American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Reason

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Jefferson Responds
to Banneker

Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Banneker
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) to
Benjamin Banneker

Letterpress copy, August 30, 1791
Enlarged
Manuscript Division

Thomas Jefferson, secretary of state in the first federal government and one of Virginia's largest planters and slave holders, wrote this letter to Benjamin Banneker in response to a letter that argued strongly for an end to slavery. In it Banneker had enclosed a manuscript copy of the mathematical calculations for his 1792 almanac. Jefferson's polite response expresses his ambivalent feelings about slavery and the native abilities of black individuals.

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