Thursday, May 16, 2013

James Finley & John Witherspoon In Glasgow

Reverend Robert Finley:
 'was born to James Finley and Ann Angrest, James was born 1737 in Glasgow, Scotland where he was trained as a yarn merchant and where he became acquainted with Rev John Witherspoon who was then a pastor in the town of Paisley about six miles from Glasgow. James immigrated to New Jersey in 1769. His paternal grandparents were James Finley from Paisley, and Ann McDonald.'
His memoirs can be read here. These memoirs are an interesting look into the background of John Witherspoon before he left Scotland to become president of Princeton. Let's see if James Finley is related to Samuel Finley. Which is indeed the case (his great-grandfather was Robert Finley's twin brother James Finley who married Margaret Mackie). These memoirs are a very interesing read, many details on the period that preceded John Witherspoon's arrival at Princeton

But, unlike Samuel Finley, James Finley was not a descendant of the Finley branch that immigrated to Ireland during the 17th century. The Scots-Irish roots of Samuel Finley are essential to why I think he was the Architect of the American revolution.

In the book 'The Clan Finley' (this is V 2, haven't found V1 online yet) by Herald F. Stout we learn that Samuel Finley was pastor of Nottingham Presbyterian Churh in Cecil County, Maryland, from 1744 until he became President of Princeton University in 1761. The book A Condensed Family Genealogy of the Finley Family is also interesting,
 'dedicated to Those Fine Women who firmly f... frontier with fortitude and determination: Our Mohters'
In this book we read that Reverend John Finley, the Rev. John FINLAY of Kilmarnock, was burned at the stake in Edinbourgh in 1682, just prior to the expulsion of James II in 1688. He might also have been hanged, after battle of Drumclog in 1679. Executed like so many other covenanters at the time. One of a long list of covenanterer martyrs during the 17th century as found on the website of Gordon Crooks, a leading authority on the Scots-Irish.

Another valuable book on Samuel Finley's background is TORRENCE and Allied Families, by Robert McIlvaine TORRENCE from which we learn that Samuel Finley:
'landed at Philadelphia on 28 Sep 1734, along with his father and eight brothers and sisters. TORRENCE says, "His parents had given their children every possible educational opportunity available in their native country. Samuel FINLEY, from childhood, had determined to study for the ministry, and it was arranged that he should attend Tennent's Log College, which was in Bucks Co, PA.'

'After graduation, he was licensed to preach, August 8, 1740. He was ordained by the New Brunswick Presbytery, October 13, 1742. In 1743, he went to Milford, Connecticut. He became pastor of the Nottingham Presbyterian Church, at Nottingham, Cecil County, Maryland, in June of 1744, where he remained, from 1744-1761, establishing a great reputation in preparing young men for the ministry. The College of New Jersey conferred upon him, in 1749, the honorary degree of Master of Arts. In 1751, he was elected a trustee of that institution.'
Samuel Finley edited the sermons of Samuel Davies:
'Among the sermons and theological discussions published by him were 'Christ Triumphing and Satan Raging' (1741); 'A Refutation of Mr. Thomson's Sermon on the Doctrine of Conviction' (1743); 'Against the Moravians, Being the Substance of Several Sermons, Showing the Strength, Nature, and Symptoms of Delusion,' (1743); 'A Charitable Plea for the Speechless,' (1747); 'Vindication of the Charitable Plea for the Speechless, or a Particular Consideration and Refutation of the Objections Made Against Infant Baptism,' (1748); 'Sermons at the Ordination of the Reverend John RODGERS,' (1749); 'On the death of the Reverend Samuel BLAIR,' (1751); 'On II Cor. Chap. 4 verse,' (1754); 'The Curse of Meroz, or the Danger of Neutrality in the Cause of God and Our Country,' (1757); and a 'Sermon at the funeral of the Reverend Gilbert TENNENT,' (1764). He edited the sermons of Samuel DAVIES, his discourse 'On the Death of President DAVIES,' (1761) being afterward prefixed to an edition of the latter's works.'
Rev. John Borland Finley traces history of the Finley clan to Macbeth, who reigned as king of Scotland from A.D. 1040 to 1057:
'The clan Finley of Scotland, a Highland family of the country in the vicinity of Inverness, is said to be one of the most ancient of all Highland clans. The late Rev. John Borland Finley, Ph.D., Kithaurny, Pennsylvania, who was an ardent lover of family history and devoted much time and labor in researches, says: "The Clan Finley is the most ancient and whole family of Scotland, and existed before a Campbell or a Stewart or a Cameron or a MacDonald had an existence." By the same authority the origin of the clan is derived from "Macbeth." The Encyclopedia Britannica says in substance "Macbeth (son of Finley, a Celtic chieftain in Scotland, and mormaor of Moray, son of Ruadher) succeeded his father as mormaor of Moray, became a successful general under and afterwards revolted against and killed in battle, Duncan, King of Scotland. Upon Duncan's death he succeeded to the crown and reigned as king of Scotland from A.D. 1040 until his death in 1057." Dr. Finley ascribes the downfall of the clan to Macbeth's death...'
Dr. Finley
 'ascribes the downfall of the clan to Macbeth's death, which was brought about by a mere party combination, after which the clan was declared to be illegal, and the tartan and the clan were known as that of Farquharson.'
The life and work of Francis Allison, who was born in Ireland (!!) and studied in Glasgow, (quote from same article) adds additional ammunition confirming my theory that the Scots-Irish roots of Samuel Finley are essential to why I think he was the Architect of the American revolution.
'Dr. John McMillan and the Finleys established more than a dozen colleges in the west and south. It has been the boast of Ulstermen that the first general who fell in the revolution was an Ulsterman, Richard Montgomery, who fought at the siege of Quebec; and that Samuel Finley, president of Princeton College, and Francis Allison, had a conspicuous place in educating the American mind to independence.'
Francis Allison 'was at the center of much of the Old Side – New Side Controversy in the early Presbyterian Church' condemning the Great Awakening with the pamphlet Querists attacking George Whitefield. Samuel Finley, allthough from 1744 to 1761 pastor of the 'New Side' of the West Nottingham Presbyterian Church where Gilbert Tennent had preached his famous 'Nottingham Sermon', 'became the thoughtleader that brought the two sides back together.


Anonymous said...

It was actually about 16 colleges the Finley's help found. There was a core group of Presbyterian Ministers that came over early to America and not only established the Presbyterian Church, but heavily influenced the design of America's government as we know it today. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Presbyterians including Benjamin Rush who was raised by Dr. Samuel Finley. Other notable early ministers were Reverends Samuel Finley, James Finley, and John Finley, Rev. George Gillespie, Rev. John Thomson, Rev. James Latta, nephew of Rev. Francis Allison. The split between old side and new side was more than a philosophical dispute. It was as much a family argument as anything of the younger generation versus the older generation and because these same families likely knew one another over the ocean back in Scotland and brought any disagreements with them. Alison and Thomson were old side ministers and Samuel Finley and Gilbert Tennet were new side ministers. Tennet later in life wrote an article expressing regret for some of the harsh things he said about Thomson. Thomson also helped Alison start his academy of learning in 1743 and sat on the Board. signed, William Finley

Vincent Harris said...

Thank you William,

I'm curious to know how far up we share an ancester. Could you send me an email?

My email is