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Original title:  Gravestone of John Thomas Twining. Fort Massey Cemetery - Veterans Affairs Canada.

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TWINING, JOHN THOMAS, Church of England clergyman and teacher; b. 14 May 1793 in Cornwallis, N.S., second son of William Twining, rector of St John’s Church, and Sarah Weeks, daughter of Joshua Wingate Weeks, another Anglican clergyman; m. 1814 Susan Mary Winnett (Winniett) of Annapolis Royal, N.S., and they had five sons; d. 8 Nov. 1860 in Halifax.

John Thomas Twining’s father had emigrated from Britain in 1770 as an impecunious Welsh curate employed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, first in the Bahamas and then in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. He served at Cornwallis from 1789 to 1805; at Sydney, Cape Breton, until 1813; at Rawdon and Horton until 1819; and at Liverpool until his death in 1826. The frequent changes owed something to his Methodist leanings which were well suited to Americanized church-goers in the Annapolis valley and along the South Shore but tended to bring him into conflict with the Anglican conservative élite and the church authorities. William’s sympathy for low church practices had its impact on John Thomas, who followed in his father’s footsteps both as a clergyman and as an evangelical.

Educated on an SPG exhibition at King’s College, Windsor (ba 1813, ma 1816, dd 1823), of which he was in later years a devoted alumnus, the younger Twining served between 1815 and 1817 as principal of King’s College School in Windsor. He was ordained deacon in 1816 and priest in 1817, the year he began his career in the church as curate to John Inglis* at St Paul’s, Halifax. That same year he became officiating chaplain to the British garrison at Halifax, a position he held until his death, and assistant to George Wright*, the headmaster of the Halifax Grammar School, whom Twining succeeded in 1819.

Influenced by the evangelical preaching of Isaac Temple, chaplain to Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay*], and by the zeal of the Church Missionary Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society, Twining accentuated the low church tendencies at St Paul’s. In 1824–25 he became a focal point in the secession of dissidents who opposed the crown’s interference in the appointment of a successor to Inglis on the latter’s elevation to the bishopric of Nova Scotia. Although Twining’s evangelicalism may have helped to inspire the disruption, the Paulines were mainly concerned with the refusal of the church and state authorities to recognize their right to choose their own clergyman. Twining was caught in the middle. He left St Paul’s with the seceders but refused, perhaps for financial reasons, to become minister of the independent episcopal church they desired. He none the less continued to command the respect and affection of the parishioners of St Paul’s who, through their representatives and friends in the legislature, secured him the lifelong sinecure of chaplain to the House of Assembly in 1825. Opposed in their choice of chaplain by the Council, the mlas stoutly refused to budge, and their successful endorsement of Twining can be interpreted as part of their mounting campaign against oligarchy. The St Paul’s secession itself represented a demand for North American democratic over Old World autocratic procedures.

Unlike those seceders who eventually found their peace in the Baptist church, such as James William Johnston*, Twining tried to reach some accommodation with Anglican leaders. To satisfy the bishop and the SPG he admitted and repented several “grievous” doctrinal errors and ministerial practices as well as participation in, though not leadership of, the secession. In response, Inglis, ever vigilant about encouraging “dissenters within the church,” blocked him from preferment in Halifax, and Twining’s appeals to the SPG and Colonial Office for a church living elsewhere also ended in failure. For the next 20 years his activities on the fringes of Halifax Anglicanism included support for various religious and educational organizations disapproved of by the bishop and alliances with other evangelical clergy, including the sons of prominent Anglican families such as the Uniackes and the Cogswells. But he was expected not to interfere with the bishop’s policies, and when, in 1847, he emerged with Robert Fitzgerald Uniacke* as a strong supporter of the Colonial Church Society, a low church educational society shunned by Inglis, the bishop accused Twining of “fomenting party” and leading Uniacke astray. Inglis unsuccessfully manœuvred to have Twining removed from Halifax by the chaplain general.

Frustrated in his ambition to rise in the hierarchy of his church, Twining devoted himself to his functions as teacher and chaplain. As headmaster of the Halifax Grammar School, he earned himself an unenviable reputation as a harsh disciplinarian. Undoubtedly his own rigidity and humourless approach to children were by-products of his evangelicalism. One of his pupils later recorded that he was a veritable tyrant and was especially severe on his own children. Frequent respites from the schoolroom routine were fortunately provided for the boys by Twining’s responsibilities as chaplain. Military funerals meant both a holiday and entertainment for the budding grammarians.

Twining approached his military chaplaincy with considerable doubt about his tenure. His censure by the bishop in 1827 meant that he was prohibited from preaching in diocesan churches; his functions as Anglican chaplain had to be performed in the rented chapels of dissenters or in the commissariat store. While Twining was barred from entering the pulpits of the parish churches, the soldiers and their families were barred from the pews by lack of space. To meet the need, between 1817 and 1844 Twining held garrison services in 11 different buildings, and the uncertainty which constant uprooting induced was not alleviated by his apprehension that he might be replaced by a regularly commissioned army chaplain. Although he would have welcomed such an appointment for himself, he remained a civilian when the new garrison chapel opened in 1846. None the less, at that time he became full-time chaplain, with an augmented income of £400, and gave up the grammar school. The chapel finally provided him with a respectable fabric: the neat neoclassical building with seating for 1,200 drew not only Anglican soldiers but also what Inglis described as the “religious sentimentalists” of St Paul’s Church.

Twining was chaplain during a period when something over half of the officers and men of the British army were Anglicans. It can probably be assumed that much of his attention was devoted to the officers. Even in the army’s own chapel a nice sense of class was maintained by confining the NCOs and privates to the gallery, the same status they enjoyed as strangers in the civilian churches. But, since the evangelical movement had produced a following in the army, Twining was encouraged to go beyond the basic ceremonial functions of conducting services, administering the sacraments, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. He established a military Sunday school with the aid of evangelical officers such as Captain Maximilian Montague Hammond, supervised day-schools for the soldiers and their children, and initiated mid-week bible classes and prayer-meetings for the enlightenment of the rank and file. In the era of army reforms which marked the last decade or so of his chaplaincy, Twining proved to be a suitable overseer of the garrison’s spiritual life.

Judith Fingard

A lecture delivered by John Thomas Twining before the Young Men’s Christian Association of Halifax, entitled “The age, and its demands on Christian young men,” was printed in the Presbyterian Witness, and Evangelical Advocate (Halifax), 7 (1854): 201–2, 205.

PAC, RG 8, I (C ser.), 1340, 1353, 1355, 1357–61, 1721–25, 1727, 1747. PANS, MG 1, 804, no.1; RG 36, 31, no.680. PRO, CO 217/143: 133–35, 358–61; 217/144: 63–66; 217/146: 3–6, 59–61; 217/148: 338–39; 217/149: 367–68. USPG, C/CAN/NS, 5: 199–205, 209; 7: 282, 287, 292–93; 9: 26, 45; 11: 355, 357. [E. D. Hammond], Memoir of Captain M. M. Hammond, rifle brigade (8th ed., London, 1860). Acadian Recorder, 5 Oct., 9 Nov. 1816; 12, 19 July 1817; 20 Nov. 1824. Halifax Morning Post & Parliamentary Reporter, 28 Oct. 1844. Morning News (Saint John, N.B.), 14 Nov. 1860. Novascotian, 5 Nov. 1855. Times (Halifax), 29 Oct. 1844, 20 Jan. 1846. Eaton, Hist. of King’s County. Judith Fingard, The Anglican design in loyalist Nova Scotia, 1783–1816 (London, 1972); “The Church of England in British North America, 1787–1825” (phd thesis, Univ. of London, 1970). R. V. Harris, The Church of Saint Paul in Halifax, Nova Scotia: 1749–1949 (Toronto, 1949). Halifax Herald, 10 Oct. 1896. Presbyterian Witness, and Evangelical Advocate (Halifax), 14 (1861): 2, 56.

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Cite This Article

Judith Fingard, “TWINING, JOHN THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 14, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/twining_john_thomas_8E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/twining_john_thomas_8E.html
Author of Article:   Judith Fingard
Title of Article:   TWINING, JOHN THOMAS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1985
Year of revision:   1985
Access Date:   April 14, 2024