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Benjamin Lay

Benjamin Lay
Henry Dawkins, active 1753 - 1786
Copy after
William Williams, Sr., 1727 - 27 Apr 1791
Benjamin Lay, c. 1681 - 3 Feb 1759
c. 1760
Etching and engraving on laid paper
Sheet: 22.8 x 19.8cm (9 x 7 13/16")
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6cm (18 x 14")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
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Object number
Exhibition Label
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.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection