AP Language and Composition
20 October, 2011
Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson
Slavery was a major issue in the growth of our country, and the views of Benjamin Banneker-son of former slaves, a farmer, astronomer, mathematician, surveyor, and author-are evident in his letter written in 1791 to then secretary of state Thomas Jefferson. This letter was written during a time when we were trying to bring a country together as one, but there was a huge problem in the way to treat slavery that was preventing the advancement of a Nation. Banneker effectively utilizes rhetorical strategies to get his point that slavery must be abolished across to Thomas Jefferson.
Banneker uses allusions to both the Declaration of Independence and God to show that Thomas Jefferson must abolish slavery. An allusion to the Declaration of Independence is “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that 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.” Banneker writes this to show Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, that he is the one that made the claim that all men, which would include slaves, are given the same equal rights however Jefferson is not following his own doctrine. Banneker also uses allusions to God when claiming “[Jefferson was] so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of mankind and of his equal and impartial distribution of those rights and privileges which he had conferred upon them…” Banneker wants to remind Jefferson of his faith in God’s belief in equality for all. By bringing in God, Banneker is explaining to Jefferson that slavery should not just be against the law, but it is a sin and Jefferson will be punished for his sins under the hand of God. With these allusions addressed by Banneker, he has pointed out the hypocrisy with Jefferson’s thoughts thus...