John Newton (1725-1807): The Former Slaver & Preacher
Posted at The Abolition of Slavery Project:
John Newton was an Anglican clergyman and former slave ship master. It took him a long time to speak out against the Slave Trade but he had an influence on many young evangelical Christians, particularly William Wilberforce.
At just 11 years old, Newton went to sea with his father. In 1743 he was on his way to a position as a slave master on a plantation in Jamaica, when he was pressed into naval service. He became a midshipman but after demotion for trying to desert, he requested an exchange to a slave ship bound for West Africa.
Eventually he reached the coast of Sierra Leone where he became the servant of an abusive slave trader. In 1748, he was rescued by a sea captain and returned to England. During a storm, when it was thought the ship might sink, he prayed for deliverance. This experience began his conversion to evangelical Christianity. Later, whilst aboard a slave vessel bound for the West Indies, he became ill with a violent fever and asked for God's mercy; an experience he claimed was the turning point in his life.