On This Date in History: Benjamin Lay was born in England in 1682. He was small in stature standing just 4’7″. But, he found himself unwelcome in his native land “for some extravagances in conduct and language.” He was disowned and decided to go into self exile. If you’re going to exile yourself, it’s probably not going to be to some Arctic hideaway but instead some tropical paradise. So, off to the West Indies he went in 1730.
But, the fun in the sun didn’t last long due to the long shadow of slavery. Perhaps due to the fact that he had been outcast and rejected by society or perhaps from a strong moral compass, Lay became quite moved by the plight of the slaves who were treated with great cruelty and indifference. He became quite outspoken in his denunciation of the slave trade and, most probably, slave holders and slave traders. His outspoken nature resulted in his being “compelled” to leave the islands. So, a year after he arrived in the West Indies he left and went to the town that sounded welcoming; Philadelphia. Ah yes…Philadelphia…the city of brotherly love. Much to his chagrin, he found that slavery was alive and well there too. He was a Quaker and was shocked to find that his fellow Quakers in Philadelphia condoned the brutish practice. So, he did what he id best; he took his wife and went into exile. I suppose he must have felt as if he had nowhere left to exile himself so he took the little lady to a cave outside of town where he set up a base of operations.
While he lived away from people he regularly wandered into town to shake up the locals. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote in The Journal of John Woolman that Benjamin Lay would visit the local Friend’s Meeting Houses, which is where the Religious Society of Friends(Quakers) meet, just to chastise and annoy those in attendance. On one occasion, the small man with a hunched back and sticklike legs, wrapped in a white overcoat approached in a time of silence in the assembly and exclaimed, “You slaveholders! Why don’t you throw off your Quaker coast as I do mine and show yourselves as you are?” As he shouted, he tossed off his coat and revealed a military coat with a sword so long that it dangled close to his heels. The audience was shocked when he drew his sword with one hand as he clutched a bible in the other and said, “In the sight of God, you are as guilty as if you stabbed your slaves to th heart, as I do this book!” At that point, he thrust he sabre into the Good Book. Secretly, he had hidden a small bladder filled with the juice of a poke-weed and so when he stabbed the Bible, what appeared to be fresh blood flowed as he sprinkled those who sat nearby him.
Quakers were known for their outspokeness and to be sure, there were many who had concerns regarding slavery, though their protests were largely muted. However, Benjamin Lay was pretty radical and was a catalyst who awakened them from thier slumber. While no one thinks that his outlandish antics created a revolution, he is credited with sparking the conscience of men with an educated reason and softening hearts. They, in turn, would push for change. One of those Quakers who changed his tune was none other than the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier whose work probably helped to preserve the memory of Benjamin Lay. He called Lay the community’s “pertinacious gad-fly on the sore places of its conscience.” Lay died on this date in 1759 at the age of 82. But he died a happy man. He had made a difference because the year before his death, at the annual meeting of Friends, the Quakers passed a resolution that denounced and condemned slavery and the slave trade. Lay and his wife had lived in exile in his cave where on occasion, he entertained guests. His most famous cave guest was none other than Benjamin Franklin, who undoubtedly had one of the most learned and reasoned mines in all of the colonies. And it was the men of Franklin’s stature who did not allow the Lay’s physical stature to blind them from the enormity and power of his words.
Weather Bottom Line: We have a rather interesting week or so ahead with the potential for a big story down the road. First is the system coming across for the weekend. I suppose one could say that there are two lows that will be converging over the area Friday and Saturday. I’ve been calling one the upper level portion but it may have some surface characteristics. Nevertheless, either way the results are the same. The low to the south approaches and brings us rain. As it’s doing so, the one from the north drops down over the Ohio Valley and that will serve to drag down cold air that will turn the rain over to snow on Friday night and continue into Saturday. This season, the NAM has been the least bullish on snow but this time, its calling for nearly 3 inches while the GFS is advertising less than 2. If we are above freezing on Saturday it will be sometime after midnight and I suspect that we will be in the 20’s for much of the daytime hours on Saturday. Regardless of the amounts, it’s the weekend so it won’t be too much of an issue except for Saturday morning travel as snow falling onto rain wetted streets with temperatures falling below freezing will present some icing issues no doubt. Because it will be raining first, they will not be able to pre-treat the roads… so no “brine solution” stories this weekend.
Now, the potential big guy comes on Tues and Wed and maybe into Thursday. There is some agreement that there will be a system moving west to east to our south. Most data indicates that we will be cold enough for snow and that moisture will be tossed over that cold air from the south. The Canadian model has the low farthest north and all models indicate a decent snow. But, right now, the GFS is advertising over 8 inches of snow from late Tuesday through Thursday. Around here, that is an issue and, while I don’t have the breakdown on the numbers from the Canadians or the Europeans, both of those seem to indicate something more robust than the GFS. It’s a week away so things can change. But I am seeing a reasonable consistency and there is current data that shows a good snow, so keep that in mind and at least have some preliminary plans in case it actually does come to fruition. Guess from my perspective at this point is that there is a better than fair chance we get our biggest snow of the season.