Literature Study GuidesLincolns Second Inaugural Address

Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address | Study Guide

Abraham Lincoln

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Course Hero. "Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address Study Guide." October 16, 2018. Accessed June 5, 2020.


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Abraham Lincoln

Year Delivered



Primary Source


History, Speech

At a Glance

  • The inaugural address is a tradition going back to the first American president, George Washington, and continuing today.
  • When Lincoln gave his first inaugural address in 1861, the nation was just entering the Civil War, and he called for the preservation of the Union. When he gave his second address in 1865, with the end of the war in sight, he called for unity and mercy in the difficult times.
  • The speech parallels Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which he delivered on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lincoln used both speeches to tell the nation how it should react to a momentous event.
  • Lincoln takes a strong religious stance, rooted in biblical scripture, in his speech. He blames the bloodshed of war on the sin of slavery and living off others' labor, for which God has judged and punished the nation righteously.
  • Cheers greeted the short and deeply religious speech, but the response in the press was sharply divided. Some praised it, while others attacked it savagely. Some Lincoln scholars note that even though the Gettysburg Address is better known, this may be Lincoln's greatest speech in its ideas and language.
  • Lincoln's second inaugural address has become the standard by which inaugural speeches are measured, especially second inaugurals.


This study guide for Abraham Lincoln's Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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