Rhetorical Analysis of Benjamin Banneker

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Benjamin Banneker, a well educated man, wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1791 arguing against slavery. Banneker uses several rhetorical techniques including tone, allusion, diction, ethos, pathos, and counterargument to make his position of the given subject clear and to make Mr. Jefferson change his own opinion about slavery.

Banneker uses formal style diction and uses abstract words and ideas to show the vastness of freedom, slavery, and emotion; like in the phrases, “...tranquility which you enjoy...”; “...apprehensions of the horrors...”; and “...a time in which your tender feelings for yourselves has engaged you thus to declare...”. The abstract diction also creates an open-mindedness because ideas and feelings are something most anyone can relate to. Mr. Banneker also alludes to the Revolutionary War, “... 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 does so to show all men were basically under slavery by Britain and all men fought for their right to freedom. Banneker alludes to the Bible as well, “...Job proposed to his friends, 'put your souls in their souls instead,...'” Another clever strategy Banneker uses is he cites the Declaration of Independence, “'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, an that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'” Banneker uses a counterargument, basically taking Jefferson's own words and using them against him.

Benjamin Banneker's ethos was brought out in the diction of this letter; his intelligent word choices showed that he was well educated and that he knows what he is talking about. Other indications of Mr. Banneker's character are seen when he quotes the Declaration of Independence and the Bible. The citing of the Declaration also contributes...
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