Lincoln's Jeremiad Analysis

Decent Essays
Abraham Lincoln’s Jeremiad
Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address in the Spring of 1865. With Lincoln’s use of biblical references and his overall providential interpretation, the second inaugural address was less presidential and more theological. The address did not reflect the typical format of a presidential speech, but rather the structure of the jeremiad. The jeremiad is a form of sermon that became popular among the Puritans in New England in the latter half of the seventeenth century. The structure of Lincoln’s address echoed the jeremiads delivered by prominent Puritan ministers, such as Samuel Willard and Cotton Mather. Lincoln’s speech incorporated the themes of the jeremiad by connecting the crisis of the war
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Lincoln attempted to convey the notion that the war was for God’s will and that his “judgments are true and righteous altogether,” another biblical reference to Psalms 19:9. Just as the jeremiad offers redemption after identifying the crisis of God’s people, Lincoln offers both sides of the war the hope to “bind up the nation’s wounds” in order to “cherish a just and lasting peace.” Lincoln was conscious of the fact that the Southern states would not be quick to rejoin the Union after their defeat and the North would likely continue to condemn the South. Yet, by employing biblical references, he conveyed the message that any attempt, from either side, to hinder the reunification of the nation, was not a violation of the president’s wishes, but of God’s almighty will. Lincoln believed that if each region “read the same Bible and pray to the same God,” then each side would have to comply with God’s will to end the war and mend the nation. By quoting the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1, Lincoln urged the nation to “let us judge not, that we be not judged.” It is worth noting that in his reference to Matthew 7:1, Lincoln does not use the exact wording of the verse from the King James Version, like he did in the speech’s other biblical references. The King James Version of Matthew 7:1 uses the word “ye,” but Lincoln omitted the word in order to substitute “we.” This switch was indicative of Lincoln’s opinion that the Civil War was God’s punishment for a national sin, that both the North and South had been complicit in. In addition, the change in wording reflects the themes of the jeremiad because of it’s emphasis on communal sins, rather than

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