Happy birthday, John Newton

bluebird of bitterness

John Newton was born in London on July 24, 1725. At the age of eleven he went to sea with his father, a ship’s captain. After his father’s retirement, John signed on with a merchant ship sailing to the Mediterranean. He later served a brief and unsuccessful stint in the Royal Navy, after which he joined the crew of a slave ship bound for West Africa. But the ship’s crew found him troublesome, and they left him with an African slave dealer named Amos Clowe, who gave him to his wife as her slave.

In 1748 Newton was rescued by friends of his father and returned to England. He continued his involvement in the slave trade for many years, despite his own experience as a slave, and despite having undergone a religious conversion on one of his voyages. He did not become a true abolitionist until many years after a stroke had forced…

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5 thoughts on “Happy birthday, John Newton

  1. If this information becomes known to the US Left, the song “Amazing Grace” will be banned because the composer was a slave trader.

    Newton’s actual life and accomplishment with respect to slavery would mean nothing to them, as (1) nothing can overcome their 21st century perception of 18th century morals, (2) they care little for history since they create their own morality of the moment, and (3) he was a white European male anyway, and thus could not possibly be of value except as an object of vilification.

    It might be worth noting that Newton was inspired by America’s push against slavery, as encoded in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution — Parliament was motivated to an extent by the fear that it would be banned in the nascent United States where it was a major economic factor before it was eliminated in England where it was not such a necessary evil.

    The younger Newton, like most of the time, was somewhat troubled by slavery but (as he put it):

    It is indeed accounted a genteel employment and is usually very profitable though to me it did not prove so the Lord seeing that a large increase of wealth would not be good for me However I considered myself as a sort gaoler or turnkey and I was sometimes shocked with an employment that was perpetually conversant with chains bolts and shackles …

    He evidently was active in the slave trade (from both ends!) in the 1840s-1850s, and dabbled with religion off and on for most of his life.

    Newton became deeply religious — and celebrated for his religious writings and autobiographical letters — apparently decades before he decided that slavery was a wrong to be eradicated. Once he did, of course, he set about it with zeal — following the lead of Thomas Jefferson and the other American founders.

    At least Jefferson didn’t go to Africa to acquire slaves; they were for him the path of least resistance. And Jefferson’s treatment of slaves (as on his trips to France, for example) was rather more like the treatment of family members.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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    1. The slave traders did not treat their “family members” well. The plantation owners grew up with their slaves. So they had more empathy for them. Nevertheless, they did what humans tend to do. For the sake of their egos, they lorded over them. For some reason, Newton was finally finally recognized that as evil.


  2. My favorite song. In my opinion, when a person comprehends the words of this song, it is his or hers beginning of wisdom. Some people will comprehend the meaning early in life. A close friend of mine who recently passed away never had any faith until the last ten years in his life and at his funeral this song was played because his wife said it became his favorite song after he decided to be born again. . Before that he had a great heart but did not buy into religion. Reminds me of Keith and you. Keep praying for Kieth, I think he has a good heart too.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.


    1. If it helps, I already enjoy the song greatly. And I was deeply moved during Ronald Reagan’s funeral when it was played. (That funeral procession drove past my office on its way to the Reagan Library a few miles away, and my Lady and I braved astounding crowds to attend the viewing.)

      Thank you for the kind words.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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