The themes John Newton wrote about
- steel arms
John Henry Newton was a British sailor and Anglican clergyman. Starting his career at sea, at a young age, he became involved with the slave trade for a few years. After experiencing a religious conversion, he became a minister, hymn-writer, and later a prominent supporter of the abolition of slavery. He was the author of many hymns, including "Amazing Grace" and "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken."
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. Two years later, he went to live in Aveley, the home of his father's new wife. 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 the 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 one dozen lashes, and was reduced to the rank of a common seaman.
Following that disgrace and humiliation, Newton initially contemplated suicide. 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.
Newton proved to be a continual problem for the crew of Pegasus. They left him in West Africa with Amos Clowe, a slave dealer. Clowe took Newton to the coast, and gave him to his wife Princess Peye, an African duchess. Newton was abused and mistreated along with her other slaves. It was this period that Newton later remembered as the time he was "once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in West Africa."
Early in 1748 he was rescued by a sea captain who had been asked by Newton's father to search for him, he made it to freedom.
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