An Essay on Benjamin Bannecker’s Passion for the Abolishment of Slavery in America

Slavery has always been one of the most controversial subjects in United States history. Inflicting pain and suffering on thousands of African Americans. Throughout the 18th century, though many people accepted the concept of slavery, others strongly opposed it. Benjamin Bannecker was a very successful man who was proficient in sciences, writing and farming. He was also the son of former slaves and strongly opposed everything slavery stood for. Bannecker’s passion for the abolishing of slavery was so powerful. That he wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson, secretary of state to President George Washington. In his letter to Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Bannecker tries to persuade him to abolish slavery from the United States by using logos, ethos, antithesis and various references to the past.

The appeals to logos and ethos are abundant in Benjamin Bannecker’s letter. First, both logos and ethos are present when he is quoting a direct line from the Declaration of Independence, “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.”(Line 21) He establishes his ethos by proving his knowledge of United States history and gives himself more credibility by showing his extensive knowledge of the ideas vested within the Declaration of Independence.

Benjamin is an incredibly knowledgeable person compared to other African Americans during this time period. This also enhances his ethos by displaying his familiarity with the Declaration of Independence and the contradictory statements it entails. Benjamin wants Thomas Jefferson to realize that to have a prosperous “free” country, then everyone must be free, outlined in the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin uses logic to argue the pending freedom of his fellow brethren. Slaves were not treated equally to everybody else, but rather, treated significantly worse.

Benjamin believes that it is logical for slaves to be freemen because they are in fact men, and the Declaration of Independence clearly states, “All men are created equal.” Benjamin also exhibits ethos by referring to other African Americans as his brethren. (Line 38) By referring to them as his brethren, Benjamin is showing sympathy for other African Americans. Since Benjamin is black, he understands more than anyone else can what it is like to be so hated in the world, and he cannot stand to see his people being so mistreated anymore. Ethos and logos are strong rhetorical devices that are clearly evident within his letter.

Bannecker also uses antithesis and references to the past to further get his point across about the monstrosities of slavery. Antithesis is distinctly seen in the line, “… although you were 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, that you should at the same time counteract his mercies in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren under groaning captivity and cruel oppression…” (Line 31) Benjamin mentions that Jefferson is the “Father of mankind” because simply he is the father of the Declaration of Independence. Bannecker is trying to point out that Jefferson, the “Father,” is a fraud, and that he is no better than the king of England’s tyranny.

If Jefferson truly is the “Father of mankind and of his equal and impartial distribution of those rights and privileges” then he would have fought for the abolition of slavery long ago. The Declaration of Independence is a very ironic document that blatantly lies about the topic of free men, which Benjamin cleverly points out. Bennecker includes the sentence, “Sir, I suppose that your knowledge of the situation of my brethren is too extensive to need a recital here…” to remind Jefferson that his fellow colonists were once slaves under the watchful eye of Great Britain.

Benjamin even clearly points out, “Tyranny of the British Crown were exerted with every powerful effort in order to reduce you to a State of Servitude” to further exemplify his point. (Line 1) The purposes of these references to the past are to make Jefferson feel ashamed for his actions. He is inflicting the same pain and suffering that Great Britain inflicted on them not long ago. What the colonists are doing to slaves is a direct is to violation of the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson wrote. Bennecker included these rhetorical strategies to further persuade his argument on the abolishment of slavery.

In an order to persuade Thomas Jefferson to reconsider his current views on slavery, Benjamin Bannecker uses the rhetorical strategies of ethos, logos, antithesis and a mocking tone. These rhetorical devices were flawlessly included into his extremely persuasive and impressive letter. The ideas demonstrated in this letter undermine the foundations of the Declaration of Independence, which is significant in this time period. Whether this letter did or did not urge Thomas Jefferson to reevaluate his perspective on slavery, it still is an immense example of how rhetorical strategies added to writing can be eloquent, informative and robust.

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