Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson Essay Example


During 1791, the new United States of America was determining if slaves should count as citizens in the U.S. In his letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1791, Benjamin Banneker, the son of former slaves, a mathematician, surveyor and author, emphasizes the idea that the Declaration of Independence is not providing the equality among men by which the U.S. is supposed to abide. Banneker displays emotional diction, factual evidence and amplifies his character to enhance a deeper connection to the reader so they can understand why slavery should be abolished. 

Banneker’s concern for equality is heavily displayed by the amount of emotion in the letter. He uses an example of how the British treated America to relate the subject to a topic with which Jefferson is familiar and reveals that there was a “time in which the arms and tyranny of the British Crown were exerted with every powerful effort in order to reduce you to a State of Servitude…”. His approach is very effective because it allows Jefferson to get a small insight of how slaves feel they are treated. It conveys that like America under British rule, slaves feel neglected and owned. Jefferson can relate to this feeling because just like the slaves, America once fought for freedom, and now they are enforcing acts of hate in which they fought for in the first place. This gives Jefferson a chance to reflect back on time when America was in need of help so he will feel obligated to help stop slavery. 

Throughout his letter, Banneker continuously shows his respective character with his politeness towards Jefferson. In every paragraph, Banneker addresses Jefferson as “Sir” which presents his mature attitude towards this subject. By being more respectful to Jefferson, it could influence how he views the situation and persuades him more. Banneker also quotes the Bible implying that Jefferson should, “put your souls in their souls stead,” which is a considerate way to ask him to put himself in others’ shoes. It also relates to a topic Jerfferson is more familiar with and supports Banneker’s argument because Jefferson was religious, so he has something he can relate to. Having a polite and honorable charismatic tone benefits to his agrument for abolishing slavery.  

The facts and evidence in his text also improve the overall argument of Banneker’s letter. He states how in the Declaration of Indepence, all men should be equal and have “unalienable rights,” which are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Because Jefferson was one of the people who wrote the Declaration, he should understand why Banneker is fighting for equality. This quote also uses Jefferson’s own words against him by subtly implying that he is a hypocrite for having slaves of his own, but believing all men should be treated equally. Banneker suggests that Jefferson is acting like a fraud because he is not enforcing what he preaches. This is a good technique that helps Jefferson understand how mistreated slaves are and why he should abolish it.

 

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