[This is also included in a set of six volumes entitled "Seafarers' Voices" available at a discount for SWMHS members. For details of this offer and reviews of the other volumes see Seafarers' Voices]
By John Newton ISBN 978 1 84832 079 6 - £13.99
This recounts in his own words, the story of John Newton – perhaps better known for his words to “Amazing Grace”. John Newton was born in Wapping, London, in 1725, the son of a ship master in the Mediterranean trade. At age eleven he went to sea with his father. Newton sailed on six voyages before his father retired in 1742. Newton's father made plans for him to work at a Jamaican sugar plantation but instead, he signed on with a merchant ship sailing to the Mediterranean. In 1743, while visiting friends, Newton was captured and pressed into 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 by being stripped to the waist, tied to the grating, and flogged with a dozen lashes, being also reduced to the rank of seaman. He recovered and while Harwich was en route to India, he transferred to the Pegasus, a slave ship bound for Africa. The ship carried goods to Africa, and traded them for slaves to be shipped to England and other countries. Newton was a continual problem for the crew of Pegasus, who 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 returned to England in 1748 aboard the merchant ship Greyhound, and during this voyage, he experienced a spiritual conversion. The ship had encountered a severe storm off the coast of Ireland and almost sank. Newton awoke in the middle of the night and called out to God as the ship filled with water. After this the cargo stopped up the hole, and the ship drifted to safety. This experience he later marked as the beginnings of his conversion to Christianity. Although he continued to work in the slave trade, he had gained a considerable amount of sympathy for the slaves though he still treated them badly.
Newton returned to Liverpool and, with the influence of his father's friend Joseph Manesty, obtained a position as first mate aboard the slave ship Brownlow, bound for the coast of Guinea. During the first leg of this voyage, while in West Africa (1748–1749), was sick with a fever. Still, he did not renounce the slave trade until later in his life. After his return to England in 1750, he made three further voyages as captain of the slave-trading ships Duke of Argyle (1750) and African (1752–1753 and 1753–1754). He only gave up seafaring and his active slave-trading activities in 1754, after suffering a severe stroke, but continued to invest his savings in Manesty's slaving operations."
In 1755 Newton became tide surveyor (a tax collector) of the port of Liverpool, again through the influence of Manesty. In his spare time, he studied Greek, Syrian and Hebrew and became well known as a lay minister. In 1757, he applied to be ordained as a priest, but it was more than seven years before he was eventually accepted, becoming the priest at Olney, Bucks, on June 17 1764. In 1779 Newton was invited to become Rector of St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street, London, where he officiated until his death. This book recounts his two journals, the first being his recollections of the African slave Trade, written in 1765; together with his Authoritative Narrative of his life and career as seen through his 14 letters on the subject. This is most certainly a ‘cracker’ of a book!
Reviewed by David B.Clement
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