A House Divided


This study guide will help you analyze the speech “A House Divided” by Abraham Lincoln. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on summary, analysis, topic, speaker, audience, language, modes of persuasion, circumstances, and intention.

Presentation of the speech

Title: “A House Divided”
Speaker: Abraham Lincoln
Where: Illinois State Capitol
When: 16th of June, 1858, on the occasion of Lincoln being nominated by the Republican Party from Illinois to run for US senator.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was the 16th US President. He led the country through the Civil War and helped to abolish slavery. Although he is now one of the most famous US Presidents of all time, at the time of the speech he was not yet a prominent politician in the US.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide:


The speaker appeals to trust and authority in his speech to make his arguments more compelling and acceptable to the audience.

Through the biblical allusion “ ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ ” Lincoln indirectly appeals to the authority of God to give more weight to his own prediction about the future of the US in the context of the division between free states and slave states: “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.”

Furthermore, the speaker borrows from the authority of the US Constitution to show why slavery is against American founding principles: “…provision of the United States Constitution which declares that ‘the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.’ ”


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A House Divided

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