You are on page 1of 2

Evan Purcell

AP Lang
22 January 2016

Benjamin Banneker, in his letter to then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, argued that
the injustices of slaver are parallel to the injustices of the British Crown on the American
Colonies. Banneker supports his argument by comparing the actions taken by Jefferson to the
words he penned in the Declaration of Independence. He intends to give Jefferson a different
perspective in order to convince him to reevaluate his stance on slavery. His audience is solely
the secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson.
Banneker introduces a homily, lecturing theme throughout the letter. Bannekers first
sentence commands Jefferson to recall to your [sic] mind the time in which the arms of tyranny
of the British Crown were exerted in order to reduce you to a state of servitude. This
assertive, judgmental tone establishes Banneker as a strong figure, who truly and wholly believes
his argument. The references phrase also contributes to the pathos of the piece, as it connects
Jeffersons past pleas to the plea of slaves. This connection aims to make more sympathetic by
establishing a shared experience.
Banneker continues to justify his claim by alluding to the Declaration of Independence.
He highlights the sick irony of a person stating:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the
pursuit of Happiness.

while continuing to exploit slavery by owning slaves and publicly promote the practice. This
allusion shows the hypocrisy of Jeffersons fight for freedom from unjust government, while still
owning slaves and promoting their exploitation.
Banneker concludes his request by shifting his tone. Differing from the cordial,
judgmental tone that Banneker has maintained throughout, he begins to develop a coarser, harsh
tone. In this section he plainly lays out what he has been alluding to throughout, that Jefferson is
committing the same crime which he has fought against and professedly detested in others.
The tonal shift enhanced his speech as it solidified Bannekers motive and gave him greater
emotional appeal. He also incorporates invective language such as: cruel oppression, fraud
and violence. This again intensified the letters pathos. This section truly tied together his
claims and justified his assertive tone.
Bannekers speech was not to attack Jefferson as a person, but rather to poin out the
hypocrisy of his practices. He met his goal of giving a perspective to Jefferson that would
encourage him to reevaluate his actions. Bannekers final paragraph concludes the letter, not by
asking Jefferson for specific changes, but rather that he reflects on his practices and prior