[Marxism] Fwd: The Fearless Benjamin Lay | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 29 08:15:25 MST 2017


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, 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.

full: https://louisproyect.org/2017/12/29/the-fearless-benjamin-lay/



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