A son of former slaves, Benjamin Banneker wrote a critical letter to Thomas Jefferson addressing the problems concerning slavery. Benjamin Banneker uses various rhetorical strategies to increase his effectiveness. Banneker develops his reasoning against slavery through the use of rhetorical strategies such as literary allusions, appeals to ethos and pathos, diction, and tone.
To begin with, Banneker uses a historical allusion to allow Jefferson to reflect on how the people of Britain were under the British tyranny. This exemplifies how the slaves did not have any freedom or tranquility. Banneker uses a nostalgic tone to emphasize Jefferson’s further understanding of the oppression and the hardships the slaves were exposed to. Biblical allusions are also employed to illustrate how freedom is related to God’s will. “You cannot but acknowledge that the present freedom and tranquility which you enjoy you have the mercifully received and that it is the pecular blessing of Heaven”. This quote is demonstrating how freedom is nothing but a merciful gift from God. Banneker utilizes the reference made to the Bible so Jefferson can realize how fortunate he is and creates a sense of sympathetic tone toward the unjust actions.
Next, Banneker appeals to ethos since he was the son of former slaves. This justifies that he has witnessed the adversities in his parents’ life as well as his life. He has also gained credibility by making references to the Declaration of Independence. Therefore his reasoning is more effective. Banneker appeals of pathos through his use of abstract nouns such as freedom, tranquility, kindness, liberty, and happiness. His abstract diction is used to evoke Jefferson’s emotions. The diction is used to manipulate the thoughts of the reader by creating a sense of guilt. Banneker compares the British tyranny to the enslaved African Americans. Many people from Britain eventually redeem their freedom; however, African Americans still continued to live in misery while others enjoy their gift from God. Banneker uses this comparison to establish sympathy toward the injustice. Furthermore, his appeals to emotions have created awareness and sensitivity towards the unprivileged.
Lastly, the various tones throughout the letter have contributed in persuading Jefferson that slavery cannot continue. Banneker maintains a highly respectable and formal tone throughout the letter by repeating “Sir”. The letter also maintains a formal tone since Banneker uses many allusions in order to make himself sound educated. This also enhances Banneker’s credibility by creating an elevated tone. Banneker flatters Jefferson by mentioning the value of liberty by the means of valuable doctrine. The appeal to pathos is expressed in a sympathetic tone which was used to evoke Jefferson’s emotions. Banneker added the reference to the British Crown to make Jefferson to feel nostalgic toward the slavery. Thus, Jefferson would facilitate in abolishing slavery. <conclusion>