categoryMenu_new
 
  Home
  EXTRAORDINARY AH Teaching from Spiritual Hierarchy
  AbundantHope
  NEW READERS! Read Here First
  Supporting AH
  Leadership of AbundantHope
  Announcements
  Regional AH Sites
  Other Sites with AH material
  Contact Us
  Becoming A Messiah
  OUR PUBLIC FORUM IS OPEN TOO ALL
  Mission Ideas
  System Busting
  Cleric Letter/English
  Translations of Cleric Letter
  AH Member Writings
  Candace
  Ron
  Rosie
  Jess
  Brian's Poetry
  James
  Giuseppe
  Esteban
  Telepathic Messages
  Candace
  Jess Anthony
  Vince
  Leonette
  John
  Adam
  Bela
  Joyce
  Hazel
  Kibo
  Peter
  Rosie
  Johan
  Lucia
  Lucia G
  Rubens
  Shellee-Kim
  Ben
  Dorothea
  Solon
  Others
  Targeted Messages
  Hano
  Light Flower
  Changing The Face Of Religion
  - Phoenix Journals - PDF in German
  Candace on Religion
  Other Spiritual Pieces
  Spiritual Nuggets by the Masters
  Phoenix Journals
  Phoenix Journals - PDF
  Telepathic Messages PDF books
  Selections from the Urantia Book
  Illustrations For The Urantia Book
  CMGSN Pieces
  THE WAVE
  Environment/Science
  David Crayford and the ITC
  Health and Nutrition
  Podcasts, Radio Shows, Video by AH
  Political Information
  True US History
 
  Human/Animal Rights
  The Miracle That Is Me
  Education
  Resources
  911 Material
  Books - eBooks
  government email/phone #'s
  Self Reliance
  Video
  Websites
  Alternative News Sources
  Art and Music
  Foreign Sites
  Health and Healing
  Human/Animal Rights
  Scientific
  Spiritual
  Vegan Recipes
  Translated Material
  Dutch
  Gekanaliseerde berichten Jess
  Gekanaliseerde berichten Candace
  Gekanaliseerde berichten Anderen
  Artikelen/berichten
  French
  Canal Jess
  Par Candace
  Other Channels
  Articles
  German
  Telepathische Nachrichten (Candace)
  Telepathische Nachrichten (Jess)
  Telepathische Nachrichten (div.)
  AH Mitgliederbeiträge (Candace)
  AH Mitgliederbeiträge (Jess)
  Spirituelle Schätze
  Italian
  Translations - Candace
  Translations - Jess
  Translations - Others
  Portuguese
  by Candace
  By Jess
  By Others
  Spanish
  Anfitriones Divinos
  Bitácoras Fénix
  Creadores-de-Alas (WingMakers/Lyricus)
  Escritos de Candace
  Escritos de Otros
  Monjoronsón
  Telemensajes de Candace
  Telemensajes de Jess Anthony
  Telemensajes de Otros
  Chinese
  By Candace
  By Jess
  By Others
  Korean Translations
  Hungarian Translations
  Swedish Translations

Search
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Human/Animal Rights Last Updated: Dec 29, 2018 - 7:23:11 PM


The Amazing Benjamin Lay: Friend of Animals, Enemy of Slavers
By Louis Proyect
Dec 30, 2017 - 5:44:12 PM

Email this article
 Printer friendly page Share/Bookmark

A decade ago I reviewed "Amazing Grace", a hagiographic biopic about William Wilberforce, the parliamentary opponent of the slave trade in Great Britain. Since I am far more interested in a film's politics than tracking shots, I saw it as an opportunity to cut Wilberforce down to size:

The film was meant to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the passing of the bill that banned the slave trade in the British Empire, an event that constitutes the climactic scene.

What it does not make clear is that the bill did not abolish slavery itself, which would persist in Jamaica and other British colonies for another 30 years. When younger and more militant abolitionists pressed Wilberforce to enter legislation to that effect, he replied that because of the effect "which long continuance of abject slavery produces on the human mind...I look to the improvement of their minds, and to the diffusion among them of those domestic charities which will render them more fit, than I fear they now are, to bear emancipation." In other words, the slaves were not ready for their freedom.

If my goal was to cut Wilberforce down to size, this article seeks to demonstrate that Benjamin Lay, a working-class hunchback dwarf born 72 years before him, was a giant when it came to abolitionism. Unlike Wilberforce, Lay was a radical who demanded that the Quaker elite free their slaves and take a principled stand against slavery when the peculiar institution was far more in the interests of a rising empire than during Wilberforce's years in Parliament when free trade was being adopted during the rise of economic liberalism.

As I pointed out in my review of "Amazing Grace", Oulidah Equiano, a freed slave from Nigeria, radical abolitionist and contemporary of Wilberforce, had been the property of a captain in the Royal Navy and later a Quaker merchant. He eventually earned the price of his own freedom by careful trading and saving, no thanks to that Quaker.

This year, Marcus Rediker's The Fearless Benjamin Lay: the Quaker Dwarf who became the first revolutionary abolitionist was published by Beacon Press and is the latest in a series of books the historian has written about slavery. Two years ago I reviewed his The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom for CounterPunch and looked forward to reviewing the new one.

Rediker is to be hailed for rescuing Lay from obscurity. This was a freedom-fighter who lived a life that was strikingly in the spirit of contemporary radicalism even though he was born 335 years ago. Not only was he against slavery, he was also against cruelty to animals. A strict vegan, he shunned ostentation in keeping with his Quaker faith even as the bourgeois members of the faith were indistinguishable from other Protestant elites. Constantly being expelled from one Quaker congregation after another, he refused to keep his mouth shut about slavery. He saw his mission as one of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable-to paraphrase how Finley Peter Dunne described the role of newspapers. Finally, anticipating the kind of guerilla theater Abbie Hoffman pulled off when he threw dollar bills into the trading floor of the NY Stock Exchange, Lay often adopted tactics that relied more on the daring deed than the spoken word.

He used to position himself in front of Quaker churches on a Sunday morning in the dead of winter and place his bare right leg on the snow. As the well-dressed and comfortable parishioners strode past him, they were taken aback by the sight. When asked whether he was risking frostbite, he'd reply, "Ah, you pretend compassion for me but you do not feel for the poor slaves in your fields, who go all winter half clad."

Lay might have seemed like a zealot to these co-religionists but they had forgotten what the faith meant at the time George Fox founded The Society of Friends in the late 17th century, during Benjamin Lay's youth. Fox sought "simplicity" in life and began preaching such values from 1647 onwards. He had a particular grievance against tithes, which often went into the pockets of absentee landlords. On trial for blasphemy, the judge mocked his exhortation to "tremble at the word of the Lord". He derided Fox and his followers as "Quakers".

Protestant sects of the 17th century reflected the class struggle. The Quakers, the Ranters, and the Levellers were part of a general antinomian (literally against the law) trend that was considered to be so extreme by the Protestant establishment that it bordered on heresy. It challenged a clerical authority that was often intertwined with the state.

Rediker argues that Lay anticipated another British antinomian who lived a century later. Best known best for his visionary poems, William Blake drew inspiration from the rebellious sects of the 17th century. E.P. Thompson linked him to the Muggletonians, who split from the Ranters. Blake condemned the "dark Satanic mills" while Lay denounced the "Hellish Iron Furnace" of Caribbean sugar production.

Reaching adulthood in England, Lay had a wanderlust that could only be satisfied by the sailor's life. Despite his size, he became a merchant seaman and visited ports near and far. Among those places was Barbados, where he decided to come ashore and open up a general store through his earnings on the sea. He was joined there by his wife Sarah, who was also a dwarf and a radical abolitionist. It was there that both were traumatized by the suffering of slaves who were helping Great Britain complete the transition to capitalism through their unpaid labor. This is obviously a world with which Rediker is intimately familiar:

By "conversing, trading, and living daily" with the enslaved, Benjamin and Sarah witnessed, up close, a gruesome array of tortures: many people, Benjamin lamented, "are Murthered [murdered] by Working hard, and Starving, Whipping, Racking, Hanging, Burning, Scalding, Roasting, and other Hellish Torments," routine practices that were "very sorrowful to consider." He witnessed public events staged to create terror and ensure planter control of their workers. He saw fatal accidents in the industrialized production of sugar. Slaves were mangled, sheared-off body parts fell into boiling sugar vats, and sugar itself ended up containing "Limbs, Bowels, and excrements." Long before anyone campaigned against the extreme violence of plantation production, Benjamin knew that "sugar was made with blood." He asked ruefully, "O when will there be an end of these things?"

The citations in the above paragraph come from Benjamin Lay's "All Slave-Keepers That Keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates", an abolitionist book he wrote that can be read online. As Rediker points out, this is not an easy read since it was written by an autodidact who dispensed with the usual norms of expositional prose. It is a blend of religious oratory and passionate abolitionist argument that was written from the heart. The book was published in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin who was a friend of Lay and an abolitionist himself, even though he tended to waffle. For his time, he was exceptional.

Lay gravitated to Philadelphia since the city was founded by William Penn, a Quaker himself. This was where he spent his final years as the owner of a bookshop. His other passion besides abolitionism was the printed page. He lived in Abington, just north of the city, in a monk-like existence made all the more lonely by the death of his beloved wife Sarah. Not one to feel sorry for himself, Benjamin Lay lived an exemplary life that adhered to his own strict standards. He built a cottage within a cave that was austerely adorned with the furniture he built with his own hands. The only concession to appetite were the hundreds of books that were shelved there and his prize possession. He refused to wear any clothing that came from animals, especially leather but shunned wool as well. Drawing upon his early experience in the textile mills in England, he spun cloth from flax and made his own clothing. He grew the food that he ate and only drank water. His Spartan existence was of the sort that George Fox espoused and one that evokes the strivings for a simple life that many in the counter-culture aspired to in the 60s and 70s.

Despite the vast chronological difference between his time and ours, Benjamin Lay strikes one as the sort of person who if he was alive today would be putting his body on the line to protest fracking, nuclear power, cruelty to lab animals, GMO, and the greatest of all sins to a serious Quaker: warfare.[Ron: Not to mention child sex trafficking and Satanic abuse.].

Join the debate on FacebookMore articles by:LOUIS PROYECT

Louis Proyect blogs at http://louisproyect.org and is the moderator of the Marxism mailing list. In his spare time, he reviews films for CounterPunch.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/29/the-amazing-benjamin-lay-friend-of-animals-enemy-of-slavers/




All writings by members of AbundantHope are copyrighted by
©2005-2019 AbundantHope - All rights reserved

Detailed explanation of AbundantHope's Copyrights are found here


Top of Page

Human/Animal Rights
Latest Headlines
New York Bill Would Force All Public Colleges to offer Free Abortions
The Long-Term Plan to Destroy German Genetics Through Outbreeding
Chief Rabbi’s Pious Bid to Sabotage Corbyn
"Lack of Police Resources"
Trump Wins Bombshell Victory After US Supreme Court Orders Mothers To Listen To Heartbeats Of Their Babies Before Abortion
How Can the U.S. Dare To Lecture China about Rights of the Muslims ?
Swiss Bishop Stands Firm Against Proposed Law to Criminalize Criticism of LGBT
Sanity Prevails: Supreme Court Denies Inmate's Appeal for sex reassignment surgery
Why Sexual Morality May be Far More Important Than You Ever Thought
Dirty Vaccines Are Proof That The Risks Outweigh The Benefits
Neonatal Nurse Says Government-mandated Vaccines Are “destroying an entire generation of children”
Alabama Sheriff Defies Demand to Stop Promoting Prayer
Guess Who Has More CCTV Cameras Per Capita ?
New Calls Emerge for “anti-vaxxers” to be Thrown in Re-education Camps
Explosive Documentary Exposes 'Pedophiles in Parliament' and the British Royal Family
Cobalt Theft and Child Labour
Think of the Children! Open-Borders Fanatics' Hysterical Campaign Against Immigration Enforcement (ICE)
Since Feeding the Homeless Is Illegal, Activists Carry AR-15s to Give Out Food, Supplies
Confused By The Language Police ?
Diversity is Our Strength