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Benjamin Lay

@ National Portrait Gallery


Although Benjamin Lay stood just four feet, seven inches tall, this Quaker reformer raised a forceful voice against slavery. Born in England, Lay arrived in Philadelphia by way of Barbados, where the treatment of slaves horrified him. Vocal in his opposition, Lay described those who kept slaves as "proud, lazy, tyrannical, gluttonous, drunken, debauched . . . the Scum of the infernal Pit." In 1737, Lay publicly condemned Quaker slave owners in a book published by Benjamin Franklin. Late in life, Lay saw his views broadly adopted by other Quakers. This print by Henry Dawkins, based on the painting by William Williams, came, as physician and statesman Benjamin Rush noted, "to be seen in many houses in Philadelphia." In it, Lay appears in front of the grotto that served as his study, holding a tract by Thomas Tryon advocating healthful living.
Etching And Engraving On Laid Paper
Created Date:
C. 1760
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
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National Portrait Gallery

Record Harvested From

Smithsonian Institution