The declaration of independence was written by Thomas Jefferson during a time where the colonies had just gained their independence from British rule. This declaration was famous for the expression of equal rights and independence between everyone, however, this message was not expressed as well when it came to the way that the colonies treated African Americans. This is why an African American by the name of Benjamin Banneker created and sent a letter to Thomas Jefferson in order to express his thoughts on the treatment of African Americans and how this does not reflect the ideas expressed in the declaration. In order to do this effectively, however, Benjamin Banneker used many different rhetorical strategies so that he could create an effective argument which would possibly convince Thomas Jefferson to help bring justice to African Americans. Benjamin would end up using multiple different rhetorical strategies in order to make his letter much more personal as well as provide evidence in order to create a convincing argument. This would end up strengthening his overall argument against the negative treatment of Africans.
Throughout Benjamin’s letter, he constantly refers back to the word “you” as he is writing this letter in a way that is directed towards the reader, or in this case, Thomas Jefferson. This was done in order to create a more personal argument toward Jefferson that would cause a much longer lasting effect on him. This represents parallelism since the constant use of a single word causes this more emotional argument. Not only that but Benjamin Banneker is also referring back multiple times to the feelings felt by the colonists while under the British rule in an attempt to create more of an emotional connection between the twos struggle. An example of this is shown at the start of the letter, “Sir, suffer me to recall to your mind that time in which the arms and tyranny of the British Crown were exerted with every powerful effort in order to reduce you to the State of Servitude, 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, and in which even hope and fortitude wore the aspect of inability to the conflict and you cannot but be led to a serious and grateful sense of your miraculous and providential preservation.” This quote talks about the emotions that the colonists, as well as Jefferson, felt during the time before the American Revolution, which gets them into that mindset of sadness and empathy towards the African American since they also feel that sense of powerless towards a greater force, as well as a lack of rights. Another example of an emotion-driven argument is shown later in the letter, “This sir, was a time in which you clearly saw into the injustice of a state of slavery.” The “you” that is also used in the quote causes a similar effect and makes the argument directed more towards Jefferson in a personal way which causes him to feel more emotional as it feels like it is going towards him and specifically him, it evokes more emotions out of him than if the argument would have been on a more broad term. The quote more directly attacks Jefferson for his hypocrisy which is why the “you” is used to cause this even more directed attack to gain more guilt from Jefferson for the actions he does.
There are many quotes from different forms of writing that are in the letter written by Benjamin Banneker which are used to provide strong evidence in order to back up his claims. This was done to represent the hypocrisy in Thomas Jefferson’s own writing in order to show how the way African Americans are treated is similar to that of the colonists which is why the Africans deserve the same justice as the colonists. One of the quotes that are referenced in the writing is when they quote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator.” This is done because the quote directly states how all men are created equal, yet the African Americans themselves are not seeing the same positive treatment that they should be receiving. This is an evidence of hypocrisy and it shows how Africans are in fact similar to the colonists of the time which will make Jefferson reevaluate the actions since they are going against their own words by refusing to treat the Africans like equal men. Another example of evidence used is shown when Benjamin goes into more details about the type of treatment the African Americans are experiencing as well as how this conflicts with the messages that Thomas himself expresses in the declaration, “Counteract his mercies in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act which you professedly detested in others with respect to yourselves.” By giving examples of the type of treatment that they African Americans are experiencing, it creates a connection towards the treatment of the colonists which is again supported by the declaration which speaks against the same acts. This supports Benjamin’s argument not only because it again shows the hypocrisy written in the declaration, but is also show the mistreatment of the Africans and why it needs to be reverted in order to live up to the expectations set by the declaration itself.
The argument made by Benjamin in his letter towards Thomas Jefferson was extremely strong due to the multiple different rhetorical strategies that were being used. The parallelism provided more of a personal connection between the reader, more specifically Jefferson, and the arguments being made. This connection provided more space for evidence to be made which would help provide examples of not only the hypocrisy of the declaration but how the treatment of African Americans is similar to the actions presented by the British when the colonists were under their rule. This provides a powerful argument achieved through the different examples of evidence provided. With these different points combined it created an extremely strong argument that was able to get the point across that in order to fully follow the declaration of independence, we need justice for the African Americans.