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Benjamin Banneker's Use of Rhetorical Strategies

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Benjamin Banneker, a very well educated man, wrote to Thomas Jefferson using rhetorical strategies that would make Jefferson want to continue reading and want to consider his ideas. The strategies he used include pathos, diction, and allusion. To make his position on the subject clear and persuasive. In this piece of writing, Mr. Banneker makes a valid argument and gets his point across successfully.

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When reading this excerpt, what jumped out at me the most was the usage of pathos. This is one of the best strategies to use when trying to argue or persuade a subject because it affects the person’s emotions directly. “Look back I entreat you, on the variety of dangers to which you were exposed, reflect on that time in which every human aid appeared unavailable.” What Benjamin is trying to say is look back and reflect on the hardships that happened in your life before you put that upon someone else. In other words, he is appealing to Mr. Jefferson’s emotions and feelings by bringing up his past times. Benjamin wrote, “Here, sir, was a time in which your tender feelings for yourselves had engaged you thus to declare, you were then impressed with proper ideas of the great valuation of liberty” to make the reader feel sorry and ashamed and to realize he once believed in equality. Benjamin wants Thomas Jefferson to reconsider what he once believed and to “put his soul into theirs”(Banneker) like walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Benjamin also used a style of formal diction in his writing by applying abstract words and ideas to explain the vastness of slavery, freedom and emotion. For example in the phrases “…apprehensions of the horrors…” and “…tranquility which you enjoy…”(Banneker) This complex diction forms an openness because the ideas the author uses are easy for almost anyone to relate to.

Another way the author strategizes his argument is through the use of logos. Logos is providing logic through the use of logic and cold hard facts to make your statements seem more valid to those reading. An obvious example of logos in this letter is a small piece from the Declaration of Independence, which Thomas Jefferson happened to frame, which starts off, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Because this is from a U.S. document, it can be used as a fact or a “logic” in saying it is right for all men to be equal. Holding people as slaves and treating them with inequality and disrespect is against everything that is stated in the Declaration. After using those facts against Jefferson, Benjamin proves slavery to be a form of injustice.

Benjamin Banneker’s use of rhetorical strategies proves his point in more than one way. Hopefully after emotional contact with pathos, logics, and facts with logos, Jefferson realized the horrors of slavery.

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