Robert Finley Collection (Bernards Township Library)

(Please click on the link below under "Attachments" to access the finding aid for this collection).

Robert Finley was born in 1772 in Princeton, New Jersey, the son of James Finley (b. 1737), a native of Glasgow Scotland, who immigrated to New Jersey in 1769 at the urging of his friend, Rev. John Witherspoon, who, a year earlier, was named president of the College of New Jersey, later known as Princeton University.
Robert Finley began his educational career under the tutelage of Rev. Ashbel Green, who eventually became president of Princeton College. A student who excelled in his studies in Greek, Latin, and other subjects in the humanities, Finley was admitted at the age of eleven to Princeton College, and was awarded his Bachelor of Arts degree at the age of fifteen in 1787.
In April 1795, the congregation in Basking Ridge, New Jersey offered the pastorate to Finley, which he accepted. On June 17, 1795, Rev. Robert Finley was ordained pastor of the congregation, where he would remain for twenty-two years. Shortly after undertaking the pastorate in Basking Ridge, Finley started instructing boys in preparation for college in a classical school established in 1751 by his predecessor, Rev. Samuel Kennedy. However, it was under Finley’s pastorate that the school flourished and became a permanent institution, with the completion of the schoolhouse on West Oak Street in 1809.
He was also an ardent proponent of giving free African-Americans the opportunity to settle and colonize in Africa, for, he believed, they could not ever participate fully in nor completely reap the benefits of living in American society. His efforts took him to the national stage in 1816, when Rev. Finley garnered support for his cause in Washington, which included men such as James Monroe, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Francis Scott Key. This resulted in the formation of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color in the United States, more commonly known as the American Colonization Society. A colony called Liberia was established shortly thereafter on the west coast of Africa, which by 1820, had a population of 12,000 black Americans.
Rev. Finley was named president of the University of Georgia in Athens in 1817. Due to his extensive traveling that year, both from his journey from New Jersey to Georgia, and an exhaustive fundraising tour for the school throughout Georgia, Finley became ill, and later that year, died at the age of 45.
(Please click on the link below under "Attachments" to access the finding aid for this collection).
Stephen Yautz,
Nov 14, 2009, 11:08 AM