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LANGMAN, EDWARD, Church of England clergyman and local official; b. 1716, son of John Langman of Totnes, England; married, with one daughter; d. 1784 in St John’s, Newfoundland.

Edward Langman graduated ba from Balliol College, Oxford University, in 1739 and was then ordained to the curacy of St Ive, Cornwall. In 1750 he journeyed to St John’s, presumably with the fishing fleet, and officiated as a clergyman for the summer. His conduct made a favourable impression on the inhabitants, and the following December they successfully petitioned the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel that he be appointed to succeed their last missionary, William Peaseley*. Langman was allotted a salary of £50 per annum by the SPG and the inhabitants of St John’s implied that they would also give financial support.

In May 1752 Langman arrived in St John’s and began to minister to the 40 Church of England families living there. He held divine service every Sunday, preaching in the morning and evening, administered the sacrament four times a year, and added prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent. In 1759 he made the first of a series of missionary journeys when he spent two weeks in Placentia. The following year he went to Renews, Fermeuse, and Ferryland, and in 1761 he travelled to Bay Bulls and Witless Bay. At the latter places he was upset to find that “the few Protestants there are in danger even of their lives” since the Roman Catholics were restrained from attacking them only by “fear of the civil power.”

The French invasion of Newfoundland in 1762 [see Charles-Henri-Louis d’Arsac de Ternay] resulted in a heavy loss to Langman, whose property was plundered of £130 during the occupation of the town. To add to his misfortune, his wife died in childbirth at the same time, and only his own serious illness prevented him from being exiled from the town with the other Protestants. His finances never recovered from the shock; since his parishioners had never provided a house he found it difficult to live “with any tolerable decency” on the little money they gave him. Twice in 1763 he asked the SPG to move him elsewhere, but he nevertheless extended his visits with a journey to Trinity in the summer of 1764. His virtue was unappreciated by some, however, for in 1765 several merchants, upset by his justified financial requests and his criticisms of their behaviour, organized a petition to the SPG which complained of his “immoral, drunken, disagreeable” conduct. Governor Hugh Palliser and others rebutted the charges, but Langman’s hopes for increased local financial support faded. In 1768 he suffered a further loss when all his belongings and the church plate were destroyed by fire. Langman managed to survive these troubles, aided by Palliser’s grant of land for a house and by SPG funds.

Langman believed that Protestantism found its natural home in the Church of England, and he was opposed to anything which would undermine this unity. Nevertheless, he was friendly with dissenters, welcomed them to communion, and agreed to baptize their children. He balked at the creation of dissenting ministers or congregations, however, perhaps because he feared that they would compete with his church. Thus in 1772 he was indignant when a man named Garnett, claiming to be an SPG missionary, held Methodist meetings, and he was hostile when John Jones, “a common soldier,” sought permission to function as a dissenting minister in 1779.

With his work as a clergyman, Langman combined an active participation in St John’s fledgling judicial system. Appointed justice of the peace in 1754, he was the first clergyman to hold that position. He was also a commissioner of the court of oyer and terminer as early as 1762, and in 1773 his ability was recognized with his appointment to the important position of custos rotulorum for St John’s. Two years later he was again involved in controversy when he accused his fellow justices of partiality and perjury. On their complaining to Governor John Montagu, Langman was dismissed, but he was reinstated by Governor Robert Duff the following year.

By 1781 the new Anglican church in St John’s, whose construction Langman had initiated in 1758, possessed a large porch, a tower for five bells, and a handsome clock, the gift of Governor Richard Edwards. Langman, however, was in ill health: years of missionary work and cold weather had left him stricken with gout. Moreover, in 1784 several merchants again complained about his behaviour, and this, together with Langman’s letters about his gout, led to his dismissal in January 1784. Some of the merchants’ complaints seem to have been justified, since Walter Price, Langman’s successor, reported finding the mission neglected, with the dead unburied and no plate for the sacrament. Langman died in St John’s shortly after his dismissal.

During the 32 years that Edward Langman spent in Newfoundland as a missionary he built up the Church of England in St John’s, and by his work as a justice of the peace he enhanced the church’s semi-official position on the island. He thus generated the pan-Protestant, Erastian ethos which was dominant in Newfoundland Anglicanism until the appointment of Bishop Edward Feild* in 1844.

Frederick Jones

USPG, B, 6, nos. 137, 141, 144, 147, 151, 152, 164, 171, 177, 188, 193, 201, 206, 214; Journal of SPG, 13, pp.88–90, 199–200; 14, pp.18–19, 120; 15, pp.319–20; 16, pp.258–60, 505–6; 17, pp.62–64; 20, pp.52–54; 22, pp.188–200; 23, pp.263–64. Alumni Oxonienses; the members of the University of Oxford, 1715–1886 . . . , comp. Joseph Foster (4v., Oxford and London, 1888). [C. F. Pascoe], Classified digest of the records of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1701–1892 (5th ed., London, 1895). Prowse, History of Nfld.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Frederick Jones, “LANGMAN, EDWARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 25, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/langman_edward_4E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/langman_edward_4E.html
Author of Article: Frederick Jones
Title of Article: LANGMAN, EDWARD
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1979
Year of revision: 1979
Access Date: July 25, 2014