What is the subject of the piece? What are the general topics/and/or/ideas contained in the text?
Lincoln is taking office again and remarks about the Civil War’s cause, only mentions progress briefly, and gives a short speech. Lincoln mentions that no one expected the war to last as long as it has, nor for it to be as bad as it is. He discusses how God is being “invoked” by both sides. Then, he mentions that God may have his own purposes in the war’s length.
What is the occasion? What are the time, place, and setting of the piece?
Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address; Delivered March 4, 1865, in Washington D.C.; Most presidential addresses are given at the beginning of the new year but his was in March. (There is a photograph of this particular day; it includes the President at the podium holding papers. Many sources also cite the fact that John Wilkes Booth can be identified in the crowd.) It takes place on the steps of the capitol building.
Who is the audience? To whom is the piece directed?
There was probably a large crowd of people in D.C. listening to the speech, but it will be released in print immediately and will be available to everyone, North and South. Lincoln would have known how many people would be reading the speech.
What is the purpose? What is the purpose or reason this piece was written?
It is traditional for the new president to give an inaugural speech. Lincoln’s purpose is to prepare his audience for what is to come in the war (war’s end) and imply that his direction afterward will be to “bind up the nation’s wounds” and care for EVERYONE hurt by the war - soldier, families, and children.
Who is the speaker? Who is the voice that tells the story/narrates the piece?
Lincoln gives the speech but he only says “I” once and “myself” once. He uses more non-descript terms like “all” but doesn’t exactly say who that is. He uses “us” and “we” at the end, and finishes by calling for a “just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” I think he is trying to speak for everyone in his audience by doing it this way, that way more people can agree with his course of action.
What is the tone of the piece? What is the attitude or emotional characteristics present in the piece?
Lincoln’s speech feels very sober and somber, especially when he talks about how God might want the war to continue ‘until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword” and then goes on to declare that it might be a “righteous” judgment.
(*For comparison, Lincoln’s First inaugural Address: Pages: 5 Words: 3628 Paragraphs: 36)
Fellow-countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
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. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered—that of neither has been answered fully.
The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us 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.