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Abraham Lincoln Second Inaugural Address: Rhetorical Analysis

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Abraham Lincoln, who served as the sixteenth president of America, was an American statesman and lawyer who led the nation through the American Civil War. His second inaugural speech was delivered on the 4th of March 1865, towards the end of the Civil War and a month before he was assassinated. His speech touched on topics relating to the war, slavery, religion, and recovery, and he made use of facts, the timing, his beliefs, and his relationship with the audience as constraints to deliver his message. His performance was remarkably empowering and powerful, and he left an influential impression.

The rhetor in this scenario is Abraham Lincoln who is delivering the speech. He is delivering this speech primarily because of his duty as a newly re-elected president, but also to reflect on the past, instill hope, and promote a new beginning and brighter future for the United States. The power of Lincoln's rhetoric is evident as he skillfully weaves together historical reflections, inspiring hope, and a vision for a brighter future, captivating the audience with his eloquent words and persuasive delivery.

While delivering this speech, Lincoln is addressing two types of audiences: the immediate audience and the mediated audience. The immediate audience is everyone who is in attendance at the event in Washington D.C, and the mediated audience is all Americans all over the world who are watching the telecast. The audience plays a key role in contributing to the importance of this speech since it emphasizes the magnitude and effect Lincoln’s words will have. Moreover, it gives him credibility and value and illustrates how he is an important figure.

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In terms of exigence, it is tradition for the president of the United States to deliver an inaugural speech when he is elected or re-elected. Due to it being customary, the speech is given an authoritative light, highlighting the fact that it must be an imperative speech if it occurs only when a new term is starting.

In this speech, there are many constraints such as facts, beliefs, time, timing, location, and Lincoln’s relationship with the audience. All these constraints contribute to making Lincoln’s speech powerful. He talks about facts such as the major battles, the death toll, and the participants in the war, while also mentioning his belief about the cause of the Civil War. Including these elements draw the audience and appeal to logos. The timing and location, which is the 4th of March 1865 in front of the Capitol in Washington D.C are also relevant. To address the nation in its Capital right after the Civil War and create an atmosphere for Reconstruction carries a heavy weight and appeals to one’s emotions and values. Furthermore, Lincoln’s relationship with the audience, both the Union and the Confederate, shows how trusted and valued he and their bond is, which makes the speech more personal and impactful.

Abraham Lincoln ends his speech by mentioning that the country should end the war with “malice towards none” and work towards recovery and forget the past. All the rhetorical elements mentioned help him deliver a speech that is empowering and impactful, as well as help leave a significant impression on the audience.

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Abraham Lincoln Second Inaugural Address: Rhetorical Analysis. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
“Abraham Lincoln Second Inaugural Address: Rhetorical Analysis.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
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