syntax evokes the idea of a balanced and united nation with a combination of long and short sentences like “While the Inaugural Address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war, seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation” and “All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. The contrast in sentences can represent the difference between North and South. This syntax helps emphasize Lincoln’s purpose of uniting a divided nation by combining two different sentence lengths to create a powerful speech, showing that the combining of both the Union and Confederacy will result in a powerful nation. Lincoln attempted to create a spirit of national unity and forgiveness with his Second Inaugural Address.
Lincoln’s use of optimistic diction, parallel structuring, Christian appeal, and syntax help to create and emphasize his purpose to unite a divided nation. Lincoln’s optimistic tone and diction help to create the image and attitude that Lincoln has towards the reconstruction of America and his syntax foreshadows his vision of a reunited Union. The use of these rhetorical strategies allows Lincoln to achieve the purpose of his speech in binding and healing a broken nation to create the United States of America, one nation under God.