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Isis Weems

January 17,2016
Mrs. Tillman
AP Lang

Benjamin Bannekers Letter to Thomas Jefferson


Benjamin Banneker, the son of former slave parents, had many different skills and jobs.
In 1791 Banneker wrote an argumentative letter to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and
President George Washington regarding the issue of slavery. Throughout the letter Benjamin
Banneker uses numerous rhetorical strategies such as the use of pathos, allusions,and diction.

In the formal letter to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, Banneker uses
emotional appeal to argue against slavery. In the first paragraph Banneker compares the
enslavement of african natives to the tyranny of the British Crown. He states, Sir, suffer me to
recall to your mind that 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. Banneker uses this
to introduce his emotional appeal to both the Secretary of State and President. He continues to
his emotional appeal saying, ...you cannot but acknowledge that the present freedom and
tranquility which you enjoy you have mercifully received and that it is the peculiar blessing of
Heaven.. The statement brings religion into the picture to show how unjust slavery really is. He
also uses the statement to emotional guilt Jefferson and Washington about slavery and show that
the slaves deserve freedom just as those under the British Crown strived for and later got.

Benjamin Banneker also uses allusion as a rhetorical strategy for his argument against
slavery in his letter to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. In paragraph two Banneker
alludes to the Declaration of Independence. He States, ...that you publickly held forth this true
and valuable doctrine, which is worthy to be recorded and remembered in all succeeding
ages.Alluding to Declaration of Independence would appeal to Thomas Jefferson his noted as
the framer of this document. The use of this allusion will also show that this document
predominantly written by Jefferson does not follow the information laid out in the Declaration of
Independence.
Lastly, Banneker uses a positive diction to express his argument against slavery to
Jefferson and Washington. Throughout the letter Banneker is polite and use Sir repeatedly. He
uses his positive diction to show that he is coming from a peaceful standpoint. He states, Sir, I
suppose that your knowledge of the situation of my brethren is too extensive to need a recital
here. Bannekers choice of words shows that his is not coming from an aggressive position.
His positive diction and use of polite phrases shows that he respects both mean but he wants a
change. He uses his peacefulness to help his brethren gain the rights they deserve.
Throughout the letter by Benjamin Banneker ,to President George Washington and
Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, he uses many rhetorical strategies to help him positively tell
his argument against slavery. His use of a positive diction shows his level of respect for the two
men while also helping get his point across. Bannekers of allusion and emotional appeal shows
the two men downfalls to slavery and that the also have to follow their own words. Bannekers
use of rhetorical strategies helped positively tell his argument against slavery to Thomas
Jefferson and George Washington.