What Was the Purpose of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address?

The purpose of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address was to recognize the tragedy of the American Civil War, which was just a few days from ending, and to start the process of bringing the Confederate states back into the United States of America. Lincoln discussed the workings of divine providence, both in permitting the war and dictating the outcome.

There are some who criticized Lincoln’s second inaugural address for being on the pragmatic side because of his desire to avoid harsh reparations against the South. However, the overall tone of his entire address suggests a general sadness about the war and particularly about how wrong both North and South had been when they thought that the war would end up being quick or glorious at the outset. While President Lincoln is quite blunt about the evils involved with slavery in his speech, he also makes allusions to such Bible verses as Matthew 7:1, which instructs the reader, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Verses like this were designed to help unite the divided United States citizens, as they were still bitter toward one another as a result of bloody conflict. The second inaugural address was intended to begin the process of reunification.