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Vocabulary in Second Inaugural Address

Vocabulary Examples in Second Inaugural Address:

Text of Lincoln's Speech

🔒 3

"insurgent agents..."   (Text of Lincoln's Speech)

The adjective “insurgent” refers to one who rises in revolt against a recognized authority. Lincoln avoids naming the “insurgent agents” in an effort to present the causes for the war as inevitable and to avoid casting blame. However, in 1860, during and after Lincoln’s election, legislators from South Carolina and other Southern states had sought secession for themselves. On December 20th, 1860, South Carolina called a state convention to consider secession, and the states gathered there unanimously voted in favor. Their actions represent those of the insurgent agents that Lincoln describes as having sought to dissolve the Union.

"The progress of our arms..."   (Text of Lincoln's Speech)

Lincoln makes a neutral claim to describe the military successes of the Union army under General Ulysses S. Grant during his first term. Rather than using words like “victory,” “success,” and “triumph,” Lincoln’s choice of “progress” reflects his desire to acknowledge the conclusion of the war, the likelihood of Union victory, and focus on reunification.

"this mighty scourge of war..."   (Text of Lincoln's Speech)

On a literal level, a “scourge” is a whip. More connotatively, it refers to any cause of suffering. Lincoln’s diction here reveals an intriguing and apt metaphor. Just as slaves were traditionally whipped as a punishment for misbehavior, the United States was whipped by the “mighty scourge of war” for the misdeed of allowing slavery to exist.

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