Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

by Abraham Lincoln
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Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address Rhetorical Analysis Activity

by eNotes

  • Released February 18, 2020
  • Language Arts, History, and Literature subjects
  • 10 pages
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This activity gives students an opportunity to practice examining and analyzing rhetorical appeals. Effective appeals address all aspects of the rhetorical situation in any text or speech: the speaker, the audience, and the message. With this rhetorical situation in mind, Aristotle sought a means to most effectively convey ideas. He identified three general persuasive strategies, known as appeals, that address the three elements of the rhetorical situation: ethos, the appeal to the speaker’s authority; pathos, the appeal to the audience’s emotions; and logos, the appeal to the message’s logic. In completing this activity, students will be able to examine and analyze Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals in order to evaluate works of rhetoric and the techniques they employ.

Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address on March 4th, 1865. In the speech, Lincoln is confident of a Union victory, but far from celebratory—much of the rhetoric in the speech focuses on reuniting a divided country. He makes rhetorical choices that carefully consider all involved in the war: the Union, the Confederacy, and the slaves. He appeals to his audience’s sense of justice by examining slavery and the Civil War through a religious lens. While making clear that slavery must be abolished, Lincoln’s address does not condemn the South; his paramount aim is to emphasize unity in order to reconcile a divided nation and move forward in a common cause. To that end, Lincoln appeals to his audience’s sense of shared humanity as Americans.

Skills: analysis, close reading, drawing inferences from a text, examining the impact of diction on audience

Learning Objectives:

In completing this activity, students will

  • examine appeals in a text;
  • classify appeals in a text as ethos, pathos, or logos;
  • distinguish the methods that make the appeal effective;
  • evaluate how the appeal contributes to the overall message.


Our eNotes Classroom Activities give students opportunities to practice developing a variety of skills. Whether analyzing literary devices or interpreting connotative language, students will work directly with the text. The main components of our classroom activities include the following:

  • A handout defining the literary elements under discussion, complete with examples
  • A step-by-step guide to activity procedure
  • An answer key or selected examples for reference, depending on the activity

In completing these classroom activities, students will be able to classify and analyze different literary elements, thereby developing close-reading skills and drawing deeper inferences from the text.