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Sep 30, 2008

Rhetorical analysis of Lincoln's second inaugural speech

Lincoln showed his care for his people and country on his second inaugural speech, just like any man who was worrying about his children and family. Having been struggling for four years’ in war, his people, no matter the North and the South, were urging “a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations” (Wilhoit 138). Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address let people feel they are in unity and let them see the hope and future through his strong persuasive appeals.
Lincoln opens the address to claim that “All dreaded it, all sought to avert it” (Wilhoit 138) to express the common wishes of both sides. Instead of using the south and the North, Lincoln always uses “all” to connect his people together. After explaining the causes of the war, Lincoln uses lots of pathos and ethos in the form of parallel sentences and religious allusion to bring his people to the same direction. 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:
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. (Wilhoit 138)
This pathos and ethos made people, no matter the North or the South, to feel that they are in unity. Both sides were suffering the same war and urged to end it, while they shared a same religion. God plays an important role to connect the people together, which enhances Lincoln’s credibility in his speech besides his position as a president and occasion of this speech.
Lincoln ended his speech by claiming that they would “strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations” (Wilhoit 138). This pathos describes how Lincoln would care for his people and how he would put the task of helping the people suffering from the war first, serving as a strong pathos since it is not only emotionally affecting his people, but also encouraging and giving them hope. The war destroyed millions of families. Lincoln in the first place gave his attention on healing the people and their families, instead of describing how beautiful the future would be and giving unrealistic assumptions.

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