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MARCHINTON (Marchington), PHILIP, merchant, office holder, politician, and Methodist preacher; b. c. 1736 in England; d. 2 Nov. 1808 in Halifax, N.S.

Almost nothing is known of Philip Marchinton’s early life. Circumstances suggest that he was born into a family with means sufficient only to give him a counting-house education. After serving a commercial apprenticeship in England, he moved in 1771 to Philadelphia, Pa, where he established himself as a general merchant. Marchinton prospered to the extent that by 1777 he owned Pennsylvania real estate worth more than £1,000. Business success was overshadowed, however, by the American revolution. Initially, Marchinton tried to remain neutral, agreeing to serve in the local militia but refusing to renounce his allegiance to the crown. Having declared himself a loyalist during Philadelphia’s occupation by British forces, he had no choice but to leave the city when the army abandoned it in June 1778. The property he left behind him was subsequently confiscated by the revolutionaries. Marchinton spent the remainder of the war in New York City, sailing from there in November 1783 with 300 fellow loyalists and a personal fortune supposedly totalling £35,000.

After being storm-stayed for several months in Bermuda, Marchinton moved on to Halifax, a port that many loyalists believed would outrival Boston once New England had been excluded from the West Indies carrying-trade. Although those expectations proved over ambitious, Marchinton achieved success in his own business in Nova Scotia, thanks partly to the capital and entrepreneurial talent he brought with him and partly to his connections within the loyalist community. The precise nature of his business operations remains unknown, but he appears to have engaged in the general export-import trade as a wholesaler. He also contracted for sales of timber to Britain during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. The profits he earned enabled him to acquire a large block of waterfront real estate in Halifax along with more than 12,000 acres of land, mostly located in the northeastern parts of Nova Scotia.

Material achievement quickly translated itself into social recognition for Philip Marchinton. By the early 1790s he had been appointed a justice of the peace for Halifax Township. Furthermore, from 1786 to 1793 he sat in the House of Assembly as member for Cumberland County. In the legislature he supported the campaign, led by Captain Thomas Barclay* and other loyalist members, to impeach puisne judges James Brenton and Isaac Deschamps, a campaign that essentially reflected the desire of Nova Scotian loyalists for a larger share of government patronage. He also opposed tariff measures which would have impeded the flow of imports from the United States. Although local farmers wanted tariff protection, Marchinton and other urban merchants feared that duties on American goods would drive up costs in the fishery and hinder the re-export trade to the Caribbean.

The most controversial aspect of Marchinton’s public career derived from his religious zeal. Arriving in Halifax as a follower of John Wesley, he displayed his faith by leasing a house where Methodist prayer-meetings could be held. In the spring of 1786 he built a large chapel in Halifax which could accommodate up to 1,000 worshippers. Over the next few years “Brother” Marchinton preached numerous sermons and interceded with the authorities on behalf of a succession of itinerant Methodist missionaries. In 1791–92 he assisted William Wilberforce and other English evangelists in their project to resettle Nova Scotian blacks in Sierra Leone [see David George; Thomas Peters*].

Despite his continuing philanthropic enthusiasm, Marchinton was expelled from Halifax’s Methodist community at the end of 1791. One contemporary complained that Marchinton had “attempted to raise himself above all discipline,” a comment that 19th-century writers interpreted to mean that he refused to abstain from liquor. This purge proved costly to the Methodists, since Marchinton retaliated by closing the doors of his chapel to those who had judged him morally deficient. For a while he carried on as a renegade preacher, but a lack of public response caused him to abandon this role. In 1806 he sold his chapel, then known as “Sodom,” to local Presbyterians for £500.

Marchinton’s troubles possibly originated with the death of his wife, Elizabeth, at a young age on 24 Nov. 1788. Unwilling to accept her loss, he had her remains placed in a glass-covered coffin and allowed burial to take place only after the body had badly decomposed. At his death he left two children, Joseph, who served during the Napoleonic Wars with the Nova Scotia Fencibles, and Mary, who married John Welsford, lieutenant-colonel of the 101st Foot. Quarrelling during the early 1820s over division of their father’s substantial estate resulted at one point in Joseph’s being lodged in the Halifax jail. Memory of Philip Marchinton’s somewhat eccentric presence was kept alive by his grandson, Major Augustus Frederick Welsford*, who suffered what Haligonians regarded as a hero’s death in the Crimean War.

D. A. Sutherland

Halifax County Registry of Deeds (Halifax), Deeds, 37: ff.32728; 41: ff.4244 (mfm. at PANS). PANS, RG 1, 227, nos. 106, 131. [John Clarkson], Clarksons mission to America, 17911792, ed. and intro. C. B. Fergusson (Halifax, 1971). N.S., House of Assembly, Journal and proc., 1786–93. Perkins, Diary, 178089 (Harvey and Fergusson); Diary, 179096 (Fergusson); Diary, 17971803 (Fergusson). “United Empire Loyalists: enquiry into losses and services,” AO Report, 1904: 494. Acadian Recorder, 25 Oct. 1823. Nova Scotia Royal Gazette, 2 Dec. 1788; 16 Sept. 1800; 19 March, 17 May 1801; 2 Aug., 8 Nov. 1808. An almanack . . . calculated for the meridian of Halifax in Nova-Scotia . . . , comp. Theophrastus (Halifax), 1802. Directory of N.SMLAs. R. V. Harris, The Church of Saint Paul in Halifax, Nova Scotia: 17491949 (Toronto, 1949). G. O. Huestis, A manual of Methodism: being outlines of its history, doctrines, and discipline (Toronto, 1885). Murdoch, Hist. of N.S., vol.3. T. W. Smith, History of the Methodist Church within the territories embraced in the late conference of Eastern British America . . . (2v., Halifax, 187790). W. M. Brown, “Recollections of old Halifax,” N.S. Hist. Soc., Coll., 13 (1908): 75–101. K. B. Wainwright, “A comparative study in Nova Scotian rural economy, 17881872, based on recently discovered books of account of old firms in Kings County, Nova Scotia,” N.S. Hist. Soc., Coll., 30 (1954): 78–119.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

D. A. Sutherland, “MARCHINTON, PHILIP,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 16, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/marchinton_philip_5E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/marchinton_philip_5E.html
Author of Article: D. A. Sutherland
Title of Article: MARCHINTON, PHILIP
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1983
Year of revision: 1983
Access Date: September 16, 2014