The Civil War, which divided the Northern and Southern states in the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history, raged on when Abraham Lincoln was re-elected as President. Lincoln Knew that all the tragedy and casualties had to come to an end. When delivering his Second Inaugural Address, he chose to send a message of reconciliation and healing to both sides instead of focusing on politics, slavery, and state’s rights. Through the use of allusion, diction, and syntax Lincoln creates a common ground to unify the North and South.
Lincoln uses allusion to justify the war and its purpose, which was to end slavery. In his speech, he alludes to the Bible, quoting, “Woe unto the world because of offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh,” to show that the war was caused by God’s wish and was inevitable. America as a whole had committed the”offense” of slavery, not just the South but the North as well because they were involved at the beginning of the slave trade and did nothing to end it. Lincoln suggests that the tragedy and destruction wrought by the war was a divine punishment to America for possessing slaves to fulfill their greedy desires, saying that God may will that the war continue “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword”, and that the war was the country’s “woe due”, so both sides were to be blamed for their actions. He again alludes to the Bible, and says, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” demonstrating that the meaning of the war was for the North and South to see the consequences of their failings, and to learn to become better people, and through that a better nation, calling for all Americans to “strive on to finish the work we are in, and to bind the nation’s wounds” alluding to a passage of the Book of Psalms, which states that God heals the broken hearted and wounded.
Lincoln uses diction to create different tones in different parts of the speech. In the speech, he describes the atmosphere of the nation before the Civil War. He remembers how “all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending war” and how “all dreaded it,” illustrating an ambiance of stress and uncertainty in the nation, like a heavy weight was on everyone’s shoulders.
Lincoln uses syntax to create a formal and ministerial tone