Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: Unity, Religion & Rhetoric

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Bridging the Divide through Parallelism and Religion

President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address was a way to bring hope during the Civil War. This was written near the end of the war to many mourning citizens. In his address, Lincoln shows the similarities of the two sides of the war. President Lincoln used parallelism, allusions to God, and personification of war to turn hatred away from the South. Lincoln does this to turn the fight to the war itself and to try to unite the nation.

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Lincoln’s parallelism throughout the address brings unity between the North and South by stating similarities. He begins by explaining that both sides did not want the war to exist. His parallelism, while explaining this, emphasizes the similarity of the idea of war. The repetition of the words neither, all, both, and each shows that the Union and the Confederacy have several commonplaces. He does this to try to bridge the gap between the two sides. Lincoln’s statement that each side “looked for an easier triumph” shows that both sides wanted to win but did not want to fight. Equality between the two sides of the war is important because it turns the hatred to the war instead of the other side. This is needed in order for the war to calm down.

Equality is also shown through Lincoln’s allusions to God. Religion was a big part of citizens during that time, so it was commonplace to most people. Lincoln brings God into his speech to show that the North and South are similar and that fighting is unreasonable. Lincoln references Adam and Eve. After Adam and Eve transgressed, they had to bring their own bread. The reference that it is disrespectful to ask God to help them wring their bread “from the sweat of other men’s faces” shows that it is rude to ask God for help in winning the war. He then states that God gave the United States the Civil War as a punishment for spreading slavery. This puts the blame for the war on both sides equally, which takes the blame off the South for the war and is a step towards peace.

The Civil War as an Uninvited Guest: Lincoln’s Personification

Lincoln personified the Civil War to make the war the enemy, not the South. Line 25-27 is about how both sides did not want the war, but “the war came.” This shows that the war came on its own and without invitation. This makes the war seem like a guest at a party that everyone wants to go away. He then explains that no one thought that the war would turn out to be a massive and long conflict.

He personifies the war by saying that it attained magnitude and duration. This makes the war itself seem like the actual enemy. He ends his personification of the war by saying that the Union should hope that the war will pass away. Lincoln’s personification of the war makes the war the enemy and makes the Union want the war to end faster to gain peace.

Lincoln’s parallelism, religious allusions, and personification of the war carry the concept that the North and South are similar and should be unified. The president realized that the old nation needed to be unified, so he used his rhetoric stills to bind the North and South. Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address teaches the valuable lesson that two very different groups of people can find similar beliefs to unite them.


  • Lincoln, A. (1865). Second Inaugural Address. The White House Historical Association.
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Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address: Unity, Religion & Rhetoric. (2023, Sep 05). Retrieved from