Newton was nurtured by a Christian mother who taught him the Bible at an early age, but he was raised in his father's image after she died of tuberculosis when Newton was 7. At age 11, Newton went on his first of six sea-voyages with the merchant navy captain.
Newton lost his first job, in a merchant's office, because of "unsettled behavior and impatience of restraint"—a pattern that would persist for years. He spent his later teen years at sea before he was press-ganged aboard the H.M.S. Harwich in 1744. Newton rebelled against the discipline of the Royal Navy and deserted. He was caught, put in irons, and flogged. He eventually convinced his superiors to discharge him to a slaver ship. Espousing freethinking principles, he remained arrogant and insubordinate, and he lived with moral abandon: "I sinned with a high hand," he later wrote, "and I made it my study to tempt and seduce others."
He took up employment with a slave-trader named Clow, who owned a plantation of lemon trees on an island off of west Africa. But he was treated cruelly by Clow and the slaver's African mistress; soon Newton's clothes turned to rags, and Newton was forced to beg for food to allay his hunger.