Rhetorical Analysis on Benjamin Banneker's Letter to Thomas Jefferson

Page 1 of 2

Rhetorical Analysis on Benjamin Banneker's Letter to Thomas Jefferson

By | August 2010
Page 1 of 2
Benjamin Banneker wrote this letter to attempt to make the Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, aware of the oppressive and horrifying nature of the slave trade that Banneker's ancestors had been in for generations. Banneker uses tone, ethos, logos, pathos, syntax, juxtaposition, and scheme to sympathize with Jefferson about former hardships to perhaps reach common ground. The tone of the letter is elevated and sympathetic, the sympathetic tone appealing to the pathos of the reader, in this case Thomas Jefferson and the elevated tone appealing to the ethos of the reader.

Banneker appeals to ethos 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 elevated diction, aids Banneker in establishing himself as a reliable source. He appeals to logos by quoting exact phrases from reliable sources, including Jefferson's own words in the Declaration of Independence (i.e. "We hold these truths to be self-evident...") and Job's words (i.e. "put your souls in their souls instead") to further his point. He appeals to pathos by continuously referring to the trials and hardships that Thomas Jefferson and Americans alike had to face in order to gain their freedom (i.e. the American Revolution and independence from England), while, at the same time, relating those hardships to his own brethren's hardships (i.e. the struggle for emancipation of slaves).

Banneker's tone in this passage was elevated, formal, and sympathetic. He used an elevated tone in order to appeal to the higher-class society and educated patriots, such as Thomas Jefferson. Banneker uses elevated diction such as "fortitude," "abhorrence thereof," "thus," and "brethren" to seem educated and civilized and to set a formal tone. He begins many of his phrases with the word "sir" which was intended to demonstrate his submission to authority. He uses abstract diction to vivify the true horrors and tribulations...