Rhetorical Devices In Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

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President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, only seven-minutes long, enthralled the American public. President Lincoln’s captivating speech, presented on March 4, 1865 in Washington D.C., became the unifying force to rebuilding the nation which had previously been torn apart by a civil war. The purpose of the speech was for the nation to march forward in unity; to achieve this goal, Lincoln utilized rhetorical elements such as figurative language, diction, syntax, persuasive appeals, and tone to reach his audience both present and future.
President Lincoln consistently alludes to biblical quotes to not only appeal to common religious knowledge of the North and South, but to equally condemn both sides. He starts with a short but sweet
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He uses euphemisms in his address in order to avoid rubbing salt in the wound of a divided America. Throughout the beginning of the address, he uses several euphemisms to reference the Civil War so as to not inflict disagreements early on. He spoke of the war as “the great contest” with the North and South as its belligerents (Lincoln, 8). By using this euphemism, he exposes the continuing divide among the nation, however, he does it in a mild manner. Toward the end, he touches upon the divide again using slavery to represent the nation’s issue. Lincoln explains that the drawing of blood in the nation’s history must be the end of hatred and bloodshed (Lincoln, 63-67). The euphemisms work to send Lincoln’s message in way that is understandable instead of blunt and harsh. Through the use of repetition of the words “all” and “both” he emphasizes the idea of the United States as one entity. He hopes that the civil war was a turning point in the nation and that they can now coexist as one. Lincoln states, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away“ (lines 61-63). Not only is he unifying the nation in their hopes and prayers with his choice of pronouns, but also creates a sort of hymn that has a flow and rhyme so that it may be memorable. His use of diction allows words to resonate more with his audience and unify both the …show more content…
While his speaking voice was subpar, he had a remarkable ability to craft eloquent, flowing speeches that helped him to communicate his ideas to his audiences; utilizing his tone in doing so. Lincoln commanded his tone as a medium between God and the divided America to appeal to both parties, as religion was the common factor that could link the estranged groups. Lincoln states in his Second Inaugural Address, “Both [the North and South] read the same Bible and pray to the same God.” Lincoln uses religion as a call to action to unify and rid the country of slavery because it was God’s will for them to do so as a unified nation. Lincoln also uses a reflective tone to relate to the common people by expressing feelings of the carnage and unpredictable nature of war. The American public saw the storm of war on the horizon, but had no idea regarding the magnitude of what would come, a sentiment expressed by Lincoln when he said, “...all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it.” This excerpt from Lincoln’s address shows the President reflecting on his thoughts four years prior, thoughts that rang true with those of the masses. While Lincoln stays true to his theme of unity throughout his address, there is a hint of a condescending tone throughout his speech that is aimed at the Confederacy. Lincoln states,

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