Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson Rhetorical Analysis In a letter to Thomas Jefferson an advocate for slavery and framer of “The Declaration of Independence”; author, astronomer, mathematician, farmer, and the son of former slaves, Benjamin Banneker addresses the oppressive and horrifying nature of the slave trade that Banneker's ancestors had been in for generations.In this letter, Banneker exposes the cruelty slaves endeavored while expanding on the rights that were taken from his people, thus creating an elevated and sympathetic tone in which he builds his credibility to gain sympathy from Jefferson about former hardships to perhaps reach common ground. Also, Banneker uses complex diction in order to form his reasonable and collective argument to Jefferson as he establishes himself as a reliable adversary in obtaining equal rights for his people.
Banneker builds his credibility by stating that he too has been through horrifying adversities, as Jefferson has, in trying to achieve freedom and independence. This and the use of complex diction aid Banneker in the creation of a tone that is not indignant, but is calm and collective in order to appeal to the higher-class society and educated patriots, such as Thomas Jefferson.He then encourages his audience to question Thomas Jefferson’s standpoint of slavery by quoting Jefferson's own words in the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ” By quoting “The Declaration of Independence,” Banneker implies that Jefferson, who supporting slavery at that time, contradicts himself by saying all men should be free and have the same rights.
Banneker then further emphasizes Jefferson’s hypocrisy and unfairness to try and change his views of slavery.In addition to his argument of infringed rights, Banneker continues his letter with an allusion that the only way to salvation is divine help from heaven and God's blessings, by stating biblical phrases from Job such as “put your souls in their souls instead. ” With this, Banneker conveys his anger of why he and his brothers are being so unfairly and immorally treated after seeing everything Jefferson has previously stood for and why blessing and prosperity haven’t taken place in the corrupted system. Next, Banneker uses complex diction to emphasize his intelligence when he uses words such as “fortitude,” “abhorrence,” and “benevolence.
These choices allow Banneker to set a formal yet sympathetic tone by creating a scaffold of respect towards Thomas Jefferson. As the letter moves forth, Banneker continues using complex diction, but his tone changes to when he uses words such as “apprehensions” and “horrors” to describe the time of sorrow and pain of the Revolutionary War. Further into the passage Banneker changes his formal and sympathetic diction when he starts using phrases like “detaining fraud”, “groaning captivity” and “cruel oppression” to show and describe the gruesome acts and the horrifying days of segregation and slavery.Furthermore, he begins many of his phrases with the word “sir” which was intended to demonstrate his submission as respect to authority. However, the last paragraph of the letter shows a sense of sarcasm as if to say that Jefferson does not deserve the respect due to his immoral actions of hypocrisy. Subsequently, Banneker’s point of view was similar to Jefferson’s perception of a community where everyone is treated equally, and everyone strives for the same thing.
Throughout the script it is clear how Banneker addresses Jefferson’s feelings to further elaborate his point to change his views on proslavery. Banneker ends his letter by asking for a benevolent change in his favor and in others which ultimately reiterates back to his main proposal. That of which concerns that his people deserve their unalienable rights and freedom while also addressing that Jefferson has no more room for hypocrisy after writing “The Declaration of Independence” and allowing everyone an equal chance to live their American dream.