John Newton
John Newton

John Henry Newton, Jr. (July 24, 1725 – December 21, 1807) was an Anglican clergyman and former slave-ship captain. He was the author of many hymns, including Amazing Grace.

John H. Newton Jr. was born in Wapping, London, in 1725, the son of John Newton, Sr., a shipmaster in the Mediterranean service, and Elizabeth Newton (née Seatclife). His mother brought him up as a Nonconformist Christian. She died of tuberculosis when he was 6. Newton spent 2 years at boarding school, at the age of 11 he went to sea with his father and sailed with him on a total of six voyages until the elder Newton retired in 1742. Newton's father had planned for him to take up a position as a slave master at a sugar plantation in Jamaica but in 1743, he was pressed into naval service, and became a midshipman aboard HMS Harwich. After attempting to desert, Newton was put in irons and court martialed. The captain was determined to make an example of Newton for the rest of the crew. Thus, in the presence of 350 members of the crew, the 18-year old midshipman was stripped to the waist, tied to the grating, and received a flogging of 96 lashes, and was reduced to the rank of a common seaman. Following that disgrace and humiliation, Newton initially contemplated suicide, but he recovered, both physically and mentally, and, at his own request, he was placed in service on a slave ship bound for West Africa which eventually took him to the coast of Sierra Leone. He became the servant of a slave trader, wh...