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A photo of Abraham Lincoln, the 16 th president of the United States

“With Charity for All:” Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural and Reconciliation


President Abraham Lincoln began his second term in office in March 1865. As he again took office, Lincoln knew the American Civil War was nearing an end. He dedicated his Second Inaugural Address to laying out how he hoped the divided nation would be reunited.



Have students read Handout A: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and then answer the following questions.



Handout A: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address 


Comprehension and Analysis Question: 

  1. How did Lincoln contrast his first Inaugural Address with his Second Inaugural Address?
  2. What issue does Lincoln attribute to causing the Civil War? Does he blame either side for starting the war?
  3. Lincoln makes several religious references in his speech. He states, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God;” How does Lincoln use religion in his speech? How does he use religion to support his message of unity?
  4. Lincoln concludes his speech by stating, “With malice toward none; with charity for all;” Restate this sentence in your own words. What was Lincoln calling on the nation to do?

Extension Question

  1. Do you think it was possible for the Union to both reconcile with the South and exercise justice simultaneously? Why or why not?

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