Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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LAY, Benjamin, philanthropist, born in Colchester, England, in 1681; died in Abington, Pennsylvania, in 1760. In 1710 he settled in Barbadoes as a merchant, but, becoming obnoxious to the people by his abolition principles, he removed to the British colonies and settled at Abington, Pennsylvania, where he was one of the earliest and most, zealous opponents of slavery. He was originally a member of the Society of Friends, but left it in 1717, because slave-holding was permitted to its members. Afterward he returned to the society when it assumed an attitude that was similar to this own. Mr. Lay was little over four feet in height, wore clothes of his own manufacture, and was distinguished scarcely less for his eccentricities than for his philanthropy. At one time he attempted to fast for forty days, but long before the expiration of that time his abstinence nearly proved fatal. To show his indignation against slave-holders he carried a bladder filled with blood into a meeting, and in the presence of the congregation thrust a sword, which he had concealed under his coat, into the bladder, and sprinkling the blood on several Friends exclaimed, " Thus shall God shed the blood of those who enslave their fellow creatures." Upon the introduction of tea into Pennsylvania he delivered a lecture against its use from the balcony of the court house in Philadelphia, and scattered the tea and broke the cups and saucers that his wife had purchased a short time before. In 1737 he wrote a treatise entitled "All Slave-Keepers, that keep the Innocent in Bondage. Apostates." It was printed by Benjamin Franklin, who told the author, when the manuscript was brought to him, that it was deficient in arrangement. "It is no matter," said Mr. Lay, "print any part thou pleasest first." he was the pioneer of the abolitionists in the colonies, and in his bold, defiant denunciation of slave-holding, was in marked contrast to Anthony Benezet, his successor in this work, who achieved probably greater success by gentler methods.
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