Rev. John Newton

John Newton (1725–1807) is renowned as a slave ship captain and a prominent abolitionist, as well as the composer of ‘Amazing Grace’. He was born in Wapping, East London. In late 1744, Newton joined a slave ship going to Africa. He traded there for six months and then lived in Africa for two years, trying to establish himself as a trader on the Guinea coast. He was unsuccessful and set sail for Britain in 1748.

On his homeward voyage, the ship encountered a storm so fierce that it caused him to turn to religion, and thereafter to read the Bible. His new-found religion did not immediately turn him against the slave trade, and in the early 1750s he made three voyages on two slave ships, ‘The Duke of Argyll’ and ‘The African’. Newton’s religious beliefs developed and deepened after ill health forced him to retire from the sea. He devoted himself to private religious study, and was active in the evangelical movement, becoming curate at Olney in Buckinghamshire. In 1780 he moved to London, where he published his ‘Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade’ during the political campaigns of the 1780s. He drew particular attention to the harmful effects involvement in the slave trade had on the physical and emotional health of the seamen. By the time of his death, he was regarded as a key figure in the evangelical and abolitionist movements. He lived just long enough to see the slave trade abolished.

Object Details

ID: PAD3099
Collection: Fine art
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Russell, John; Ranson, Thomas Frazer
Date made: Early 19th century
Exhibition: The Atlantic: Slavery, Trade, Empire; Enslavement and Resistance
People: Newton, John
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Image: 74 mm x 54 mm;Sheet: 131 mm x 72 mm

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