Disapproval of Slavery in Banneker's Letter to Jefferson

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Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness simply do not seem consistent with slavery. How could people be so passionate about the unalienable rights, and yet maintain the brutal practice of human bondage? Somehow slavery would manage to survive the revolutionary era, and the same people who stood against it would support it. Benjamin Banneker takes a huge step in writing Thomas Jefferson about his disapproval of slavery. Banneker wanted Jefferson to see the horrendous situation of the slaves in the U.S. This was an effort by Banneker to persuade Jefferson in seeing the injustice of slavery. Banneker’s purpose is to convey his negative feeling about the issue of slavery. He adopts a respected yet critical tone in order to get his point across politely in his letter to Thomas Jefferson.

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Banneker starts off the letter by reminding Jefferson the tyranny of the British. Banneker wants to recall the time when the “Tyranny of the British crown?” (Banneker) tried to push down Thomas Jefferson “to a state of Servitude” (Banneker). Banneker takes Jefferson to a time where he was also treated like a lesser being. Banneker uses personification, and it is so powerful that Jefferson can connect the situation of a slave to his life when the British oppressed them down to nothing. It forces Jefferson to think about the hardships of the slaves. Freedom is something very important to man. No matter what race you are, what gender you are, you always want it. When Jefferson was under the control of the British where he did not have any freedom, and like any man would do, he fought for his freedom. That is exactly what now the slaves are trying to do. Banneker allows Jefferson to compare his own life with a slave, and how similar they can be. Banneker also follows up with parallelism, Where he uses contrasting sentences to indicate the freedom which Jefferson has, which he is denying from the slaves. Banneker says to Jefferson to look at a time “in which every human aid appeared unavailable” (Banneker), and then contrasts this dark times by saying that “you cannot but acknowledge that the present freedom” (Banneker), which Jefferson enjoys is a “blessing from heaven” (Banneker).

Banneker wants Jefferson to see all the hardships he went through before getting his freedom, and by this Jefferson will surely know the value of freedom. Banneker intends to indicate to Jefferson that how does someone who knows the value of freedom, Deny other from getting it. The slaves are in the same place Jefferson was before he got his freedom. They are also fighting for their freedom Just like Jefferson did. Banneker wants Jefferson to acknowledge this and allow them to have their freedom. Banneker utilizes an array of emotional diction to argue about the sufferings of the slaves. Banneker is angry about the many his “Brethren under Groaning captivity and cruel oppression” (Banneker). Banneker uses all this word like “groaning captivity”, “cruel oppression”, as also speaking of the “Injustice” in all this. Banneker specifically chose these words to indicate the conditions of slavery, and the dreadful life they lived. Banneker mainly uses the word “Brethren” to show how they are related to him personally. This makes the slaves look like actual people with feelings rather than properties to be sold. He depicts slaves as real human beings, which Jefferson may have failed to realize. Banneker strongly indicates what Jefferson’s actions are doing to real people, and install some much-needed guilt in Jefferson as well as calling for change.

“The situation of my brethren is too extensive to need a recital here”. (Banneker). Banneker again uses “Brethren” to show his personal connection with the slaves. Banneker uses the word “Extensive” to show the extent to which the slavery has reached. It has kept growing and never has really stopped growing. And everyone really knows what the situation is here. There is no need for explanation. But why is know one still taking any action. This is what Banneker wanted to ask Jefferson. This institution has been around for too long be kept unnoticed. Someone needs to step up and take action. And Banneker wants Jefferson to step up because he already knows the difficulty the slaves have been through my past experiences.

Banneker uses many religious appeals to go against Jefferson’s slavery stance. He says that even though Jefferson is “Fully convinced of the benevolence of the father” (Banneker) of mankind, he still ”counteract his mercies” by allowing slavery to continue. This appeal serves two purposes. One is to indicate the connection between Banneker and Jefferson as they follow the same religion and worship the same god. This is to show their mutual standing on this topic. But then, Banneker chooses to strike at Jefferson under the name of God so he seems polite, but critical at the same time. This type of criticism has much more value as he is not trying to communicate as a son of a former slave, but as a fellow religious follower pointing out Jefferson’s wrongdoing. Bankers also ask Jefferson to “Put your souls in their souls stead” (Banneker) so Jefferson can know how the slaves feel, and make his “heart enlarged with Kindness” (Banneker). Jefferson is a high-class white male citizen, and there is very little chance Jefferson knows what it means to be a slave. He might not know the suffering the slaves go through when they are separated from their family, and made to do all these harsh work. Banneker wants Jefferson to at least once think about how the slaves feel, so he can understand their hardships. Banneker uses this quote from the Bible because it has more credibility than something Banneker might say because it is the word of God.

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