To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Banneker, 19 August 1791

  • Article (letter)
  • 1500 words
  • Level: all audiences

In 1791 Benjamin Banneker, a self-taught American astronomer, sent a copy of the astronomical almanac (that he published throughout the 1790’s) to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State for the United States. Much of the letter, however, addresses the issue of slavery and its conflict with belief in God as creator of all. Banneker writes:

[O]ne universal Father hath given being to us all, and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also without partiality afforded us all the Same Sensations, and endued us all with the same faculties, and that however variable we may be in Society or religion, however diversifyed in Situation or colour, we are all of the Same Family, and Stand in the Same relation to him.

Sir, if these are Sentiments of which you are fully persuaded, I hope you cannot but acknowledge, that it is the indispensible duty of those who maintain for themselves the rights of human nature, and who profess the obligations of Christianity, to extend their power and influence to the relief of every part of the human race, from whatever burthen or oppression they may unjustly labour under, and this I apprehend a full conviction of the truth and obligation of these principles should lead all to.

Click here for a copy from the United States National Archives.

Click here for a copy from New Catholic World.

Click here for an on-line copy of Banneker’s almanac from 1793, courtesy of the Smithsonian.