He also began to illustrate how the condition of slavery had been outgrown by both Northern and Southern states, the progress that was surely just and right in the eyes of God. Because of the arguments and components included within the speech and the situation in which it was delivered, this qualifies as a rhetorical situation based upon the definitions provided by Lloyd Bitzer. This is because all three components of a rhetorical situation are present. These include exigence in which there is an imperfection marked by urgency … a thing which is other than it should be (Bitzer 7) in the form of a war within the nation, an audience capable of being influenced by discourse, and a set of constraints made up of persons, events, objects and relations which are parts of the situation because they have the power to constrain decision and action needed to modify the exigence (Bitzer 12). Lincoln’s rhetorical speech was designed to urge an end to the war and a re-recognition of the South as brothers within the same house rather than enemies. Lincoln’s speech is clearly intended to get his audience to accept their Southern enemies as brothers. Being relatively assured of winning the war at this point, he was laying the foundation for Reconstruction. Although he, like many others, lays the blame for the war entirely at the feet of the South, To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest [slavery] 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 (Lincoln, 1865), he also insists to his listeners that the people of the South are still ‘family’: Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God … 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 are not judged (Lincoln, 1865). In making this argument, Lincoln reminds his listeners that the North has benefited from the slaves of the South too. Therefore, the losses sustained by the North are just punishment for having allowed such practices to continue. Lincoln suggests it is God’s will that the North has lost something rather than the fault of the South. For this reason, the North should not expect any retribution from the South. Instead, Lincoln suggests they should just end the war and begin helping each other to rebuild, 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 (Lincoln, 1865). At the time the speech was delivered, the nation was strongly divided and tensions were high on both sides.
President Abraham Lincolns Second Inaugural Address