John Newton

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John Henry Newton (July 24, 1725 – December 21, 1807) was an English sailor and Anglican clergyman. Newton was originally a slave-ship captain who later became a prominent supporter of abolitionism. He was the author of many hymns, including "Amazing Grace" and "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken."


Early life

John Newton was born in Wapping, London, in 1725, the son of John Newton Sr., a shipmaster in the Mediterranean service, and Elizabeth Newton (née Seatclife), a Nonconformist Christian. His mother died of tuberculosis in July, 1732, about two weeks before his seventh birthday.[1]

Newton spent two years at boarding school. At age eleven he went to sea with his father. Newton sailed six voyages before his father retired in 1742.

Newton's father made plans for him to work at a sugar plantation in Jamaica. Instead, Newton signed on with a merchant ship sailing to the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1743, while on the way to visit some friends, Newton was captured and pressed into naval service by the Royal Navy. He became a midshipman aboard HMS Harwich. At one point, Newton attempted to desert and was punished in front of the crew of 350. Stripped to the waist, tied to the grating, he received a flogging of twelve lashes, and was reduced to the rank of a common seaman.[2][unreliable source?]

Following that disgrace and humiliation, Newton initially contemplated suicide.[2][unreliable source?] He recovered, both physically and mentally. Later, while Harwich was on route to India, he transferred to Pegasus, a slave ship bound for West Africa. The ship carried goods to Africa, and traded them for slaves to be shipped to England and other countries.

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