The Fearless Benjamin Lay
The little-known story of an eighteenth-century Quaker dwarf who fiercely attacked slavery and imagined a new, more humane way of life The Fearless Benjamin Lay chronicles the transatlantic life and times of a singular and astonishing man--a Quaker dwarf who became one of the first ever to demand the total, unconditional emancipation of all enslaved Africans around the world. He performed public guerrilla theater to shame slave masters, insisting that human bondage violated the fundamental principles of Christianity. He wrote a fiery, controversial book against bondage that Benjamin Franklin published in 1738. He lived in a cave, made his own clothes, refused to consume anything produced by slave labor, championed animal rights, and embraced vegetarianism. He acted on his ideals to create a new, practical, revolutionary way of life.

The Fearless Benjamin Lay Details

TitleThe Fearless Benjamin Lay
Author
ReleaseSep 5th, 2017
PublisherBeacon Press
ISBN-139780807035924
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Biography, North American Hi..., American History, United States Of America

The Fearless Benjamin Lay Review

  • Sharon Huether
    January 1, 1970
    Benjamin Lay: A Quaker Dwarf who became the first Revolutionary Abolitionist. He was born in Essex England in 1682 and traveled to Barbados and Philadelphia . He used metaphors of sheep and lambs to admonish Quakers and others to free their slaves.He often disrupted church meetings to make his point in his beliefs. He even did theactrics to get the attention of a crowd.By trade he was a Glover and a book seller. He also traveled the seas in earlier days. Benjamin married Sarah, she was also a dw Benjamin Lay: A Quaker Dwarf who became the first Revolutionary Abolitionist. He was born in Essex England in 1682 and traveled to Barbados and Philadelphia . He used metaphors of sheep and lambs to admonish Quakers and others to free their slaves.He often disrupted church meetings to make his point in his beliefs. He even did theactrics to get the attention of a crowd.By trade he was a Glover and a book seller. He also traveled the seas in earlier days. Benjamin married Sarah, she was also a dwarf and a Quaker. She often spoke in meetings and was against slavery.After Sarah died Benjamin grew all his own food and became a total vegetarian. He and Benjamin Franklin were good friends. Mr. Franklin also printed pamphlets on Antislavery for Benjamin Lay. I won this Free book from Goodreads First-Reads.This was such and interesting book. I never knew there were Abolitionists in the 1700's
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  • Shomeret
    January 1, 1970
    To honor July 4th I am reviewing a biography of a true American original whose life expands our knowledge of the history of American abolitionism, Quakerism and alternative lifestyles. Benjamin Lay was a very independent man who should be celebrated while we celebrate American independence. "Let your lives speak" is an old Quaker motto. Lay certainly did that with his own life. I received an ARC of The Fearless Benjamin Lay by Marcus Rediker from the publisher via Edelweiss in return for this re To honor July 4th I am reviewing a biography of a true American original whose life expands our knowledge of the history of American abolitionism, Quakerism and alternative lifestyles. Benjamin Lay was a very independent man who should be celebrated while we celebrate American independence. "Let your lives speak" is an old Quaker motto. Lay certainly did that with his own life. I received an ARC of The Fearless Benjamin Lay by Marcus Rediker from the publisher via Edelweiss in return for this review.The first Quaker to propose immediate abolition of slavery was Benjamin Lay, and he made this radical proposal in colonial Pennsylvania in 1738. Lay was also a vegetarian and an animal rights advocate. He pioneered the boycott strategy by boycotting all products produced by slaves. He not only grew his own food, but made his own clothing woven from plant products and walked everywhere because he was opposed to the exploitation of horses. He treated his wife, Sarah, as an equal. So he had a very modern sensibility, and could be considered very much ahead of his time. I feel that I owe a debt to Rediker for introducing me to Benjamin Lay whose radicalism and lifestyle can be appreciated by 21st century progressives.For my complete review see http://shomeretmasked.blogspot.com/20...
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  • Tonstant Weader
    January 1, 1970
    Marcus Rediker has written an important correction to the history of abolitionism with his biography The Fearless Benjamin Lay. Lay was born in 1682, a commoner who worked as a shepherd, a glove-maker, a sailor, and a merchant and lived in Essex, Barbados, and Pennsylvania. He was a Quaker, perhaps more authentically devout than the many Quakers with whom he shared fellowship.Lay was a child of the Glorious Revolution. influenced by the democratic idealism that animated that victory for the righ Marcus Rediker has written an important correction to the history of abolitionism with his biography The Fearless Benjamin Lay. Lay was born in 1682, a commoner who worked as a shepherd, a glove-maker, a sailor, and a merchant and lived in Essex, Barbados, and Pennsylvania. He was a Quaker, perhaps more authentically devout than the many Quakers with whom he shared fellowship.Lay was a child of the Glorious Revolution. influenced by the democratic idealism that animated that victory for the rights of Englishmen. It was a time of religious radicalism and while many of the sects faded away, the Quakers emerged as one of the strongest nonconformist faiths in England…and of course, there was Pennsylvania, their refuge. The Quakers were important in the abolitionist movement, but during the lifetime of Benjamin Lay, they not only approved slavery, but the most powerful and influential Quakers in America were slaveholders. Lay, after witnessing the heinous treatment of slaves in Barbados was a confirmed abolitionist and fought with all his might to change the church.In denouncing greed, avarice, inequality, and slavery, Lay was never temperate. In fact, he was an avowed activist who employed direct action guerrilla theater. One time he stood in the snow without shoes and socks on one foot. When people expressed concern, he asked them why they were not concerned for the slaves who had even less clothing than he. He was all activism, not organizing, constantly ostracized from his community. It pained him, but not as much as silence in the face of injustice would have pained him. In the 1730s, then he was told to be quiet, to keep the peace, he said a phrase that is dear and familiar to all who seek justice, “No justice, no peace.”It is interesting to learn about Lay since his influence has been minimized and ignored in most histories of abolition. This reflects past and current biases for the educated, privileged reformer over the working class agitator. Lay is not the first nor will he be the last activist to disappear from history for not conforming to the ideal gentleman reformer. Look at the erasure of Bayard Rustin from civil rights history until society became more accepting of gay rights.Rediker correctly identifies class prejudice as one reason that Lay’s contribution was unmentioned. I think there is another, though, that is perhaps more potent. Rediker explained how Lay came to his opposition to slavery, through his belief in the Golden Rule, the brotherhood of man, and opposition to violence. Lay’s abolitionism was about the equality of all, it was not rooted in pity for a lesser race. Many abolitionists opposed slavery with racial bias and animus, eager to ship slaves back to Africa and indifferent to their fate after manumission. They did not believe Blacks were equal, just that slavery was pernicious. Lay had none of that condescension. He was a radical believer in the equality of all. That is even more radical than his class politics.It would be interesting to see how Benjamin Lay would do in Portland. He was an antinomian environmentalist like many of the local anarchists of Black Bloc and Antifa. A vegetarian, who boycotted products that exploited and oppressed slaves, an environmentalist who imagined living sustainably in peace with the earth and the animals, a supporter of human rights, opposed to the death penalty and, of course, slavery. He was feminist before the word existedHe thought capitalism was violence and was anti-capitalist. He opposed all authority. He was 300 years before his time.The Fearless Benjamin Lay is an interesting book of a fascinating man. It suffers from some repetition and some over-explication. For example, the author reprints two chapters of Revelations with Lay’s interpretation, though the interpretation alone would have been adequate. His short biography of jobs and places is repeated often. It is also easy to get lost in the amazingly petty bureaucratic persecution of Benjamin Lay by one of the Quaker churches back in England, but that kind of pettiness does express how deeply his righteous anger offended those in the church.To be honest, that pettiness struck me as familiar. My great-great grandfather was a Quaker abolitionist who violated their peace testimony by joining the Union Army. He was disowned by his church and to make their point complete, there is a line drawn through his marriage and birth record. They really went to that much effort to make their point. That’s why when I was reading the extraordinary lengths the church in England went to in order to inflict unhappiness on Lay and his wife, I was not surprised.The Fearless Benjamin Lay will be released September 5th. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...
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  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    William Lay was a most unusual person in history, a self educated man who became an avid reader, only four foot seven inches with a hunchback, a man revolted by the bad treatment of slaves by their owners in Barbardos, a vegetarian and animal rights proponent. I was curious about him because of his Quaker background and that Benjamin Franklin was one of his friends. It is an understatement to say that he was a free thinker. Marcus Rediker produced a very well researched biography of William Lay William Lay was a most unusual person in history, a self educated man who became an avid reader, only four foot seven inches with a hunchback, a man revolted by the bad treatment of slaves by their owners in Barbardos, a vegetarian and animal rights proponent. I was curious about him because of his Quaker background and that Benjamin Franklin was one of his friends. It is an understatement to say that he was a free thinker. Marcus Rediker produced a very well researched biography of William Lay and must have spent many hours locating illustrations for this fascinating book. It is written in a scholarly manner but the character and quirkiness of Benjamin Lay makes this book a standout. It is easy to know why slavery became such a passionate issue in his life by reading about his life in Barbados and Philadelphia. He had radical ideas of how to get his anti slavery position understood. You will not forget this person in history!I received this Advanced Reading Copy by making a selection from Amazon Vine books but that in no way influenced my thoughts or feelings in this review. I also posted this review only on sites meant for reading not for selling.
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  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    This was a case of the author including every scrap of information he found on the person. The overview at the beginning turned out to be the most interesting part, in my opinion. I was expecting a book about what Benjamin Lay did in the fight against slavery, but most of that information was adequately summarized in the overview.The book also talked about how many chimneys his parent's house had (and what this indicated about how much money they had), notes that he made in the margins of the bo This was a case of the author including every scrap of information he found on the person. The overview at the beginning turned out to be the most interesting part, in my opinion. I was expecting a book about what Benjamin Lay did in the fight against slavery, but most of that information was adequately summarized in the overview.The book also talked about how many chimneys his parent's house had (and what this indicated about how much money they had), notes that he made in the margins of the books he read, and every single time he got in trouble with the Quakers. Much of the book was about how he was an arrogant, self-righteous man who would denounce preachers and do publicity stunts to make his points. He ticked off the Quakers to the point that he was kicked out by them pretty much wherever he moved.He finally put some of that energy into fighting slavery at a time when only a few others had started to speak out against it. He did some publicity stunts. He wrote a long, train-of-thought book that required the author to summarize and interpret so we could get some idea of what he said. Lay seems like a hard fellow to like, but he did help shift the Quakers toward standing against slave trading and later against slave owning. Lay also stood for treating animals with the same rights as humans. He's an interesting fellow, but I guess I found it a little repetitive to hear about every instance recorded of him denouncing yet another Quaker preacher.I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through Amazon Vine.
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  • Cybercrone
    January 1, 1970
    "Benjamin's prophecy speaks to our times. He predicted that for Quakers, and for America, slave-keeping would be a long destructive burden.""Benjamin Lay was, in sum, a class-conscious, gender-conscious, race-conscious, environmentally conscious vegetarian ultra-radical. Most readers of this book would think this combination of beliefs possible only since the 1960s, two full centuries after Lay's remarkable life ended."Really fascinating bio of a truly outstanding personality. He used street the "Benjamin's prophecy speaks to our times. He predicted that for Quakers, and for America, slave-keeping would be a long destructive burden.""Benjamin Lay was, in sum, a class-conscious, gender-conscious, race-conscious, environmentally conscious vegetarian ultra-radical. Most readers of this book would think this combination of beliefs possible only since the 1960s, two full centuries after Lay's remarkable life ended."Really fascinating bio of a truly outstanding personality. He used street theatre, writing, speaking in Meeting, teaching by example and embarrassing his 'betters' to get his concerns out to the population at large. I really enjoyed reading about his life and exploits.However, the author doesn't seem to understand that midgets and dwarves are medically separate diagnoses whose owners look nothing alike, and whether or not they are politically correct, they must be used properly for the readers' proper comprehension.Also the author seems to be lukewarm to the suggestion that Lay's "zeal and fury" were what allowed the Friendly Persuasion to work later. There has always had to be the loud, hard push that overcomes the initial inertia. It has always been so. The job of the first wave of change is to get your attention.Anyway, basically just loved the book.
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  • Jack Phoenix
    January 1, 1970
    Rediker displays his research chops presenting us with what is known of Benjamin Lay, possibly rescuing an accomplished and unique historical figure from obscurity, though it is a bit dry as a narrative.
  • Jim
    January 1, 1970
    A story of a remarkable man who stood up for his beliefs, no matter the cost. This is a good book for all to read at this time. I won this on Goodreads.
  • Jeffrey
    January 1, 1970
    Very interesting book about a person that I have never heard of before reading the biography. The book was well-written.
  • Oliver Bateman
    January 1, 1970
    This was an excellent biography. I profiled its author, Marcus Rediker, in this Pacific Standard feature: https://psmag.com/education/quaker-dw...
  • Pam ☼Because Someone Must Be a Thorn☼ Tee
    January 1, 1970
    ~review copy providedBenjamin Lay is certainly one of those remarkable characters of history that we'd almost never run across in school, and so I'm thankful to Mr. Rediker and his publisher for breathing life into this interesting man and his wife.Born in 1682, Lay's life provides us with a perfect mirror to look at this era though the lens of religious and civil upheaval. The author gives us a solid background into the religious and philosophical trends of the times. What I found equally inter ~review copy providedBenjamin Lay is certainly one of those remarkable characters of history that we'd almost never run across in school, and so I'm thankful to Mr. Rediker and his publisher for breathing life into this interesting man and his wife.Born in 1682, Lay's life provides us with a perfect mirror to look at this era though the lens of religious and civil upheaval. The author gives us a solid background into the religious and philosophical trends of the times. What I found equally interesting though were the complaints of the common people. They were disgruntled over unfair elections, a lack of living wages, and the lack of equality for women and other races. (Some things apparently never change.)All these aspects aside, Benjamin's life as a progressive free-thinker is dwarfed by his other accomplishments. He engaged in different occupations, sailed the world, married, and ultimately, through shear determination, changed the Quakers and the rest the English speaking world. It's possible to go on and on, but let me just sum it up by saying that he was an amazing character.------------------The book itself is academic and well researched. Dr. Rediker's style is one that guides the reader to conclusions, so you don't have to fear missing out on any points. I wasn't personally sure the author adored the subject of this book. Or perhaps I just misread/misunderstood his use of the word picaresque to describe Benjamin.
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