Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade

Author: John Newton
Newly set type.

Medium: Hi-fidelity Portable Document Format (PDF)
Last Updated: August 7, 2021
Download Size: 237 KB
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Publisher's Commentary: John Newton, the celebrated author of “Amazing Grace,” outlines his objections to the African slave trade in this pamphlet. The pamphlet was published in 1788, nineteen years before the 1807 “Abolition of the Slave Trade Act” in his native Britain.

As is well known, Newton himself had captained slavers as a younger man. Thirty years after the fact, he regrets having been a part of this trade. His objections fall into several categories, including its ill effects on the crews of the slavers, the frequently inhumane conditions imposed on the slaves during the passage, and the temptation to ever more enslavement by Africans of Africans to satisfy the demand for labor in the New World.

While Newton admits that his own memories may have mixed with things he has heard since his slaver days, we think his comments are an important part of the historical record, and support the position of Southerners in the United States that the slave trade was “iniquitous.”

While presenting a damning case against the slave trade as it in fact operated, Newton generally exonerates the slave traders on two important charges: 1. that they fomented war in order to increase the supply of slaves, and 2. that they engaged in man-stealing (kidnapping) to obtain their slaves.


  1. August 7, 2021: First Portage edition posted.