John Newton (4 August [O.S. 24 July] 1725 – 21 December 1807) was an English Anglican cleric, a captain of slave ships who later became an abolitionist, and an investor of trade. He served as a sailor in the Royal Navy for a period after forced recruitment.
Newton went to sea at a young age and worked on slave ships in the slave trade for several years. In 1745, he himself became a slave of Princess Peye, a woman of the Sherbro people. He was rescued, returned to sea and the trade, becoming Captain of several slave ships. After retiring from active sea-faring, he continued to invest in the slave trade. Some years after experiencing a conversion to Christianity, Newton later renounced his trade and became a prominent supporter of abolitionism. Now an evangelical, he was ordained as a Church of England cleric and served as parish priest at Olney, Buckinghamshire, for two decades. He also wrote hymns, including “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”.
Newton lived to see the British Empire’s abolition of the African slave trade in 1807, just months before his death.